Bringing Back Iran’s Cadillacs | God's World News

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Bringing Back Iran’s Cadillacs

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    Workers clean a restored Cadillac Seville at Khosro Dahaghin’s workshop in Roudehen, Iran. (AP/Vahid Salemi)
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    Khosro Dahaghin inspects a Cadillac Seville at his workshop. (AP/Vahid Salemi)
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    Khosro Dahaghin carefully examines each frame, component, and stitch of the Sevilles in Iran. But that’s a challenge as parts become scarce and the vehicles get older. (AP/Vahid Salemi)
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    The Sevilles, once assembled in Iran, represented the height of luxury in the country just before the 1979 Islamic Revolution. (AP/Vahid Salemi)
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    Khosro Dahaghin drives a restored Cadillac Seville near his store. (AP/Vahid Salemi)
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A polished, dark blue 1978 Cadillac Seville eases out of a showroom near Iran’s capital, Tehran. The Sevilles, once assembled in Iran, represented the height of luxury in the country just before the 1979 Iranian Revolution. General Motors (GM) partnered with an Iranian firm to build the sedans.

That time is long gone. But today, Khosro Dahaghin restores the cars.

The Seville has a boxy frame and wood-accented interior. Buyers got a powerful engine, pillowy seats, and automatic door locks and windows.

In the early 1970s, GM launched General Motors Iran Limited. The plant produced the Seville and several other types of vehicles.

The Sevilles sold in Iran for some $35,000 when introduced. That was nearly two-and-a-half times more than what American consumers paid, in part due to higher import duties. At that time, many Iranians enjoyed oil wealth. Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi modernized and Westernized the country. Women received the right to vote.

But the 1979 Iranian Revolution (also called the Islamic Revolution) saw the overthrow of the shah and the installation of Iran’s theocratic government. (Read more in Iranian Revolution Anniversary.) GM left the country. Iran nationalized the GM Iran plant. From it, the country created the manufacturer Pars Khodro, which stills exists.

Today, as many as 60 Sevilles in Iran are street-worthy. More than 100 others are undriveable.

That’s where Dahaghin comes in. Dahaghin restores the Cadillacs at his garage in Roudehen, some 30 miles east of Tehran.

“When they are back on streets, they are both very beautiful and very special compared to other cars,” Dahaghin says.

The restoration is not easy. Each vehicle can take up to a year and a half to finish. Finding components is a challenge. Some parts are hand-carried into Iran by those traveling abroad.

A restored Seville sells for as much as $40,000 in Iran now. That’s a fortune there. Iran’s currency, the rial, is worth only a tiny fraction of a U.S. dollar.

The United States re-imposed strict sanctions on Iran in 2018. In response, Iran shut itself off from the foreign car market. Now a vehicle like a 2016 Mercedes-Benz S-Class can sell for $400,000.

Even so, Dahaghin won’t sell a restored car to just anyone who makes an offer. “The buyer must appreciate the value of this artwork,” he says.

For some, nothing compares to a vintage Cadillac. Arsalan Asgharzadeh recently bought a refurbished Seville from Dahaghin.

“If you experience driving a Cadillac, you will always want to drive a Cadillac,” Asgharzadeh says.

Why? Much has changed for Iran in just the last 50 years. The history of Iran’s Cadillac Seville emphasizes the country’s cultural shifts.

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