Phil & Mary F 1957 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz 2dr Convertible

The Pursuit of Happiness

Our 1957 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz

My fascination with cars began when I was a young boy and my mother gave me a new pair of “footie” pajamas with pictures of cars all over. As the years rolled on, I remember my father always working on the family car and I soon became fascinated with how the engine worked. By age 17 I owned my own car and began tinkering with it. Fortunately, my father was a patient man who was always there to bail me out of my mistakes.

Year later, when I was in my mid 30s, I was in the local body shop having some work done on my car. There it was. For the very first time, I laid my eyes on a 1957 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz! I was in complete awe of this car and could NOT take my eyes off of it. I knew then that someday, I would own one. This began my research into the pursuit of the perfect car. I was determined to learn everything there was to know about that Cadillac. I purchased books about the car and attended every car show I could in hopes of catching a glimpse of one. I quickly discovered that this particular car was indeed a very rare breed. Having learned that only 1800 were produced in 1957, it was apparent that only a few still survived. This only fueled my passion even more. I had to own one. In fact, to date, I can honestly say that I have actually only seen less than 15 of them. I soon subscribed to “Hemmings Motor News” and anxiously waited for the new editions each month. I would scour the magazine in hopes of finding one for sale. Finally, in 1999, I found one for sale which appeared to be within my financial reach. The only caveat was that the car was in Chatham, Ontario Canada (of all places!)

With great anticipation, my wife and I boarded a flight from Newark, NJ to Detroit, MI, rented a car, and drove across the Canadian border headed for Chatham, Ontario. Upon meeting with the seller, we quickly discovered that the car had already been completely broken down to the bare frame in preparation for a full restoration. The seller informed us that the car originated from, of all places, New Jersey! It somehow made its way to Pennsylvania where the owner at the time shipped it to Chatham, Ontario for its restoration. Shortly after the car was “broken down”, the owner abandoned the project and sold the car to the shop as partial payment for a restoration on another vehicle. We soon agreed on a purchase price, and in early January 2000, my wife and I once again found ourselves on a plane headed for Detroit, MI. Only this time, upon landing, we rented a truck and trailer and drove to Chatham, Ontario once again.

We spent several hours loading the truck and trailer with car parts and the car frame. We then began our journey back to Central, New Jersey. We arrived at the U.S. border at approximately 5:00 PM on a Friday evening. I knew there would be no issues with customs because the car had originally hailed from the U.S. and was never registered in Canada. What never occurred to me was what was about to unfold… At this time in my life, I had long dark hair and full beard. I was dressed in jeans, a sweatshirt, and sported a baseball cap. My wife also was in jeans wearing a baseball cap. As we approached the guard station, the customs agent appeared and sternly asked me “What’s in the truck?” I responded honestly with “car parts”. He looked at me, smirked, and said “Car parts? Yeah, pull the truck over, get out, and open the back door.” By the time I got out of the truck, two additional customs agents appeared with border dogs. It had never occurred to me that one of the most commonly used methods of smuggling illegal contraband into the country was through car parts! After no reaction from the border dogs, it was only a few moments before the customs agents realized that the only thing in the truck was indeed car parts. Just when I thought we would be able to continue our long journey, the customs agents decided they wanted to talk “shop” and began asking me all sorts of car related questions. It was apparent to me that we shared a common interest. After what felt like a lifetime, my wife and I were finally on our way. We drove straight through the night and arrived home early the next morning. After a much needed rest, my wife and I began unloading all the parts and rolled the body/frame into the garage. This marked the beginning of what was to become an 11½ year restoration project…

My first task was to send the engine block and heads to be reconditioned. The transmission was sent to be rebuilt to a shop owned by an “old timer” who was familiar with older transmissions. I separated the body from the frame and began media blasting the frame in preparation for paint. The frame was then painted “chassis black”, new front & rear springs were added, along with shock absorbers, brake lines, rear end seals, axle bearings and seals, and front end assembly. The body, having now been glass bead blasted and etched primed, received four new floor pans and some much needed attention to the wheel wells. Having finally rendered it “rust free”, I then reattached it to the frame, and sent it off to the paint shop. By this time, the engine block and heads, along with the transmission, were completed and awaited the return of the car from the paint shop. Upon the cars return, I installed the engine and transmission. Now began the tedious task of rebuilding and installing each component of the engine, i.e., twin carburetors, air conditioning unit, generator, power steering pump, starter, distributor, fuel pump, etc. This was followed by a complete exhaust system consisting of dual exhaust (two mufflers and two resonators). My focus then shifted to the interior of the car where I created a new wiring harness and proceeded to install it into the car. During this process, many of the chrome components were being sent out for re-plating. As the newly re-plated pieces arrived from the chrome shop, I applied them to the car. Next I installed the carpet, followed by door panels and surrounding glass. A new top was added with all new hydraulics. Finally I installed the front and rear seats. I now had a complete interior! The remaining exterior pieces were soon applied to the car upon their return from the plating shop. Last but not least, five brand new tires were fitted onto five newly plated wheels and in October of 2011, 11½ years after the journey began, our 1957 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz convertible took her maiden voyage! Unfortunately, my excitement of driving the car was short lived. For those of you who know anything about New Jersey, the foul weather begins at this time of year. So, needless to say, in Spring of 2012, my excitement began all over again! We began attending all the local car shows and am proud to say that the trophies/awards starting rolling in! At our 1st car show, we were approached by one of the appointed Concours d’Elegance of Monmouth County judges who extended us a personal invite to attend the October 2012 Concours show in Holmdel, NJ, which we were proud to attend. At our 2nd car show in Bordentown, NJ, our car took First Place/Best in Show out of nearly 300 cars!

While it was a long 11½ year journey, 2012 certainly proved to be the beginning of a new exciting journey filled with participating in events, meeting new friends, and sharing stories with other car enthusiasts. We are looking forward to another enjoyable year!

Nut & Bolt Facts:

1957 Original Sale Price: $7,286

365 Cubic Inch 2 four-barrel Carbs w/Batwing

325 HP Dual Exhaust w/Resonators

4-Speed Automatic Hydra-Matic Transmission

5,100 lbs., 18.5’ Long, 6.5’ Wide, 4.2’ High

Tubular Center X Frame

Power Steering/Power Brakes

Power Windows/Power Antenna

6-Way Power Leather Seats

Factory Air Conditioning

EZ Eye Glass

Gold-Finish Radiator Grille

1 Reader Comment

  • 1
    Darrell Austin February 20, 2014 at 22:21
    Wonderful story ending perfect first chapter with the beginning of perfect second chapter. Enjoy the journey!

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