The Historic Vehicle Association celebrates the month of heart-shaped chocolates and candy kisses with this look back at history’s most famous pink automobiles.
The Original Pink Cadillac
Elvis made pink Cadillacs famous, but it turns out his inspiration came from someone else: boxing great Sugar Ray Robinson, who was known for his collection of automobiles — most notably his 1950 flamingo-pink Cadillac.
Described as “The Hope Diamond of Harlem,” the convertible became famous after Life magazine featured a full-page photo of it parked in front of the boxer’s famous Harlem nightclub. In 1951, after winning his second world title, Robinson created a stir from Paris to London by driving the car on a European tour. The pink Cadillac quickly became a Robinson trademark. He owned a number of them, selling each one on the condition that the new owner repaint the vehicle.
The King’s Caddy
In early 1955, Elvis bought his first Cadillac, a 1954 model, which had been repainted pink. The car provided transport for Elvis and his band, the Blue Moon Boys, until a failed brake line caused an engine fire that destroyed the vehicle in June of that same year.
Elvis purchased a new Cadillac Fleetwood 60 the following month. Originally a blue car with a black roof, Elvis had a neighbor repaint the new vehicle with a custom pink color the singer named "Elvis Rose."
After Elvis mentioned the car in his first song to appear on a national chart, “Baby, Let’s Play House,” the pink Cadillac and the iconic singer became forever linked. While no manufacturer at the time offered a hue specifically called “pink” as a standard color, after the public attention caused by Elvis' car many people in the 1950s began to paint their cars various shades of pink in addition to the many pinkish shades of “coral” already offered.
The Pink Panther
One of the most original television and movie vehicles ever produced, the Panthermobile was the brainchild of master vehicle designer Jay Ohrberg. Some of Hollywood’s most famous cars were born from Ohrberg’s imagination: these include K.I.T.T. from the popular Knight Rider series; the General Lee from Dukes of Hazzard; and dozens of others now cataloged on Ohrberg’s website, www.jayohrberg.com.
Created in 1969 as part of NBC’s popular Pink Panther Show, the Panthermobile remained in Ohrberg’s private collection until 2007 when it sold at auction for a reported $130,000. In addition to the unique design, the car is known for having a complete pink color-coordinated body and interior. The front seat is a solo open-air space meant for the driver. Passenger seats are located at the back, within the car’s covered area.
Mary Kay’s Car
In 1968, five years after founding her Texas-based cosmetic company, Mary Kay Ash purchased a new Cadillac and had it repainted to match the eye and lip color swatches in her best-selling compact. The car was such a good rolling advertisement that Ash offered similar cars, paid for by the company, to her top five salespeople the following year.
Since then, General Motors estimates that it has built 100,000 pink Cadillacs for Mary Kay Cosmetics through the company’s “Grand Achiever Career Car Program.” But times, and the fine print of the deal, have changed. According to the company’s website, consultants who sell over $4,500 worth of cosmetics per month get the opportunity to “win” an official Mary Kay car through a “co-op lease” arrangement. Fail to meet monthly sales goals and you lose the car.
In 2012, top Mary Kay salespeople got a wider choice in cars. These included the Chevrolet Malibu and Equinox; Toyota Camry; Cadillac CTS, SRX and Escalade Hybrid; and the Ford Mustang, available now in a very un-Mary Kay color: black.
In 1964, Donna Michelle was Playboy’s Playmate of the year. In recognition, she was given a pink 1964 ½ Ford Mustang and a tradition began. The magazine picture and the hype surrounding the debut of Ford’s legendary car resulted in a rush for “Playmate Pink” Mustangs that were only available through special order.
The Playmate Pink exterior paint color is often confused with the “Dusk Rose” offering, a standard color (Code S) that Ford offered in the 1967 model year. Michelle’s car featured in the magazine is believed missing, and genuine Playmate Pink Mustangs are rare. No solid data exists regarding total production figures, but the quickest way to tell an original is by the six-digit DSO on the data plate and a blank exterior color code.
Over the years, other pink cars were given to Playmates of the Year, including a Sunbeam Tiger, Dodge Charger and AMC AMX. The most exotic pink machine was surely the 1972 de Tomaso Pantera given to Liv Lindeland, while the final Playmate Pink offering was a 1975 Porsche 911. Although the top Playmates still receive a car every year, they are no longer pink.