Undoubtedly among the most recognizable and influential people of the last century
, Elvis Presley’s cultural influence continues on 41 years after his death. His music can still be found on the charts, the merchandising juggernaut of Elvis Presley Enterprises Inc. is a billion-dollar industry and the only private home that receives more annual visitors is the White House.
Visitors can tour Graceland’s many rooms and gardens in addition to the private jets across the street, but a massive $45 Million complex was opened in 2017 called Presley’s Memphis that features restaurants, theatres, exhibits and a hotel.
Graceland is a monument to Presley’s life – chronicling his unprecedented success and grand excess. From his sequined jumpsuits and penchant for wearing more jewelry than Mr. T, The King’s questionable fashion sense continues on to the decorating choices made at Graceland.
Presley had an interest in anything with wheels. Following high school, he drove a truck for Crown Electric Co. delivering electrical supplies while studying to be an electrician prior to his musical success.
Records show that he purchased over 200 cars, motorcycles, scooters and golf carts in his lifetime, many of which he gifted to friends, family, colleagues and occasionally even complete strangers.
Legend has it that The King received a great deal of enjoyment by pulling over unsuspecting motorists and flashing one of his many Sherriff badges, leaving the drivers star struck and more than a little confused. Elvis was frequently pulled over by the cops himself, however he was usually let off with an autograph. Elvis purchased a 1975 Ferrari Dino 308 GT4 Coupe secondhand in October 1976. According to Presley’s cousin Billy Smith, Elvis piloted the car to over 165mph while he rode in the passenger seat.
Elvis was also granted other perks for being hailed as the King of Rock ‘N Roll. Traditionally only reserved for dignitaries and royalty, Elvis was granted permission to purchase a Midnight Blue Mercedes-Benz 600 Gross Pullman limousine in 1970 that was equipped with an impressive list of modern luxury amenities, including a sunroof, divider window, telephone and a television.
Guests can tour the Presley Motors Automobile Museum and the Presley Cycles exhibits, perusing the selection of cars and motorcycles Presley had amassed at the time of his death, including his famous pink Cadillac.
Each vehicle tells a tale, including the 1956 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz Convertible Elvis purchased in 1956 while on tour in Texas. Snubbed by a salesman at the dealership based on his appearance, not knowing who he was, Elvis saw an older man washing cars on the lot and allegedly took him to the manager saying that he wanted to purchase the car and wished the sales commission go to this gentleman instead of the rude salesman. While the vehicle was previously white, legend has it that Elvis crushed grapes on the car to demonstrate the colour of purple that he wanted it painted.
Elvis was famous for his generosity, often bestowing elaborate and expensive gifts to people in his life. The 1969 Mercedes 280 SL that Elvis purchased for his wife Priscilla on December 8, 1970 was one of her most treasured keepsakes. She kept the vehicle for years before sending it to Graceland for permanent display to be enjoyed by visitors.
George Barris was well known throughout Hollywood as the King of Customs, including the Batmobile from the original 1960’s TV series, the Munster Koach, and KITT from Nightrider. In 1966, Barris was commissioned by Paramount Pictures to create a vehicle for the movie “Easy Come, Easy Go.” The 1966 ‘Mongrel T’, a stretched custom Model T was then repurposed as the “Jokermobile” on the Batman TV series before making its way into Presley’s eclectic collection.
Among the vehicles on display is a 1973 Stutz Blackhawk III, which is said to have been one of his favourite cars. Often traveling with an entourage, The King typically drove this vehicle alone, as he did when he passed through the gates of Graceland for the last time on the evening of August 16, 1977.
The best way to experience The King’s collection is to visit Graceland personally.
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1973 Stutz Blackhawk III[/caption]
Other Iconic vehicles in the collection include:
1955 Cadillac Fleetwood Sixty Special
After some initial success, Elvis purchased his first car; a pink and white Cadillac. After a show in Arkansas on June 5, 1955, a wheel bearing caught fire and the original pink and white Cadillac burned up on the side of the road. Elvis replaced the burned Cadillac with this model and customized it to look like the original one.
1960 Rolls-Royce Phantom V:
Elvis purchased the Phantom V, his first Rolls-Royce, on September 3, 1960 at Coventry Motors on Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills, California. He used this particular car in Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Memphis.
1966 Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud III:
Rather than purchasing outright, Elvis financed this Rolls-Royce over 32 monthly payments of from Oct 1, 1965 –May 1, 1968 before trading it in. It was subsequently owned by Little House on the Prairie star Michael Landon and country music legend Charlie Rich.
1960 MG MGA 1600 Mk I:
This car belonged to Elvis’ character Chad Gates in the 1961 movie “Blue Hawaii”. Adding it to his personal collection, he then gifted the car to one of his secretaries in the mid-1960s. A chef who worked on the set of the Elvis’ film “Spinout” later bought the car and gifted it to his daughter for her wedding.
Don’t Step on My Blue Swabian Shoes
Images courtesy of Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc.