A DREAM COME TRUE
by Larry Good, July 2020
Early in 2017 while celebrating the New Year in the sweltering heat of summer in Rio de Janeiro, I researched classic post-war cars to find an investment project, a grand finale in my retirement. (I'd reached my limit on nostalgic money losers... dumped a garage full that I'd collected for half a century and were going nowhere.) The conclusion to the homework was the 1953 Eldorado.
Late in 2017 my wife and I happened to be in California for the birth of a couple of grandchildren. While waiting, we went to visit all the '53 Eldorado owners who would have us. One Cadillac LaSalle Club (CLC) member didn't want to show his car because it was unrestored and unpresentable. I assured him I'd love to see it in its natural state, and he relented. What we saw was a very rusty basket case, exactly what I was looking for, but he wasn't selling. Cadillac originally delivered this Eldorado #352 to a dealer in Connecticut on August 11, 1953, the day before the Hydra-matic plant in Livonia MI burnt down. My new friend bought this particular one because the numbers matched and all unique Eldorado parts were said to be present.
I wanted a rusty car in order to save money on the purchase. I knew that the shop in our other home in the Republic of Georgia could derust a car for a song. They had already done two cars for me.
A few months later the same club member wrote and asked if I was interested in buying his '53 Eldorado because he found another project that he wanted more. Within minutes we agreed on a price, and he shipped the car to New Jersey. After worrying that I might never find a '53 Eldorado as long as I live, I suddenly had one! Cadillac only made 532 of these in the first year of a 50-year run.
On the advice of local club members, I gave the engine to Penn-Dutch Auto Restorations in Pennsylvania to rebuild. They have won numerous top awards in shows everywhere. The GC on the job is Steve's Auto in New Jersey. Steve did my 1947 Cadillac 6109 sedan 20 years ago, and it got a blue ribbon at the 100th anniversary CLC Grand National meet in Dearborn. His work has won several awards at Pebble Beach including one Best of Show.
Steve did the rest of the Eldorado's mechanical restoration and prepared the car for shipment overseas. With the temporary glass packs and rusty exterior the car looks headed for a demolition derby, not a Grand National. See these clips:
First Ride https://youtu.be/V7bIw1f0us4
Eldorado Leaves NJ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fiKflNkzTO0&feature=youtu.be
At this point, the beauty is out of sight under the hood.
1. Engine & Transmission Rebuilt
2. Front End Restored
3. Engine Installed
The car arrived in Georgia in January and went straight to Garage Gold for body and paint work. See Garage Gold on "Good Morning Georgia" at https://youtu.be/FtBzDXIPIpE
There are no high end chrome platers in Georgia, so I shipped the chrome to neighboring Armenia, where I found a modern new plating shop in Yerevan. The Kelsey-Hayes, chrome, wire wheels stayed behind to be finished in the US.
The numbers on my #352 do match except for the key. (On my 47-6109 all numbers match down to the key!) However, of course we found that some Eldorado specific parts were missing anyway. So now we're scrambling to find them. Does anybody have a Trico wiper motor #CHP-10-21 for sale?
The reason for taking some of the work overseas is simple economics. At labor rates in the Caucasus countries, one can easily save $50-$75 k on a restoration. Transportation back and forth is about $10 k. My wife and I have an apartment in Georgia, so having their local craftsmen work on my car and train collections enormously enhances the quality of my retirement life.
Our goal is a 100 point, factory-authentic Eldorado by July, 2021. If all goes according to plan, we will unveil it at the next CLC Grand National meet in Albuquerque. For one day in the history of time, I hope to have the best 1953 Eldorado in the world. After I drive it off the field, the title is up for grabs. I won't care any more. I just want that moment! Good wishes and positive thoughts are welcome. ;)