by That Car Guy
I was startled when I saw this thing. It took me back to "The Simpsons", where Homer designed a car called... The Homer. Stuck somewhere between a 1950s show car and TV's Batmobile, here sat something that Elvis and Liberace would have probably ran away from. Brash metallic red paint (Originally 30 coats with real ground diamonds for sparkle), tail fins befitting a 747, and a glass cockpit that no air conditioning system could ever cool, the boldness of the design is, well... totally unique.
We were recently at The Museum of Transportation in St. Louis, Missouri, on a very cold day. Having no idea what was in the Earl C. Lindberg Automobile Center (No relation to Charles A. Lindbergh of the Spirit of St. Louis fame), we were greeted by a very nice couple that owned and were keeping watch over the place. They had every answer ready, and were rightfully proud of their compact but fascinating automotive collection.
Built by Detroit native and clothing designer Andy DiDia, it took seven years, from 1953 to 1960, to finish the car. Two engines are listed as powerplants; I assume the present 427 came later. Originally the car cost $153,647.29 to create; a price of $1,500,000 is estimated for today. It rides on a 125-inch wheelbase, about the length of two Smart Cars' wheelbases. The car was so long, I had to tilt it in the crop box to try to get it to properly fit the page. Maybe the tilt gives the car somewhat of a "Batman"-esque feel, relative to the time period that Bobby Darin drove the car to the Academy Awards; the car was also used in several movies.
The DiDia 150 is hand-fashioned from soft aluminum, has thermostatically-controlled air conditioning, hidden headlights, tail lights that swivel as the car turns a corner, glass windows on hinges, and rust-colored seats, each with an ash tray, cigarette lighter, and radio speaker. No word on cup holders.
Best I can tell, the oversize levers on the dash control the heater, defrost, and air conditioning systems. It's also nice to see the flat-bottomed steering wheel, many years ahead of the time when VW GTIs and others made them almost commonplace.
Bobby Darin (Walden Robert [Bobby] Cassotto) was born in The Bronx on May 14, 1936, and at 8, he heard a doctor tell his mother that he may not live past 16 due to heart damage caused by rheumatic fever. He went on to record such hits as "Splish Splash", "Dream Lover", and "Mack The Knife", which won him the 1960 Grammy. He was nominated for an Academy Award in 1963 for his portrayal of a shell-shocked soldier in "Captain Newman, M.D.". His record company, TM Music/Trio, launched Wayne Newton and others, and Bobby was with Robert Kennedy in 1968 when he was killed at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. Bobby went into seclusion for about a year after that event. In 1972, he had a TV variety show called "The Bobby Darin Amusement Company" that he hosted until his sudden death. He was not buried; he gave his body to UCLA for medical research.
In 1970, Mr. Darin donated the DiDia 150 to the Museum of Transportation. There is a special glass case beside the car with his photo, autograph, and other memorabilia.The car was restored by Manns Auto Body in Festus, Missouri, just previous to display. The only other car in the Museum that literally made me gasp was their working Chrysler Turbine Car, the only running Turbine Car on public display. Jay Leno has offered to buy the Chrysler, but has not been successful yet. The owners start it every two weeks, but my hints at hearing the car run were moot. Mr. Darin passed in 1973, after surgery to correct heart problems brought on by blood poisoning. He was 37.
--That Car Guy
Thanks to Amazon for letting me "appropriate" the Bobby Darin album cover.