My Classic Car: Tony’s South African 1937 Cadillac

37caddyreader

About 10 years ago I went to drop off my friends kids on a farm near where I live in South Africa. I entered the property and saw a lean-to shed bursting at the seams with junk so I made my way to have a look. You could not see more than 2 feet into the mess, so I climbed and twisted my way in a bit and saw a mudguard of an old car. I was very exited and pushed my way through. What I found was an old very dusty 1937 Cadillac.

I asked the owner, Hienz, if he would consider selling. He told me he owned the car in a partnership with his father-in-law, who was 85 years old. He said he wanted to keep it and restore it for weddings. I tried to convince him otherwise but he would not listen.

For at least 2 years after that meeting I saw Hienz several times and chatted about the car. He always insisted he would restore it.

However, tragedy struck the family one horrible night when Hienz was traveling down the road from his farm in thick fog and crashed into the side of a logging semi-trailer. Hienz, his wife and one son were killed. The other son lived, but was in bad shape.

I waited for some time to pass and went to visit the other owner of the car. His name was Fred and he was very old. We spoke about the accident and I asked if he would sell the car. He agreed and said he was too old to work on it.

Fred had owned the car for over 40 years and told me the story of the car when he bought it. He had reprinted it from blue to black and worked on the engine and drove it for a while. He told me that when he drove the car to the farm it used to jump out of 3rd gear, so he drove it to the farm and parked it and it stayed there for all those years till I found it.

The car was in very good condition for restoration, with little damage and almost no rust. All the door glass and windscreen were broken but all other glass —headlights, gauges were intact. The number plate light lens was missing.

The leather was still intact but so dry that it cracked.

We decided on a price. I arranged a flatbed truck. The day came for the pick up. It was the first time I could see the car in the open.

I was very happy.

Fred used his old tractor to pull the car out of the shed. He pumped up the tyres and they stayed inflated.

The flatbed arrived and up she went to go to her new home. I parked her in my yard and got my friends kids over to help me wash it. It looked like new, but the black paint was peeling off in strips.

I found the boot full of spare parts.

I parked the car in my warehouse and admired it for a few years until one day I needed the room so I found an old car restorer who could handle this type of restoration and sent it off to him.

The car was in the restoration shop for 12 months. It was stripped to the chassis and every bolt nut and part sandblasted, coated and painted. I bought new leather from a local tannery and had the whole interior done. I ordered 6 white wall tires from the USA.

The engine was rebuilt to new. The whole car was brand new. However, I am still looking for 4 hub caps.

About 2 years after I bought the car Fred was killed by the tractor he used to tow the car out of the shed.

I have used the car for a few weddings and school balls. It has worked beautifully.

I have since met Fred’s daughter. Strangely enough, she works right next door to my warehouse and saw the car parked outside one day and popped in for a chat. I asked her about the history of the car but all she remembers is playing in the car as a child. She is now in her 50s.

I am going to take the car to Fred’s wife so she can have a ride in it. If I’m lucky, she might know a bit more about its history.

The car was made for South Africa so it has right-hand drive, and is one off only two in the whole country.

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