Larry & Linda Klement
· Original 150 H.P., 2 Bbl, 346 Flathead V-8,
· Original Hydramatic Transmission
· Repainted original color: Maderia Maroon
· Believed to have 57,900 miles
· Car came equipped with following options:
§ Automatic Transmission
§ Back up lite
§ Sombrero wheel covers
§ Day / Nite Rear view mirror
§ Under seat heaters
§ Whitewall Tires
§ Radio with vacuum antenna
§ Fog lights and Clock
Our 1947 Cadillac Series 62, 5 passenger coupe
Some say that you will know when you see “your car”. I did. For years friends had been after me to buy a 30’s to 50’s car. I kept telling them that I had not seen a car that said, “Buy me”. Then a friend of mine, Pete Prindle, accidentally found a 1947 Cadillac 5 passenger coupe in South Dakota in the late Spring of 1996. Pete brought the car home and called me saying that he had “the Car” for me. Of course, I did not believe him at first. He enticed me to come to the first swap meet of the season at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds to see it firsthand.
The car was more than I expected. I hadn’t realized the size and aerodynamic look of the car. The exterior was a combination of no paint, red primer and a faded light green 50’s paint. The interior was mostly intact but it showed weathering from having sat outside for ten years before being purchased in 1973 by the party that my friend Pete bought it from. From 1973 to 1996 the car sat motionless in an underground motel garage in Keota, South Dakota. At first glance it looked like everything was intact albeit everything needed restoration.
Even at that point I was skeptical of undertaking a restoration of it. What probably clinched it was a gentleman who was selling a 1963 Chevrolet Impala just behind where the Cadillac was parked on a trailer. He told me that I would be crazy not to buy it since it was all there and had little rust or dents. He also told me that if I did not buy it the car would go to some hot rodder who would street rod the car. I found out that he was an auto restorer and had a business, Frontier Auto Restoration in Becker, MN and that he owned a 1947 Cadillac Coupe, which he was restoring along with doing restoration work for others.
We purchased the ‘47 Cadillac in June of 1996. Only one item, a chrome button on one of the front spears, was missing. The car was mostly rust free as it had been undercoated at some early point in its life. Having sat outside for 10 years a lot had deteriorated; paint, tires, interior, wiring, glass, etc. The paint was almost gone in several areas. I told my wife that I hoped the current light green color was not the original color as it did nothing for the sleek look of a coupe.
Upon delivery I investigated and found the drive train to be free, oil in the motor, fluid in the transmission and gas in the tank. After taking out the spark plugs and checking out the wiring, I turned the motor over by hand to see if it was usable. Upon purchasing a 6-volt battery, changing oil, filling the block and radiator with water, installing new 10mm spark plugs and hooking up a hose for gas, I attempted to start the car.
The engine turned over but would not start. Dirty wiring contacts on the distributor turned out to be the culprit. After cleaning the contacts I was able to start the car. Really something since it supposedly had not ran since 1963. It blew smoke and mice nests out of the muffler but ran with some low-end noise. I think the smoke came from Marvel oil I had sprayed into each cylinder several days before turning the engine over by hand since it cleared up almost immediately.
My next hurdle was to get the brakes working. I wound up sending the master to Apple Hydraulics to be resleeved. I got lucky with the wheel cylinders, finding new ones at the local NAPA Auto Parts store. What a surprise to find new ones for a 50-year-old car. The brake pads were thin so I took them to a local brake shop and had new pads installed and the drums turned. Upon receiving the master back I cleaned out the original brake lines, installed new flexible hoses at each wheel and filled the system with fluid. Low and behold I now had a drivable car if the tires would hold air.
In August 1996 I took the car for my first drive around the neighborhood. It ran rough, shifted rougher but it went down the road. I then knew that I would restore it to its original condition when delivered to Central Cadillac in Cleveland, Ohio on July 3, 1947.
In September 1996 I parked the car in our heated garage and started the restoration process. This was to be our first major auto restoration project. Over the past 25 years my wife and I have owned Corvettes, Mustangs, a Toronado and various models of Chevrolet along with a number of daily drivers. Most needed only TLC
to make them nice. This was to be quite different. Hours and hours in the garage and money would be necessary to arrive at our destination of having a superior restoration. I have heard that many start but never finish such a project, but we were undaunted by that information since several acquaintances indicated a willingness to help us in the restoration process. One was Eddie Jones, owner of Frontier Auto Restoration who specialized in restoring old Cadillacs, especially ‘47 convertibles, and was restoring his own ‘47 Cadillac series 62 coupe as well.
After extensive research in Hemmings Motor News for services and discussing the project with Eddie and others we started to take the car apart bolt by bolt. Most of the exterior body parts came loose with little hassle. Only a few bolts were broken in the process. During the winter of 1996 and spring of 1997 my wife and I bagged and/or tagged all pieces taken off the car. We took roll upon roll of film at various stages of disassembly to help us when it came time to put the car back together.
By May 1997 the engine had been taken to Adelmann Engine Shop for checkout and possible rebuilding. The body and chassis were taken to Frontier Auto to begin an on-frame restoration. We decided to do on-frame since the chassis had been undercoated early in its life and South Dakota dirt had also been a factor in keeping rust away. We must have scraped 15-20 lbs of dirt and grime off the underbody and frame during disassembly. Only the trunk floor was found to have any rust and that probably came from the rear deck lid rubber seal giving way during the time the car sat outside in South Dakota and allowing water to get in. With small holes and thin metal in spots it was decided to replace the trunk floor. During the rest of the initial stage of body preparation no other rust was found.
Taking the car back to original condition meant researching the manufacturing codes. The Id tag listed paint code # 9, and I found it to be Maderia Maroon. It was the same color we had always liked since seeing a 1947 Cadillac at a 1991 Minnesota “Back to the 50’s “ event. We had often remarked to each other that Maderia Maroon had to be “THE “ color for our car when we found one.
From the Spring of 1997 to the Fall of 1999 my wife and I were frequent weekend workers at Frontier Auto helping Eddie install painted parts, weather-stripping and window glass. You name it; we did it. I spent a fair amount of time in our basement stripping, painting and installing new wiring harnesses in the headlight, parking and tail lamp assemblies. I also wired the dash after we got it and window garnish moldings back from being wood-grained by an individual in Titonka, Iowa.
During this period Eddie sandblasted the frame and body shell, overhauled the hydramatic transmission, straightened body panels and fenders, releaded body seams and painted various parts for reassembly. We helped him re-assemble the larger pieces. While Eddie was doing body repairs, we found vendors in Hemming’s and through local sources for replating the chrome spears, restoration of the bright work and wood graining of the interior garnish moldings and dash. Precision Plating in Quincey, Illinois and Northstar Bumper in Duluth, Minnesota were chosen to complete rechroming of exterior bright work.
There aren’t a lot of auto restoration business owners that would let anyone come into their shop and allow them to do what Eddie allowed us to do. This was immensely helpful in keeping costs down and provided Eddie, who was running a one-man shop, with help in parts of the restoration project. We will be forever grateful for his help and expertise he lent to our restoration project.
In September 1999 the car, sans interior, was about ready to bring home. The engine was running poorly and we were having trouble diagnosing the true problem. After some tinkering we installed a second set of new spark plug wires. The misfiring stopped. It did not, however, cure the vibration felt when the engine was running at idle. The low-end noise heard at the outset of the restoration was still apparent. We decided to bring the car home anyway. Albeit our original intention to drive the car home it was loaded onto Mr. Jones’s trailer and home it came.
After further analysis by several other Cadillac club members and Mr. Jones we took the engine pan off and unbolted the rods. We determined that the noise was coming from the rear journal of the crank. Repair would require the engine to be pulled out again. We had not foreseen the possibility that a total rebuild was required especially after Adelmann had indicated that only a top end job was probably necessary at the onset of the restoration. We had not done anything else halfway during the restoration so we chalked it up to inexperience and bit the bullet for a complete re-build. The front clip was removed and the engine was pulled. Hugh Geer of New London, MN completed the overhaul just before Christmas 1999.
The engine and front clip were not re-installed until the summer of 2000 due my wife being involved in a life threatening motor vehicle accident on New Year’s Eve day 1999. Finishing the car was not on our minds during that time. After 6 months of hospital and in-home care we were able to think about doing something with the car. After re-installation of the engine and front clip to the car, I drove it periodically to break in the engine and to check for squeaks and rattles.
I also spent time looking for interior fabric and an upholstery shop that could master the interior. After several months of searching for the right materials, we placed orders for fabric from Hampton Coach and carpet from Hirsch Auto. By May of 2001 our selection of upholstery firms had been narrowed down to R & R Upholstery in White Bear Lake, MN. Rick Tillman came highly recommended by several Cadillac club members. I had, also seen his work on other vehicles. We took the car to him in August 2001 hoping to get it back by November 2001. Delays in receiving fabric, employee problems at R & R along with winter resulted in not getting the car back until April 2002. But what a beautiful job was done and well worth the wait.
Since that time we have taken the car to numerous local car shows. It has taken first place at just about every show. The car is truly unique, no other car like it around. In June 2002 it took first place in a local Concourse show sponsored by the Upper Midwest CCCA as well. In June 2003 it was entered into the regional national meet of the CCCA held in Wayzata, MN and received 97.75 points placing it first in the Primary division of Production cars 1946-48. That recognition brought us an invitation to show the car at the Weeks mansion (Salisbury House) in Des Moines, IA on October 4, 2003. Although our car did not receive an award we were delighted that our car was one of ninety cars selected for the “on-the-grounds” show.
We plan on continuing to show the car at various events in the upper Midwest and to use it in various automobile tours throughout the US.
by Larry Klement