Fifteen years ago, Stephen Barton set out to win the Don Ridler Award, the custom car world’s most prestigious honor. He died in January 2018, before he could see the CadMad, a 1959 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham with a body by Pininfarina, on display in Detroit’s Cobo center. The CadMad took 10 craftsmen to build and Craig Barton hoisted the 2019 Ridler Award trophy overhead in celebration of a victory that his late brother dreamed of. Judges named CadMad the best of 800 cars at the 2019 Autorama.
This car was one of 99 built in 1959 with a body and interior by Pininfarina. It started by chopping 18-inches in length, 4-inches of width and sectioning 2-inches from the lower body mass to give the car a more modern profile. After remnants were acid-dipped to remove the lead Pininfarina added during manufacturing, the altered steel panels were tack-welded together to serve as a visual model for the handcrafted custom body to follow.
Four doors gave way to two, and the roof from a Chevrolet Nomad made the Caddy a sport wagon. This Cadillac’s flying hood ornament, head and taillamps, bumpers, grille, side spears, wheel treatments and steering wheel all made the leap from the Eldorado Brougham to CadMad with subtle alterations. Nelson Racing Engines built a 632ci big-block Chevrolet V8 engine paired to an automatic transmission that is bolted to a 4L60E C5 Corvette transaxle.
Fueled by racing fuel and boosted by a pair of 88mm turbochargers, the engine makes a neck-snapping 1025hp and 950 ft/lbs of torque. Tucked away is the starter, air-conditioning compressor and alternator under the floor at the back of the car. Everything sits on a space frame with a backbone and peripheral elements fashioned from 1-5/8-inch-diameter steel tubing, handcrafted suspension and steering components, Baer 6-piston brake calipers and 14-inch vented rotors with an electric booster. The car uses coilovers at each corner. It rides on EVOD Industries machined 18-inch wheels wrapped in Vogue 18-inch radials that have a thin strip that matches the car’s paint.
The interior features an EVOD steering wheel, instrument bezel, Classic Instruments gauges and leather RECARO bucket seats from a 2012 Cadillac CTS-V. The cargo floor was crafted by Heiden’s Woodworking using striped tigerwood, figured maple and African wenge. A liberal application of urethane protects the wood and a master pinstriper, matched the wood grain in hand-painted dash and door surfaces. The exterior is finished in a two-tone scheme of Fawntana Rose and Titanium Silver with three Kustom Shop urethane base coats, four color coats and half a dozen PPG clear coats. Over 4,000 hours were spent building and finishing the body.
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