Story and photos by Tony Ziino and Peter Ratcliff
The '59 Cadillac has always, to me, been the ultimate automobile ever made. Its flamboyant style far outshone all that preceded it. "To me it's to the automotive scene what Elvis Presley was to the music industry, capturing the admiration of generations all over the world ? past, present and future."
Having a great passion for the 50's Rock'n'Roll, the music, movies, dress styles, dancing, cars, etc, it just had to be Guitars, Cadillacs and Rockabilly Music for me.
First things first. No good having a Cadillac and nowhere to put it to bed, so first came a garage big enough to fit 2 Cadillacs side by side. (One has to have a dream!)
The garage was almost completed when I got to drive a Cadillac for the first time. It was a silver 1960 Coupe deVille owned by Deon Omond, who loaned it to me to drive in a parade called Symphony of Cars. I couldn't wait to cruise home in it to see how it looked in my garage, driving my wife nuts with the camera and video.
I decided I needed a stepping stone to my dream. So I purchased a 1958 Customline Star model, fulfilling a childhood dream to own a car like my dad had, which was a '57 Customline. Although I loved the Cussy, it still wasn't the ultimate dream.
Then I was flicking through "The Age" and I came across an ad. I rang my father and asked him to come along. As we pulled into the dirt road leading to Terry King's home, there she stood as if she was waiting for me. Terry took us for a ride, the engine had a miss and the auto slipped, but to me they were minor technicalities compared to getting the money together.
So in May 1997 my dream came true and I became the proud owner of a red 1959 Cadillac Coupe deVille with the appropriate plates "RADCAD" (stands for Radical Cadillac).
The car was one of two Cadillacs imported in 1988 by Terry King. It was originally black, and had been reupholstered and sprayed red in America. Terry had the car converted to right hand drive and had chromed wire wheels and the big whitewall tyres fitted.
I started by giving it a good detail, and upon inspection found that some mechanical TLC was needed. The exhaust system was the first thing to be replaced, followed by overhauling the auto, the braking system, rear end and carby. I discovered some rust in the boot, and so I stripped the interior floor as well. I was pleased to find the interior floor in good condition and just requiring a re-seal. The boot however, was different story. Almost the entire floor had to be cut out and a new piece fabricated and welded in.
Due to the spokes on the wire wheels breaking I had heavier-duty spoke Elite wheels made. And since purchasing the car I have run radial tyres, which are a lot safer bet. My first big car run was the Bright (Vic) Rod Run in November 97. Well, I was in heaven upon my arrival in Bright. "I said to a friend that driving the Cadillac was almost as good as sex."
Apart from the steering wheel being pearl coated, the wheels, and some mechanical improvements, the
car remains standard.
So far it has been to numerous car runs such as Bright, Albury, Geelong, Mornington and taken to
many car shows and R'n'R dances.
To me it's not just a car, it's part of the family and gives me great pleasure. Along with my
children it's my "PRIDE and JOY".
Tony was dissatisfied with the braking of the Caddy, so he set about improving it. As a safety measure, he fitted an HQ Holden dual master cylinder and a Commodore booster. This job was done with the assistance of Gary Driver's mechanic, as Gary had also had some braking improvements made to his red '59 coupe. Tony then obtained a pair of NEW genuine brake drums for the front, and has had some new rear drums cast locally. This has slowed down his search for a suitable disc brake conversion for the car, but he would still like to hear from anyone who has fitted front discs to a '59 era Cadillac.