Cadillac 355D Convertible Coupe

Survive your first prewar classic

I wanted to stop writing about Porsche, Ferrari and eighties sports cars - which is my declared passion, it must be said - to do an article about some fat prewar with a different approach.

The fantastic Cadillac 355-D Coupé Convertible from a good friend could serve my purposes, which are certainly not to write exclusively about the junk in question but to tell another story much closer and more important for current fans such as how to buy a veteran car and not die trying.

My friend had been telling me for years that he was attracted to the topic of pre-wars, and with my best will I had told him that started with a Ford A and that little by little it was introduced in this closed world, knowing its peculiarities and of course its people.

Cadillac 355D Convertible Coupe
Before conducting a "prewar" we have to know what we are up to

Three years ago, at the Essen Fair, we saw a brand new '33 Chrysler Royal Custom Convertible which he fell in love with; so much so that on that occasion we went to the auction with insane intentions on his part, and urged on by one of his daughters. God wanted the bids to put the car out of reach of my friend, who nevertheless did not deprive himself of doing any.

After that he came back warm. Or rather, we came back. The bad thing about going to Essen, Sttutgart or Paris is that when you return without buying, you arrive with the monkey. And besides, everything seems cheap to you, something normal with the prices you usually see at those fairs; I call him the Essen syndrome.

The fact is that he began to compulsively look at some fat prewar to buy, but he ended up liking none. Then he put on a little pagodita, to calm the appetite produced by the syndrome. He didn't want a Ford A.

Cadillac 355D Convertible Coupe
Up or down, for beginners maybe the best is a well bought American model

The purchase

The coincidences made that a few months after that, already with the issue of the pre-wars apparently out of his head, I found out that a member of the Veteran Car Club of Spain sold his devices in my opinion at really interesting prices. Thus, inadvertently, in the course of a meal, the conversation about these cars that Ramón already knew and admired came up.

That afternoon, while driving through Madrid's M-40, I received an intriguing call ...

[su_quote] “Antonio, what you said at lunch is true (…), and how much do you say he asks for? The price is very interesting, I'm going to call him to see if he admits a discount. " [/ su_quote]

Cadillac 355D Convertible Coupe
Although it may not seem like it, this Cadillac has a considerable size

Certainly the price was more than tempting, and the overall condition of the vehicle was and is truly impressive. And it is no less true that I was extremely satisfied that my friend was lucky enough to be able to get hold of that spectacular car; I knew that it was certainly not the ideal pre-war to start, but I was also aware that this time I was doing “network stunts”: when buying at 50% of the prices seen on the Internet, it would not be difficult to sell without losing too much money in case of need.

And it is that friends, now I expose here something of which we all have to be fully aware; especially in the case of certain figures, It is essential to consider what happens if you have a future need to sell; or even worse, what if unfortunately you are absent and your family has to take care of such a vehicle. Think about it.

The purchase was formalized in the middle of spring after a visit to Valencia to see and feel the Cadi, after which there was no doubt, the car was simply fantastic, a dream. The next visit we made to take it with us. We went to Valencia with a van to also bring us a huge quantity of spare parts -practically another car-, mostly old and rusty material but valuable due to the scarcity of this model in Spain.

Cadillac 355D Convertible Coupe
As we will see later, the seven-liter engine offers infinite torque

All that piece of equipment was and is in itself part of the history of the vehicle. According to a conversation with his mechanic, he arrived from the USA along with a brother from 39, who has a corresponding license plate and is the property of another friend; and together with the remains of another unit, which were used to rebuild those missing parts of the first two. Finally, the first national owner chose to sell both.


With the van already loaded, we started the trip to Madrid. I was quite afraid that Ramón would take it, and despite my fears and his insistence, I declined to be the first to move it. It is always a risk to take a car that you do not know, that is not yours and has those dimensions in the city. After half an hour we were close to Requena, at a magnificent pace and without problems of any kind. The car has overdrive, which allows it to cruise above 100-110 km / h without punishing the mechanics.

The first kilometers we were in constant communication Ramón and I, I did not want the little boy to take a heat. With the van opening the way and allowing you room to familiarize yourself with the braking of these pre, the truth is that the Cadi was magnificent, he walked much more than expected without the slightest moan. Upon arriving at Motilla del Palancar we stopped at "El Seto", a landmark restaurant in the town, where we enjoyed a fantastic meal.

Cadillac 355D Convertible Coupe
Steel imitation wood dashboard, who would have thought?

At the exit I had to taste it, mmmm, contact, start and at the first time, an almost inaudible purr from the superb V8 with side valves. Its more than 7.000 cc. they push the apparatus with surprising determination. The change is very precise and comfortable, with only three ratios, with a first one that is of little use and a third that you can engage from 15 km / h without hearing any complaints. And in the background that guttural sound of the exhaust and the sound of the air, enjoying the landscapes of green fields of cereals in the open sky. Something to delight in at least once in your life.

Curves arrive and the 2.000 kg tonnage is felt in the form of inertia and body roll. Obviously this is not a sports car, but a classy car that served in its time to transport Hollywood stars to the golf course. That is why it has a "golfera" to access the hidden area of ​​the third seat and that was and is the right size of a golf bag.

Like a gentelman I take the curves, with smoothness and precision, braking with unusual ease thanks to the four huge drums that in case of emergency and if they are not fatigued, they block the wheels. Leaf spring suspensions and oil link shocks just deliver.

Cadillac 355D Convertible Coupe
This is a golfera. The bag is on the floor of the "there you rot" or back seat

Already in the NIII and with the hood up, I admire the painted steel dashboard imitating wood. By the way, until I caressed it I thought it was made of wood. I begin to fiddle with the pushers and scrutinize the watches; I discover that the overdrive (mounted later) has a discrete led that indicates its activation.

I also see that the original ammeter shows a very slight discharge. A few taps on the glass and it stays the same. I put the lights from the central control of the steering wheel and ohhhh, in discharge, so I remove them. I do not know if it marks wrong or the dynamo does not work. Two hours later we arrived at my ship in Mejorada del Campo.

Friends await us there, who are simply ecstatic at the picture. For my part, as soon as I arrive, I take the multimeter and check that the ammeter does not show because the dynamo does not work. Of course, the car with only the battery has brought us 350 km and will take Ramón 55 km more.

Cadillac 355D Convertible Coupe
You have to load it before, but then it goes great ...

Keeping the Cadillac with headaches

When you arrive at your destination, the premise is to leave the perfect car, without failures, so that you can enjoy it with peace of mind. The only thing he is not satisfied with about the car is the problem of the dynamo and a sound emitted by the engine that apparently must be loose in some tank.

These first months Ramón and his family enjoy the car in 4 or 5 outings of no more than 50 km, with the precaution of charging the battery the night before and without the slightest setback. The Cadi is fantastic, it doesn't consume water or oil. It goes very fine, and starts the first time, although With the heat of Madrid the temperature needle goes over half, Nothing alarming for those of us who frequently deal with these veterans, but something that undoubtedly made him uneasy on their outings.

[su_quote] "Antonio, where can I take the car to do a few things for him ..." [/ su_quote]

Cadillac 355D Convertible Coupe
Despite their age, these mechanics are a mystery to most mechanics

It was the question my friend asked me that morning in September. My problem is that we keep all our junk at home, I told him, after which I gave him the names and phone numbers of the three pre-war sites in Madrid. Ramón already knew one of them from a previous adventure, with a more modern vehicle, which made him opt for another that also and without hesitation is for me a point of reference in terms of the maintenance of these mechanics. And there are many veterans who pass through there.

Finally, after a first contact and visit, Ramón took the 355-D to this famous Madrid mechanic to clean the radiator, mount and dismantle the dynamo and in the process try to solve the supposed noise of the tappet.

A month or so after that, my friend calls me to accompany him to see the car that is almost finished. During the tour to the workshop I realize that he is quite worried,

[su_quote] «They tell me that (the noise) is not from the tappets, that if we have to disassemble the engine and see. But hey, let's see what you think. » [/ su_quote]

Cadillac 355D Convertible Coupe
Although there are no reasons to worry, before fixing the Cadi it is advisable to ask for a quote


When I got there, the mechanic explained his theory to me, which seems plausible, all also based on the fact that these tacks were presumably hydraulic. The fact is that Ramón decides not to do any more work at the moment since the car is running correctly, and in everyone's opinion it can go on for a few thousand more kilometers. Two days later he goes to get the car and they tell him that it is about 3.000 euros that my friend pays without question.

With the dagger in his back he comes to lick his wounds,

[su_quote] - "They have charged me 3.000 euros to clean my radiator and mount the dynamo that I repaired, Antonio"

- "But what budget did you get?" I ask him.

- "No, they did it without giving me a budget, they told me it was difficult to assess." [/ su_quote]

In the note they had given him, the jobs and times were broken down, and it was certainly that number. I will not assess whether it is expensive or cheap, but if I draw a lesson that EVERYONE, workshop owners and users, have to learn: You can not do jobs without saying, at least for guidance, what they will cost.

Cadillac 355D Convertible Coupe
Cadillacs are the archetype of the best American motorsports, the one before 1945

The truth is that Ramón got angry (colloquially speaking) with the mechanic, with whom I also have friendship, and I was the worst in the middle. I know that the mechanic in question did not do it in bad faith, and that certainly to remove and clean the radiator of these cars you have to disassemble even the fins and it is a complicated and heavy job, not to mention changing the dynamo that is connected directly to the distribution chain and that due to its location forces the car to be emptied of water. But delivering a note with the text "Battery Charge: 10 Euros" seems like a joke to me, especially when the invoice adds up to the amount I am saying.

That episode made Ramón completely rethink the issue of the pre-wars. Above all, I didn't know where to turn if I really had a mechanical problem. "There are only three places in Madrid, and all three are pirates ..." I did not know what to say to him, because he was right and it is also one of the reasons why people do not approach these cars. "Where am I going to be looked at without being murdered?"

That fall the car was used regularly, and Ramón's confidence in his Cadillac increased. One day we decided to go to Mombeltrán, a mountain town located in Gredos. We left, he and one of his daughters with the 355, and me and my circumstances with a Packard 120. Wow, how were both things, what enjoyment, what a picture, the 150 km we covered in a couple of hours, all on conventional roads . Of course, I am much more comfortable than him, jjjj, at 5º the incredible heating of the Packard is appreciated.

Cadillac 355D Convertible Coupe
As you will see, the back seat is purely temporary.

The sale

The New Year brought my friend new horizons and a different approach to life; The dynamo of the Cadi had failed again, and he still did not have a trustworthy workshop where they could verify the noise of yore. Despite this, the car continued to move without the slightest problem.

One fine day he told me “I am very disenchanted with the classics, I am going to put all of them for sale except one (of the most modern). Where do I announce the Cadi? " I immediately knew the answer, but I was lazy for a couple of weeks until I saw that his decision was firm and thoughtful. I am fortunate to have a friend and partner in the lines of «La Escudería» who is also a collaborator of I finally put him in contact with said website, and a couple of months later he posted the ad.

For cars of this value there is no room in Spain today, there are no buyers with a sufficiently large portfolio. We all look for the bargain, the bargain, and watch out for EVERYONE. But when it comes to a car whose international value exceeds a hundred thousand euros, you have to think about it.

Cadillac 355D Convertible Coupe
Foreign buyers tend to act strangely ...

What is clear is that a German or a Swiss are not going to come here for a car for € 30.000,00.- that sells for € 25.000,00.-, the discount does not justify travel and paperwork. But they will come like bees to honey if you sell a car of 75 for 50, or one of 300 for 230. You do the calculations, as if it were yours.

Our friend made those calculations, and the result is that a week later he had his foreign buyer here. As a good collector, he did not go to see the car in person, but instead sent an expert mechanic on Cadillac 355 who confirmed to Ramón that the problem was not with the tappets -which are not hydraulic, by the way- but with play in the camshaft, and that it was something frequent and for which there were spare parts. He charged 2.000 euros for the repair.

After evaluating it conscientiously and driving it for a while, the mechanic directly negotiated the purchase with a five percent discount on the price of the advertisement, something totally acceptable. Handshake, "signaling" of the vehicle and three weeks later, with the economic issue solved, the same mechanic came with a faired trailer to get the car.

Cadillac 355D Convertible Coupe
Bye bye Cadi, it was a pleasure. Putting the hood up for the ride

Be that as it may, the 355 is already rolling through Central European lands and Ramón, having done his homework well on the day of purchase, has survived the adventure. It has not been made of gold, of course, but it has not lost money either; and you have certainly enjoyed this spectacular treasure for a few years.


Ramon did many things well at the time of acquiring its first prewar, which I am going to list so that they are clear:

[su_quote] ♦ Purchase a unit in good condition.

♦ Buy at a great price.

♦ Have someone who can advise you on maintaining and using your car.

♦ Do not get impatient with the purchase, or become obsessed with a model.

♦ Find out in advance about the originality and exclusivity of what you bought. [/ su_quote]

Cadillac 355D Convertible Coupe
Ready to go. The steering column lever is the turn signals, not the overdrive

Also had some serious bugs:

[su_quote] ♦ Don't get the car mechanical manuals.

♦ Buying too exclusive a car to start with. Let me explain: This motivates you not to drive it with enough ease, that you are surprised when it heats up a bit, etc.

♦ Buy a prewar by image, not behavior. If you buy a prewar you have to assume that you are not going to be the first to arrive, that the car at certain times is the boss and you will have to stop to rest. Surely water will enter at some point if it rains, your windshield wipers will make you desperate, etc.

♦ Carry out repairs without a budget. [/ su_quote]

My friend enjoyed a few years of a hyper-exclusive car, and of course, far from losing money, he even gave him to invite us to a dinner when he sold it. All thanks to the fact that he did more things right than wrong. Finally, he saw that the prewar period was not made for him, and I think it will take a long time to repeat the experience, not to say that he will not have it again. In spite of everything, I consider it to be a magnificent example of how to buy a prewar and not die trying.

What do you think?

Written by Antonio Silva

My name is Antonio Silva, I was born in Madrid in 1973. Thanks to my company I have been able to know first-hand all the national vehicle factories and a few of the European ones, as well as many of the component factories, this being nothing but an incentive more for my hobby ... Read More


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