Louie Mattar and the World’s Most Fabulous Car

mattar car

Louie Mattar and the World’s Most Fabulous Car

In 1947, San Diego garage owner Louie Mattar bought a 1947 Cadillac Series 62 sedan. He liked to go camping with his kids, so he modified the Cadillac to provide the comforts of home while roughing it in the mountains.

Mattar kept up the modifications and five years later, he drove into fame and the Guinness Book of Records, having driven the car non-stop from San Diego to New York, then from Anchorage, Alaska, to Mexico City.

It’s now one of the most popular exhibits at the San Diego Automotive Museum.

“In 1947 there was no campers or motorhomes,” he said in a television interview in 1980. “I had three boys and we’d go camping up in the mountains, you know. There was no water, no nothing up there, no stoves, so I started building one thing to another.”

Mattar’s son talks about his dad

 

When he got finished, Mattar not only had a car for camping with his three boys, but eventually would set the record for non-stop operation. First came a 6,320 round trip from San Diego to New York City, where he was joined by another garage owner and a mechanic from Convair. Then, the big one: 7,432 from Anchorage, Alaska., to Mexico City, with his son, Leroy, and a car-salesman friend.

“If I sold that car and had all the money in the bank,” he said of the $75,000 it took to build, “I wouldn’t meet the important people I do. That’s worth all the money in the world.”

The modifications allowed the car fix itself (with human help) while running, including refueling (from a storage-tank trailer), change tires, wash the windows, even replace a faulty fuel pump.

During the trips, Louie and his co-drivers had all the comforts of home, although space was limited. The equipment in the back seat includes an electric stove, a refrigerator, a washing machine, a chemical toilet, an ironing board, a medicine cabinet, and a kitchen sink. All of these appliances are stored under the back seat cushions.

Louie Mattar's 1949 Cadillac 62 Sedan at the San Diego Automotive Museum.

Louie Mattar's 1949 Cadillac 62 Sedan at the San Diego Automotive Museum.

Inside Louie Mattar's long-distance Cadillac.

Inside Louie Mattar's long-distance Cadillac.

Mechanical lift to change tires.

Mechanical lift to change tires.

Automatic gasoline refill

Automatic gasoline refill

Miss San Diego joins Louie Mattar in his fabulous car.

Miss San Diego joins Louie Mattar in his fabulous car.

Mattar on Los Angeles television.

Mattar on Los Angeles television.

Ready for a trip.

Ready for a trip.

On a rough road.

On a rough road.

Changing a tire at speed.

Changing a tire at speed.

Visit the Mattar car at the museum.

Visit the Mattar car at the museum.

Up front, in addition to the many switches and dials surrounding the dashboard, are a nationwide mobile telephone, a tape recorder, a bar, a public address system (which has speakers in both the trailer and on the hood of the car), and a Turkish water pipe. On the right running board is a shower and at the rear taillight is a drinking fountain!

The car holds 50 gallons of water, with a reserve of 30 gallon in the trailer. The trailer also holds 230 gallon of gas and 15 gallons of oil in addition to the dining area at the end. The car automatically refills the radiator and changes the oil, and the axles are drilled, which allow the tires to be inflated while turning.

Hydraulic jacks allow the wheels to be raised for changing while moving, using a movable platform that attaches to the car. Clear panels in the hood allow the car to be driven while the hood is open for repairs or adjustments. Under all the modifications is a stock 1947 Cadillac engine.

“What price can you put on part of your life,” he told Special Interest Autos. “Once I had an offer from an Indian maharajah to re-equip his fleet of Cadillacs and name my price. But I was tied up with preparations for my record trip at the time.

“Besides, money isn’t what makes me happy. My car is. And my family. And enjoying what I do, when I want to do it.”