Elvis Presley Was Generous to the End, Giving Friends Final Gifts

by TK Sanders

Elvis Presley is remembered for many incredible accomplishments, but true fans of the King often cite his generosity when reminiscing on his turbulent, beautiful life. Presley made so much money so quickly and at such a young age, he often didn’t know what to do with it. So he simply gave it away to those he loved, setting up an interesting dynamic of both appreciation and expectations within Presley’s orbit.

One such story takes us to the snow-covered mountains of Vail, Colorado. Elvis and his friends gathered for a 10-day ski trip in January of 1976. Presley was turning 41 years old in a few days, and since he had just split with his wife Priscilla, he took some friends for a lavish getaway. No doubt Presley paid everyone’s way and no expense was spared. But even so, apparently, the King was overcome with gratitude at the end of the trip, and wanted to show his appreciation for his friends in the best (and maybe only) way he knew how to show it.

As the story goes, Presley bought five brand new luxury cars as gifts for his friends to commemorate the trip. He bought new Cadillacs for his road manager Joe Esposito and his new girlfriend Linda Thompson. He also bought a mix of Cadillacs and Lincolns for three local Denver-area police officers who he had befriended, too. Apparently, the cops helped Presley scout a good chalet and the best ski runs. So he rewarded their loyalty with some of his own.

The five luxury cars in 1976 cost Presley around $70,000, which equates to about $342,000 in today’s money. About a year and a half later, on August 16, 1977, Elvis died in Graceland at just 42-years-old.

Presley’s generosity becomes a punchline, but still endures today

In the weeks following the lavish Vail spending spree, word got around that Elvis had impulsively bought Cadillacs for ‘everyone’ around him. The notion of Elvis buying you a Cadillac sort of became a running joke. It culminated in a reporter flat-out asking him for one during an interview at a Memphis-area football game. Hearing the footage back, you can almost hear a sheepish uncertainty in Presley’s voice when put on the spot like that. He was expecting to talk about football, but reporter Don Kinney asked him for a car, instead.

Kinney was joking, of course; but Presley, in his child-like generosity, bought him a car anyways. Many years later in remembering the gesture, Kinney recalled that he drove the car until the mid-’80s. At that point, the vintage Cadillac was an antique — an antique gifted from the late Elvis Presley, at that.

Instead of profiting off the car, Kinney said he donated it to the Forney Museum Of Transportation in Denver.

“The boys and I were determined we would not profit from that gift. So the car will not be sold,” he said later. The car had just 22,600 miles on the odometer at the time of donation.