Just the Facts
Owner: Steve White
State: North Carolina
There are always perks to any job. Work in a theater? Free movies. Employed by a theme park? Free roller coaster rides 'til you hurl. Work in a pizza joint? Well, it doesn't get much better than that. Steve White knows this as he is a successful businessman living in Granite Falls, North Carolina. Steve has been in the car business for almost 50 years and, for the past 15 of those years, has also been collecting cars.
Hot Rod Interiors covered the six-way adjustable seats and the rest of the Cad’s interior
For him, the love for cars started at a very early age, as he was raised in a small town owned by Duke Power Company. Duke furnished its employees with modest three-bedroom homes and, as a boy, Steve delivered newspapers to 110 neighboring homes at 5 a.m. each day. While on his route, he would often see one particular man coming home from his shift at the power company driving a 1949 Cadillac, and the car made a big impression on young Steve.
After 60 years of waiting, Steve decided to go on the hunt for the Cadillac of his dreams. He started looking for a 1949, but found out there weren't a lot to choose from that would meet his standards. By 2010, he decided to put out an advertisement stating he was looking for a high-quality 1949 and he'd be willing to pay a $500 finder's fee for information on the right car.
He got a call from a gentleman in Atlanta who said he'd found the nicest Cadillac in the country, but it turned out to be a 1953 not a 1949. That didn't matter to Steve, as the story on the car got even better. The 1953 had been in storage for 36 years in Washington, and the caller had tried to purchase the car from an elderly owner, but he'd made the mistake of offering less than the price he had it listed and, from that point on, the unyielding seller wouldn't take any more of his calls!
The car sounded good to Steve, so he sent a man to investigate its condition, and it was truly in good condition, but completely disassembled and in boxes. It seems the owner had originally planned to restore the vehicle to its original condition, but never got started on the job. After inspecting it thoroughly, no rust could be found and, after Steve saw a new set of photos of the car, he didn't haggle and paid the asking price. Once Steve got the car home, it sat in his garage for two years.
Steve's brother-in-law, Gary Norwood, told him about a car builder (Chris Ryan) he'd met at a car show in Charlotte, North Carolina, who builds only one car per year. Ryan runs Ryan's Rod and Kustom in Ninety Six, South Carolina, and is a "Cadillac person", so he seemed like a good fit for the project. Invited to come over and see the car, Ryan was pleased to see the frame was in good shape, but said "it was a little overwhelming" seeing the car all blown apart. Likening it to "a giant jigsaw puzzle" that just needed to be put back together, Ryan sat down with Steve to talk about the build. As it turned out, Steve wanted it "a little bit hot rod" and gave Ryan creative license to build the car the way he saw fit, only rarely offering a definitive decision on its design.
Ryan smoothed out the dash before the electronically reworked original gauge cluster was i
Ryan began with the chassis, which is stock except for the front clip that was made at Fatman Fabrications that uses 2-inch-drop spindles. Out back a custom, stainless steel, parallel four-link was installed along with a Moser 9-inch rear equipped with 31-spline axles and a 3.73:1 Posi. RideTech ShockWave shocks went in front and rear, and Wilwood disc brakes (six-piston calipers up front, four-piston in the rear) with 13-inch rotors are found on each corner.
Steering is handled via an ididit column topped with a CON2R steering wheel (customized by Ryan), and Ryan designed a one-off pedal assembly so it would actuate a hydro-boost unit (custom-made by Talon Hydraulics), which is run off of the GM power steering pump. The hydro-boost then actuates the Wilwood master cylinder, and the whole system hides under the floor.
A ZZ383 crate engine replaces the original Caddy motor, and it’s topped with a Moon cross-
A new aluminum 16-gallon gas tank from Doc's Kustom Tanks was also installed, as were one-off 20-inch wheels made by Mike Curtis. Modeled after the Cadillac Sabre wheel of the 1950s, Ryan wanted the look of a 15-inch wheel with a 3-inch whitewall but made in a 20-inch wheel. So Curtis designed a 20-incher that has a smooth 3-inch lip at the outer edge but a normal-looking inner section. After the lip section was painted white and the inner section polished, the big-diameter wheels were wrapped in Nitto 245/35ZR20 rubber all the way 'round. Ryan even went to the extent of sanding down the edge of the tire (where it meets the outside edge of the lip) so the space between the rubber and the rim appears seamless. It's an ingenious design and, even on very close inspection, will fool 99 percent of the people looking at it.
Ryan also installed a new ZZ383 GM crate motor (accessorized with Street & Performance products, including the alternator, pulleys, and so on) along with a 4L70E transmission that is equipped with a FAST EZ-TCU controller. Induction is handled by a Moon cross-ram manifold outfitted with Imagine Injection controlled with a FAST EZ-EFI system. Mallory supplied both the distributor and the wires, and Sanderson headers and a pair of Flowmaster mufflers take care of the exhaust. To finish off the engine, Ryan modified a set of vintage Cadillac valve covers to fit over the stock SBC covers.
Here’s a photo of the 20-inch aluminum wheel Mike Curtis of Curtis Speed Wheel milled befo
At 220 inches, the 1953 Cadillac is not the longest Caddy ever produced, but it is right up there. And that means there is a lot of metal to address before any paint could be applied. Ryan had some ideas he'd like to add to Steve's ride, such as shaving the handles as well as the trim from the nose and decklid, plus he also molded the rear quarters into the body. The bumpers, though stock, are mounted closer to the body, and all of the car's chromework was done at Jon Wright's Custom Chrome in Grafton, Ohio. Once he got the body where he wanted it, Ryan painted the car using PPG's Light Candy Root Beer paint.
Ryan had also smoothed out the dash area before adding frenched vents (made by Clayton Machine) for the Vintage Air A/C system, and an ample stereo (Clarion head unit, Kicker amps and speakers) also went in. To wire up the original gauges (rewired with new electronics) and the rest of the car's electronics, Ryan used an American Autowire harness.
Here is the tire after Ryan painted the lip white, giving it the illusion of having a whit
Hand-formed interior panels and a custom center console were also made before Hot Rod Interiors covered the custom six-way power seats and the remainder of the interior with sand-colored, glove-soft leather. The color works well with the root beer shade found in the Mercedes wool carpet.
Though he originally didn't think about showing his car, Steve agreed with Ryan to debut it at the 2013 Detroit Autorama. Profiling in a big 20x20-foot space, the car really attracted a lot of attention. It's on a small tour of car shows while it's new, but soon Steve will be able to walk out into his garage, climb into his Caddy, and drive it, finally fulfilling the dreams he had six decades earlier. Not a bad perk at all!