Words by: Aden Rush/Photos: Johnny Covey
There are times when a project loses its luster, becomes too much of a burden to finish, the build time has stretched out too long or the owner has added up the total costs involved and decided it isn’t worth it.
Such is the case with this ’55 Cadillac Coupe DeVille. Roger Jetter purchased the rough failed remains. He’d been working on a ’48 Cadillac Sedanet but decided this hardtop could be finished in less time.
Yet, it’s sad each project doesn’t have a specific time-line attached because this one stretched out longer than he figured. Perception can be skewed and not everything goes according to plan.
The first thing was to remove the body. Easy enough – the previous owner had left only four bolts holding it to the chassis. A worn out Cadillac 500” came with the car, behind that was a hurtin’ T-400, both were pulled to make certain the Mig welded 1978 Pontiac Trans Am sub-frame was aligned correctly. Roger fish-plated it and Tig welded it up proper for strength.
The engine/tranny motor/tranny mounts had to be re-done because the previous owner had them so high on the frame the hood wouldn’t close. After the engine was lowered, the frame was painted and body bolted on.
Next up – the front clip required the most work – modify, build new and refit everything, including the huge front bumper. Every panel under the hood has been hand-built to fit the TA sub-frame, including inner fenders, radiator support and gravel pans. Never believe a previous owner when he tells you “it’s all bolt-on stuff” cuz he neglected to tell you it would be AFTER each individual piece was built.
The fun stuff- body work and body mods were next and when the car was movable on its own, Roger had the mods all figured out. Since he’s a graphic artist, he didn’t need illustrations to know the direction, he could see the finished car in his mind. The stock side scoops were opened and side trim made to disappear into it.
Hood and trunk were peaked using 3/16” rod and all emblems/door handles removed and as a nod to the past, roof scoops were added. The 74” long skirts were made using a Harbor Freight sheet metal roller. Each skirt is held on with six bolts.
The most striking feature is the grille, laser cut to follow the contour of the bumper. Forty-six one eighth inch thick aluminum bars with 1/8” spacers between, allowing plenty of air to the aluminum radiator. The Dagmars were then modified. Roger removed 2 ½” out from the straightest part and angled them toward the hood trim. Utah’s Ogden Chrome Plating dipped them, along with rest of the trim…and there’s plenty of it on a ’55 Cadillac. Jose @ Mile Hi Polishing took care of the grille and the stainless.
Around back, the rear bumper received some massaging: in place of the stock-always-rotted-out exhaust openings side pieces are ‘48/’49 Cadillac. Welded to the stock ’55 bumper. The license light uprights were removed and a ’59 Cadillac front bumper license box was added. The bumper was slightly notched for the ’94 Cadillac exhaust tips.
Len Hoogland made it flat for the custom-mixed PPG “Lollipop Lavendar Pearl,” sprayed by Wright Welden of Wicked Custom Classics in Parker, ColoRODo. Did you notice it’s two-toned? The top is a slightly darker stock 1955 Ford color – Regency Purple.
The interior needed to be simple yet striking enough to complement the exterior…Roger wanted Pearl White Naugahyde but not completely done in R & P’s…so he and Ed Banes, Banes Upholstery, put their heads together and decided to pleat the Amethyst Whirl fabric inserts, reminiscent of the fabric that came stock in early Cadillacs, yet giving a nod to kustoms of the past. “Cadillac” was embroidered in the seats.
Nearly five years was spent in build time, but figuring in all the setbacks, unplanned detours, hold-ups cuz parts weren’t available or the money supply dried up, five years isn’t that bad…besides, it gives a better idea of how much time it’s going to take to build the ’48 Sedanet still awaiting its turn in the garage.
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