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1950 Cadillac 61 series (correction - not deville)

Im considering trading straight up my 1998 Mustang GT 5 speed for a 1950 Cadillac Deville. As you could imagine, the Cadillac is somewhat rough and needs work. Its a project car. It DOES run and the owner (a dealer) pulled it out of the parking spot so I could take a closer look. Took them a few minutes to get it running as it had old gas. It will need floor plans, weather stripping, tires, and God knows what else. Interior smells like mildew/mold. As I said its purely a project. But what a beautiful car. It had a presence when I got to look at it and sit in it. Just something else. Wonderful potential.

My mustang I’ve owned 10 years and modified, and maintained it as I went along. I have a lot of time and money invested in it. Its also far from perfect, but mechanically sound. I have an emotional attachment to it, as its my first car. I got it in highschool and I’m 28 now. However, I’ve kind of hit a point where I think I’m ready to move on to something different.

I have an f150 that I daily drive so having access to a reliable vehicle is not a concern.

I think the Caddy would need brakes and rubber throughout to be road worthy. Atleast thats what the owner claims. Engine fired on all 8 cylinders and sounded ok.

It would be a long term project that I’d rebuild as I go. Hopefully I could get it road worthy atleast so I could enjoy it some around town as I fixed her up.

What do you guys think I should do? Keep the mustang and cosmetically fix that up and keep it going (runs great), or should I take on this project Cadillac that I’m all excited over? Im relatively mechanically savvy, although this car of this vintage and condition is a different beast. I’m willing to learn and make mistakes as well. My father in law was a mechanic for 20 years so he would be helping me should I need. Yay or nay?

It’s a cool car to restore. Between the 'Stang and the '50 Caddy, I’d prefer the Caddy.

But be forewarned. You probably already know this, but even professional restorers run into all manner of unforeseeable rust and problems on cars of this vintage. I’ve seen pros evaluate an old car, buy it, get it into the shop, and when they begin to tear it down they discover rot beyond restoration.

One thing you might want to check out is the availability of replacement body parts and panels for this car. There’s lots of new steel replacement parts, especially body parts, on the market for many popular hot rods, but I don’t know about the '50 Caddy.

This one is solely a matter of taste, budget, and skills.

That’s a tough call as there is such a discrepancy in the types of cars. One is a tire-smoking go fast machine and the other a heavy straight line highway barge.

Mechanical issues on the Cadillac can probably be gotten around reasonably. The sticky areas would be rust along with body and trim parts. Some of that stuff can be very difficult to find and expensive when it is located.

Assuming this is a 2 door car, my price guide shows it valued at around 3-4500 as a Number Five car; meaning a car that may or may not be running and needs a total restoration.
Price guides can be subjective though and much depends upon who wants what and how badly.

Sorry I can’t offer much of an opinion about which way to go on this. I’d be very conflicted too because I love those old Cadillacs.
Up and driving though, it will probably get a lot of looks and questions.

Without a thorough inspection it’s hard to tell. Rusted floors may only be the tip of the iceberg. I’d rather start with a rust-free one, mechanicals I could handle. And if the chrome is bad it is very expensive to repair. And there’s LOTS of it.

Neat car, just find a better one.

do you have big garage? welder? cutting torch. plasma cutter. you dont mention state you live in. az would be good. maybe cali. rust is bad.

To that list of questions I would also add do you have a good relationship with your banker. I love these cars but after pouring money into a 56 Fleetwood for years I now prefer to admire them from a safe, less expensive distance at car shows or parked in someone else’s driveway.

I wouldn’t buy a car like this from a dealer. I’d think I’d get a much better price buying somebody’s ‘project car’ that hasn’t been worked on in a while. Lots of those.

I gotta agree with the crowd here. Unless you are an experienced metalworker and an experienced mechanic, I’d pass. Rust is an angry mistress that can sap your finances, sanity and ruin your marriage. You can make a fine runner out of a car with surface rust and pitted chrome and take your time on the fuller restoration. And you WILL need time to round up all the little parts you need to restore the car. A runner (rat-rod, survivor car ect) can at least be easily sold if you decide to give up, move or hit marital or financial troubles (see previous comment!).

If you just HAVE to have it (and it is VERY cool!), have an experienced person look over the rust on the floor and look for other trouble spots before you decide. Good Luck either way!

I came within inches of buying a 51 Cadillac hearse in the late 80s not too long after I hooked up with the 56 (which was actually a very sound car body wise - sold out of a dealership in Harrisburg PA then on to Hershey when its original owners went to their great reward). Back to the hearse which was stored in a barn, covered in dust and pigeon s**t and starting to become one with the earth floor and its denizens. It smelled like an old graveyard and funeral parlour to boot but boy did I have fantasies of turning it into a camp mobile and ‘stretching out’ in the back with the missus. What saved me from making a very costly mistake (the expense of the 56 on steroids I imagine) was the motor wouldn’t turn over despite the valiant efforts of the fellow who was trying to sell it and mercifully I walked away.

Asking price for 1950s Coupe deVilles is between $23,000 and $37,000 to Hemmings. The most expensive one is a new restoration. All look like they are in decent shape. I don’t know what the dealer wants for his, but I doubt you can get it in as good a shape as any of these for $20,000. I often hear on the auction shows that the restored cars almost always go for much less than the cost of restoration. Have you seen “What’s My Car Worth”? Buy a restored one and you will still have plenty of fun working on it. The Caddy will just cost a lot less in the long run.

From what I gather Resto-work tends to take longer than you think it will. But if you have the time and resources, sounds like a fun project. There’s a magazine titled “Practical Classics” that specializes in articles about resto-projects on cars of that vintage, you might want to read an issue or two before deciding. It is a British publication and focusses on European cars more than American, but the resto-process is the same.

Typically you get about 50 cents back on each dollar spent doing a restoration, assuming it’s not some super-valuable car. So it’s almost always better to get a restored one, there will be plenty to do just keeping a 50s car on the road.

The caddy is a great project if you have cash to burn. For a regular Joe it’s a project that never gets finished because of the expense.

Thanks for the input guys. The stubborn giddyness in me is deciding to trade for the caddy. Im going to take another good look underneath and ensure the frame rails are good, I know the rocker panels and floor boards are rusty.

Replacement panels for floor and rocker are rather affordable. The engine runs. Im ok with it being a long term project. I really dont think its that far from being a drive around town as you rebuild it kind of car.

The mustang runs and drives great, but its likely near 200k on the clock. I think its value is about 3500-4000. I dont think id totally be losing my ass on this.

I’ll post up pics if I go with it tomorrow. Thanks!

If you’re willing to think of it as a project to eat up your spare time and teach you some new skills, go for it. Just don’t go in sure you’ll come out a few years hence with a perfect 1950 Caddy. Odds are pretty good you’ll never finish it, either because the car was in worse shape than you expected or you realize restoring it will cost you way more than the car will be worth. If you think of that money being spent as your entertainment budget, it may be worth it to you.

Note: if you have a spouse or partner make sure they have the time and money to spend on the entertainment of their choice, too. You don’t want them resenting your car project more than you can help. There is a good chance they will already be bugged by the amount of time you devote to it.

If I wanted to restore a Cadillac of the early 1950s, I would look for a 953. The 1953 has the same body as the 1950 and looks the same except for very minor trim differences. However, in 1953 Cadillac went to a 12 volt as opposed to 6 volt electrical system. Also, the 1953 Cadillac has the dual range Hydramatic automatic transmission which GM introduced in 1952. This transmission has a forward range that locks the transmission out of the 4th gear and allows the transmission to start in 1st gear which makes the car more pleasant to drive around town. The other forward range, as I remember, starts in second and shifts up to fourth unless the accelerator is fully depressed on take-off which then allows the car to start it 1st gear. As I said earlier, the styling is the same as the 1950 Cadillac as the same body shell was used from 1950 through 1953. However, the changes in the electrical system and the transmission make the 1953 a more desirable model.

A co-incidence to 1953 as mentioned above by @Triedaq , Practical Classics magazine has been featuring a series of articles on restoring a 1953 Chrysler New Yorker that at one time belonged to Ernest Hemmingway. 1953 seems like it was a pretty good year for styling in cars.

@GeorgeSanJose–If I were to pick the 1953 car that had the most pleasing styling to me, I would pick the 1953 Studebaker Starlight Coupe. I would give the Kaiser a close second. The Studebaker was a new design while the Kaiser body dated back to 1951.
The Chrysler products were redesigned for 1953, but the new design lacked the style of the GM products. 1953 was the year that the Chevrolet and Pontiac got new bodies, but the Oldsmobile, Buick and Cadillac retained the bodies dating from 1950 for the Buick and Cadillac and 1951 for the Oldsmobile. The Chrysler New Yorker of 1953 had the great hemispherical combustion chamber engine, but had the “lift and clunk” automatic transmission that was shifted by letting up the accelerator until the PowerFlyte fully automatic transmission came out in the mid year.
One interesting aspect of the 1950-1953 Cadillacs was the gasoline mileage which was quite good for the times. The engine also gave good performance. I’m curious as to which model of the 1950 Cadillac the OP is considering. There was the model 61, 62, 60 special and 75. In my opinion, the model 62 is the most desirable.

Some of the 1950s/early 1960s Studebakers look just great. When I was in high school in the late seveties someone who attended our church had a Golden Hawk I Ioved to ogle. What I’d like now is a 1962 Gran Turismo Hawk. That’t the only year that has the sleek finless tail end that defines the GT Hawk, but still has a front end that hasn’t been altered excessively from earlier Hawks. It has the original slanted side grilles beneath the headlights. The 1963 and laters lose that expressive detail. 1962 is also the year I was born, and there weren’t many cool cars from that year. The Covette Sting Ray was inyroduced for 1963. The Avanti came out in 1962, and I do quite like it, but I like the GT Hawk better. It descends from a decade of cool Studebakers, where the Avanti is a neat car with no resemblance to anything much. It’s also truly stunning from the front only. The tail end of an Avanti is attractively clean, but not spectacular. From that angle I think the GT Hawk looks sharper, a bit like contemporary Lincoln Continentals, like my grandfather had. Wish he had kep it. A 1962 Continental would be right up there with a GT Hawk. The Avanti might take the bronze. This excludes very limited production cars like Ferraris of thr era, and cars not sold in the US. Bit there Re any number of other tempatations from England and Italy. Maybe a few Germans. It’s an interesting exercise picking a car from your birth year. Many of these cars I hardly ever saw on the street, maybe never.

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, puppies and kittens, I GOT THE CADILLAC!!!

Already needs a water pump as it gushed when i drove it into the parking spot. Haha. Thats ok im fully excited.

Now ive learned registering an antique auto in NC is a bit of a headache, as it has to go through a special inspection process by a specific dmv office. Cars not even road worthy yet! We’ll see.