RAWLINS — A vintage two-headed car in Rawlins is still turning heads 61 years after it was built.
The car is owned by Steve Perkins and sits in front of his Conoco station on West Spruce Street. It’s there, that is, Perkins isn’t out taking it for a spin.
“It’s a really fun car, and it gets a lot of looks,” Perkins told Cowboy State Daily. “We’ve had so many people stop to look at it. I wish I had a nickel for every photo taken of it.”
Just this summer, a visitor from New Zealand stopped at the station to look at the car. The world traveler was doing a tour of the United States.
“He told me it’s one of the most interesting vehicles he’s ever seen,” Perkins said.
The car requires two drivers to operate but, as the motto printed on it plainly states, it doesn’t matter which end is doing the driving, the car is “always moving ahead.”
The car can do tricks, like spinning around in a tight circle or what Perkins calls “crab walking.” That’s where each driver turns his wheel the opposite way. The car will then “crab walk” down the street.
“When I first started driving it, I drove one end and my dad drove the other end,” Perkins said. “You’re always looking out, waving at the crowds. I remember one old guy sitting on a lawn chair and he tells the woman next to him, ‘Look, Martha, that’s how you drive!’ And we were sliding down the street.”
These days the car is mainly driven in local parades, but sometimes if Perkins has guests, he’ll take them out for a spin in the car.
The car was built in 1962 by Perkins’ uncle Bob.
“He’d seen two Model Ts stuck together when he was a kid in this parade, and he got to thinking about it,” Steve told Cowboy State Daily. “It kind of stuck in his head and he says, ‘I want to build one like that. Except mine’s going to steer on both ends.’”
Bob later came to Rawlins in 1955 to work at a gas station in town.
“Five years later, he owned that gas station and then two years after that, him and another guy got together and they had found two 1955 Cadillacs in the junkyard,” Steve said.
One Cadillac had a blown engine while the other had been rear ended by a truck, ruining each of the classic cars. But at the time, neither was yet a classic.
Over the course of a year or so, Bob worked on the car with friends and his brother, sticking the two vehicles together, just like those two Ford Model Ts he saw in that parade as a kid. One thing that’s a little ironic about the finished car is they had to use a Ford chassis to hold the two front ends of the Cadillacs. They were too long for a Cadillac chassis.
At the time the car was built, Rawlins was a happening place. Lots of hotels and motels, all full by 6 p.m. every night.
“If you didn’t have a hotel by 6 o’clock back then, you probably weren’t going to get one,” Steve said. “So, he would drive that through all the hotel and motel parking lots. You know, people were pulling in and they’re going to the office or they’re headed out for dinner, but people would see him and say, ‘Whoa, whoa, we want to get a picture.’”
But Bob wasn’t stopping for anyone. He just kept on driving until he had a long tail of cars following him all over town. Then he’d head back to his filling station to park the car.
“All these people would pull up on the island to get pictures of that, and then Bob’s gas station attendants would come out and say, ‘Hey, you need some gas?’ And they’d say, ‘Yeah, yeah, fill it up, I’m going to get a picture,’” he said.
That Time The Governor Got Pulled Over In It
The local police, however, were not as fond of the contraption.
“They called it a distraction to normal traffic patterns,” Steve said. “That was the only thing they could come up with. I mean, it was legal because it had taillights and turn signals behind the grill for whichever end it happened to be operated from.”
Rawlins police weren’t the only law enforcement flummoxed by the car.
Bob took the car to Cheyenne for the Frontier Days Parade and ended up getting pulled over afterward. He was driving it around town, showing off what it could do, with a carload of people inside.
“You could get six people in it, and I’m sure they’d had a beer or two,” Steve said. “And they were getting a little carried away, taking up a lane and a half, doing circles in the middle of the intersection.”
The car did present something of a quandary to the patrol officer who had pulled it over.
Who exactly was driving the car? There were two front ends, and a person sitting at the driver’s spot in each end.
So, he walked up to one end of the car to ask if that driver was the one driving the vehicle.
“So that driver hands the key to the other driver, and then the patrolman goes around to the other driver and asks if he’s the one driving the car,” Steve said.
That driver then handed the keys back to his partner driver in a routine that would have been worthy of an Abbot and Costello “Who’s on First?” routine.
The patrolman wasn’t impressed by the wise guy act, though.
“All right, all of you people get out of this car,” he said.
“You want your boss to get out, too?” Bob Perkins innocently asked, barely repressing laughter.
The patrolman looked again in the car and saw that the governor of Wyoming himself was among the occupants of the car.
That stopped the patrolman short.
“No sir,” he finally said. “But you just keep it to this one lane now.”
Steve is not sure which governor was in the car with Uncle Bob, but he thinks the timeframe was early to mid-1970s, so it would have been either Stan Hathaway or Ed Herschler.
Steve’s uncle John happened to be in a bar in Japan some years after the car was built, and in that bar was a picture of the two-headed Cadillac he’d helped his brother Bob build.
“The guy (bartender) told John he’d always wanted to go to America to see the car,” Steve said. “So, my uncle John, who was in the Air Force over in Japan, told him he’d help to build the car.”
The bartender didn’t believe him at first. John had to pull a picture out of his wallet of himself and Bob standing beside the car.
“Here’s my brother, and here’s the two-headed Cadillac,” he said. “We built it.”
The bartender said a friend in the United States had sent him a postcard of the car.
Steve doesn’t know if the bartender ever made it to the U.S. to see the car, but it’s fun to know people around the world have pictures of it.
The postcards are still available at the Rawlins Conoco station. They come 5,000 to a batch, and Steve keeps them stocked up.
“The sheer number of people who stop by, get gas, see this car and walk around it, and then walk around it again is amazing,” he said. “Sometimes the look on their faces, ‘Like, what am I seeing?’ That’s the fun part. Watching people look at it.”
The car isn’t locked, so people can get in it and take selfies.
“Some days in the summertime, there’s a kid in there and mom and dad are taking pictures,” Steve said.
It's Not For Sale, So Don't Ask
You can take a selfie in the car, but the one-of-a-kind Caddy is most definitely not for sale. Many people have tried to buy the car over the years, but neither Bob nor Steve are interested in selling it.
There is a funny story, though, about a guy who tried to buy it during the 1970s with cash. Lots and lots of briefcase cash.
“The oil boom was going mad in Wyoming and everyone had money,” Steve said. “So, some oil field guy comes in and says, ‘I want to buy that Cadillac, how much is it?’”
Bob Perkins was doing a bit of accounting work at the time and barely looked up from what he was doing to say, “It ain’t for sale.”
“Everything’s for sale,” the oil field guy shot back. “I’ll come back with money next week.”
Bob did look up this time and repeated, “It ain’t for sale.”
The next week, though, the guy came back with a large briefcase stuffed full of bundles of $20 bills, worth $20,000 each.
“So, the guy plops this briefcase on top of Bob’s desk while’s doing his paperwork, which was a mistake,” Steve said. “And he opens it up and starts setting out bundles of 20s.”
He set out like $80,000 in bank bundles of $20 bills, Steve Perkins believes, and then asks, certain the answer will be yes, “Is that enough money?”
But Bob was not impressed by the display of cash, and he was supremely irritated that the man had disturbed his paperwork.
“You ain’t got enough money in that case,” he growled at the man. “I told you it wasn’t for sale — now get outta here.”
Steve asked Bob later why he didn’t sell the car given the amount of money the guy was willing to fork over. It was a small fortune at the time.
“Because the advertising value of that car is worth more than that kind of money,” Bob said.
Now that Steve owns the car, he agrees. The car is worth too much in advertising value to ever sell. And the fact that Cadillacs are now a classic means it would be really hard to replicate such a car today.
“Several have come around since then asking to buy the car,” he said. “And the answer is always, ‘Nope.’ When we sell the business, it will go with the business because it is just a part of it.”
Renée Jean can be reached at Renee@CowboyStateDaily.com.