As featured  in Edition 19 !


Where do ya go when you’ve reached nirvana and own a 1959 Eldorado, and you
still have the big car itch? 
Answer : You do your own ‘kustom’ Caddy.   Having been bewitched by ‘50s Cadillacs since my mid-20s, like most hopelessly smitten fellow Caddy-philes, my dream was to own an Eldorado convertible.   

The 1959 is the pinnacle, but the price tags and rarity pretty much placed the dream into the ‘impossible’ category. Over the past 20 years, I’ve owned restored, sold, bought,
restored, sold…(well you get the picture), and finally worked my way
up to a 1959 Eldorado Biarritz. Not just ‘a’ ’59 Biarritz, but
‘the’ ’59 Biarritz, which had been in Australia since 1960, and
turns out to be the only one in the world with all the most desirable
and collectable factory ordered specs (colour combo, bucket seats, fully
optioned etc)   

After a 3 year restoration of the
Eldorado, back to original factory left hand drive and a simultaneous
restoration of Michelle’s ‘64 Tbird, I swore to her, “Never again!
I’m over it! Last one! That’s it!”.   

She responded with a quiet, knowing,
“Yeah, right!”.   

She knew the beast too well, having
grown up in the ‘70s with a dad who had any number of restoration
projects underway in the backyard, mostly American tanks, including a
’59 Cadillac convertible. Today my father-in-law is restoring a ’55
Buick convertible, a ’59 Pontiac convertible, a ’54 Cadillac
convertible, to add to his ‘65 Mustang convertible and ’59 Chevrolet
Impala convertible. Not to sell. (“Why would I want to sell them?”).
And not even to drive. Just to look at.   

Start to finish 

Well, about a year after finishing the Eldo resto, that itch started
getting annoying. To cut a long story short I ended up buying a
‘bitza’ ’53 Caddy Coupe in early February 2006.

The car was missing too many parts (no seats, no engine, no trans, just
to name a few), to justify a restoration.

What we had, basically, was a 1953
Cadillac Coupe shell, rolling body and chassis on wheels. A few parts
were included with the sale ; steering wheel, some side trim, 1952
Cadillac bumpers and not much else. 

If you saw what we started with, you’d
be amazed with what we ended up with. Fortunately, amazingly and most
importantly, the body was straight, sound and rust-free. The bumpers, as
mentioned, were from a 1952 Cadillac, as was part of the grille, and the
bonnet (hood). A previous owner attempted lowering the roof about 16
years ago, and did a…well, let’s say….backyard job. The roof was
damaged and unusable, so off it came.   

Upon arrival from the States, the car
was sent direct from the Brisbane dock to Kustom City on the Gold Coast.
I drew up a plan and concept for an ambitious redesign and resurrection,
and liaised for some time prior to start, with Kustom City head honcho,
Steve Bowman. 

Steve and I have known each other from
our mutual membership of the Qld Cadillac Club. As many of you know,
Steve’s a committee member of the Club and we got to know each other
since my move from Sydney to The Gold Coast in 2004.   

After all the preliminary planning and
paperwork stage was sorted, the Kustom City crew flew into action with
at least one full time worker – and up to four workers at a time – on
the car. What would normally have been a 2 – 3 year project took less
than 6 months.   

To say that the Kustom City experience
was painless and enjoyable is an understatement. My past 20 year
experiences with restoring cars have been often governed by Murphy’s
Law (“whatever can go wrong will go wrong”). My previous 15 or so
car restos have meant running all over town (and interstate with
interior, chrome, engines, brake parts, transmission etc), thousands of
hours of phone calls and hundreds of miles in fuel and running around
like the proverbial blue-arsed fly.   

So when Steve Bowman told me that Kustom
City is a ‘one stop shop’, designed to make the customer experience
as painless, stress-free and enjoyable as possible, I was a sceptic. As
many of you know, Steve is a really cool and friendly guy, who is in it
for the love. He just loves cars, and his collection of decades of car
mags stacked up in his office literally wallpapers one entire wall. I
was particularly impressed, when I met Steve and he pulled out an old
colour slide of my 1959 Eldorado he took as a kid at a Sydney show in
the late ‘70s. Talk cars and Steve goes into his ‘zone’.

His crew are all hand-picked and the
best in the business. Like Steve, all cool. No prima-donnas. 

Kustom City’s recently-added partners,
the legendary Adam LeBrese and Dave King, give the business more depth
and knowledge to further benefit customers. No, I don’t work for
Kustom City, and I don’t have a financial or other interest. I am just
a happy customer and fan.   

About half way through the bodywork, the
car was previewed in its early ‘in the metal’ stage at the Kustom
City display at the Brisbane Hot Rod Show 2007 sponsored by House Of
Kolor, (where it attracted enormous interest). At the show, the House of
Kolor head bwana, Owen Webb, offered to custom mix the colour himself to
the original intent of a golden sunset. HOK got it spot on.   

I’m thinking this will likely not be
my last ‘kustom’ car. If the planets align and the gods are smiling
I’ll dabble again. It’s been a real learning curve aided by the
patience and professionalism of Steve and his team at Kustom City. A car
like this is cannot be realized by the efforts of one man. It’s a team
project, from the guys in the shop to the suppliers, and outsourced

Thanks and appreciation to all for
bringing my dream car to life ; ’Tequila Sunset’, a 1953 Cadillac
kustom Eldo-Roadster.   



To build a ‘dream car’ based on the prototype models of the early
1950s ‘Motorama Show Cars’ by General Motors, true to original
period looks (seen), with the added benefits of modern technology (not


What was done:

· Roof removed

· Dash modified

· Instrument cluster / gauges moved from driver to centre dash

· Hideaway (pull-out) GPS / Nav screen installed on driver side

· Hideaway (pull-out) DVD screen installed on passenger side

· Center console running from dash to rear parcel shelf

· Parcel shelf-to-upper rear seats shaped as per 1950s Corvettes

· Beltline modified to shape the car into a ‘40s – ‘50s roadster,
somewhere between an XK 120 Jaguar and a 1953 Eldorado.

· Suicide doors

· Air bag suspension

· Custom formed and chrome-plated panoramic windshield frame as per
1950s Corvettes (1958 Chevrolet screen)

· Dash and cowl modified to suit windscreen

· Nose shaved and decked

· Hood modified, shaped to blend into body and strengthened

· Trunk shaved

· Tail lights shortened and frenched with custom lenses hand-made

· Headlights extended and frenched

· Door handles shaved

· Rear guards welded to body

· Rear guard scoops modified

· Body extended under rear bumper to flow into bumper

· Rear bumper and bumper ends modified and shaped into one piece

· Front bumpers extended and shaped

· Front grille extended and extra teeth added (5 to 7)

· Grille bar redesigned and raised to align with side body trim

· Engine bay inner guards redesigned and modified to suit art deco

· Original 1953 steering wheel repaired and coloured to interior

· Tilt steering wheel

· Ignition moved from dash to console

· Glovebox fabricated and installed in console

· Shifter moved from column to console

· 1969 Camaro ‘horsehose’ shifter to give ‘jet’ cockpit look

· 1958 – 1962 Corvette dash-mounted rear-view mirror

· Camaro shifter handle modified from ‘60s look to art deco period

· New ‘Zenith’ Chrome Wire Wheels with kustom hubcap medallions

· Diamondback wide whitewall radial tyres

· House of Kolor paint (gold orange metallic ‘kustom’ mixed by HOK)

· 1964 Thunderbird seats (rear seat frames modified).

· Italian leather cream leather

· New Chev 385 hp engine with serpentine kit

· Reconditioned transmission T350

· Power steering (original rebuilt power steering)

· Lokar throttle (accelerator) set up and pad

· Lokar brake pads

· Bumpers, grille, side trim, gear shift handle, rear seat trim

· Carpet – 100% pure Australian wool ‘maze’

· Lenses (tail light) : hand-made customised 1953 Lincoln lenses.


Details and Sources

Body : GM – 1953 / 1952 Cadillac coupe

Concept / design / finance : Paul Zanetti

Coachwork / paint / assembly / trim : Kustom City, Gold Coast

Paint : House Of Kolor

Interior : Ford – 1964 Thunderbird

Leather : NSW Leather Supplies

Engine : 385 hp w/ serpentine kit (Eagle Auto, Brisbane)

Transmission : reco T350 (Eagle Auto, Brisbane)

Power Steering : Original box rebuilt by Gold Coast Power Steering

Chrome : Custom Chrome (Gold Coast)

Wheels : Zenith chrome wire wheels (Mac Daddy Wheels,

Los Angeles)

Tyres : Diamondback whitewalls (John Cain, Newcastle)

Windscreen : 1958 Chevrolet (Ralph Moore Auto Glass)

Steering Wheel : Restored ‘53 Cadillac wheel (Pearlcraft, Melbourne)

Gear shifter : 1969 Camaro – console horse shoe

Gear shift handle : Reshaped art deco style and coloured to match

Steering wheel (Pearlcraft. Melbourne)

Air bag suspension : Air Ride Pro

Suicide doors : Air Ride Pro

Shaved doors : Air Ride Pro

Tilt steering wheel : Flaming River

Rear View Mirror : 1958 – 1962 Corvette – Ecklers Corvettes

Interior door lights : Billet Specialties

Brake pads / throttle : Lokar Performance Products

Rear tail light lenses : Custom hand crafted

Radio / DVD / GPS : Brash Imports, Melbourne

Speakers : DVO Dayton

Emblem design : Daniel Sim

Emblem Manufacture : Aus Wide Badges

Wheel Medallions : Graffiti Signs

Craftsmen – Kustom City team

Mick McLennan : Panel Beating and Fabrication

Rod Collis : Fabrication

Elliott Holtom : Panel Beating

Adam LeBrese : Fabrication

Mark Wells : Trim (Upholstery)

Terry Wilmoth : Paint

Matthew McShane : Apprentice


See the Full Feature
in Edition 19 FREE … 


The unique Zanetti Kustom
“Tequila Sunset”



The Zanetti Kustom
“Tequila Sunset” is currently for sale at offers above


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