$2M, Ridler-winning Cadillac hot rod could be yours

Mecum/Joshua Sweeney

Winning the Ridler Award is a lifetime achievement—for builder and for hot rod, since the latter is only eligible once—and adds substantial value to any vehicle so honored. How substantial? We’ll find out next month, when CadMad, the 2019 Ridler winner, crosses the Mecum block in Indianapolis in a no-reserve auction.

Arguably the most prestigious award bequeathed by the hot-rod industry, the Ridler Award is named for the late Don Ridler, who was the first professional promoter hired by the Michigan Hot Rod Association in the 1950s, as the MHRA was trying to launch the annual Autorama car show. The event grew, largely due to Ridler’s efforts, and moved to the Cobo Center in downtown Detroit in 1961. In 1963, Autorama decided to honor Ridler with an award given in his name. 60 years later, it’s still awarded to the best of show at the massive Detroit Autorama.

Ridler Award winners often sell collector-to-collector, so this will be a peek into what a sterling one-off Cadillac station wagon can bring at public auction.

CadMad prize winning 1959 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham Custom Station Wagon front three quarter
Mecum/Joshua Sweeney

Ridler Award candidates can’t have been shown elsewhere prior to the Autorama, and they must move under their own power. That likely isn’t an issue with CadMad, which is powered by a $97,000, 632-cubic-inch big-block Chevrolet V-8 with twin turbochargers, a powertrain that supposedly pumps out 1025 horsepower. The car began life as a 1959 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham, with a body styled originally by Pininfarina.

CadMad was 16 years in the making, a $2 million project ultimately finished after the owner’s death. The owner’s brother, Craig Barton, helped the car past the finish line, fulfilling his brother’s dream of competing for a Ridler award.

It was built by the team at Super Rides by Jordan in Escondido, California. Shortened by 18 inches compared to the Cadillac wagon upon which it is based, CadMad now wears a Chevrolet Nomad roof and no rear doors. The acid-dipped body, and everything underneath, was narrowed to help the Nomad top fit. It’s all stretched over a tube-frame chassis. Ron Marqus is the man responsible for the custom interior, upholstered in pink and burgundy with glossy wood accents.

Supposedly the two-tone exterior, essentially orchid and silver, cost $300,000 alone, Mecum says.

What will CadMad bring? The was car auctioned off once before, in 2020, and brought $302,500. We’ll find out if it has appreciated when the car goes on the block at Dana Mecum’s Spring Classic in Indianapolis on May 20. We suspect it has.


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    This obviously has a tremendous amount of creativity and hard work invested in it – not to mention expense. And I’m in not trying to diminish it’s deserving the award. But in no way does it evoke any feeling of “Nomad-i-ness” within me. Scabbing a roof on it (even though it meant narrowing and shortening the body) doesn’t make it look like any less of a Caddy. The swept B pillar, with an accompanying quarter window just looks faked in (which it is), and – for goodness sake – how do you try and represent “Nomad” without the vertical stainless strips on the tailgate? Nope, it just looks like a Cadillac with a Nomad roof welded on and some rather not-well-designed other stuff. Despite the catchy name, there is no total cohesion to the thing. This is just my uneducated opinion, after all, and obviously the judges would not agree with me. And if YOU also don’t agree, that’s okay with me – we all get to have an opinion! 🤩

    I also appreciate the time and effort into such a vehicle, but even if I had all the money in the world I would have no desire to own this. Maybe it’s the proportions, or like you say it’s incohesive, but something just doesn’t look right with it to me. It kind of reminds me of those 1957 4 door Chevys that folks cut out the second row of doors and make a funky little stubby car.

    This exterior styling of this tri-five-59-60-modern-day FrankenCad is a bit hard on the eyes.
    For starters, the misplaced tri-five Nomad roof doesn’t work on a car this long. Nomads are short wagons – not land yachts. They invoke a sportiness, whereas a ’59 Cad invokes fat-cat excess. The silver paint doesn’t seem to help in any way, either. Probably better to leave the tri-five Nomad roofs in the era from whence they came – 1954 to 1957 – even if they seem futuristic for their time.
    ’60 fins on a ’59? That’s like removing the split window from a ’63 Corvette to make it look like a ’64.
    The slanty front bumper doesn’t look right, and the giant wheels/thin tires are not subtle enough to meld with the rest of the design.
    The idea of a Nomad Cad isn’t a bad one. Kudos for taking a stab at it, spending millions, and getting it finished. But from my point of view, this one is too much malformity, and not enough conformity, to be eye-pleasing.

    “For starters, the misplaced tri-five Nomad roof doesn’t work on a car this long. Nomads are short wagons – not land yachts.”

    Do the math:
    1959 Cadillac length = 225″ The article says 18″ was removed so that’s 207″ in length
    1957 Nomad length = 201″

    6″ is not that much of a difference.

    Based on some of the cars that have won the Ridler, I don’t think beauty enters into the equation during judging. The 2022 winner being a prime example.

    I love the concept of style, be it on a Chevrolet or a Cadillac or anything in between. I’ve had at least two of each year, for their 3 years of existence. I now have 3 El Caminos= ’59=’74=’85==== Nothing but a Nomad with no roof over the cargo area.

    I resided in Escondido from 1973 until 2018. I knew of most the shops in the area and I think I recall where this one was. I don’t remember seeing this vehicle. It seems widening the Nomad roof may have been a simpler avenue to take rather than narrowing the entire car. I really appreciate this vehicle and the work. $300K for paint seems a tad on the high side but who knows how much of the narrowing process is in that cost. Last auction it brought the cost of the paint job. Hmmm…

    One of the coolest custom wagon builds I’ve ever seen. It was auctioned at BJ a few years for way cheap.

    The Ridler Award may as well be a bowling trophy. This, like others, is a mad waste of money on a tasteless abomination that was outdated when it was wheeled into the SEMA show. Now it’s a crass display of more money than brains. Heap of poop it is. Nothing more.

    Beyond the final appearance of the car, most people ignore the sheer amount of talent it took to execute it. Too many people put style before substance. No, I wouldn’t want it, but I deeply admire and appreciate the effort.

    It’s very nice but it kind of has a pink hearse vibe to me as that is pretty much the only time you see a stretched cadillac wagon.

    TWO MILLION DOLLARS and they can’t afford to build a Cadillac 500 cid engine!?
    A common old Big Block Chevy for an engine…..ZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz
    They could’ve saved even more money on the engine build by using a junkyard 5.3 LS with a $200 Chinese Turbo.

    Money does not = taste, education, knowledge, wide exposure. Great ride for the low-horizon crowd.
    But wouldn’t a tee shirt emblazoned “Twit” accomplish the same for less?

    This is a really nice car! That said, I still think the tube frame would twist up like a pretzel if the 1,000 hp ever hooked up.

    $300,000 for the paint job!?
    Did I read that correctly!!??
    That’s called a Hose Job…..not a Paint Job.

    I luv it! But then I have a thing for Caddy wagons I own a CTS V Wagon that I had to have when I heard of the ridiculous amount of horse power under the hood. This is even better!

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