Elvis Presley: World’s Best Car Buyer

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Elvis Presley was known for his generosity, but he didn’t just stop at free show tickets or 500% tips at restaurants. One of Elvis’ favorite ways to show his appreciation was to drop a cool $11k (we’re talking the ‘60s and ‘70s here, so don’t laugh) on a new car. His first big Cadillac purchase was a Pepto-pink Caddy for his mama, Gladys, who was presented with the extravagant gift in 1955. She couldn’t drive, but hey, it’s the thought that counts.

The cotton candy-colored car was just the beginning. From that moment until his untimely death on August 16, 1977, the King bought an estimated 100+ Cadillacs and Lincolns for friends, family, and even total strangers. Here are just a few of those stories:

A Seriously Happy Birthday

A bank teller named Mennie Person happened to be in the right place at the right time in 1975. She was window shopping at a car dealership in Memphis and noticed Elvis’ custom limo parked there. He was inside giving the necessary details on yet another mass Cadillac purchase. As she was admiring his luxurious ride, Elvis came out to talk to her. “He said, ‘That one’s mine, but I’ll buy you one,’” Person said. He also found out that her birthday was two days away and presented her with “a substantial” check, saying that she needed some new clothes to go with her new car.

As Seen on TV

In January 1976, Elvis was on vacation in Colorado to celebrate his 41st birthday. Perhaps feeling like he wanted to give some gifts to commemorate the occasion, Elvis went to Kumpf Lincoln-Mercury in Denver and purchased a handful of Caddies and a couple of Lincolns. The lucky recipients? Three policemen, a doctor, and a newscaster on a local TV station. Anchor Don Kinney’s gift happened after he gave a report on Elvis’ buying spree. As anchors tend to do, Kinney finished the story with a quip: “Elvis, if you’re watching, I wouldn’t mind an economy car.” As a matter of fact, Elvis was watching. He immediately called the station and said there was a car waiting for Kinney if he wanted it. Convinced a friend was playing a joke on him, Kinney hung up on the King - several times. He was finally convinced it was the real deal when Detective Ron Pietrafeso, one of the other car recipients, got on the phone and assured him that Elvis was really on the line.

TCB with Karate

Elvis practiced Karate since his Army days, and in the early ‘70s, he contacted Memphis instructor Kang Rhee to see if he would be interested in continuing his training. Rhee agreed, but had Elvis complete his training in a class with other students. Over the course of about four years, Elvis took classes and was awarded an eighth degree black belt. Grateful for the normalcy, maybe, Elvis gifted Rhee with one of his own customized Cadillacs in 1973. Rhee now runs “Elvis Karate.” You should probably experience his website.

Other people who received a set of wheels: Elvis’ doctor, dentist, jeweler, hair stylist, valet, bodyguards and his maid. In fact, maid and cook Mary Jenkins, said she received a total of six cars from him over a period of 14 years.

For his generous gift giving practices, a Memphis dealership allegedly presented Elvis with a plaque for being the “World’s Best Car Buyer” that was engraved with the names of the 31 people he had purchased cars for through that dealership alone.

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December 28, 2011 - 6:52pm
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