King Olav’s Cadillac returned
The fully restored 1951 limousine was unveiled as part of Norwegian National Motor Day
M. Michael Brady
King Olav V’s 1951 Cadillac Series 75 Limousine has been returned from the U.S. to Norway, restored to near-new condition, and unveiled on the Norwegian National Motor Day, June 6, 2015.
The King had bought the Cadillac in 1951, and it became his favorite car. While still Crown Prince, his son, King Harald V, donated the car to the International Disabilities Foundation (IDF) for fundraising jointly with the Sons of Norway. The car was used in Scandinavian-American events before it was given to the Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum in Decorah, Iowa, in 1994.
In 2012, Harry Kjensli, President of AMCAR, the American Car Club of Norway, contacted Vesterheim to indicate the club’s interest in acquiring and restoring the car as an addition to the collection of royal cars intended for display at a future National Motor Museum, most likely an extension of Norsk Vegmuseum (“Norwegian Roads Museum”) at Fåberg, three miles north of Lillehammer. Steve Johnson, the Vesterheim Executive Director, recalls a favorable reaction. With 18,000 members, a successful magazine, and a hundred affiliate clubs throughout Norway, AMCAR had the resources, manpower, and incentive to restore the car and make it viewable in Norway.
The rest is history. After the car came back to Norway, AMCAR spent more than a year on its complete restoration, at a total cost of nearly NOK 1 million (about $125,000). The restored car was presented at an unveiling ceremony on National Motoring Day, Saturday, June 6, at the parade ground of the Akershus Fortress in Oslo. It was perhaps the most notable ever unveiling of a car in Norway. Vesterheim trustee Mette M. Bowen represented the museum. Two Norwegian Government Ministers attended and spoke. Minister of Culture Thorhild Widvey mentioned the impact of cars on the cultural landscape of the country. Minister of Transportation Ketil Solvik-Olsen spoke of his interest in American cars, in part as a member of AMCAR with a 1985 Cadillac and a Dodge convertible in his collection.
In addition to his penchant for American cars, Minister Solvik-Olsen can look back on a significant American experience. From 1989 to 1990, he was an exchange student at Blissfield High School in Lenawee County, Michigan. From 1994 to 1997, he studied political science and social economics at the University of Toledo, Ohio, and in 1997 was awarded an MA in social economics Summa Cum Laude.
The Norwegian National Motor Day also has a strong American connection. At the 2009 AMCAR Club Annual Meeting, member Erling Storstrøm proposed that like Sweden and Denmark, Norway should also have a National Motor Day. The proposal was accepted. AMCAR began promoting a Norwegian National Motor Day, with the result today that throughout the country, car clubs now celebrate the day, designated as the first or second Saturday in June.
This article originally appeared in the June 12, 2015, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.