Our last post featured Roger Chesnutt’s extensively customized 1948 Cadillac. The ’48 Cadillac introduced styling themes for the brand (and for cars in general) that still resonate today. For example, every Cadillac made today has a styling nod towards tail fins in the way the deck lid is creased and the way the tail lights are sculpted with vertical elements. A couple of current Caddys, the XTS sedan and SRX crossover, don’t just nod, they have actual fins, albeit subtle ones. It’s interesting that two styling themes so radically different, the voluptuous ’48 that established much of Cadillac’s brand identity during the 1950s and the “Art & Science” styling that’s characterized the revived American luxury brand over the past decade, could share at least some elements like tail fins. Wayne Cherry was in charge of GM design when Art & Science was adopted, and when he retired after 42 years with the automaker he decided to make himself a hot rod that expressed the Art & Science design language. It’s obviously a roadster style rod but equally obviously an Art & Science Cadillac. It even has vestigial tail fins. Known officially as the VSR, but better known as the “Wayne Cherry Hot Rod”, it has a custom aluminum chassis fabricated by Race Car Replicas, pushrod suspension and a 400 HP engine from a first generation Cadillac CTS-V. Cherry wanted to use an engine with a connection to contemporary Cadillacs because back in the 1950s, the high compression OHV V8 that Cadillac introduced in 1949 was a popular mill with rodders. It was an era of “Studillacs”, Studebaker Loewy coupes powered by Cadillac V8s.
Unlike all of the concept cars that Cherry designed while at GM, the VSR Cherry Hot Rod was paid for out of his own pocket, though he called in favors from about 3 dozen automotive vendors and suppliers. For example, the car’s chassis and fiberglass body, pulled off of a full size clay model done also by RSR, was prepped and painted by AzkoNobel at their training center in Troy, Michigan. Cherry brought his VSR hot rod to this year’s Eyes On Design show, where it accompanied a number of other cars that he influenced, like the Cadillac Sixteen, on the occasion of Cherry being recognized with the EoD’s prestigious lifetime achievement award.