Dr. Joe Roglieri, vice president of the Capital District Region of the Cadillac & LaSalle Club, is a true car enthusiast. Growing up, he was so influenced by automobiles that he even remembers cars that his father owned when he was a toddler. Among his treasures: a photo collection of his father’s cars – some before Joe was born – including a 1959 Cadillac flattop and 1954 Deville.
“I have memories dating all the way back to when I was 2, but I only remember the cars and not much else,” he said. “Every car that I have today has sentimental value, often because it connects me to those memories. I even still have my first car, a 1973 Chevrolet Malibu with a 350 engine and four-speed transmission.”
Joe recalls helping the Malibu’s previous owner wash and wax it before he was old enough to drive. He also remembers, after he was the proud owner, his dad saying, “When are you gonna get that thing out of my garage?”
Joe’s vivid recollections exemplify his devotion to the hobby; after all, the average middle-aged adult doesn’t recall much before the age of 5. Joe’s dad exposed him to many different cars throughout his childhood, but there was always an emphasis on Cadillacs. “He loved his Cadillacs, he always had them.” Joe remembers tagging along with his dad to buy a new 1977 Coupe Deville. He also remembers the family’s 1975 Chrysler New Yorker; the same car that was involved in an accident on Thanksgiving Day when he was a kid.
Joe’s passion for cars increased during the late ’70s. His dad owned a used car dealership, so young Joe was exposed to a variety of years, makes and models. He vividly recalls climbing into a 1975 Corvette and starting it. “Those were good years, just going to the dealership, hanging out and being the first to see what was coming in. I even helped park the cars at age 10.” Joe often brought his elementary school friends along to share in the excitement, and they built models in an attempt to replicate their dream cars. Once Joe and his buddies were old enough to drive, they were in the garage working on the real thing.
Many great cars came through the dealership, Joe said, including a 1970 Chevelle SS convertible that his dad decided to keep. The Chevelle eventually got buried in his father’s garage and sat for 20 years until they fired it up together. Later his father gave Joe the car as a graduation present. “I didn’t expect a car for a gift, but it really meant a lot to me, knowing how much my dad loved that car. I still have it.”
Classic Cadillacs are easy for anyone to love, but Joe has a special attachment to them — specifically those from the 1950s and ’60s. He remembers an abandoned 1959 flattop and ’68 Camaro sitting side-by-side in a weed-infested lot just a few blocks from the home he grew up in. For 10 years, whenever Joe passed the cars he would think, “Wouldn’t it be great to someday save that Cadillac?” Then one day, a teenaged Joe came upon a horrible sight: someone had cut the front and rear ends off the old Cadillac, presumably to make couches. The disappointment is still evident in Joe’s voice: “That was a heartbreaking sight.”
From that moment on, Joe made it his goal to become the proud owner of a 1959 Cadillac. Recently, he lucked out and the dream came true. A friend was trying to decide if he should sell his ’59 Cadillac overseas, and Joe talked him into letting him purchase the car instead. “I was in the right place at the right time, and my friend liked the idea of being able to see the car again.”
The ‘59 remains Joe’s favorite car, and who could blame him? The smooth ride, tall fins and double-bullet taillights leave little else to be desired. But – he has to admit – there is one non-Cadillac that he still thinks about: a used 1975 Buick LeSabre convertible that his brother gave him when he was in college. “It was the best no-worries car. Very reliable. A perfect daily driver for a college student.” Before starting graduate school, Joe was unsure if he should keep the LeSabre or sell it, so he bought himself some time by storing it in a friend’s garage for the winter. When spring arrived, he discovered that the car had been vandalized, and the convertible top was completely destroyed.
“I didn’t want to spend $1,500 on a car that we paid $400 for,” Joe said, so he sold it. He still regrets that decision. Even though the LeSabre was rust covered and bondo filled, he’d made a connection with it. About a year ago, however, Joe was able to ease his pain by buying another ’75 LeSabre convertible.
“It’s almost the same exact car as I had, except without the rust,” Joe said. “It’s an unbelievably fun car to drive. I love my ‘59 Cadillac, but nothing compares to the feeling I have when driving the Buick.”
Joe’s exposure to so many different cars at a young age not only made for an unforgettable childhood, but it expanded his interests. “That’s my favorite thing about the Cadillac & LaSalle Club,” he said. “They embrace every year, make and model of Cadillac nationwide, including modified cars and new models. The variety of people involved is astonishing.”
They even accept guys with a soft spot for Buicks.
For more about the Cadillac & LeSalle Club, visit http://www.cadillaclasalleclub.org/