What Are You Working On? Ron Brown’s 1956 Cadillac Promises

The '56 still in its Earl Schieb paint job and after the hood was replaced (and primed in white) and Ford "Cruiser" skirts were made to fit. Lakes Pipes were added.

The ’56 Cadillac took a serious hit right after Ron got the car. On the way to a Kansas rod run, the secondary hood latch failed and the hood wrapped itself around the top of the car. Fortunately, the roof, windshield or the stainless wasn’t damaged.

Cadillacs are like Corvettes-everything is expensive. Ron Brown found that out when he went looking for a fifties Cadillac to build.

The one in this feature is the third in a line of Cadillacs. No, not a third of as many Cadillacs Ron has owned, as this is the first Cadillac he’s owned, but a third in a club called “The Caddy Boys” out of the Denver, Colorado area, consisting of a 1954, a 1955 and the 1956 Cadillac of Ron’s.

Ten years ago, Ron decided he wanted to build a luxury car after building a 1937 Buick street rod. He answered an ad for a ’55 Cadillac convertible in northern Colorado. After looking the car over – it needed a complete re-do even though the car was complete with Continental kit for $5,000. Ron decided a new engine, transmission, interior and top, plus body and paint would put the rebuild price out of reach. He passed on the car.

Interior parts are painted to match the Ferrari leather. Dull look is intentional since it matches the leather better. Dash has been modified with round A/C outlets.

A new project.

Several weeks later a friend offered him a running, driving 1956 Cadillac hardtop and a 1955 Ford F-100 for his 1937 Chevy sedan street rod. The Cadillac hardtop had a 500-inch Caddy engine and a 200-R4 transmission in it. It was painted an off-white color and the interior was decent. “It was a good deal,” Ron said. “I’ll keep the Caddy and sell the F-100.” Two weeks later the F-100 was gone and Ron had a new ‘toy’ to play with and extra cash.

In the meantime, a friend acquired a ’54 Cadillac hardtop and started building a kustom. Shortly after that, another friend bought a ’55 Cadillac Coupe DeVille failed project – and “The Caddy Boys” club was formed.

DSCN6473

The ’56 still in its Earl Schieb paint job and after the hood was replaced (and primed in white) and Ford “Cruiser” skirts were made to fit. Lakes Pipes were added.

The trio enjoyed a couple of summers of rod running with the Cadillacs and the Salina KKOA trip was memorable. In 2009, Ron decided to tear his Cadillac apart and re-do it since the ’54 was finished and the ‘55 Cadillac was about to be.

The Earl Schieb paint job on his ’56 left a lot to be desired. The interior showed signs of wear and the 200-R4 transmission was slipping. Besides, wrapping the hood over the top (faulty latch) on the Kansas plains while on a road trip convinced him it was time to update the Cad. In the winter of ’09, the car came apart. The plan was a complete re-do and Ron figured he could do it in a year. “When I get going on car, it doesn’t take me long,” Ron told his Cadillac pals.

Left: A 1976 500 ci Cadillac engine powers the '56, a 700 R-4 transmission is used. All wiring for the engine is hidden. Easy-wire supplied the 21 circuit kit for the car.

Losing sight of the goal.

Unfortunately, at that time, he had no idea a few cars would slip in front of the Cadillac in the ensuing years. A stone stock ’57 Chevy Bel-Air came up for sale at the right price and Ron purchased it. A ’34 Plymouth sedan street rod suddenly was available and Ron snatched it up, hoping to make a quick buck. A friend passed away and his ’62 Impala was such a desirable car Ron purchased it. A low-miles, all original ’68 El Camino popped up from a relative that didn’t want to fix it so it came into Ron’s possession.

Each came with baggage – the ‘57 needed paint and interior, the original 283ci engine and transmission needed to be rebuilt. The Plymouth needed an interior, glass, and some minor body mods, the ’62 Impala needed a 350 SBC and a four-speed, and a new black paint job; the green El Camino needed a new 700-R4 to make it an easy every day driver. Each took time and the Cadillac languished, shoved into a corner of the garage.

Ron does his own interior upholstery in his home shop, including trunk and carpet. Ferrari perforated leather is used on the seats.

Over the course of six years, the Cadillac did get worked on, but only in spurts – the ’56 got a rebuilt 500ci and a new 700 R-4 transmission and the ’57 Chevy showed up. Body work was completed one summer and the ’34 Plymouth sedan was purchased. The Cad got a Butterscotch Dreamsicle water-based paint job by Wicked Custom Classics of Castle Rock, Colorado, in the Spring of 2012, and the ’62 Impala re-do was put in front of the Cadillac. Assembly of the front clip and wiring on the Caddy followed in the Fall and over a few more months, a late model split bench seat was fitted in the Cadillac; and trunk upholstery completed. About that time, the relative gave up on the El Camino and Ron got it. Of course, that was only a minor ‘bump’ and eventually, in 2014, the only thing left to do on the Cadillac was A/C, wiring, stereo, headliner, rear seat, and the rest of the interior and glass.

Left: Dash is treated to rolls n' pleats. Left: Split bench seat is from an 1976 Cadillac Eldorado, seat tops were cut down 3 inches so they wouldn't stick above door line.

Road trip.

In the Fall of 2015, after the other two Cadillac Boys enjoyed a road trip to the James Dean event in Fairmount, Indiana, they told Ron he needed to go in 2016. He promised his Cadillac pals that his ’56 Cadillac would be done and he’d go with them to Indiana, in September, 2016 – a year away. Disappointed, “The Caddy Boys” did the road trip without Ron or his ’56, it simply wasn’t done. As the two other Cadillacs set out on the long road trip, Ron’s words came roaring back: “When I get going on car, it doesn’t take me long.”

Left: A shot of the trunk undergoing upholstery. Right: A shot of the car before bumper, grille and hood is attached.

Embarrassed and tired of hearing all the comments and digs when they got back, Ron set to work on the ’56 , again. Determined to finish the car this time since he’d missed so many road trips with his pals, he’s getting after it, hard.

IMG_1724

Nearly complete, the Cadillac’s resurrection is about to end. Now it’s time to put on some miles and work out the bugs all new cars have.

It’s now Spring-time in the Rockies and Ron’s 1956 Cadillac has just made its first trial outing a few weeks ago – it runs and drives but needs finishing. Ron’s goal is currently the First of May to get a few miles on the car. A second goal? A July 15th rod run up in the mountains in the glorious state of Colorado, 200 miles from home, where his friend won ‘Best of Show’ last summer with his ’55 Cadillac.

photographer unknown

One of the few photos of “The Caddy Boys” all together. Shot in Salina, Kansas in 2009. Photographer unknown.

“The Caddy Boys” will be rolling hard (or easy, depending on your outlook) again this summer – a procession of three similar Cadillacs – watch for them at several rod runs this summer.

It’s great to see these types of friends keeping things on the road and encouraging each other to cruise. It all starts with a project, and if you’ve got one you’re working on, share it with us! Send us an email and yours could be the next project featured in “What Are You Working On?”.

About the author

Roger Jetter

Roger’s interests in cars started at 14 with a ’40 Ford pick-up until he bought his first ’57 Chevy at age 16. That car is featured in the first two books he’s written about the 1960’s and growing up in the Midwest. He’s authored several more books as well and has built several cars over the years that have received major coverage in magazines and won plenty of awards. His current build is a 1948 Cadillac Sedanet, although his current 'driver' is a '55 Cadillac Coupe DeVille.
Read My Articles

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