“I’ve always loved any kind of car,” Keith Williams confesses. The make, model or year of a car is irrelevant to him. What really matters is that a car has a certain intangible quality that reaches out to him.
In November 1994, a classified ad for a 1931 Cadillac in a newspaper captured his attention. Williams went to inspect the car and found a dust-covered, long-dormant, close-coupled town-sedan that was more-or-less complete. The once-handsome body of the five-passenger Cadillac was in terrible condition due to a leak in a pipe above the car that had dripped fluid down onto it. Williams says, “It looked like something I could fix.”
The Cadillac was winched onto a rented trailer and Williams towed it 50 miles home. Williams remembers that the 353-cubic-inch V-8 engine was running, but just barely. More that six decades of use had deteriorated the cork floats in the carburetor. “The carburetor needed to be cleaned out,” Williams says.
The decision was made to strip the car down to bare bones. As the 1931 Cadillac came apart Williams found it had no rust. “It was a perfect car to restore,” Williams says.
Near the 100-mph speedometer the odometer in the dashboard had registered about 65,000 miles, a figure Williams has no reason to question. When new the 4,675-pound Cadillac had a base price of $2,845.
In the process of stripping the town-sedan, Williams learned that the Cadillac had originally worn a coat of Saddle Tan paint with a Chocolate Brown top and black fenders. As the ’31 Cadillac was being reassembled Williams kept the fenders black, but painted the body Blood Red with the top Black Cherry. Typical of cars from that era, a fabric insert occupies the center of the roof. A gray mohair fabric that matches the original was located in Massachusetts.
At the rear of the 1931 vehicle, on the adjustable luggage rack, is the original black trunk. Williams is quick to point out a notch in the right corner. The notch is necessary for access to the gasoline cap on the 11-gallon tank. “The car is geared really low,” Williams explains, “which results in 8-to-10 miles per gallon.” he adds, “It loves 45 miles per hour.”
Some of the nice luxury touches on the Cadillac include a cigar lighter on the back of the front seat for the convenience of rear seat occupants. Those same occupants also are provided with a footrest. Near the speedometer is a large windup clock. The car also is equipped with a trip meter. On the kick panel under the right end of the dashboard is a useful map case.
Tires on the 18-inch wheels support the Cadillac on the 134-inch wheelbase. The two spare tires are mounted in the front fenders. Both of the side mounts have their own metal shroud secured by a lock. A mirror caps each side mount.
Cadillac designers in 1931 eliminated louvers on the sides of the engine hood, replacing them with vent doors. Behind the doors the big V-8 engine is busy producing 95 horsepower.
In lieu of air conditioning the flat, one-piece, windshield can be raised a couple of inches with a hand crank to permit fresh air into the cabin. Williams says he had virtually all the brightwork rechromed. The one item that he added that was not original to the car was the single Pilot Ray light, which he has centered in front of the radiator.
Now that the spectacular 1931 Cadillac is in like-new condition Williams cautiously drives it on special occasions. “I love the thing,” says Williams. — Vern Parker
Copyright, AutoWriters Associates Inc., 2011