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Gunner Gets Behind the Wheel of the LaSalle II

Gunner Gets Behind the Wheel of the LaSalle II


Hot Rod Hotline contributor John Gunnell (aka Gunner) got behind the wheel of the 1955 LaSalle II dream car during the Cadillac LaSalle Club's national convention in Brookfield, Wis. on June 27.

As anyone who watched the TV show "All In The Family" knows, the LaSalle was the GM car that Archie Bunker thought "ran great".  It was the first car to come out of GM's Art & Colour department in the late 1920s and it stuck around until 1940 as a Cadillac "companion car".

In the mid 1950s, legendary designer Harley Earl became interested in reviving a LaSalle model.  He had his design team do roadster and coupe versions of a small car with some highly advanced features.  Both models used the LaSalle II name.  They were shown as GM "cars of the future", but a LaSalle was never put back in regular production.

LaSalle features included a sporty fiberglass unit body, a fake overhead cam V-6 engine, built-in exhausts that strengthened the body sills, integral brake drums cast into the wheels and a rope drive shaft, as later used in the first-generation Pontiac Tempest.

Dream car collector Joe Bortz found the LaSalle II Roadster partially taken apart in Warhoops Salvage Yard in Michigan.  In 1988, Bortz was able to purchase four dream cars from Warhoops and the LaSalle II roadster is his latest restoration of one of the cars.

Bortz brought the car to the Cadillac car show and joined John Gunnell in a seminar about car collecting.  In his portion of the talk, Bortz described how he brought the LaSalle II Roadster back to Illinois and restored it.   He also owns the LaSalle II coupe, but it has not yet been rebuilt.  Bortz invited Gunner to sit behind the wheel of the car, but since it has only a dummy gas engine, he wasn't able to drive it back home like he wished he could.

Even without a power plant, the LaSalle II Roadster has to be considered a "factory hot rod" or at least a factory-built custom car.  It was created by GM, built by GM, and a far cry from a typical 1955 production car.