Why you should care
Because a great man’s ride is likely to be just that: great.
Stop sending people to kill me. We’ve already captured five of them, one of them with a bomb and another with a rifle (…) If you don’t stop sending killers, I’ll send one to Moscow, and I won’t have to send a second.
— Josip Broz Tito to Stalin, from The Unknown Stalin
Tito, in his long reign as president of Yugoslavia, sent this communiqué to Moscow in 1948, when Stalin’s swagger couldn’t have been bigger. The repercussions for Tito? Nothing but an enduring aura of legend.
Yes, detractors will decry him for his authoritarian rule — maybe, on a good day, he was a benevolent dictator. It’s a history that’s still being written, as recent excavations suggest that Tito’s secret police force was beyond brutal in the post-World War II years. But the man who led what is widely held to be the most effective partisan campaign against the Nazis was also notable for a larger-than-life charisma that spawned a powerful cult of personality. This was the man who held together the Yugoslavia we now know as Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Slovenia and Vojvodina for nearly 30 years, until it descended into civil war in the decade following his death in 1980.
And all of this came flooding back when we heard that Bonhams was auctioning off the strongman’s 1960 Cadillac Series 75 convertible limo: a not-so-casual symbol of American might given to Tito as a gift by the ultimate symbol of American might, the U.S. government. The Cadillac series first rolled out in the 1930s; by the 1960s, it sported a V-8 engine with 340 horsepower. All told, it stuck around for approximately 50 years of low-slung style before it was discontinued in the late 1980s.
Which is a shame, since when you see its sleek fins — perfectly suited for a man who by today’s standards would be a pig but by yesterday’s was but a playboy — the car recalls nothing if not excess, power, power in excess, and a legacy that’s equal parts love and loathing. And all that could have been yours, if you had boldly bid on Lot 354 in late 2013, for a cool $164,950. All that and more, since Tito’s was customed out with stuff that was pretty edgy back in 1960: an in-car refrigerator, electric windows, hydraulic convertible roof, spotlights on the side, an altimeter and, yes, a Remington shaver. The car had a grand total of 64,961 parade miles on it.
Both of them wearing their power gracefully, the car and the man were well-met: The less-than-orthodox Tito’s Caddy screamed “Because I can.” Both built a track record of resistance to the big and tough, and they came to embody the same.
This was not the only car Tito had. His 13 other luxury cars included a 1960 Rolls-Royce Phantom with a mahogany bar, as well as a 20-foot-long, bulletproof, six-seater Mercedes, but this last one on the list was the one we liked the most. And we haven’t even mentioned his yachts. Or his multiple homes.
Socialism Tito-style apparently rolled harder than Jay Z.
Unknown at press time, however: whether Tito could rap.