Making a car look different is a pretty simple task. Making a car look more powerful, more elegant, and better proportioned than it did from the factory? That takes a talent, vision, funding, and friends in the right places – especially when you’re starting with something as graceful as a Cadillac. This ’49 Series 62 was formerly an OEM restoration purchased in North Carolina after a life on the west coast. Nearly $285,000 later, the car is a one-of-a-kind custom that has already grabbed attention on a national level. The car is a Goodguys darling, having claimed the Detroit Speed Builder’s Choice Award, Street Rodder Top 100 accolades, as well as Finalist for Kustom of the Year – it’s even on their 2013 Southeastern Nationals t-shirts. Factor in numerous features in publications like Street Rodder and American Rodder and you start to understand - this is a serious custom for a serious enthusiast.
Some of the best customs don’t hit all at once. Instead, they ask onlookers to take a second, third, or even sixth glance before their modifications really begin to shine. This Cadillac has definitely mastered the art of subtlety. The biggest modification is the progressive chopped top which takes 1.5 inches out of the front and 4 inches out of the rear. The new sweeping roofline is a dramatic change, but the amount of work involved in that one piece alone merited a 6-page spread in Street Rod Builder. Other updates include custom B-pillars, custom fender skirts and 3-inch extensions added to the fenders, doors, and quarters to hide the frame rails. Rod Crafters Inc. out of Welcome, NC did the metal work and, looking around the car today, their talents are certainly on display. Covered in a mile-deep coat of black paint, everything lines up perfectly and makes a long-lasting first impression.
While the big ticket modifications may draw you in, it’s the details that will blow you away. The front end is a 100% custom creation that blends ’55 Cadillac Dagmars and ’49 bumper parts with a fabricated grille bar and lower pan. Around the headlights, ’55 Chevy fender brows pair with ’55 parking lights for a completely new but familiar look. Behind the custom fascia, the hood seam has been filled and the hood has been sectioned to better match the car’s updated profile. Despite the amount of work involved, the chop was planned so carefully that new glass wasn’t required, so all the factory-spec pieces are still in place. The side view was more about subtraction than addition, so the rocker trim and large pieces that originally adorned the fenders have been scrapped. The door handles, locks, and antenna have also been shaved, leaving only two thin trim pieces above the wheel wells. While the fins look higher than usual, its just an illusion caused by the reworked decklid – they’re the same height they’ve always been. The beauty of this Cadillac is the fact that, despite being extensively reworked, it could still pass as stock to the casual enthusiast – a true testament to great custom work.
When this Series 62 was born, the new 331ci OHV V8 was all the rage but, of course, a custom Cadillac requires more. The original powerplant has been replaced by a fully rebuilt 425ci V8 that, according to the car’s Street Rodder feature, turns out an impressive 405hp. The 1978-era block received some impressive new hardware that includes a set of Maximum Torque Specialties heads, an Edelbrock intake manifold, an Edelbrock 750-cfm carburetor, and a full MSD ignition system. Turn the key and the big V8 comes to life, producing an authoritative rumble through coated Sanderson headers which channel spent gases into a stainless dual exhaust system with Flowmaster mufflers. The accessory drive turns a 100-amp alternator alongside an air conditioning compressor and power steering pump while, opposite, an aluminum radiator keeps the bay cool with some help from a single electric fan. Of course, appearance is a major concern for a car like this so the engine features a custom cover influenced by the Cadillac’s of today. The piece features a series of mesh-filled cutouts beneath a classic Cadillac badge. The shape is reminiscent of a gun turret dressed in silver and is guaranteed to draw a crowd by itself. Paired with the smooth radiator support, ultra-clean firewall, and sleek inner fenders, this is one impressive bay.
Shine a light under the cruiser to find a thoughtfully assembled undercarriage filled to the brim with modern updates. Behind the 425, a TCI-built TH400 3-speed automatic handles shifting duties with authority while a Ford 9-inch rear with highway-friendly 3.08 gears puts Caddy power to the pavement. Around the drivetrain, the suspension benefits from the addition of a full Fatman sub-frame with tubular control arms and a Fatman 4-link rear suspension. The whole setup rides on an adjustable air-ride system operated by an AccuAir controller. The car practically glides down the highway but, when it comes time to turn, a power-assisted rack-and-pinion system from Fatman makes wheeling the Caddy a breeze. Braking is equally competent power Wilwood disc brakes fed juice through fresh stainless braided flex lines. Early in its show career, the car ran a great looking set of 20-inch wheels but they just didn’t feel right. The set of 15-inch steel wheels with Cadillac covers and Firestone 215/70R15 wide whites that currently adorn the car are the perfect match, completing the car in period-correct style.
If anyone still managed to misread this car as a stock piece, a quick glance at the custom interior would set them straight in a hurry. Stitched together by Chuck Hanna and company at Hot Rod Interiors out of Mooresville, NC this cabin blends a modern look with the heavy dosage of luxury that Cadillacs are known for. Step over the threshold and enter a world of Camel leather, Butter Nut crocodile, and blond wood accents. At the ground level, stainless door sill plates anchor high-end tan carpet with custom floor mats above. The bucket seats are low, slim, and simple, adding a nice modern shape to the cabin. The crocodile inserts are tasteful and add just enough texture to make the leather-wrapped seats pop visually. In the center, a custom console makes space for a crocodile-topped armrest, power window switches, air-ride controls, and a touch-screen JVC AM/FM/CD/DVD head unit with navigation. Slide into the driver seat to admire the pair of attractive Classic Instruments gauges that replace the horizontal stock unit. More blond woodwork, Cadillac script, and a custom vent panel below round out the piece. The door panels and headliner are both full custom pieces and the reworked package tray looks at home behind the custom rear seats. Lift the decklid to find a custom trunk space that continues the full-length console. The attention to detail in this usually-hidden area is every bit as good as the rest of the interior, further supporting what a great build this truly is.
Naturally, there is plenty of paperwork to support this Cadillac. For starters, there is a significant pile of receipts and notes that show a build cost of $284,321 and some change. If that doesn’t convince you to buy this completed car instead of creating your own version, the restoration photos certainly will. The top and reworked decklid were covered by Street Rod Builder while the fender skirt extension was followed by American Rodder. The car’s overall magazine history includes:
•American Rodder – November 2009 (Fender skirt build)
•Street Rod Builder – (December 2009) (Top chop)
•Street Rodder – November 2010 (Feature)
•Street Rodder – December 2010 (Top 100)
•World of Rods – March 2011 (Feature)
Few American brands stand for luxury quite like Cadillac and this custom manages to elevate that trait further than the factory could have ever imagined. With its updated 425ci V8, extensively reworked body, and Chuck Hanna interior that could make a modern Mercedes feel ashamed of itself, this is a special car a for someone who truly appreciates what went into its creation. If you’re ready to add an amazing Cadillac to your garage, get your name on the title of this Cadillac before some else does – it certainly won’t be in our showroom for long.