Roger Zimmermann

1956 Cadillac Biarritz: to restore or not?

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In contrast to other parts of the vehicle, the firewall was almost perfect. With a vehicle in that condition, it's a relief to see something acceptable.
Once the roof gone, the view at the rear quarter was not too bad either. One access plate to the window's motor was missing.

 

We are still in 1990. Many parts were removed and stocked next to the car. I had to think seriously how to gain usable space...
The "real work" began in 1991. We see on the last picture that the plate behind the rear seat is gone.
In between, I found somebody who was willing to help. The price he asked per hour was acceptable; he would only "beat the metal" and weld. All the rest was my task, which means bore the spot welds, clean the rust and so on...
I began to look for a better floor for the trunk and under the rear seat. Not an easy task, but I found something. More about it later.

Firewall.jpg

Rear quarter.jpg

Strip-tease.jpg

2 Premier dépointage.jpg

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It is interesting that as you strip it down it looks more doable.   Obviously we know you've already done it and it looks great, but when first seeing it... well, it look like a lost cause.  Now that it has been stripped down, it doesn't look so bad. 

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8 hours ago, Roger Zimmermann said:

Yes, it seems that way.Wait some days! Or do you want to see the next pictures today?

 

I'd like to wait.  

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The readers will have to excuse me: I don't remember exactly what I did remove in a chronological order. Here are views from the "A" pillar. They are not very nice as you can see. Some metal had to be cut to weld good steel. It was necessary to remove the reinforcement of the pillar as it is weld over the front floor. All that happened in 1991.
In between, I got in touch with a US vendor who claimed he has the exact replacement parts for my car. As I don't believe easily such promises, I ordered the repair patches for the front floor. What a deception when I got them! I was good steel, but a crude and pale imitation of the correct form. I never used it; instead, I used the metal to repair other parts. I did myself the patches for the floor with the proper details.

 

It was clear to me that the rear fender had to be removed to replace the trunk floor and the floor under the rear seat. I began the task by removing the outside rocker panels. The view was very discouraging to be honest.

LH pillar.jpg

RH pillar.jpg

Rocker panel.jpg

Lower rear quarter.jpg

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What was the condition of the other parts, moldings, emblems and so on? Well, not better. The rear bumper ends were not complete, the side plate was missing on both sides. They were badly corroded; I could not even remove the screws for the exhaust's insulation plate. By chance, a friend of mine had a restored pair for sale; they are on the car now.
I still have the bad ones, if somebody wants them...
The vendor promised to deliver a set of 5 Sabre wheel. He did so; of course, the wheels were "well used". A company in Switzerland removed the steel part; I let dechrome the aluminum parts and I began to grind and file the wheels. It's a job I would not do another time: I had about 40 hours to restore the better wheels, per wheel of course. The bad one took about 100 hours. Do you want to know how many spokes each wheel has? 27. You can check that on the picture.

Bumper end.jpg

Sabre wheel.jpg

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On June 7, 1993, the LH rear fender was removed! During its stay in Virginia the car was the home for at least one animal; I discovered its nest when the fender was gone. I found also a small bone in a rocker panel.
 

3 Aile arrière gauche.jpg

nest.jpg

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Once the fender was removed, I had a good view over the "B" pillar and the wheelhouse. Unfortunately, there was deep corrosion.
With the exception of the lower part which was eaten, the remains of the rear fender were not too bad.
For the cleaning, I had the chance to work outside, that way there is less mess inside. But, boy, those fenders are long when you have to go through normal doors! Some years later, I could not have used this solution: the space I used to clean and paint the parts are now paved and used by the neighbors.

After cleaning, the inside of the rear fender is not bad looking.
As the trunk's floor and the one under the rear seat were so desolate, I was looking for better parts. One of my best suppliers, Ted Holcombe, sent some sheet metal parts from California. These parts were from a '56 Sedan de Ville; they were not new, but in a very good condition, with some exception.
Transportation and customs were unfortunately not free of charge that day; I spent about $1500.00. I’m wondering how it would costs in 2019?
In between, I found also a correct transmission, condition unknown. It's visible on the last picture.

4 Montant B gauche.jpg

LH rear fender.jpg

After treatment.jpg

Used floors.jpg

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And what about seats, trim and, for example, the steering wheel? Well, with a convertible top not exactly perfect, the leather was hard like cardboard. At least, the hardware was there and could be rescued.
I don’t remember if the seat would move electrically; I remember that I had to replace at least one spinning nut. The steering wheel was cracked and bits missing. Anyway, the shape of the inside was not immediately the main problem, the rust was.
 

25 Front seat.jpg

26 Front seat.jpg

27 Steering wheel.jpg

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On May 11, at 8 PM, the rusted trunk floor was removed! As you can see, I let the RH rear fender and trunk lid in place to help for the alignment. The trunk floor in the background from the first picture is the "good" one.
During summertime, I cleaned the used trunk floor; I was satisfied with the results. Some may ask: why was it not sandblasted? Well, it was mainly a transportation problem. To transport such a large part, you need either a pick-up or a truck. At that time, I had just cars at my disposal. Furthermore, I'm very cautious with sandblast and sheet metal parts; I had bad experiences.

28 Plancher du coffre.jpg

29 Rusted trunk floor.jpg

30 Cleaned trunk floor.jpg

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With the help of my friend, the trunk floor was welded in place at the end of July 1993. The next step was the rear floor. To have a good access to it, the "B" pillars were removed. Consequently, the RH rear fender had to be removed too.
End of August: the rear floor is gone. The rear of the body is totally independent from the front one. Well, not exactly: it was attached to the frame with the usual body screws; I welded also some supports between the trunk floor and the frame. The remaining side panels are better looking, but far from ready.

The last picture is showing both rear floor behind the body. Which one is the "good" one?

 

31 Before cutting.jpg

32 Plancher en travail.jpg

33 frame view.jpg

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The used rear floor was welded in early September. As it came from a 4 door model, the sides had to be cut and specific parts made from scratch.

The "B" pillars are made with thick steel; they could be sandblasted and primed. They are drying here with some other parts. It's good to have some space for such a job!

34 Plancher passager.jpg

35 The drying place.jpg

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I appreciate all the work you have had to do to drill out the spot welds - it's hard work!

 

I do not know much about American cars, as I have never worked on them. Is the body removable from the chassis, or is the body 'unit construction', with the body welded to the chassis members?

 

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Yes, there were a lot! I had two possibilities: a specific cutter driven with a compressed air machine or another cutter to be used with a drilling machine. Both were good for a number of spot welds, but the wear came quickly rendering the job more difficult.

The car is still the type "body on frame". This kind of construction was very convenient for body changes as Americans were accustomed in the post-WW2 area. European cars were also built that way, however, the integrated frame was adopted much sooner in Europe mostly for weight reason.

Indeed, your question will be answered later in pictures.

Thanks for you comments and interest to my thread!

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Wow Roger, you have that Caddy tore down to the bare bones!  Good work!

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@ SiliconS: Oh yes! After 2 years of rust dust, paint dust has definitively a better taste!

 

@Martin: Imagine that I saw a '55 4-door in restoration and this poor '55 was worse than the convertible!

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Those days, I have sometimes difficulties to remember which forum must have what report. I'm presently active on 7 forums, but with different subjects. I just hope that the right reports will find their way!

 

As there is no heater in the old barn, the activities during wintertime are very limited. The "B" pillars were back and welded at the end of March 1994. The rear of the body is ready, with the exception of the rear fenders.

It's time to go towards the front. The damages are less important, repairs are nevertheless needed. Rotten sheetmetal was cut away, new parts formed and adjusted. The front floor's support is coming from the same Sedan de Ville; the one from the Biarritz was too rusted.

Next to the sheet metal work, I was also searching for parts as many were either missing or beyond repair. I could buy many parts of good quality by Gene Schacter in Canada. Unfortunately, he left this activity; I am missing him as a good and not expensive supplier.

There is reinforcement at the front "A" pillar between the outer and inner rocker panel. As the original one was no more good, I did another one. I choose to add some length as this place is critical for shaking. Maybe it was not necessary, I did no calculation...

During summertime, I could finish the front floor, replacing the rusted areas at the RH and LH front pillar.

 

36 Montants B soudés.jpg

37 passenger floor.jpg

38 Vers pieds conducteur.jpg

39 Inside rocker panel.jpg

40 A pillar ready.jpg

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