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Custom Caddy Roadster Has “Harley Early” Style Mods

Custom Caddy Roadster Has “Harley Early” Style Mods


A Cadillac roadster built by a customizer from Maine is based on a Harley Early concept car. Earl—GM’s legendary styling chief—built his roadster in the early ‘50s by cutting down a production line convertible for one of his friends. The “factory-customized” car was created in 1951. It featured high quality construction with a folding top and a trunk. The custom roadster was inspired by the builder’s appreciation of Earl’s work, which developed after he saw an article.

Earl’s friend kept the ‘51 Cadillac roadster for years and then gave it to his niece. Five or six years ago it made headlines when it was sold at an auction. The sale generated lots of media exposure and that aroused much interest in the car. The Maine craftsman then decided to make his own ‘51 Cadillac roadster.

The second car was designed with a boat tail speedster body that was built to high quality standards. It was fitted with an early Corvette V-8. Joseph Marchione of Philadelphia, PA, who owns the car today, says the Corvette engine makes it fast and the car stops traffic wherever it is seen. Marchione purchased the car eight or nine years ago and has put only 30 miles on it himself.

The car is in excellent cosmetic and mechanical condition. In addition to its rich-looking gold exterior finish, the cut-down Caddy has bucket seats and a radio that is hidden in the glove box. Bright metal triple outlet lakes pipes underline each side of the body and give the speedster a speedy sounding exhaust note too. Rear fender mounted antennas add to the car’s coolness.

A huge carburetor sits atop the engine, blending the perfect mix of air and fuel to give the car smooth, rapid acceleration. A wraparound windshield updates the already modern-looking early postwar styling. The windshield is actually a 1958 Chevrolet sedan rear window, so Marchione doesn’t have to worry too much about finding a replacement windshield if he ever needs one.

The car’s interior is freshly redone and the engine is in good tune. Subtle pin striping accents the hood and the rear deck lid. The boat tail bulge widens behind the cockpit, blending into the reverse air scoops that then blend into the rear fender contours. The rear wheel openings are enclosed with fender skirts and massive chrome bumpers protect both ends of the car.

Sporting many custom car touches of the postwar era, the ’51 Cadillac speedster has a frameless windshield made from the rear window of a ’58 Chevy, along with three-outlet chrome lakes plugs and factory style fender skirts.

Though it may have the overall sporty lines of a prewar roadster or a postwar British sports car, there’s no mistaking the boat tail speedster as anything other than a Cadillac with “Dagmars” and massive grille with built in lights.

Note that the taillights are set into the fenders without chrome bezels and the boat tail rear, which does not have a trunk like the factory-built roadster, is accented with pin striping done in a harmonizing color.

License plate with “51 Cadi” stamped into it identifies the car at the rear, while up front is an “Elvis Presley the King” plate with a picture of the Rock and Roll idol on it.

Despite what are really hefty Cadillac proportions, the shape of the body gives it a long, low, curvy look and the rakish wraparound “windshield” firs the character of the speedster perfectly. This car is a cut above many other customs.