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The Black Pryncess
Second, partial restoration
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We bought the Pryncess in November, 1997, from the St. Louis Auto Museum in Missouri, on a tip from Cadillac enthusiast and friend Rik Gruwez, Belgium, moderator of the Cadillac Mailing List (CML) - http://bluedog.cc.emory.edu/archives/cml/]. Rik had recently bought from that museum a nice 1959 Coupe de Ville.
I checked out the site and noticed a 1942 Cadillac Series 75 limousine for sale. It was not really the kind of Cadillac I was used to, nor looking for. In fact I was looking for a 1960 Cadillac Eldorado Seville, which had been our wedding car back in 1972. We were hoping to find one as conveyance when we went to renew our marriage vows (in style !) after 25 years of marital bliss. We never found that model ...but we still want to renew our vows.
On November 12, 2002, the Black Pryncess celebrated her sixty-first birthday (and her long-awaited return to irregular service) at our home in Chapin, South Carolina. She is a roomy 1942 Cadillac, a so-called 40th Anniversary model, designated a Fleetwood Series 75, Style 7519F, imperial sedan for five passengers. Today she would be called a limousine for five passengers.
In these pages are summarized the salient events leading up to her being put back into service.
1942 Cadillac Series 75 by
The Pryncess is termed an "imperial" because she was designed to be driven either by the owner or by a chauffeur. As such, a solid partition, beautifully curved at both ends, creates an obvious separation between the front and rear compartments. An equally curved glass division, hidden inside the partition when not in use, may be raised and lowered by a small electric motor in the base of the partition. Guided by two narrow side rails, the glass stops flush with the fabric headliner. This arrangement is called an "X" division; there is no wooden header such as is found in the more classic limousine styles. The latter usually have also the chauffeur's compartment trimmed throughout in black leather. In our car, broadcloth is used throughout.
The electrically-operated division is a novelty introduced by Cadillac in 1941. The "Up/Down" motion of the glass is controlled by rocker switches marked "U" (up) and "D" (down) located on the so-called vanity cases situated on the armrests on either side of the plush rear seat. When the glass is lowered - and because front and rear compartments are identically trimmed and upholstered with taupe-colored, Laidlaw broadcloth - the interior of our ersatz limousine takes on the appearance of a roomy sedan.
Subsequent research revealed that our car had been delivered to Scott-Smith Cadillac in Philadelphia, PA, on November 12, 1941 ...just a month before Pearl Harbor. The new cost in late 1941 was $2,530.81, including a couple of optional, extra cost items. Finding a nice one today will cost ten times that.
The chassis is #3380584 and the body #27 (of ony 65 built). The color code is #1 (black) and the interior trim #92 (taupe). The odometer reading in November 1997 was 43,997 miles; the good condition of the original brake linings suggests the mileage is accurate. I have added only 1,800 or so miles in the last six years.
Brakes are in good condition...
We believe the Pryncess underwent a partial restoration in the early seventies; she may have been wholly or partially repainted and the seats and seat backs were done over with original Laidlaw Victoria broadcloth, imported from Scotland; the remaining interior trim is original.
Following that initial restoration work the Pryncess became a first prize winner, scoring 93.75 points out of a possible 100 in a primary competition of the Classic Car Club of America (CCCA) at Buck Hill Falls, PA, on 1 January, 1973. By virtue of her high score, she earned her Senior badge (#601) which she still proudly displays on the trailing edge of her left, front fender.
CCCA "Senior" badge
At that time the Pryncess was owned by Mrs. Jack Nagel (now deceased, according to Katie Robbins of the CCCA). Her husband, John A. Jack Nagel was still a registered CCCA member in 2001, with an address in Cherry Hill, NJ. We have tried (unsuccessfully), on two occasions, to contact him with a view to learning more about the Pryncess' past.
In October, 2001, I ran also an unsuccessful check with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) in New Jersey, in the hope of finding out who had owned the car before Mrs. Nagel.
According to Katie Robbins, the Pryncess may have gone subsequently to New Mexico [no other details available]. I tried to run a check on her through the DMV in New Mexico but I did not even get the courtesy of a reply.
The last owner, Mr. Allen Bebee, is believed to have acquired her in the mid-seventies and to have kept her approximately 23 years, that is from around 1974 until we acquired her in 1997. The title was in the name of River Development Corp., 625 Skinker, St. Louis, MO 63105 (Missouri title #QB021727).
From a Missouri Museum to a Carolinas Cadillac Nut
A Rare Car
Total Cadillac production in 1942 hit a new low owing to the war that had begun to rage both in Europe and in the Pacific. Remember, production of Cadillac passenger cars came to a halt in mid-February that year, when all American auto manufacturers converted their facilities to military production. With just over sixteen thousand units, fewer Cadillacs were built in 1942, for example, than in the 1916 calendar year, although production was notably better than in the slump years from 1931 to 1934.
The most popular model, again this year, was the low-end, Series 61 sedan for 5 passengers. You may take a look at the entire 1942 model range by clicking here.
At the high end of the scale, the rarest 1942 models are found among the luxurious Series 67 models and the even more sumptuous Series 75 cars. With only 65 units built, the Series 75, Fleetwood style 7519F limousine for 5-passengers represents less than one-half a percent of the total 1942 production. Our Black Pryncess is one of those, hence her license tag: 1 OF 65 .
[Note from Roy Schneider's book: Cadillacs of the Forties]
Other changes to the 75s passenger cabin [since 1941] included: new trim patterns for seats and door panels; redesigned door handles, window cranks and assist grips; new courtesy and quarter light bezels; all hardware diecast with jewelers precision; exclusive fabric choices made of 100-percent Australian wool; consoles built into the rear arm rests; vanity case covers let into the paneling; chrome scuff plates (lower door); gold inlay on door hardware; and Fleetwood-logo, chrome plated brass sill plates. The usual luxury touches were also present: all-wool carpeting, lull straps, double throw foot rest, electric clock in the rear, intercom in limousines, and fabric-robe cord.
Dreystadt insisted that the Seventy-Five, now the standard bearer of the Fleetwood banner, be vested with matchless style and endowed with the finest materials and craftsmanship. Indeed no expense was spared in accomplishing that goal.
One of 65 built
List of 1942 body styles
|6109||Series 61 sedan||3,218||6723||Series 67 sedan [5-pass.]||260|
|6127||Series 61 coupe||2,482||7523||Series 75 sedan [7-pass.]||225|
|6219D||Series 62 deluxe sedan||1,827||7519||Series 75 sedan [5-pass.]||205|
|6219||Series 62 sedan||1,780||6733||Series 67 limousine [7-pass.]||190|
|6319||Series 63 sedan||1,750||6019F||Series 60 Special limousine [5-p.]||190|
|6019||Series 60 Special sedan||1,684||7533F||Series 75 formal limousine [7-p.]||80|
|6207D||Series 62 deluxe coupe||530||7519F||Series 75 limousine [5-pass.]||65|
|6207||Series 62 coupe [fastback]||515||7559||Series 75 formal limousine [5-p.]||60|
|7533||Series 75 limousine [division]||430||6719F||Series 67 limousine [5-pass.]||50|
|6267||Series 62 deluxe convertible cpe.||308||7523L||Series 75 livery sedan [9-pass.]||29|
|6719||Series 67 sedan [7-pass.]||299||7533L||Series 75 livery limo. [9-pass.]||6|
The company copy writers had this to say about our car, and her lovely sisters in the same 75 series:
In fine homes, clubs and the exclusive summer and winter resorts of the country, Cadillac-Fleetwoods have proven themselves to be the unquestioned choice of America's most discriminating market. As the combination of luxury and utility these cars, the preference of practically two out of every three high-price car buyers, stand as the peak of perfection in the automobile industry. For 1942, Cadillac Fleetwood, creator of the world's outstanding motor cars, has again met the challenge and produced a line of motor cars that defy all comparison. On any basis of comparison by which motor cars are judged, the 1942 Cadillac-Fleetwood Series 75 is the epitome of luxurious comfort, dignity and maximum quality. The Fleetwood Series 75 continues to represent the world's finest motor car. For those who want only the very best there is only one answer - the 1942 Cadillac Series Seventy-Five.
One would think that such a rare car would be highly desirable and equally valuable. Not so, unfortunately (or we never would have been able to afford her). The fact is that today's old car enthusiast is more attracted to convertibles and coupes, even though the latter were among the lowest-priced models in the range at the time they were made.
New, our Black Pryncess cost about TWICE as much as the prize-winning-red 1942, Series 62 Deluxe convertible coupe you can admire below. Today, the opposite holds true; although they outnumber our 5-passenger limousine by about five to one, the value of these convertibles today is almost DOUBLE that of a closed car of much greater stature.
Cadillac Collectors love Convertibles
In her present condition, today, the Pryncess may be worth up to ten times her original sticker price, i.e. about $25-30K ...or much less if you are one of the persons who would like to own her and are only prepared to pay a fraction of what she's REALLY worth to Gita and me! If you take into account an inflation index of 10.2, she is basically still worth what she cost the day she left the Philadelphia showroom floor. Now that's what I would call "value for money"!
We know (for sure) of only three other survivors. A fourth may be lurking in Massachussetts We are investigating that one.
The first survivor that we encountered carries body #5. It is owned by David and Patricia Aiken of Westfield, MA, whom we had the pleasure of meeting in Warwick, RI, in August 2000, on the occasion of the CLC Grand National. That car has the Hydra-Matic transmission; unfortunately (in my opinion), the interior has been re-upholstered with non-authentic, red velour.
The second one (body number unknown) has been repainted sky blue (a color not included on that year's paint chip charts). I believe that part of the original, gray broadcloth interior trim is still there. That one was offered for sale at auction, on e-Bay, in 2002. The minimum starting bid of $30,000 attracted few potential buyers. Nevertheless, the car found a buyer (Dick Mussatti, an Illinois resident). We have been in contact. Dick has been bringing his car up gradually to a very respectable level of restoration.
The possible third car is listed in the Cadillac-LaSalle Club directory (Centennial issue, 2002). It is said to be owned by a collector in Massachussetts. There is still doubt as to whether it has the curved division glass. A CLC member, who is a neighbor of the owner, was going to check it out and get back to me.
Only three other, known or suspected survivors
The fourth (including ours)
is listed in the Cadillac-LaSalle
Equipment and amenities
The Cadillac 1942 Accessory Data Book, of which we are fortunate to have got a copy from the firm's Historical Services, lists the two optional, extra cost items appearing on the factory invoice for the Pryncess:
- Gas cap lock [part #1446459 costing #2.75]; the key is supposed to fit also the glove compartment (it does NOT), the trunk and the RH rear door lock (it does NOT). The latter door lock was a standard feature of limousines with a partition;
- Back up light [part #1446470 costing $12.50]; the latter currently is o/s but I'm sure the problem is a minor one.
[ included on the factory invoice ]
Artist's view (right) is from the 1942 Accessory Data Book
The Pryncess' optional equipment:
the reversing light
Other special features of our car, or deviations from standard specifications, as listed in the factory printed Extra Charges booklet dated October 27, 1941, include #SF 42-41W, a silk roller curtain for the back window); this presumably was installed later as it does not appear on the factory invoice (or it may have been standard equipment); the Pryncess now has only the hardware left (the roller itself has disappeared).
The car is equipped also with four full wheel discs [part #3506739, set of four, costing $16 on other models] and a windshield washer [part #14443931 costing $8.25]; this may indicate that the buyer chose Accessory group "C", costing $42.50 without tax, although the latter group does not appear on the invoice.
The Pryncess' special, Deluxe steering wheel [part #3507394 costing $15 on other models] was standard equipment on this body style, as were also the full wheel discs that feature a new emblem for 1942. The front compartment radio [part #7241951 costing $75] with automatic push-button setting and adjustment, may also be standard equipment; unfortunately, the Pryncess no longer has the vacuum aerial but, instead, a regular, manual expanding model. She has also an automatic heating system [part #3116375 costing $65] and two outside rear-view mirrors [part #1426809, LH, and 1438747, RH, costing $4.50 each]. None of the latter accessories appear on the invoice. Were they standard?
"Deluxe" steering wheel
Other interesting features of the car include drip shields over the crank-operated, locking ventipanes [to keep out the rain and prevent madame's light-colored coat and frock from being spotted], two fully adjustable sun visors, a front cigar-lighter and ash receiver discreetly built into the radio grille, locks on both front doors as well as ought-to-match locks on the RH rear door, the glove compartment door and the trunk; a windshield defroster is incorporated in the automatic heater system; there is an automatic rear dome light, floor-level courtesy lights and rear quarter panel reading lights, all operated simultaneously by rear door jamb switches or manually (when the doors are closed) by two sliding switches on the "C" pillars; there is a separate dome light for the driver, operated by a sliding switch on the "B" pillar, behind his left ear, a front bench seat that may be adjusted (forward and back) by means of a curved handle on the LH side; the front arm rest doubles as a door pull; safety door stops hold the doors in the open position [one was "irreversibly" broken on the Pryncess' RH rear door]; there are child safety locks on the rear doors, sliding rear quarter windows for added ventilation, a parcel shelf behind the rear seat back, bright scuff plates at each door stamped with the renowned, oval Fleetwood plate, a carpet-covered, full-length, throw-over foot rest in the rear compartment; seats and seat backs both are filled with Marshall springs; genuine French walnut garnish moldings add a luxurious touch to all doors, quarter panels and the partition; the instrument panel is finished in a genuine burl walnut design; it incorporates a large-faced electric clock at the RH side; there is a smaller, rectangular electric clock in the center of the front seat back walnut molding; the original floor covering was Kinkomo carpeting [long gone in our car, except on the lower door panels and on the full width, throw-over footrest].
Setting safety rear door lock
In addition, and for the ultimate convenience of rear-seat passengers, each "C" pillar has an assist-strap (a popular alternative was a sliding lull strap on a chrome-plated rod above the rear quarter window); there is also a hand-grip at each end of the robe cord on the partition (the latter could be exchanged for a sturdier robe rail); there are two rear compartment heater outlets at the base of the partition, on the LH and RH sides. In either walnut rear quarter molding, small, hinged doors, drop down to reveal useful but equally small utility compartments. A large, padded armrest swings out from the center of the seat back; at each end of the latter are additional, comfortable arm rests that feature a slash pocket on the side, with a zipper closure. The vanity cases located at the forward edge of both these armrests incorporate an ash receiver with a discreet, metal, roll-top cover, an automatic cigar-lighter with a special "T-Top" grip and - for a real touch of Eldorado Brougham class - a small, leather-bound memo pad (RH slot) and mirror (LH slot). At one's fingertips also, the "Up/Down" rocker switches that control the drum and cable drive operating the division glass (the electric motor automatically cuts out when the glass reaches the limit of upward or downward travel).
Electric division mechanism
My friend Jeff Hansen, who headed the team of experts that drafted in 2001 the ultimate Authenticity Manual for the 1942 Cadillac models [in fact, he did 95% of the work single-handed] drew my attention to sections 33.2980 and 33.3000 of the Master Parts List entitled Memo Book and Pencil, Rear Compartment Right Vanity Case [part #4125414 costing $2.25], used in all but the 1942 Series 75 livery models, and Mirror, Rear Compartment Left Vanity Case [part #4125413, costing just $1.95] and again not available in the "75" livery models. I found also the part number for the missing T-top lighter knob in our car [ #1092696, used also in "75" cars in 1941, 1946 and 1947].
The interior of the Series 75 models was trimmed in tan vogue broadcloth (Bedford cord, plain broadcloth or figured broadcloth were alternatives as was the color gray); it was later upgraded to Laidlaw Victoria broadcloth (from Scotland) when the seats and seat backs were re-upholstered in the seventies.
A cursory examination and test drive by an appraiser from St. Louis revealed that the Pryncess was an honorable "3+" on the usual collector car rating scale. The interior looked good and the exterior was OK but for a dollar-sized dent and 6-inch scrape on the leading edge of the LH rear fender, as well as the beginnings of a rust hole at the trailing edge of the LH, lower rear door (probably a result of the accident that had damaged the fender).
Minor body damage...
As to the chrome, apart from the RH side of the rear bumper, the two rear fender "fins" and the tail-light bezels, most of the chrome on the car is still in relatively good condition, although there is moderate pitting all round (hood vent trim piece, decorative fender "spears", belt molding, door handles, "Goddess" mascot, crest emblems, etc.) No, this is NOT a 100-point car!
The car had a perfectly fine front bumper and one excellent impact guard; trouble is they both belonged to a 1946-47 Cadillac model; the other impact guard had been recast in aluminum and polished out slightly differently than the other one. Finding a correct 1942 front bumper and guards turned into a tortuous affair, with faxes and packages going back-and-forth to a parts vendor in Sylmar, CA. Begun in 1998, the search for the correct impact guards lasted until the summer of 2002.
Front and rear bumpers got a re-chrome [for under $600 - for BOTH] from an outfit in Charleston, SC, through Auto-Glass of Columbia, SC, who do auto bumpers as a sideline to their regular auto glass replacement business.
Since we bought the Pryncess, other minor repairs and restoration work has been done: two rust holes in trunk were repaired, RH rear door and fender repaired and repainted, interior door panels removed and inner doors cleaned and rust-proofed, all wood trim removed and varnished, steering wheel removed and (being) restored, electric division repaired, new headliner installed, engine tuned up, brakes bled, windshield washer jar restored, rear bumper re-chromed, new front bumper and impact guards installed (replacing erroneous 1946 model), new tail fins, tail fin jewels and tail-light assemblies installed, trunk re-lined (non-authentic pattern and material but much better looking), trunk tool compartment lid restored, new skirt medallions added, missing letter C added to hood nameplate, etc.)
Costly Cadillac "C"
We "played" with the Pryncess for a few months in 1998 before deciding on a further, partial restoration. No major work was needed other than to fix a dent on the leading edge of the LH, rear fender and a rust hole at the base of the LH, rear door.
I removed the door and fender myself and drove them in the trunk of our '93 to a perofessional restoration shop in Broadway, VA, that had been recommended by my friend Jeff Hansen, of the CLC (Jeff is the happy owner of his late grandfather's 1942 Fleetwood, style 7533 limousine which he is having fully restored there).
The quoted labor rates were $30 an hour. I anticipated that the job would require no more than a day's work (8 hours), with time in between for paint drying. In fact three days' labor were counted - I guess I was being charged for the time the paint took to dry! The total invoice was $839.83. I picked up the restored parts in Charlotte, NC, on the occasion of the annual Spring auto fair and swap meet, where the restoration shop had a booth.
Unfortunately, other activities prevented me, for the next six months, from installing the restored parts on the car. It was not until I put the door back on the car, therefore, that I was able to see the relatively poor quality of work that had been done. Indeed, if you look closely at the base of the door, you can actually see the seam where the new metal was welded in place; in addition, the quality of the paint is not very good, as may be seen by comparing the two images, below. Some experts in the Club have sent me their comments; here is a summary: The door was not properly colorsanded (or not at all). That process removes any dust that settled on the clearcoat and removes the "orange peel" You obviously paid for a premium grade paint job and it should have been colorsanded for maximum gloss. It needs to be wet-sanded with 1500 grit paper. After that you need to take a nine inch, slow speed buffer to work the compound over the surface till it becomes smooth and shiny; then you have to use a clean lambswool pad and some swirlmark remover compound before applying wax. Considering the stature of your car, it was really the bodyshop's responsibility to colorsand the new paint; it can still be done, perhaps you would like to talk to them about it. The bodyshop probably just didn't bother to do it to your car but they know they should have and still can, it needs to be done !"
"professional" paint job...
In the Spring of 1999, through Bill Edmunds who later became President of the Cadillac-LaSalle Club, Inc., we were treated to a visit of a restoration shop in North Carolina, where we admired also the owner's exceptional collection of Cadillac and Buick models, mainly from the forties and fifties. Bill was in the process of having his 1949 Coupe de Ville fully restored there.
We would have liked that restoration shop to restore the interior of our Pryncess but obviously, from the extreme high quality of work we saw being done there, it would have been beyond our means.
Nevertheless, in August 2000, we met in Warwick, RI, on the occasion of the annual CLC Grand National meet, the son of the owner. He had a booth there, advertising the family business.
We did not need a complete new interior for the Pryncess' as she was about 90% complete and in generally good condition. All we needed, in fact, was a new headliner as well as the two rear seat armrests re-upholstered. They all had been a popular feeding ground for moths for 60 years!
We inquired if the shop in question could take on at least the job of replacing the headliner. We got a verbal quote of $500 which, we were told, was based on a labor charge of $40 an hour. This sounded a very reasonable amount and so we subsequently faxed the shop and asked for a second estimate, to include the remaining work [detailed below], as well as the cost of trucking the Pryncess to and from North Carolina.
The estimate for the first ten jobs listed below was ...$25,000 (!!!), provided that no "surprises" were encountered along the way! Transport was to cost $550 extra. The remaining four jobs on our list (that I said I might do myself, depending on the price the shop would quote), would have added another $2,000-3,000 to the bill! That meant a possible total of around $27,000-28,000!
In the covering letter from the shop it was stated: with rust repair and rust damage it is impossible to come within plus or minus 10% of the actual cost ...there is no guarantee I can stay within these figures... Assuming that 90% of the figure quoted was for labor (and excluded any "surprises"), the shop estimated that the job would take one man 630 hours; that is 70 days, or 15 weeks, working 8-hour days. We were aghast! Our immediate thoughts turned to selling the Pryncess and getting out of this "rich man's hobby" ASAP. We decided it would be totally foolish to invest this much money into PARTLY restoring the Pryncess' whose rated market value in excellent condition, at the time, was "only" about $22,000!
Despite the shop's assertion that a '42 automobile is a rare car and this being a Cadillac limousine, it is well worth restoring and their added promise that they would do a correct and outstanding job, we had to back out of the transaction for purely financial reasons.
As you read on, you will see that we were lucky to be able to get 95% of these jobs done for around 5% of that restorer's estimate [i.e. around $1,400-1,500 in lieu of $27,000-$28,000!]. Certainly the work was NOT done to the very high standards we would have expected of such a professional restoration shop, at that price, but at least we got to keep the Pryncess and we still enjoy driving her, despite her few remaining, minor flaws.
For those of you thinking of having your car restored by "professionals", here is a list of jobs that might cost you up to $28,000! I know a few nice, collectible Cadillacs I could acquire, today, for that price ...if only I had the money!
Item 1 - The first job on the estimate was to repair/replace the rusted areas in the trunk. This comprised two rust holes in the hollow, spare wheel wells. This particular Cadillac model may have the spare tire mounted vertically on either the LH or RH side of the trunk; the unused wheel is covered over with a removable metal plate. Obviously, that plate had never been removed in our car and water (from a leaking back light?) had formed in the "dish" and finally rusted through the metal.
With an ordinary Black & Decker jig-saw, fitted with a metal-cutting blade, I was able to remove the rusted metal, and much more; this took me about 2 hours. I kept the cut-out "shapes" and sent them to a friend in Kentucky who does metal work; he had two similar-shaped pieces made up that I could simply drop into the "holes"and have someone spot-weld into position. These parts cost $100.
Rust ... (but nothing serious)
One day, when Gita was coming home from the "village", she saw out of the corner of her eye the familiar glow of an oxy-acetylene torch at work. She approached the welder who was operating the equipment and said, beguilingly: I NEED you, over at MY house, NOW! How could he refuse? But he was kind of surprised when he arrived at the house and discovered that his talents were needed only for a small welding job in the trunk of the Pryncess! That work cost $300.
Item 2 - was to repair further rust damage at the lower RH side of the tool compartment, in the Pryncess' trunk. I was able to do that job myself, in an amateur but effective way, with bits of metal, rivets, self-tapping screws and a lot of rubber sealant. My own, "quick fix" seems to keep the water out and, if I keep an eye on it, I guess I can probably prevent further rust, at least for a wee while! Total cost for materials: circa $10.
Item 3 - was to repair the leaking drain-cock on the fuel tank and to re-install the tank on the car. A new drain cock set me back all of $4 and the welding work was included with the job listed at item 1. My nephew, Niall, from Scotland helped me get the tank back on the car.
Item 4 - consisted in wire brushing the interior of the doors and spraying them with an adequate rust-proofing compound before replacing the inner door panels, trim, moldings and hardware. I completed that job myself too. Materials ran me about $10.
Items 5, 6 and 7 - were taken care off by an independent upholsterer I found in Fort Mill, SC. (repairing/replacing windlace around the doors, providing and installing a new headliner, re-upholstering the two rear seat armrests and re-installing the inner door panels, door hardware, seat cushions and seat backs [none of which needed any other restoration work]). I bought the headliner kit from Kanter, for $135. Labor and supplies for these three jobs was "only" $800! Of course, some of the work was badly done, but the upholsterer in question subsequently DROVE TO OUR HOME IN CHAPIN to correct the mistakes, at no charge. He also has accepted to replace (at no cost) the ugly, mail-pocket zipper on the LH, rear seat armrest ...provided I can find one!
Item 8 - was to check the front brakes (pulling to the right); this work still needs to be done; it is not a major issue since the problem seems to go away after just a few miles of driving. My Scots nephew, Niall, is going to look at it on his next trip over.
Item 9 - was to check the electric circuits under the dash and on the Pryncess' front end [headlights, parking lights and turn signals, horn, etc.] The rear circuitry had been taken care of already by my brother, André, on a visit from Scotland in 1999. Nephew Niall (André's son) took care of the dash and front end in October, 2002. He had a major job sorting out the mess created by the upholsterer, who had installed the new headliner over visibly faulty wiring [photos]. Everything is now back to normal and the cost in materials was about $25.
Faulty wiring ...left under NEW
Item 10 - consisted in installing the new, used tail lights and reversing light I had got from the parts supplier in California, known for being able to supply many trim parts for Cadillacs of the forties ...but his prices! Wow !!!
Anyway, I was able to do #10 job myself, for free [excluding the (high) cost of the parts].
New tail-fins and tail-lights
Item 11 - involved curing some rust damage at the top inner LH side of the trunk area (probably due to a leaking rear window seal). I did that job myself too, albeit in an amateurish way. Keeping a close watch on it should be enough to prevent the spread of rust in that area.
Item 12 - required checking for water leaks around the back-light (window) and fixing them. That job remains to be done, However, it does not prevent our enjoying the car; we shall simply avoid driving the Pryncess in the rain!
Item 13 - involved re-lining the trunk area with the appropriate material. Again, I was able to do a neat job myself, for relatively little money (around $35). True, neither the design nor the material are authentic, but the Pryncess is made to be enjoyed, not to gain or lose points at car shows.
Trunk interior ...non-authentic!
Item 14 - consisted in mounting the correct front bumper and impact guards that I got also from the same outfit in CA. I found that job relatively easy to do myself, cost free (with the exception of the parts themselves - very expensive!) ...and despite a minor "accident" that cost me a new, used, RH front A-frame!
When we bought the Pryncess, she had a front bumper and impact guards off a 1946-47 Cadillac. I was able to get a used 1942 bumper and impact guards from Cars of the Forties in CA. The bumper needed repairs and a full re-chrome. I also had to wait about four years to get two, correct impact guards that I had been offered back in 1998. In total, the '42 Cadillac parts we bought from the same parts dealer in CA added more than $2000 to the total cost of this partial restoration! That amount does not include the cost of returning erroneous or poor quality parts on a couple of occasions.
Replacement of front bumper and
In November, 2000, with the Carolinas chapter of the CLC, we were able to visit Vintage Cars, a restoration shop in Fort Mill, SC, as well as the owner's old car collection. Sadly, the owner passed away the following year.
We were impressed by the quality of interior trim and upholstery work done on some of the cars in he collection by an independent upholsterer operating there on premises rented from the owner. We asked him for an estimate to have the new headliner installed, the two rear seat armrests re-covered and the interior put back together [inner door panels, door hardware, seats and seatbacks]. He was unable (or unwilling???) to name a price but said that his labor rates were $30 an hour, which were 25% cheaper than the rates quoted by the shop in North Carolina.
We had got from Bill Hirsch, Automotive Supplies, Mill & Tannery Agent, in Newark, NJ, for $130, two yards of medium-ribbed, taupe-colored broadcloth, closely matching the existing seat material. This would be used to re-upholster the two "slightly moth-eaten", rear-seat armrests.
On June 27, 2002, we delivered the material and the two armrests to the upholsterer. One of the latter had been laid bare by me and all the component parts unstitched and laid out flat, to facilitate the creation of the appropriate new patterns. The other one was left intact, over the wooden armrest form, to serve as a "tailor's dummy". The original zipper was still in place on it, and in good working order.
Rear seat armrests re-upholstered
Somehow, the upholsterer succeeded in "destroying" or "losing" that second, original zipper. He replaced it with the UGLIEST zipper you ever laid eyes on! It was the first thing that stabbed me in the eye when we inspected the (almost-but-not-quite) completed Pryncess, in October, 2002.
That ugly zipper...!
We had considered trucking the Pryncess to Fort Mill to have the headliner put in. But all the auto-transporters we called quoted rates from $2.00-2.50 a mile; that would have meant adding another $400-500 to the total restoration costs. We decided we could not afford it. So we rigged up a temporary front seat (the original seat and seat back had been removed to facilitate working in the car) and took the Pryncess for a trial, 5-10 mile spin around the local country-side.
She performed perfectly ...until we were getting ready to put her back into the garage for the night. There was a loud "BANG" ...as the RH, front tire exploded! I spent the next half-hour putting on the spare.
Next morning, as I entered the garage, I saw that the rear LH tire also had exploded!
To cut a long story short, it appears that the Pryncess was still riding on the "new" tires that Mrs. Nagel (or even the Pryncess' previous owner) had installed back in the sixties or early seventies. In the ensuing 30-35 year period, these tires obviously had rotted on the inside. I was relieved that the blow-outs had occurred in our garage ...and not on I-77 at 50-60 mph!
In the end, we paid more for four new, wide whitewall tires than we would have paid to have the Pryncess trucked up to Fort Mill. We did not save any money, however we may have SAVED OUR OWN (and other) LIVES!
We did keep the best original spare as "decoration" for the trunk. However, we must remember never to effectively use it as a spare!
In mid-August, 2002, riding on her brand new 7.60x16 wide whitewalls, the Pryncess took us on the uneventful, 120-mile ride to Fort Mill. Gita tagged along in the Roadmaster wagon, just in case. Believe it it or not, on the return trip to Chapin in the Roadmaster ...WE HAD TWO BLOW-OUTS! Just as I was finishing installing the space-saving spare in the left, front, the right, rear tire also went with a bang! In the space of three months we bought TEN tires for three cars ...and I still need a couple more for the boat trailer. We are buying shares in Goodyear!
When we had left the armrests with the upholsterer in June, he had said the job would take about a day. When we drove there with the Pryncess, in August, work still had not begun. When we next paid a surprise visit to the upholstery shop, on September 3, 2002, the day of our outbound flight to London from nearby Douglas International Airport in Charlotte, NC, we were saddened to see that little progress had yet been made. However, what saddened us even more was that the Pryncess was parked outside when the upholsterer had assured us she would always be parked inside. He said he had to move her out "just for today", because he needed the room to finish another job (the shop's main line of business is putting new tops on convertibles).
We were promised that she would go back inside immediately and that she would be ready for the drive home when we came to pick her up, in the first week of October, on our return from our annual trip to Europe to visit our children, grandchildren, other family members and friends.
On October 3, we called the upholsterer from Douglas airport, just a few hours after landing. He said the car was "not quite finished" (were we surprised?). In addition he told us we would not be able to drive the Pryncess home because the fuel pump had gone o/s. That was somewhat surprising considering the smooth, 120-mile ride we had from Chapin to Fort Mill, just a few weeks earlier.
The Pryncess was effectively inside the shop when we came to pick her up. However, judging from her appearance, she had spent more than just a day out in the open. Check the photos. What do YOU think?
Always stored inside the upholstery
We were too dumbfounded to even talk to the upholsterer about the mess; he gives the impression of taking no pride at all in his work, even though we had seen that some of it was excellent. We did not even point out the new dent in the RH front fender. To what purpose? It would be impossible to prove his responsibility in the matter without dated "before" and "after" photos. So disappointed were we with the whole thing that we decided to NOT leave the car there another day. Through the AAA we have a good towing service that covers the first 100 miles; the extra mileage would cost only around $40).
Our only consolation was that the jobs done cost "only" $800, compared to the $27,000-28,000 estimate we had got from the NC shop! At that price, we really had no cause for complaint!
All in all, the upholsterer did a nice job of covering the two rear seat armrests ...even though he destroyed (or otherwise mislaid) the LH mail-pocket zipper, replacing it with the UGLY thing you can see in the preceding images. He is a "cutter-upper" and a "ripper-offer"; we had occasion to watch him "operate" on another car. Whereas it had taken me about two hours to carefully remove the covering from the RH armrest, probably it had taken the upholsterer all of a minute-and-a-half to "rip off" the covering on the LH unit, destroying in the process the precious mail-pocket zipper!
The upholsterer's $800 invoice included:
- covering the two rear-seat armrests [nice job, barring the ugly zipper - see above images]
- installing the new headliner [nice job, barring the fact that he installed it over faulty electrical
wiring, SOME of which he hastily and ineffectively repaired with thick wads of duct tape!
- installing the restored armrests [good job - except for havoc and destruction wrought on the
built-in and so-called vanity cases:
Armrest vanity cases
- installing new windlace on two doors [he "completely forgot" one rear door but accepted to drive
100 miles to our home to finish the job]
- installing three inner door panels [good job]
- installing door hardware on four doors [on all of them he put the handles on upside down !]
French walnut trim throughout
- installing wood moldings on upper doors (three) and rear quarter panels [owing to his use of
thicker windlace material, he was "unable" to fit the two wood moldings around the glass in the
two LH doors! Two of the moldings got damaged in the process!]
Damaged wood trim...!
- installing rear seat back and seat cushion [good job]
- installing front seat back and seat cushion [unsatisfactory job - in addition he "mislaid" the
adjusting lever for the front, bench seat]
- installing all courtesy light fixtures except the two reading lights on the quarter panel
behind the rear seat back [owing to the faulty wiring, none of the inner courtesy lights
worked - the upholsterer did NOT seem to find that "unusual" in an old car!]
The only "surprise" we encountered during the restoration was a broken tie-rod support on the RH, lower A-frame. This was the result of a stupid and freak accident that happened right in the garage, at home when I was attempting to get the car up on ramps to facilitate work on the front bumper. A fraction of an inch too far and the Pryncess went "over the top" ...coming down, with a thump, on its two front wheels.
My cursory examination (and untrained eye) uncovered only a minor dent to the front valance panel that, in any case, would be mostly hidden by the front bumper when the latter finally was installed.
Later, however, when trying to figure out why the Pryncess had developed a marked "list to port" - which I was convinced was due to a sagging or broken LH rear leaf spring - Gita reminded me of the stupid "incident", about which I had almost forgotten. I got under the car, at the front, and found that the stabilizer tie-rod support had been sheared clean off the A-Frame and had jammed itself on top of the latter. The upward pressure on the RH side of the stabilizer bar was causing reverse, downward pressure to the LH rear suspension.
We heaved a HUGE sigh of relief when the Pryncess resumed her level stance after we replaced the damaged, RH A-frame! Cost of this repair: $100 in parts, $63 in labor.
My own "stupid accident" damage...!
Finally, on a positive note, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to some fellow CLC members and enthusiasts who took pity on me, following the troubles I have described above. Three of them deserve particularly warm thanks for supplying, free of charge, some hardware items that I might have had to find elsewhere at GREAT COST! They are:
º Jeff Hansen of the CLC who has endlessly supplied tips and information about 1942 Cadillacs
in general and the Fleetwood series in particular; Jeff also contributed a free, full set of
reproduction radio buttons;
Repro radio buttons
º Frank de Cou, 1940 La Salle owner, who graciously supplied three near-new sliding light switches
for the Pryncess' "B" and "C" pillars; one was for the driver's dome light; the other two are
for the manual operation of all the rear compartment courtesy and reading lights.
"C" and "A"
pillar light switches
º The person who kindly sent me the adjustment handle for the side of the front seat, whose name
and e-Mail address I have unfortunately misplaced ...the same way the upholsterer "misplaced"
the original lever while the car was in his shop. Yes, I am not altogether blameless!
Front seat adjustment lever
My heartfelt thanks go also to the following individuals, in particular, all of whom gave freely of their time and abundant expertise so that the Pryncess might again serve the purpose for which she was primarily designed, that is to be a reliable and luxurious means of transport for crowned heads, the world's elite ...and us!
º Craig Seman from Charlotte, NC, an engine specialist who is handy also with electric tools (!)
º Johan and Annet Geerings, friends on Rik Gruwez' Cadillac Mailing List (CML) who came on
vacation from Holland, with their little daughter, Daphne, ...and were forced to work on the
Pryncess before we would feed them ...hee-hee! Removing the LH rear brake drum was quite
an achievement; even after we had bought an expensive wheel-puller and applied hundreds of
pounds of pulling power, still it would not break loose. Flummoxed, Johan stood back and to one
side to ponder his next move ...when, suddenly, the drum just "SHOT" off the wheel with a loud
"BANG" and flew across the garage floor. Lucky we were not standing in front of it!
Dutch friends visit...
º Christian Vaney, an "old" friend from Switzerland, since 1972; he put the new wheel bearing on
the Pryncess rear, RH axle rod;
Rear wheel bearing
º my brother André, from Kelso, Scotland, who bled the brakes, checked the electrics and got the
electric division to work, among other things; considering my total lack of understanding of
all things mechanical, sometimes I wonder if we had the same parents!
Curved division glass (in 1942!)
º his son Niall, my multi-talented nephew from Aberdeen, Scotland, on the footsteps of his Dad,
who has performed so many tasks for me over the years that they would be too tedious to
enumerate; Niall, like his Dad, is the expert's expert on boats, cars, computers and (basically)
anything mechanical, electrical or electronic; both Gita and I just wish he would move in with us,
because he is equally handy around the house. Niall's last job is to restore the Pryncess' cracked
steering wheel [below]. I don't doubt that he will do an excellent job of it.
The Deluxe steering wheel ...badly in
need of TLC!
Is the Pryncess nimble ?
Well, not really! This is, after all, a near 5000 lbs automobile with a 3-speed, column-mounted stick shift, no power brakes, no power steering, no power-anything-at-all ...and no air-conditioning! You don't want to work too hard at the controls or you can build up quite a sweat!
She won't swing around on a dime, but with a turning circle of 44 feet, she still is "tighter" than her sister, the not-so-fancy Series 67.
Remember, this baby is a (very) sexy genarian - I mean a sexagenarian - so I don't really like to push her. She loves to cruise around 60-65 mph but will easily climb to 80 mph if I don't keep a light foot on her throttle. As regards fuel consumption, at operating speeds around 50-60 mph we can get 14 to 17 miles per gallon. Not bad for a 61-year-old flathead V8!
The following pictures were taken on December 15, 2002, in Timberlake Estates, overlooking Lake Murray, where we live. It is located about 25 miles west of Columbia, state capital of South Carolina. It was a beautiful, mild and sunny day with temperatures around 65ºF (18ºC).
The Black Pryncess in December, 2002
These and other photos of the Black Pryncess may be viewed here
She may not be worth much, despite the fact that only 65 of them were ever built ...but what if Elvis had owned her?
These two images of the Pryncess at Elvis' Graceland estate might be enough to convince an unsuspecting potential buyer that the King did at one time own her. Tee-hee !
Did Elvis own the Pryncess ...?
The Pryncess at Graceland?
Still to do:
I had painstakingly removed, hand-sanded and varnished all the inner wood trim and window moldings. All the upholsterer had to do was to install them on the car after he put the inner door panels back on. He said that when he removed the wood trim from the wrappings, some of it was "damaged" - that's un unlikely story, taking into account the care I had exercised in renewing all these parts and getting them up to Fort Mill in one piece.
At some later stage, I or a subsequent owner can remove again all the trim and restore it - a second time - piece by piece. For the time being, it will have to do as it is !
Among other small jobs still needing to be done are to:
(1) Touch up small dings and dents with gloss black paint
Install 1942 steering wheel after restoration in ScotlandRestore and install steering wheel
(3) Replace broken bolt on a crossover manifold
(4) Repair radio, clocks and fuel gauge
(5) Repair damaged front valance (under bumper)
Sadly, we were compelled to sell the Pryncess in 2004 as we downsized and moved into a condo with NO garage. The Pryncess did not deserve to spend the next few years under a tarp when not in use! She has found a new home in California where she shares the limelight with a "sister car" that is one year older than her (the same Fleetwood style 7519F formal sedan, but from 1941).
[ Photos: © and courtesy of the owner ]
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© 2002, Yann Saunders
[ Background image: The Black Pryncess over the 1941-42 Cadillac crest emblem ]