Anytime a hot rodder hears the phrase, "little old lady from Pasadena" it entices a chuckle, a furrowed eyebrow, and the hope that this could be the "lost car in the barn" story we all like to hear. Bill West of Copperopolis, California, found this '39 Cadillac LaSalle at a small gas station in Oakley, California, in May 1978 and paid $4,300 for it-a steep price then for a used car.
But the story gets better. Upon closer examination Bill found out that the car was originally invoiced by Don Lee Cadillac in Los Angeles for $1,115 on Nov. 17, 1938, and then in turn sold on Apr. 15, 1939, to a lady from Pasadena. (Since the 16th Amendment was ratified in 1913 establishing income tax, we can only surmise this lady knew she was getting a hefty return so she went out and bought herself a new car.)
The Cerullo bucket seats feature the handiwork of Dave Putnam stitching the cream and tan
Bill owned the car for nearly 30 years before "jumping" into the deep end of the pool. The five-year project was taken on by Leonard Lopez, of Dominator Street Rods of Tracy, California, and the build was on. Starting with an Art Morrison Enterprises (Fife, Washington) tubular chassis supporting a 120-inch wheelbase with 4x4-inch outer 'rails and 2x4-inch front and rear crossmembers, the Opera coupe was about to receive a modern independent suspension.
The IFS is based on Art Morrison components in conjunction with QA1 (Lakeville, Minnesota) coilover shocks, a Flaming River (Berea, Ohio) power rack-and-pinion twisted through a Flaming River tilt and telescopic column topped with a '51 Buick wheel from Quality Restoration. Wilwood (Camarillo, California) supplied the spindles, Dynalite calipers with 13-inch drilled rotors, and proportioning valve, all operated by the DSR custom pedal assembly with the brake work handled by Tyler Jones, who was also instrumental on other aspects of the build. The Dominator IRS utilizes a Ford 9-inch centersection with 3.73 gears, outboard Wilwood Dynalite calipers joined to drilled 13-inch rotors, QA1 coilover shocks, and a Speedway Engineering (Sylmar, California) antiroll bar. Schott Performance Wheels (Los Alamitos, California) are used at the corners; these one-off wheels are reminiscent of '57 Cadillac Eldorado wheels and measure in the front 18x8 with 41/2-inch backspace, while the rears are 20x10 with 5-inch backspace and wrapped in BFGoodrich g-Force rubber; 225/40ZR18 and 265/35ZR20.
The ’39 LaSalle grille was elegant in its day and still so today; Leonard Lopez from Domin
Power comes by way of an '05 Cadillac Northstar 4.6L modular motor assembled by Rebello Racing (Antioch, California) incorporating one of their camshafts. A Steve Long (Indianapolis) brass radiator with a SPAL (Ankeny, Iowa) 2,650-cfm-rated electric fan is used along with a water-cooled alternator, yep water cooled, to handle the cooling of the 550hp and 548 lb-ft motor. DSR fabricated the valve covers as well as the exhaust system. The exhaust is based on 13/4-inch primary tubes welded by Lopez, while the 21/2-inch exhaust pipe was fabricated by DSR's own Craig Watts, utilizing a pair of MagnaFlow (Rancho Santa Margarita, California) mufflers. Hustling this power rearward is a 700-R4 prepped by Stan at Brentwood Transmissions (Brentwood, California) outfitted with a shift kit, a Lokar Performance Products (Knoxville, Tennesee) shifter, and a steel driveshaft from Kevin's Prop Shop & Driveline (Antioch, California).
The coupe body has undergone a subtle chop and section modification. Mickey Gallaway was in charge of the chop/section: The front (windshield) was chopped 21/2 inches slopping upward to a 2-inch chop at the back of the roofline. The body was sectioned 13/4 inches far forward slopping upward to no section toward the back of the body. When the time came for bodywork it was DSR's own Paul Blatt who prepped the LaSalle for the DuPont Sandstone applied by Rick Valdez of Creative Images (Lodi, California). The DSR lightly (no pun intended) modified the head and taillights as well as the rear bumper. Once it was time for brightwork this project was handed over to the experts at Sherm's Custom Plating (Sacramento, California).
Rebello Racing prepped the blown '05 Cadillac Northstar 4.6L engine, and it produced 550 h
The interior is elegant by street rod and LaSalle standards as DSR maintained the unmistakable original design elements and expanded from there. The stock-appearing dash while repainted in Sandstone does feature a DSR insert outfitted with LaSalle gauges that received modernization by Classic Instruments (Boyne City, Michigan). DSR's Ron Morlan was responsible for the Arc Audio head unit and Vocal speakers; front (61/2 inch), rear (6x9 inch). Robert Wyrsch handled the installation of the Vintage Air (San Antonio) heating/air-conditioning system that blows through VA vents and is controlled by a DSR fabricated panel; the panel also houses the power window, trunk, lights, wiper, and ignition switches, all mounted in the DSR custom center console. A pair of Cerullo (Pomona, California) seats are upholstered in cream and tan leather by Dave Putnam utilizing aircraft-style seatbelts. The DSR-fabricated door panels feature paint, custom molding, and more cream and tan leather. The flooring and trunk feature cream and tan square-weave carpeting and leather side panels.
Owning a Cadillac LaSalle is a great reason for getting out onto the open road. These were great road cars in their day but Bill now has the benefits of a modern powertrain and suspension, ergonomics, and all the comforts of a spacious interior to fully enjoy the "long and winding road."
The DSR-fabricated panel is mounted in the custom center console. The panel houses the pow
The LaSalle dash features a DSR insert fitted with Classic Instruments reworked factory ga
A Flaming River tilt and telescopic steering column is used with a '51 Buick wheel restore
The independent suspension features Morrison IFS and DSR IRS components augmented with Wil
The Schott wheels are wrapped in BFGoodrich g-Force rubber (225/40ZR18 and 265/35ZR20).