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Late 40's/Early 50's Convertible - What to look for?

Started by Richard Pope, September 13, 2007, 10:04:02 AM

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Richard Pope

 ??? A fellow car crazy co-worker has found the Cadillac described above out in the country. Evidently it showed up in the drive of a house he passes by daily a few months ago and it has not moved since. They have a two car garage but only park their newer cars in there. The thinking is that they either inherited the car or got tired of it taking up valuable garage space. It is just sitting off to the side out in the open. Down here (Alabama) it won't last long with the intense heat/ high humidity. i am told the paint has already oxidized (light blue) and the top is there but is looking worn (tan). I will probably approach the family and see if it is potentially for sale, but I am unfamiliar with these vehicles and would like so advice on what to look for as the potential high ticket items (if any) that may be 'typical' of this car.

Thanks in advance,


Don't count on anything being "cheap".  Often a vendor or service provider hears the word "Cadillac" the price goes up just in principle.

What are high ticket items on these cars? 

* Paint - nice, not Maaco
* Body repair
* Convertible top
* Leather upholstery & new carpeting
* Mechanical services - engine, electrical, hydraulic windows & antenna, etc.
* Chrome plating
* Replacement of missing or damaged trim & components - particularly items that are "convertible only"
* Wide white wall radial tires
* Reproduction weatherstrip, lenses, emblems, etc.

Did I miss anything?  These cars are expensive to restore particularly if you are paying someone to do the work for you.  They are beautiful and desirable when done "correctly" meaning a good quality restoration, not over-restored.  You will surely put a lot of money into the car to make it nice.  An alternative is to keep it as a presentable driver (if possible) restoring as time & money permits. 

Prices are only going up....  be sure to check out some of the suppliers online & Ebay to get an idea what you are facing before you put out the money, take the car apart and realize that the project is too big or expensive for you. 

Search the internet for company websites:  (as an example)

* McVeys
* Coker Tire
* All Cadillacs of the Forties & Fifties
* USA Parts Supply
* Cooper Auto Parts
* Jenkins Interiors
* SMS Upholstery
* Finishing Touch Chrome Plating

Good luck!

Barry M Wheeler #2189

First of all, find out what year the car is. Believe me, it DOES make a difference, both in what you will pay for parts, the rarity, desirability (not that they all are not), etc. Go to the link on our home page to the Cadillac Database, and start clicking on the various years, until you lock in the year. 1950-1953 cars are all quite similar, with the 1953 being the most expensive to do chrome wise, due to the Korean war chrome. Good luck and welcome.
Barry M. Wheeler #2189

1981 Cadillac Seville
1991 Cadillac Seville

Richard Pope

Thanks for the feedback. I should have stated i have a 72 Eldo and am familiar with the cost of convertible only items, top replcament costs, etc. The chrome issue was new to me as well as the cost/price difference that the different years may impact. I'll be sure to take lots of ppictures and compare them to the gallery to know exactly what I'm dealing with and the potential issues I may have to resolve.

If it turns out to be too much for me I'll be happy to post the informatin (with the owners blessing of course) for those more brave than I.


Just curious-what was the impact on Cadillac during the Korean war on chrome?

For my personal interest: are there such facts for the 1959 Cadillac (I just purchased my first Cadillac, 1959 SdV woodrose 4 window).
Thanks in advance!

P W Allen CLC# 20193

Quote from: AMSTERDAM on September 14, 2007, 09:10:03 AM
Just curious-what was the impact on Cadillac during the Korean war on chrome?

For my personal interest: are there such facts for the 1959 Cadillac (I just purchased my first Cadillac, 1959 SdV woodrose 4 window).
Thanks in advance!

Here's my understanding of what Korean War chrome is. ???  When the Korean War was first raging in the early 50's, The use of Nickel was restricted. Normally, when a piece is chromed, it is usually "Triple Chromed". See the narritive below that I found on  With "Korean Chrome", the nickel step was left out. Before I had all the chrome redone on my 53, you could notice that especially on the bumpers, that the chrome looked thin and washed out. You could shine it up nicely, but it never had that deep shine that triple chrome gives you. Without the nicklel, durability is also sacrificed. The photo below is my front bumper and grill, redone in triple chrome. Copper, Nickel, then Chrome.


"Triple Chrome Plating", "Quadruple Plating", "Double Nickel-Chrome"

As mentioned, decorative chrome plating always involves at least two layers of plating--a layer of nickel and a layer of chrome. But high quality plating requires a minimum of two layers of nickel. (There may also be a layer or two of copper underneath the nickel. And if the parts are plastic, there will be a layer of electroless nickel under that. If the parts are aluminum, there will be a zincate layer first, etc.)

Salespeople are always looking for advantage, and they will use any good-sounding terms they can get away with! There are no laws that define what triple chrome plating actually means, so salespeople will be prone to call their service "triple chrome plating" if there are a total of 3 layers of any kind of plating, or "quadruple chrome plating" if there are 4. So those terms mean little.

The most important issue for quality chrome plating (for outdoor exposure such as on a vehicle) is that it MUST have at least two layers of nickel plating before the chrome: namely semi-bright nickel followed by bright nickel. The reason for this involves galvanic corrosion issues. The bright nickel is anodic to the semi-bright nickel, sacrificially protecting it, spreading corrosion forces laterally instead of allowing them to penetrate to the steel. OEMs require very close control of this factor, and there is a test (the Chrysler developed STEP test) which large shops run daily to insure the right potentials. Control of this issue is probably the principal reason that today's chromium plating greatly outlasts the chrome plating of earlier times.

Experts argue whether copper plating provides any additional corrosion resistance at all, but with or without copper plating underlying the nickel, chrome on top of a single layer of nickel will not hold up to the severe exposure of a vehicle! Industry professionals call the two layers of nickel "duplex nickel plating", and that would be a much better term to use than "triple chrome" and such.

Chrome plating is hardly a matter of dipping an article into a tank, it is a long involved process that often starts with tedious polishing and buffing, then cleaning and acid dipping, zincating (if the part is aluminum), and copper plating. For top reflectivity "Show Chrome", this will be followed by buffing of the copper for perfect smoothness, cleaning and acid dipping again, and plating more copper, then two or three different types of nickel plating, all before the chrome plating is done. Rinsing is required between every step.

53 Coupe
Twin Turbine

Richard Pope

Don Boshara #594

"Korea chrome" was on the later '51s, all the '52s & '53s. The '54s went back to triple plated.
1940 Sixty Special
1966 Mustang Cpe

Richard Pope

Well, turns out it is a 49/50 Dodge. It is a convertible,but just not down my alley. I appreciate all the help and information. At least I learned something!