On January 4, 1976 – just four days before Elvis Presley‘s 41st birthday – the King of Rock and Roll decided he wanted to get away to celebrate. He had only been split up from Priscilla Presley for a few years and was spending most of his time with his girlfriend, Linda Thompson, and his friend and road manager, Joe Esposito. In a spur-of-the-moment decision, he flew up to Vail, Colorado for a skiing vacation, alongside a number of his pals. At the end of the trip, Elvis was overcome with gratitude.
Elvis reportedly had a great time, honed his skiing skills and spent days on the slopes. Before they settled in for the 10 days, however, Elvis asked Joe and some of his Denver police friends (Jerry Kennedy, Gerald Starkey and Ron Pietrafeso) to scope out the accommodation for him.
As the gang were packing up to head back to Memphis, Tennessee, Elvis had one final request for them.
On January 14, Elvis decided to say thank you to his friends with an extremely generous gesture. First, he bought two Lincoln cars and a Cadillac for Jerry, Ron and Gerard respectively. He also bought a Cadillac for Joe’s girlfriend at the time, Shirley Dieu.
The final gift was for his lover, Linda. Elvis also bought Linda her own Cadillac, totalling the purchase of five cars for his nearest and dearest.
After this final spend, the King’s car purchase bill was enormous
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The bill reportedly came to around $70,000. In 2021 that is approximately a staggering $342,000.
Just over a year later, on August 16, 1977, Elvis died in Graceland. These were likely some of the final, big-budget gifts he gave his friends.
To make matters even more expensive for the King, he then watched TV and saw a reporter asking for his own car.
News reporter Don Kinney supposedly reported the news that Elvis was buying up a number of cars for his pals. Don concluded the news report with the joke: “Elvis, if you’re watching – I wouldn’t mind getting a car too!” He wasn’t laughing when Elvis did call the news station and offer him a car, however.
Years later Don changed the story a little, but he ultimately did receive the car straight from the King himself.
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Don explained how he used the car to drive his wife and songs back and forth between Denver and his family’s farm in Montana. By 1985, Don’s children had finished college and didn’t require the antique anymore. To finish its journey in the best of ways, Don donated the car to the Forney Museum Of Transportation in Denver, USA.
And he had a good reason to do so, as well.
Don commented: “The boys and I were determined we would not profit from that gift. So the car will not be sold.” The car had done only 22,600 miles at the time of donation, but it was an important piece of the family’s lives.
Before the car was donated, however, Don broke down on a highway in the middle of August, 1977. During this event Don and his sons heard a bulletin on the radio: Elvis had died at his home in Graceland.