Growing up in the early '80s on a farm in Iowa, Robert Gallery knew the value of keeping engines running. He used to help his dad out when they'd swap motors in some of the cars they had on the farm, including a few '70s-era Thunderbirds and LTDs. With a little more than 100 people in his hometown of Masonville (30 miles outside of Cedar Rapids), having a car to drive to school and knowing how to keep it running were of major importance.
After college and still in his early twenties, Robert left Iowa and was soon on his way to Dublin, California. As destiny began to shine its light on the young man, he began expanding his car collection-first with a pair of '66 Lincoln Continentals. He'd always liked the luxurious look of the T-birds and LTDs from his past, but Robert appreciated the lines of mid-'50s Cadillacs, too, and felt there was nothing with more class than one of those big, old Coupe De Villes.
Robert mentioned to his friend, Darrell Hayes of Darrell Hayes Concepts, that he was looking for a suitable car to build, and then Hayes mentioned it to Marcos Garcia of Lucky 7 Customs, with whom he worked on a couple of projects. Lucky 7 Customs is well known for its custom car building abilities and stunning paintjobs.
Garcia happened to know where a stock Series 62 '54 Cad was sitting in a nearby engine shop where it had been dropped off for some work but never picked up. After a few years the shop had put a lien on the car and wanted it out of their way, and had it up for sale. Robert was able to purchase the Cad for the price of the rebuilt engine and transmission and two years of storage fees-a pretty good deal considering the car was basically in good shape except for just a few dings here and there.
For car builders who are in business, the truly successful ones are those who listen to what their customers want and figure out a way to get it to them without breaking the bank (theirs or their customer's). Some of the initial ideas for this Caddy were to chop the top, shave most of the bumps (leaving some of the original trim intact for flavor), and add some custom touches that would look like they belonged on the car.
Lucky 7 started on the project by chopping the roof (2 1/2 inches up front and 4 inches in the rear) and then leaning the rear window forward for a sleeker appearance. The trim on the hood was removed and the corners rounded, and the same treatment was done on the trunk and doors. The cowl, fender seams, and rockers were all molded to make the car look slippery, and the drip rails were restyled to accent the custom quarter-window roof rail trim.
The grill is also custom made, which uses horizontally mounted aluminum blades that were then chromed. Opting for keyless entry, electronic door poppers have been installed, the door handles shaved, and the door spear shortened 18 inches. And though it might look like factory trim pieces, the belt line trim that runs the length of the door tops and quarters were custom made from brass and then plated.
On other sections of the car more trim was removed, but other custom pieces, such as the speed bump humps on the forward area of the quarter-panels, were added because it helped break up the large expanse of metal. Another area that received a good amount of attention is the rear bumper, which uses ends from a '57 Chevy, allowing functional exhaust tips to run through the bumpers. It takes an enormous amount of knowledge to figure out how parts from different cars can work together to not only look right but also make it appear like it was meant to be there. That's one of the reasons Lucky 7 Customs enjoys the exalted reputation that it does.
Looking like it could have...
Looking like it could have come off the factory line this way, the interior features specially made chocolate-colored fabric that was pleated and stitched together at Bob Devine Designs in Pittsburg, California. Due to the owner's size (6-foot 7 inches at 325 pounds), the split bench seat was lowered 5 inches and the steering column came down 3 inches.
The gauges were restored by...
The gauges were restored by Redline Gauge Works, and a Kenwood flat-screen stereo controls the concert-quality sound equipment provided by Arc Audio of Modesto, California.
The extensive effort put into the custom bodywork performed on the Cad was also channeled into the chassis and engine. To get the car down on the ground Lucky 7 lowered the front coils and de-arched the rear spring. Monroe gas shocks were mounted to each corner, and the brakes for the vehicle (which tips the scales at just over 2 tons!) are power-assisted drums.
And though Cadillac had been producing V-8 engines since 1915, the 331 found in Robert's De Ville was of the first group of overhead-valve V-8s Cadillac began offering in their cars in 1949. Much of Robert's engine was left stock (but rebuilt and balanced by Joe's Engine Machine Shop in Concord, California), and it was assembled by Logan Stipe of Lucky 7 Customs and detailed with a fair amount of chrome accents.
With the bodywork out of the way, it was time to roll the behemoth into the paint booth where a custom-mixed Capone Pearl was created from PPG's Vibrance line of paints and then squirted over the massive car (the wheelbase on this beast is 129 inches while the overall length is more than 200 inches!). Marcos Garcia then followed up with a subtle scallop and pinstripe to finish off the exterior.
At 325 pounds and standing 6-foot 7 inches, Robert Gallery cannot be confused for "tiny." As such, a few modifications to the interior needed to be made to accommodate the 29-year-old. Plus, after chopping the car's top, the necessity to create a comfortable driving space became even more important. The six-way power bench seat had to be eliminated so that the new seat's framework could be lowered a full 5 inches. Using a specially reproduced fabric to mimic the original factory material, Bob Devine Designs, in Pittsburg, California, stitched up a beige two-tone-pleated pattern for the split bench front and rear seating. The headliner was done in suede, while the carpet is a chocolate-colored, German-style closed-loop.
Since the seating was lowered, the steering column was dropped a total of 3 inches and the dash was treated to stock gauges that have been reworked by Redline Gauge Works. The factory radio was then gutted, and the stock radio control knobs were used to adjust the levels of the Vintage Air A/C and heat system.
An electronically-controlled mini glovebox door was added to the center of the dash and a Kenwood flat-screen stereo was installed to control the concert-quality sound equipment provided by Arc Audio of Modesto, California. A custom metal skin was then fabbed for the upper section of the dash and painted in a two-tone, cream and bronze layout.
Once finished, the car was debuted at the Grand National Roadster Show, then appeared at the Sacramento Autorama and the San Francisco Rod, Custom & Motorcycle Show. It has picked up major awards everywhere it's been shown, including the '09 Most Elegant Custom award-the highest award given at the San Francisco show for a custom car. Robert's history tells us he isn't the type to collect cars and not drive them, and he reports his cruiser is not a car that sits in the garage, having already racked up a few miles on the odometer.
But no one needs to tell Robert Gallery he's come a long way in a short time, from a spec of a town located in Iowa's farmland to the big city in Northern California, and he knows it. But what ties him to his humble past is a love of cars-and it's probably something that will never leave him, no matter what life holds for him in his future.
The 331 Cadillac engine produces...
The 331 Cadillac engine produces 230 hp, and this one was balanced and rebuilt by Joe's Engine Machine Shop.
Assembled and dressed up with...
Assembled and dressed up with chrome accents by Lucky 7 Customs' Logan Stipe, the OHV V-8 uses a four-core radiator from Beko's Radiator (in Concord, California), custom, ceramic-coated headers, and dual-exhaust and glass pack mufflers by way of Antioch Muffler. Ernie Gomez of Oakley, California, polished the car's metal, and chroming was handled by Modesto Plating.