37 years [so far] of happiness
and hoping for ever to be together
I met Gita in March 1971, while
standing in line to buy a movie ticket to Kelly's Heroes at Geneva's Rialto
cinema. She was in company with a couple her own age who had just become engaged. At
19, she was having some boyfriend problems and had decided to force her company, for the
evening, onto the newly-engaged young couple.
At 32, Yann was in the throes of a
divorce from Christiane, wife #1, who, he earnestly believed, was the "passion of his
life". But she threw it all away; she claimed she could not keep up with his
fast pace nor deal with his unorthodox lifestyle.
Who? Me ?!?!
Forward to Gita.
Pinned to the back of her beige
cardigan was a manuscript note (obviously placed there, unknown to her, by her
prankster friends). It read:
I am looking
for a dark-haired, hot, Latin lover...
Needless to say, I tapped her on the
shoulder. She swung around.
"Hi," I said, "I
believe you are looking for me..." Gita looked at me quizzically. So I
unpinned the note and showed it to her.
We all shared a good laugh ...and
then Gita sat next to me all through the movie. We immediately bonded. The rest is a
35-year [as of July 2007] history of conjugal bliss ...just like the De Reuter couple,
In the Spring of 1972 we acquired for
$1,600 [that's right, one thousand six hundred US dollars] our beautiful 1960 Eldorado
Seville. At that time she was owned by a truck driver in Berne,
Switzerland. He had inherited the car from an uncle who had bought it second-hand
from a Geneva used car lot. I later found out the history of Lavender Lily.
She had been bought new, in 1960, by
Ms. Elsie De Reuter, the wife of Carlos De Reuter, a wealthy Argentinean banker and
financier [see above].
This is how the 1960 Eldorado Seville looked
when it left the factory in the late fall of 1959.
Ours looked exactly like it when Gita and I bought a used one, some thirteen years
Elsie used the car for tooling around
Miami on her annual Florida vacations. At the time, she and her husband were residents of Cologny,
the Beverly Hills area of Geneva, Switzerland, so the car really got very little
Then, in 1963, she decided to bring
it to Switzerland. It was first registered in Geneva on May 9, 1963 [just a week
before my 34th birthday!]. The Eldorado was issued regular Geneva license tags with
the number "GE 107200" (I remember a girlfriend of mine got number "GE
107629" just 429 registrations later.
The troublesome air suspension system
was a constant worry. Parts were not easy to obtain. Elsie finally gave up the
Cadillac in a part trade on a brand new Mercedes.
Sadly, she passed away just a few
years later, in September, 1969. Carlos, her husband, joined her on the
eternal journey some ten years later. He had suffered a stroke in Morocco. Their beautiful
mansion, La Louisiana, was sold to the North Korean
Ambassador to the United Nations European Office.
I first saw "Lavender Lily"
on a used car lot, in Geneva, in the mid-sixties (prabably quite soon after Elsie parted
with it). That was just before I could afford my first "old Cadillac" (a 1956 Sedan
De Ville, which I bought in December, 1966). At that time, Lily's
odometer reading stood at around 28,000 kms [circa 17,500 miles] and she carried
a SFr.8,000.00 sticker [by comparison, my '56 sedan cost SFr.1,700]. Taking into
account the $/SFr. exchange rate at the time, that was about $1,800 (i.e. around $9,500 if
you take into account inflation since 1966).
In 1965, Lily went to a more
fortunate (and more moneyed) buyer than me.
Then one day in the Fall of 1971, I saw an
ad in Switzerland's weekly Auto Revue for a "1963 Cadillac Eldorado".
I had never owned a convertible Cadillac and thought it might be fun to get one -
the price was right - even though 1963 is not one of my preferred model years. So I
decided to check it out. The car was 150 miles away in the Swiss capital city, Berne.
The 1963 Eldorado
[ Photo: © 1963, Cadillac Motor Car Division, GM ]
I made an appointment to meet the vendor in
the lobby of the Schweizerhof (hotel), located in town, opposite the main
On entering the hotel I noticed, parked
across the street in the dim evening light, the unmistakable outline of a 1960 Cadillac
coupe. But that car was not the purpose of my visit, so I didn't give it another
I sat for a while opposite a guy who seemed
also to be waiting for somebody. Like me he kept checking his watch. Finally
we got talking. It turned out that HE was my vendor! The 1960 coupe I had spied across the
street was his "1963 Eldorado" !
I said there was a mistake but he proceeded
to show me the title document showing the first registration date as
"1963". Obviously, he was not aware that the car had been owned and
operated in Florida for three seasons, prior to being imported to Switzerland.
I looked over the car. It
actually looked and smelled like new ! I asked the owner why he wanted to sell it.
He said he was a truck driver; he had inherited the car from an uncle but did not like its
color scheme. Indeed, Lily was painted a superb metallic lavender hue
called Heather Poly (code #99). She had matching metallic lilac
and cloth upholstery with equally matching dash and carpets, as well as the rare bucket
seat option (trim code #58B).
I did not tell him that his car was a
"rare find" for me.
To cut a long story short, after I explained
to him that a 1963 Eldorado was a convertible model, while his car was a closed
model and that, in addition, it was three years older than he had said, he agreed
to bring the price down.
So we got Lily her for about $1,600
[that's about $6,500 of today's dollars]. Her odometer reading by that time had
climbed to around 35,000 kms (22K miles)!
Ah yes! Those were the good old days. Gita
and I both had relatively well-paying jobs (our combined monthly income at that time
equaled the cost of Lavender Lily) and we were living in a modest yet cozy
apartment in Geneva, where the rent was only $40 a month (about $165, with
inflation). The rest was "fun money" ...and fun we had!
We ran two Cadillacs as daily drivers; Gita
drove Lavender Lily and I drove The Ambassador, a '64 Sedan De Ville
that we had got in trade for my '67 Mustang and Gita's '69 VW beetle.
The '64 had belonged previously to the Danish Ambassador to the U.N.
Gita strikes a relaxed pose across Lily's hood
Then we did something stupid! We got
married, had children, dogs, bought a house, got an inordinately high mortgage. In
other words we entered the "real world". The car had to go.
"Lavender Lily" never
could settle down after that. She changed hands five or six times. But few of her
subsequent owners cared for her as much as Gita and I had done. Each time we bumped
into her, we noticed her worsening condition. Then she disappeared from view for
about 10 years.
One day, I chanced upon her again, quite by
accident. I was looking for a place to store our '60 Eldorado Biarritz for
the winter when I visited an underground garage near the U.N., in Geneva, that was
offering parking spaces on long-term leases for "collector cars". There, I
found my beloved Lavender Lily under a dusty car cover. l made some inquiries and
got the name of the new owner, a local eccentric by the name of Walter Wettstein. This
gentleman had amassed quite a numbers of interesting old cars but seemed to want to do
nothing to maintain or restore them.
Shortly thereafter, Lily was moved
out of her protected environment, in that underground garage, and got put in a fenced lot,
out in the open, on the other side of town (Chêne-Bougeries). There she lay,
bottomed out on her deflated air bags, for another 7-8 years ... quickly reaching an
advanced state of decrepitude.
Whenever I visit the area I like to swing by
to say hello to Lily; I notice that bits and pieces of the rare Eldorado
trim are gradually disappearing. Have vandals found access to the place, or is the owner
parting out the car?
I did call the owner once to find out if Lily
might be for sale. I did not mention the fact that I had been her fourth owner
[Elsie, the truck driver's uncle, the truck driver himself, then me]. He was abrupt to the
point of rudeness. Of course, it's possibler I was the 100th caller that week!
No, Lily was definitely not
The last I heard (2000), Mr. Wettstein had
passed away and his heirs were said to be about as easy to contact as the former President
of Standard Oil.
This baby is worth saving. Any takers?
I'm way too old ...and too poor!