1956 Cadillac Coupe DeVille – Shaun Swanson

Sometimes you run into people who have a dream, trying to make it a reality, but, it seems life is against them in every sense. You want to help, because you see their desire and their hard work. This is such a story. The Cadillac is far from done, but the project has been started and could use some help.

Maybe you are one who likes the underdog, the guy/gal who just isn’t “set” to win, but works hard to get where he/she is going, no matter the obstacles set before him/her. If so, this is going to be a good story for you.

Also, I want to introduce a new Facebook group, “Lean on Me” A helps based group, where we try to get together and help someone move forward on their project, with a small donation and a lot of encouragement. Check out the group, then join and see what you can do.

This is the start of a restoration of love. Check out my article on Restoration to see another one made of love.

Without further ado, here is Shaun’s story.

What type of vehicle?

1956 Cadillac coupe DeVille. Production numbers show that there were 25086 ever made.

Who is the first owner of the project and is it still their project?

I am not the first owner and really don’t have any prior history on it other than it had been parked somewhere between 1976 and 1978.

When was it purchased?

November 1st 2015, she arrived.

Was this a father/son, Daughter project?

I hope to have this 56 done enough to be used to chauffeur my 3 children to prom and also for their future weddings. My children are 16, 14, and 13. Girl Whisper, boy Paul, and girl Lea.

Why this vehicle?

I had always been a fan of Harley Earl and how he designed cars of this era. The 1956 coupe DeVille has been a dream car for me for most of my life. Number one on my bucket list of cars to own before I die.

Tell me the story of how you acquired this car.

 It came to me from Minnesota through an even trade. Since I had always hoped to own one of these, I started getting worried about them going out of my price range or ability to acquire since I’m a very low income person. I owned and kind of restored/rat rodded/ customized a 1968 Cadillac DeVille convertible and after a 2200 mile, problem free road trip, decided I wanted to sell it or trade it for a 55/56 coupe DeVille. There were a few prospects before this 56 that didn’t end up panning out. When I was contacted with the offer of an even over trade, this 56 for my 68, I jumped on the chance without hesitation.  I was so happy I got teary eyed. On that trailer with 4 flats, rust holes in the body and floors, no back glass or engine or transmission. My 68 ran and drove but I didn’t care, the 56 is what I wanted. I was near homeless, living in a friend’s 32 foot camper in their yard…. but I had a 56 coupe DeVille. It’s like a sickness you could say… any one who has seen the movie “Christine” will have an idea of my mind set when I laid my eyes on my 56 caddy. Since that day, I started searching parts and scavenging supplies.

Give me some backstory, are you a mechanic, do you like to fabricate, are you really good at body work, etc. Some info about you.

I spent most of my life as an auto mechanic and was always so burned out I couldn’t enjoy my cars. With this 56 I decided also I wouldn’t repair cars for a living anymore and I went to work as a chef. I had experience as a chef and as it turns out I’m very good at it. This allows me to enjoy my 56 without being tired of fixing cars all day long.

What have you done to it so far?

The first thing I bought for her was a matching set of vintage Iowa 1956 license plates. Other parts and goodies trickled in the whole time I spent living in that camper.

Back glass came from Kansas city in a guys garage, $30 score. It was OEM blue/green tint back window.

I started hunting air ride stuff for it and found some amazingly cheap deals on eBay and on Facebook groups. I even ended up making some wonderful new friends through the whole process.

Eventually I had all I needed for my air suspension. Lines and fittings were free from a truck driver friend who said those parts are disposable in his line of work and free to him.

Another friend locally works for a metal fab place and got me 12 foot by 5 foot of 18g sheet steel to repair all my rust. Another freebie as it had be messed up and deemed as scrap for his work.

One of my new fender skirts came from an accident at a closed down auto shop/hoarders scrap barn. He was selling everything and I was looking around and tripped over a 1956 Cadillac fender skirt, rust free and perfect! $20 score. How often does that happen?

Not long after that fender skirt find, I got moved into town and into a house. So now I felt comfortable actually taking apart and working on the car.

I had been paying payments to Brandon Strange, owner of an amazing 58 Coupe DeVille in Kentucky, for the engine from his car. So in June of 2017, my wife and I went to Louisville, Kentucky and picked up a 1958 Cadillac 365 and its corresponding auto transmission. Brandon has become a wonderful friend through this deal and I plan to keep my promise not to publicly say what I gave for the engine and transmission.

Right before I left to pick up that engine, I won a 59 tripower Cadillac intake for $125, on eBay. Unheard of steal for a price. With that purchase I decided to step out of the normal Rochester or Stromberg or Holley 3 deuce carburetor combinations and went with 3 vintage carter wd-0 carburetors.

I’ve been slowly hand polishing them to a brilliant shine to help match up with a the chrome, copper, stainless and aluminum in my vision. With that the name Copperhead was born for this Cadillac. I plan to paint the body a copper/Orange color with a pearl white roof, and white interior and trunk.

Most all of my heater hoses, air lines, vacuum lines, will be polished copper.

I have polished stainless brake lines and will have custom steal braided brake hoses up front as well as Taylor steal braided spark plug wires. I did away with the factory tredlevac brake system and have acquired a chrome Corvette booster and master cylinder.

I custom fitted a snow white, pleated vinyl rear seat upholstery and have the same company ready to custom make me matching front seat covers for my 1990 Chevy pickup front bucket seats and console for $137 shipped.

Where is it now, in the rebuild stage?

Currently, I work a bit randomly on it.

I have patched up one front fender, the whole trunk floor, detailed and installed the drive train and gotten most of the air ride working.

It doesn’t run yet, but will soon. I plan to make it run off one of the 3 carbs and seal the other 2 for now.

I want to be able to start it and move it. It’s far from being drive able due to needing a water pump rebuild, a new radiator($206 on eBay) and all the brakes installed.

Take a look below at the photos of Shaun’s Cadillac.

 

 

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