Henry Hill’s Cadillac – May 11, 1980

Ray Liotta as Henry Hill in Goodfellas.

Ray Liotta as Henry Hill in Goodfellas.

Vitals

Ray Liotta as Henry Hill, coked out Mafia associate

Long Island, NY, Spring 1980

Film: Goodfellas
Release Date: September 19, 1990
Director: Martin Scorsese
Costume Designer: Richard Bruno

Background

First things first, the scene is actually set on Sunday, April 27, 1980. For some reason, Goodfellas chose to re-date Henry’s arrest to two weeks later. Okay, glad we got that cleared up.

Yesterday, we saw a mobster’s luxury car during the post-war era. Thirty years later, the “Lincoln vs. Cadillac” debate (made famous by Donnie Brasco) rages on. While a boss like Sonny drove a Lincoln in 1947, a street guy like Henry is even able to get behind the wheel of a Cadillac in 1979. And not just any Cadillac, but a “Special Edition” Coupe de Ville Phaeton! These were not small cars, and I can’t imagine trying to handle one of these boats around tight residential corners, especially with all the substances in Henry’s system clashing with his growing paranoia. The car is especially showcased during the film’s climax, the last true day of freedom for Henry Hill before his drug arrest and life in the Witness Protection Program.

What’d He Wear?

To be honest, this is one of the least attractive looks on the site. It is a very goombah variation of what was fashionable in 1980, which is not a good thing. However, Ray Liotta makes it look as cool as he can, and I’m sure the real Henry Hill watched this scene and thought, “Jesus, I wish I had looked that cool.”

The real Henry's mugshot from the day and Liotta as Henry. Well, he definitely wore a striped shirt.

The real Henry’s mugshot from the day and Liotta as Henry. Well, he definitely wore a striped shirt.

After packing up a grocery bag full of guns and loading up his nose with enough cocaine to kill an elephant (does cocaine kill elephants? I don’t know), Henry steps out of his humble Long Island home and heads to the car. He may be making the best money of his life, but he certainly isn’t dressing like it. The silk suits and sharp ties are gone; in their place is an oversized knit shirt, tight slacks, and a ghostly complexion.

The white striped sport shirt is knit (even Frank Costanza said he wouldn’t be caught dead in Ban-Lon, albeit for a different reason) with very large “disco” collars that flop around Henry’s neck. The shirt is clearly meant to be worn casually and untucked; the waistband is straight-cut all around with no vents or tails. There are eight white buttons down the front of the shirt, with a double button set-up on the waistband that Henry doesn’t bother to fasten.

shirt

It really is an impractical shirt.

The fit of the shirt is much roomier than the trousers, giving Henry plenty of breathing room. The shirt even has roped sleeveheads. The sleeves have buttoned cuffs, which Henry wears rolled up his arms.

The shirt’s stripes are dark blue in alternating patterns. One “stripe” is actually two thin stripes and the other is a more abstract box pattern. The stripes stretch down the shirt vertically.

dont yeah yeah me lois

“Don’t ‘yeah, yeah’ me, Lois!”

As I mentioned, the slacks are much tighter than the shirt. They are black with a very subtle tonal stripe and a shine that indicates they may be at least partially silk, which wouldn’t be uncharacteristic for Henry. The trousers have a very unique self-belted front, like the brown slacks he wears during the pistol-whipping scene, with a squared 1-eyelet clasp just right of the groin to fasten the pants around the waist. Other than that, they have a flat front and fit snugly down each leg to the plain-hemmed bottoms.

Henry throws a tantrum.

Henry throws a tantrum.

Henry’s shoes are black calfskin horsebit loafers with brass loops for the strap. Horsebit loafers were very popular during this era, with even Roger Moore wearing a pair of Italian horsebit loafers in many of his James Bond films. Henry wears his with black ribbed dress socks.

feet

Henry slams on the brakes. Notice the subtle stripe on his pants here.

Henry’s jewelry, once the proud accessories of a mobster at the top of his game, now just look like gaudy reminders of a past life. He’s not so much Lucky Luciano as he is your sleazy Uncle Jack from Scarsdale. There are rings and bracelets galore, with a gold diamond ring on his right pinky and a gold chain bracelet rubbing up against his watch on his right wrist. The only jewelry on his left hand is the gold wedding band worn on his ring finger.

Henry hits many lows and highs in the same night. Pun semi-intended.

Henry hits many lows and highs in the same night. Pun semi-intended.

His watch is actually still pretty nice with a round white diamond-encrusted dial, a plain gold case, and a gold bracelet. Since Henry is left-handed, he wears it on the right wrist.

watch

Any ideas what sort of watch we’re talking about here?

Henry also wears the same sunglasses as “Dirty Harry”, a pair of black Ray-Ban Balorama wraparound sunglasses, arguably the coolest part of his attire.

shades

The sunglasses somewhat help neutralize a look that is otherwise pretty tacky.

Like Sonny before him, Henry also wears The Mobster: a white ribbed sleeveless undershirt with a gold necklace that suspends a gold Catholic cross from it. The only difference, and one we don’t see often, is Henry’s addition of the Star of David on another gold necklace.

Go Big or Go Home

We’ve already talked about the infamously delicious dinner from the prison sequence. If your mouth is still watering for another Goodfellas recipe, consider the Hill family’s late night Sunday dinner after Henry’s day of running around under the scrutiny of helicopters:

I was cooking dinner that night. I had to start braising beef, pork butt, and veal shanks for the tomato sauce… I was making ziti with the meat gravy, and I’m planning to roast the peppers over the flames, and I was gonna put on some string beans with some olive oil and garlic, and I have some beautiful cutlets that were cut just right that I was gonna fry up before dinner just as an appetizer.

The trick to making a good sauce, and something that anyone with half a brain should know, is to “not let the sauce stick” by continuously stirring it.

Although the family doesn’t sit down for dinner until almost 11:00 p.m., the meal looks delicious. The Hills pair their Sunday dinner with a bottle of Bolla red wine.

And, of course, you can’t really be Henry unless you’re behind the wheel chain-smoking Winston Reds like it’s the end of the world.

smoke

Henry lights up for a looooong day.

For driving, you’ll want some classic rock like we hear during Henry’s paranoia. The centerpiece is “Jump Into the Fire” from Harry Nilsson’s seventh album, Nilsson Schmilsson. At nearly seven minutes long with a badass drum solo halfway through, this 1971 song will definitely encourage your lead foot.

The other great songs used in the sequence are:

  • The Rolling Stones – “Memo from Turner” (from Metamorphosis, 1975 but recorded in 1968)
  • The Who – “Magic Bus (Live)” (from Live at Leeds, 1970)
  • The Rolling Stones – “Monkey Man” (from Let It Bleed, 1969)
  • George Harrison – “What Is Life” (from All Things Must Pass, 1970)
  • Muddy Waters – “Mannish Boy” (from Hard Again, 1977)

While you can’t go wrong listening to any of the above songs, “Jump Into the Fire” is the one most identified with this sequence. In fact, one YouTuber made a neat re-edit of the whole sequence, fitting it in the entirety of Nilsson’s song.

How to Get the Look

And watch out for helicopters!

And watch out for helicopters!

If you really want the look, here’s what you can wear. Of course, you can and should always make a look your own rather than just straight copy.

  • White (with dark blue abstract stripes) knit sport shirt with large disco collars, a straight-cut waistband, and buttoned cuffs
  • Black tonal striped self-belted flat front trousers with side pockets and plain-hemmed bottoms
  • Black calfskin horsebit loafers with brass hardware
  • Black ribbed socks
  • White sleeveless ribbed undershirt
  • Ray-Ban Balorama wraparound sunglasses
  • Gold wristwatch with a diamond-encrusted dial and round, white face
  • Gold chain bracelet
  • Gold necklace with a plain Catholic cross pendant
  • Gold necklace with a Star of David pendant
  • Gold pinky ring with a diamond
  • Plain gold wedding band

The Car

Henry’s yacht car for the last sequence of the film is a 1979 Cadillac Coupe de Ville Phaeton. Not only that, but it was one of the 2,400 custom “Special Edition” models made in 1979.

As a symbol of elegance in an era that embraced cheesiness, the Cadillac Coupe de Ville has been seen in many mob movies, but Goodfellas truly used the car to its full potential. Henry tries to escape the helicopters watching him from above, but he is driving a distinctive luxury car that makes it difficult, just making it more fun to watch as he speeds his land yacht around corners in Long Island.

g511-caddy1

The Cadillac Coupe de Ville – and the de Ville series – carries many similarities to the history of the Lincoln Continental. Like the Lincoln, its origins were in the 1940s when the “Coupe de Ville” nomenclature denoted a prestige trim level of the Cadillac Series 62 luxury coupe. In 1949, a prototype Coupe de Ville was built on a Sixty Special chassis, equipped with a glove compartment telephone and secretarial accessories in the rear armrest. This prototype was used by Charles E. Wilson, GM President, for eight years until he presented it to his secretary. The production series of the Series 62 Coupe de Ville was introduced late in the 1949 model year and cost just about as much as a Series 62 convertible at the price of $3,496. Eventually, demand for the Coupe de Ville flew through the roof and the model enjoyed a long and esteemed career as a luxury V8 coupe.

In 1977, the fifth generation of the de Ville series was unveiled, with both the Coupe de Ville and Sedan de Ville taking style nods more from the era’s K-cars than from the luxuriously decadent high-finned models of the early ’60s. To the untrained eye, a Sedan de Ville could just be another Buick Century. Cadillac soon realized the need for a more exclusive custom series. They had the d’Elegance package for $650, but it wasn’t enough. In 1978, Cadillac introduced the “Phaeton” package for both the coupe and sedan, featuring a simulated convertible top, special pin striping, wire wheel discs, and “Phaeton” name plates on the rear fenders, as well as leather upholstered seats and a leather-trimmed steering wheel. The package, much more exclusive at $1,929, was available in Cotillion White with a dark blue roof, Platinum Silver with a black roof, or Arizona Beige with a dark brown roof.

Imagine how much SHITTIER this car would have looked in Arizona Beige rather than Western Saddle. Am I right?

Imagine how much SHITTIER this car would have looked in Arizona Beige rather than Western Saddle. Am I right?

The 1979 model, which Henry drives in the film, saw little variation from ’78 except for a new lightweight aluminum hood and new grille design. The exclusive “Phaeton” package now cost $2,029, but the colors Slate Firemist replaced Platinum Silver and Arizona Beige was replaced by Western Saddle Firemist with a dark brown top. It is the latter, with an “Antique Saddle” leather interior, that Henry charges around the suburbs in. Of the 215,101 de Villes produced in 1979, 121,890 were coupes and only 2,400 of those were Coupe de Ville Phaetons. Adding the $2,029 package to the Coupe de Ville base price of $11,728 brings the cost of Henry’s car to $13,727, although it’s doubtful he paid the whole price because, come on. Despite being paranoid and higher than a kite all day, Henry manages to handle this 4100+ lb. car with aplomb, narrowly avoiding an accident that would have ensnared a lesser driver.

The power plant in these 1977-1979 era de Villes was a standard 425 cu. in. (7.0 L) Cadillac “L33” V8 which made 180 horsepower with a four-barrel carburetor. This Cadillac big block was the largest engine offered by GM in 1979. An optional electronic fuel-injected version, the “L35”, was also offered, with an additional 15 horsepower, for $647.

1979 Cadillac Coupe de Ville Phaeton Special Edition

g511-caddy2Body Style: 2-door coupe

Layout: front-engine, rear-wheel-drive (RWD)

Engine: 425 cu. in. (7.0 L) Cadillac “L33” V8 with a 4-barrel carburetor

Power: 180 hp (130 kW; 182 PS) @ 4000 RPM

Torque: 320 lb·ft (420 N·m) @ 2000 RPM

Transmission: 3-speed automatic

Wheelbase: 121.5 inches (3086 mm)

Length: 221.2 inches (5618 mm)

Width: 76.4 inches (1941 mm)

Height: 54.6 inches (1387 mm)

The Phaeton was discontinued for 1980, and a V6 engine was introduced. 1979 was the last great year for the Cadillac de Ville series. From 1985 on, all models were front-wheel-drive only. Front-wheel-drive may be more practical, but the Coupe de Ville was never intended to be a practical car. In 1994, the coupe was dropped altogether and the Sedan de Ville became just the DeVille. By this time, the only engine option was a V8, but the damage had been done. The DeVille ended production in 2005, replaced by the similar Northstar-powered Cadillac DTS.

For movie/trivia buffs, Henry’s plates are New York plates #392-DIP.

The Gun

After he returns home from his arrest, Henry is in a bad place. The Mafia is angry at him, he has no drugs to sell, and he’s probably still plenty fucked up from all the drugs that have been turning his “mind into mush”. He sleeps that night fully-clothed, an Astra Constable ready for action in his hand.

I'm sure I don't have to tell you how dangerous this is.

I’m sure I don’t have to tell you how dangerous this is.

The Astra Constable is Spain’s answer to the Walther PPK, offered in similar chamberings of .32 ACP, .380 ACP, and even .22 LR. It’s been seen in many films such as Taxi DriverThree Days of the Condor and Trading Places, often mistaken for the more popular PPK. It was produced from 1969 to 1992 by the Spanish firm Astra Unceta y Cía, a manufacturer that made many lower-priced clones of popular weapons including the Mauser C96 and the “Baby Browning” .25-caliber pistol. Interestingly, Astra’s last successful manager and owner, Augusto Unceta-Barrenechea, was killed by ETA separatists in 1977. The company soon merged with Star (maker of the 1911 clone “Model B”) and they produced firearms as ASTAR until May of 1997.

The Constable shares many dimensional similarities with the PPK, including length (6.5″ vs. PPK’s 6.1″), barrel length (3.5″ vs. PPK’s 3.3″), and weight (25 oz. unloaded vs. PPK’s 21 oz.). The most popular Constable model, the .380, carries eight rounds in its magazine. It is a double-action, blowback-operated, semi-automatic pistol.

A deactivated Astra Constable.

A deactivated Astra Constable.

Some have identified this as the same gun that Henry’s wife Karen shoves in her underwear during the raid. This is incorrect, although it would make sense; the gun Karen hides is a nickel Iver Johnson .380. However, Goodfellas is not very consistent with firearms continuity, so it may be meant to be the same gun.

Do Yourself a Favor and…

Buy the movie.

The Quote

For a second I thought I was dead. But, when I heard all the noise, I knew they were cops. Only cops talk that way. If they’d been wiseguys, I wouldn’t have heard a thing. I would’ve been dead.

9 comments

  1. Max

    What I liked about your last Car Week (and this one thus far) is that, except for the obligatory nod to the Olympic Champion BAMFmobile (Bullitt’s Mustang), you don’t shoot for the obvious. Anyone else would have come out of the gates with Starsky’s striped tomato, the General Lee, and Sonny Crockett’s fake Ferrari (which, don’t get me wrong, was badass).

    We know your armament is a Browning Hi-Power (I wrecked mine with too much Buffalo Bore — please, save that for the Glock or 92FS), but, unless you’ve said so elsewhere that I missed (good possibility), we’re still waiting to hear about your wheels . . .

    Like

    • luckystrike721

      Thanks, Max! That’s not to say those won’t be covered; the General Lee was instrumental in getting me interested in cars when I was young, and my dream car is still a ’69 Charger R/T with a 440 Magnum (or a Six Pack in a ’70) and 4-speed trans. I do like to focus on more of the “everyday” car that is so well-incorporated into the film’s world that you really need to step back and think, “Well, that IS a great car.”

      Those old shows really did have some greats though. In addition to the Dukes and Starsky, Miami Vice is full of beautiful autos including the original Crockett kit Ferrari you mentioned, Tubbs’ blue Caddy convertible, Gina’s ’71 Cougar, all of the exotic and classic cars driven by villains and side characters, and – of course – the iconic white Testarossa. I remember an episode with a Grand National too; the Grand National is a great example of a deceivingly standard-looking car (unless it had that black paint) with a shockingly fun engine inside.

      But none of that answers your question! Apologies if my answer is more verbose than it could be. My first car, which I inherited because no one else in my family wanted it, was a dark red 1992 Plymouth Acclaim sedan. I started driving it right after I got my license in February 2006, and I’m not ashamed to say I loved it. The Acclaim had two engine options that I know of that year – a base 2.5 4-cylinder and a Mitsubishi 3.0 V6. I had the latter, and that V6 in such a light car was much more of a force than I had expected. The car performed exceedingly well, racking up a top speed of 117 mph once, and still getting about 20-22 mpg in its earlier days with me at the helm. To say I mistreated it would be unfair; I lovingly wore it out. That car could do anything I wanted it to; I would use it for quick interstate cigarette runs, races through suburbia and the city limits, and Dukes-learned maneuvers including a relatively impressive handbrake turn. It lasted six years with me and probably would’ve lasted a few more, but the cost of upkeep and constantly replacing tires and needing alignment. I’m sure that’s due to the car’s age and not my Cary Loftin-wannabe techniques. Plus, it was an aging car with no A/C and none of the convenient little things (like an iPod-using auxiliary cable) that I was starting to envy in my friends’ cars.

      Anyway, last May, I finally said goodbye to the Acclaim and was shopping for a new car. My first choice is one of the new series of Challengers, preferably with the new HEMI V8 and a 6-speed Tremec. However, RWD was out since Pittsburgh winters are angry. All of my friends with RWDs typically have a backup car they can turn to for the season. I would not be so lucky. Unfortunately, this also ruled out many models of the new Charger, and I really liked the 2012-2013 redesign. I was looking for a moderately-priced 2012 Charger AWD at a local Dodge lot, not allowing myself to believe that such a thing didn’t exist, when I spotted a silver 2007 Volvo C70 convertible on the lot out of the corner of my eye. Very soon, I ended up behind the wheel and – for a shockingly good deal – out of the lot.

      Now, while my heart will always be shooting for a solid piece of classic American muscle, this C70 is a pretty nice machine. It has Volvo’s 2.5 T5, which is a smaller engine than I thought I wanted, but it has solid acceleration and hits around 227 hp, which is a 86 hp upgrade from the Acclaim. The FWD is pretty good in the aforementioned Pittsburgh winters, and the car itself is both big and sleek. The best part is the retractable hardtop, though, which impresses children, young women, and old men alike. After my 4-year-old niece told me she was impressed that I was driving a “Transformer”, I knew I had done something right.

      Like

  2. M Oleman

    Fellow PIttsburgher here, (note the “h”)
    Good article. I think I was the last person in the world to see Goodfellas, and I still watch it any time it’s on tv. There’s so much to hate and love in that movie. I did own a Cadillac once. A very used and worn out
    66 Sedan de Ville. I think it was called a Park Ave edition because it was about 2 feet shorter than the regular Sedan de Ville and was meant for inner city driving. Still a boat though.

    I love the Challengers also but as you said they’re not practical around here unless you have a winter back up.
    It’s a little late for Christmas but how about the car that Darren McGavin drives in “A Christmas Story” for this year? Just a klunky Olds, but no one’s ever done that before.

    See you on the Parkway.

    Like

    • luckystrike721

      Always a pleasure to hear from a fellow ‘burgher! As you might be able to tell, Goodfellas is a favorite movie with me; if you ever get a chance to read the book Wiseguy (or any subsequent books about the case), it’s well worth your time. A ’66 Sedan de Ville must’ve been a pleasure to drive, especially with the big 429 under the hood. Dare I ask how it handled the winters here?

      “Some men are Baptists, others Catholics, my father was an Oldsmobile man…” The ’37 Olds from A Christmas Story would be a great holiday-timed piece. I’ll get my hands on a copy of the film and see what I can put together.

      Great to hear from you! I’ll be stocking up on Eat’n Park quarts of soup tonight… best thing for a cold day.

      Like

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