This year’s Autorama Ridler winner took 15 years of work and $2.3 million

1959 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham

Fifteen years ago, Stephen Barton set out to win the Don Ridler Award, the custom car world’s most prestigious honor. He died early last year, before he could see the CadMad, an achingly beautiful 1959 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham with a body by Pininfarina, on display in Detroit’s Cobo center, a result that took 10 craftsmen and $2.3 million.  In Stephen’s place, Craig Barton hoisted the Ridler trophy overhead in celebration of the victory his brother dreamed of. After hours of scrutiny, a panel of seven judges named CadMad the best of the 800 cars at this year’s Autorama.

CadMad was about 90 percent complete when Barton passed away. The Las Vegas resident launched the project 14 years ago, determined to win the Ridler and its $10,000 prize. He scanned his collection of 35 classics and hot rods and chose the Caddy. Then he called Jordan Quintall II and his son at Super Rides and told them to get to work.

The Cadillac was a great choice, a perfect example of the marque’s late-50s glory. The car was one of just 99 built in 1959 with a body and interior by Pininfarina. Quintall and his son, Jordan Quintall III, started by chopping 18 inches in length, 4 inches of width, and sectioning 2 inches from the lower body mass to give the car a more modern profile. After remnants were acid dipped to remove the lead Pininfarina added during manufacturing, the altered steel panels were tack welded together to serve as a visual model for the hand-crafted custom body to follow. Four doors gave way to two, and the roof from a Chevrolet Nomad made the Caddy a beautiful sport wagon.

1959 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham engine
1959 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham grille detail
1959 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham details
Rich Chenet

This is not to say that all the original beauty ended up on the cutting room floor. Cadillac’s flying goddess hood ornament, head- and taillamps, bumpers, grille, side spears, wheel treatments, and steering wheel all made the leap from the Eldorado Brougham to CADMAD with subtle alterations where necessary.

Barton had hoped to give the car a V-16 engine assembled from a pair of Northstar V-8s, but that didn’t pan out. He finally handed the job to Tom Nelson Racing Engines, which built a 632 cubic inch big-block Chevrolet V-8. The engine is bolted to a 4L60E C5 Corvette transaxle rebuilt by Phil Hayes. Fueled by racing fuel and boosted by a pair of 88-mm turbochargers, the engine makes a neck-snapping 1025 horsepower and 950 lb-ft of torque. The Super Rides crew tucked the starter, AC compressor, and alternator under the floor at the back of the car, so that glorious engine is all you see when you lift the hood.

Everything rides on a space frame with a  backbone and peripheral elements fashioned from 1-5/8 diameter steel tubing. Super Rides hand-crafted the suspension and steering components, and installed Baer 6-piston brake calipers that squeeze 14-inch vented rotors with help from a hidden electric booster. The car uses coil-overs at each corner.

EVOD Industries machined the 18-inch wheels, which update the original styling. They’re wrapped in 235/50R-18 radials made by Vogue Tyre & Rubber Company, which happens to be the firm that invented whitewalls in 1914. The tires have a thin strip that matches the car’s paint. EVOD also made the steering wheel, instrument bezel, and gauge surrounds. Classic Instruments crafted the gauges. Ron Mangus trimmed cut-down Recaro bucket seats pulled from a 2012 Cadillac CTS-V in leather.

1959 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham back detail
1959 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham wheel
1959 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham front
Rich Chenet

Ron Heiden of Heiden’s Woodworking spent two weeks crafting the cargo floor using striped tigerwood, figured maple, and African wenge. A liberal application of urethane protects the gorgeous wood. Master pinstriper Lyle Fisk masterfully matched the wood grain in hand-painted dash and door surfaces.

The original plan called for painting the car blue, but the color looked muddy, so Barton and the Jordan’s chose a two-tone scheme of Fontana rose, a color Cadillac offered in 1961, and the titanium silver found on the Ford GT. Getting a flawless finish required rending a 50-foot-long paint booth to spray three Kustom Shop urethane base coats, four color coats, and half a dozen PPG clear coats. Super Rides spent 4000 hours building and finishing the body.

Craig Barton couldn’t be happier with the car. “It’s gone beyond mere automobile status to become a true work of art,” he says. “My brother and the Super Rides folks had tremendous vision and the years they invested building CADMAD definitely paid off.” Indeed it did.