It was a rainy night in Astoria, Queens when I first saw it, idling on the street in front of a Greek restaurant. It was so long that it looked like it took up half the block, yet it was so black that it looked practically invisible in the darkness, illuminated only by some orange-colored light from a streetlamp above. As I slowly walked past it, I noticed a small handwritten sign in the back window: “For Sale”
The next day, that 1969 black Cadillac Deville was mine.
I can’t remember if I had the notion the night I saw the car or maybe it was the next day, but by the end of the week I was sketching out ideas to turn this shiny black behemoth into a magic car. What is a magic car, you ask? In my mind, it was an automobile that had some tricks built into it. The first one that occured to me, and maybe it was this image that prompted me to buy the car in the first place, was that of a human-sized rabbit being “pulled” out of the trunk. As it happened, I already owned a pretty nice rabbit costume (how I came in possession of that is another story). I envisioned showing the empty trunk to a spectator selected from a crowd, then closing the trunk. Presto! When opened again the rabbit would appear.
Another idea I had for the magic car was color-changing hubcaps. No method was ever devised for that. I also pictured a Pepper’s Ghost-type illusion (seen from the front) involving the slow transformation of someone into some thing in the passenger seat. Finally, I was thinking of an effect involving the car windows going up and down - not really sure where that was going.
But the image of the human-sized white rabbit popping out of the trunk of this giant black Cadillac, that was what sent me to Olga’s Garage in Astoria - that and a need for a new transmission. Olga was beautiful, I remember that, but she delivered the bad news that the piece of metal separating the trunk from the back seat (where the rabbit would be hiding), was too thick to cut through, even with a blow torch.
From there, the rest of the short-lived dream of a magic car vanished. However, I enjoyed owning that boat-of-a-car for another year or so before it broke down in Kissimmee, Florida, where I traded it in for a white Beretta.
Is there a magic car out there? If so, I haven’t seen or heard of it. Has there ever been one? Will there ever be one?
My Magic Cadillac didn’t turn out the way I envisioned, but it did turn out to be magical for me, as it was the car in which I went on the first date with my wife, right after the fire department put out the small fire that was burning on top of the engine as I pulled into the movie theater parking lot to meet her.