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The Story Behind That Rare Cadillac Madame X On American Pickers

If History's long-running antiquing reality show "American Pickers" has taught us anything, it's that series creator Mike Wolfe and his cohorts can find hidden treasures anywhere. In fact, Mike and his pals have spent the better part of the show's 300-plus-episodes-and-counting run digging valuable, but often long-forgotten artifacts from overstuffed attics, garages, and backyard barns all across the country. And over the years, Mike and his various co-stars have come across a handful of items considered legitimate "white whales" in the antiquing world.

That's just what they find in a Michigan garage during a Season 20 episode titled, "The Mysterious Madame X." If you didn't guess from the title, that episode finds Mike and his mechanic pal Mike Mefford on the hunt for a collector who's apparently willing to part ways with an incredibly rare, early-model Cadillac Madame X. Once they track the man down, the two Mikes find the man is indeed sitting on the one-of-a-kind artifact he claimed, and they're not about to walk away without it.

The car in question fetched a staggering $90,000 from the "American Pickers" team, easily ranking it among the priciest single-item picks in the show's history. And given the back story for the super-rare automobile, this Cadillac Madame X was well worth the price. 

The Cadillac Madame X was well worth the price the American Pickers paid

As noted by Mike Wolfe and his co-host Mike Mefford during the aforementioned Season 20 episode of "American Pickers," it was probably wise not to let that Cadillac Madame X slip away even at that exorbitant cost. The classic autos are, after all, not only rare but rightfully coveted in car collecting circles. One look at a Madame X is enough to understand why as the cars, with their Fleetwood body styles, lavish adornments, and powerful V-16 engines are the epitome of "classic." They're the sort of car one might easily imagine a Hollywood starlet or a Detroit gangster hitting the town in during their 1930s heyday. 

The vintage cars have a pretty colorful backstory too, with Mike and Mike claiming that legendary automobile designer Harley Earl named the car after actor Pauline Fredericks, whom he'd seen portray Madame X in a Detroit stage production. As it happens, Cadillac never publicly called the cars Madame X and began selling them in 1930 under the much simpler Cadillac V-16 moniker. Nonetheless, few of the specialty vehicles were actually made during the '30s, and they fetch big bucks on the open market these days, per RM Sotheby's website.  

Seems the particular model the two Mikes come across on "American Pickers" is rare even by Madame X standards, however, as it doesn't boast the vehicle's signature V-16 engine, instead running on a V-8. That means it was likely among the first ever produced. After verifying its VIN numbers, the Mikes determine the car is, in fact, the very first Madame X to roll off of the assembly line in 1929, backing up claims made by its owner. Given the facts, it's kinda hard to believe Mike was able to make the deal even at $90,000.