Steele was not in fact particularly interested in such a car, but since it was parked in a nearby community he decided to take a look. What he saw was not encouraging.
“It was all there,” Steele says. However, the original Sea Mist Green paint was gone, the right front fender was perforated with a rust hole, all of the tires were flat and all of the chrome needed attention. The last inspection sticker on the wraparound windshield was from 1973 in Pennsylvania. The odometer had recorded about 58,000 miles.
Steele was definitely under-whelmed by the condition of the Cadillac Series 62. He offered the seller about 25 percent of the asking price. Steele was not disappointed when his offer was rejected.
A couple of weeks later Steele received a telephone call from the seller who had changed his mind. The message was, “Come and get it.” Steele did just that. He hauled the 4,365-pound Cadillac on a trailer about 60 miles to his home in Leesburg, Va. Steele has learned that his Series 62 had a base price of $3,838 when new, and was one of 17,460 such models manufactured.
For the next five years the 1954 Cadillac did not move while the new owner methodically gathered the parts he knew he would need to restore the car. Steele located a right front fender in California that was advertised as being rust-free. The fender turned out to have the identical cancerous rust spot as the original fender.
A rear bumper was found in Arizona and the front bumper came from Baltimore. Steele had most of the trim pieces replated and all the rubber gaskets were replaced. Because the cost of replating chrome has dramatically escalated in recent years Steele doubts that he could afford a similar restoration today.
The automatic transmission was sent off to be rebuilt. The one bright spot in the restoration process was that the 331-cubic-inch V-8 engine had previously been overhauled and needed no further work.
Before reassembling the 1954 Cadillac, Steele moved to a new home in Gerrardstown, W.Va. All of the accumulated parts and pieces of his car made the trip.
After a dozen years, Steele began the task of putting all of the pieces back together. He installed a new interior. The carpet is dark green while the headliner is a light green. Both door panels are a combination of light and dark green. The padded dashboard is dark green. When the time came for repainting Steele departed slightly from the original by selecting a Dark Jade Green Metallic.
All eight windows in the Cadillac are original. The one-piece wraparound windshield, Steele says, has the green tint straight from the factory. The two-door hardtop is equipped with power steering, power brakes and a vacuum-powered antenna. The windshield wipers also are vacuum powered. With hot weather upon us, Steele says he is giving serious thought to installing air conditioning to enhance his summertime cruising.
While the ride on the 129-inch wheelbase has always been comfortable Steele made the ride even better by installing 15-inch radial tires. He says the tires offer a better ride and handling is improved.
Steele declared the restoration of his 1954 Cadillac complete in March 2010. Since then, with his wife Jo at his side, the odometer has counted another 2,000 miles. On a recent rip of about 220 highway miles Steele reports fuel consumption of about 18 miles per gallon.
Although Steele has never pegged the needle on the 120-mph speedometer, he says, “I’m sure it will do 120.” The engine delivers 230 horsepower. “When you’re going down the highway and you hit the accelerator, it takes off down the road in a hurry.”
From the massive chrome grille at the front of the car to the gas cap hidden beneath the left taillight. Steele couldn’t be more pleased. “It just floats down the highway,” he says. — Vern Parker, Motor Matters
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