THE RESTORATION OF MY 1967 CADILLAC DEVILLEWhen I bought the car back in 1996 I had no clue about cars at all and so I thought that no repairs or restoration work would be necessary... I bought the car to drive it and never had any intention to do any work on it.
When I brought the car home I found out that it really had some problems I didn't know about before. First the wipers quit working, then the interior lights went out, the brakes didn't work very well and the steering was very shimmy. This was the first time I drove such a land yacht and it was night and raining heavily. So I thought I should contact a professional restoration shop to have the car checked through. It was in need for the complimentary annual check that every car has to pass in Austria anyway. So I brought the car there and the expertise of the shop about my newly acquired car was horrible. It needed almost everything to get a new license. At this time I saw the car at daylight for the first time and was shocked even more. It had a lot of dents and scratches. Most of the chrome and moldings had dings or dents too. Somebody cut out a part of the rear bumper to make place for the bigger Austrian number plates. There was lots of rust at the lower front fenders which was "fixed" with paper and aluminum foil. (See pictures) The trunk floor also had 4 rustholes which had to be fixed.
The "Before" picturesThe "before" pictures - with some cosmetical touch-ups for the first cruising season.
Technical problemsTechnically the car was a mess too. It needed a new washer and wiper assembly, climate compressor, new hydraulic lifters, all new gaskets, all new hoses, new power steering pump and gear, complete new brake system with reground drums, all new bulbs, new ignition lock, power antenna, some switches, complete exhaust system, shocks, some front suspension parts and much more. The transmission and engine were leaking oil, the radiator was shot , the tires were almost falling apart. 14 years of storage took its toll. When one thing was repaired the next failed. The only good thing about the car was the interior. Otherwise I had to spend a lot of money to bring the car back on the road as I could do no repairs on my own at this time.
So I drove the car for one summer - mostly at night where it looked quite representable. At this time most of the technical things were done, but there were still all these dents, the bent brightwork and rust hurting my eyes all the time...
I was still a student at University and had only very little money - so a real professional restoration was far out of reach. Rudi Kerschbaumer who did the work on my car offered me to do the restoration in his shop at a very good rate for his work. I should do most of the work myself under his supervision. The restoration should not cost more than $10.000 maximum he said. So I had to save the rest of my little income from part time working to put it all into this restoration. I made lots of sacrifices to get the money. I ate less and lost 8 pounds of weight, didn't heat my apartment during the cold winter and rode my bicycle for daily transportation to save all the money I could get.
In December of 1997 the restoration started. The goal was to do all the body work necessary, do some detailing here and there, give it a new paintjob in the original color and make everything work again.
So we began to tear the car apart. My friend Rich really helped a lot - a big "thank you" to him! We managed to disassemble the whole car within 48 hours. We put all the parts into boxes and stored them for detailing, overhauling or refurbishing . The only things we didn't take apart were the windshield, the steering wheel and the convertible top which were left on the car. During disassembly lots of new problems that would need attention appeared. The following weekend we began to sand the car down to bare metal. This was a hard and messy job as the original paint was not really easy to remove. While doing this more and more dents appeared under layers of filler. It seems that the old lady - who owned this car before - had some problems maneuvering such a land yacht. Parts like front fenders or doors were sandblasted by my friend Richard.
Here is a video-walk-through at the restoration shop when my buddy Richard and I started to disassemble the car and sand it down to bare metal in 1997:
RestorationworkAfter about 100 hours of bodywork the car got a coat of primer and then a thin coat of silicone filler. The body shop gave the car 5 weeks for drying before fillersanding for the perfect body lines began.
A lot of parts were still missing which would be needed for reassembly. I needed some of the bumper parts, climate compressor, gaskets, weather-stripping and much more. Shipping all these parts would have cost more than flying to California and bring them over myself. So I made a 3 week trip to the USA and bought all the parts I needed directly there. When we flew home we had 210 pounds of luggage. I had the climate compressor in my backpack which drew a lot of attention at the security checks at the airport...
Meanwhile I took the complete interior home for detailing it. I cleaned everything - took the doorpanels apart and my sister sewed new carpets and windlaces on them. The front bench was taken apart and brought to an upholstering shop where they took care of it. It got complete new cushioning material under the leather and one small piece was welded together. Everything was sanded down to bare metal, primered and painted, as the metal was not coated at all at the factory. They also sewed the new carpet material to the back of the front bench. I got rid of all the dirt and grime that covered the leather interior and it looked like new afterwards.
After the car was fillersanded by the bodymen it was brought to the paintshop for its new coat of paint. It was wetsanded between each coat of paint for that perfect finish. It looked spectacular when it came back from the paintshop. When we pushed the car back into the garage at the restoration shop a board which was leaning against the wall fell on the front fender and made a big scratch, so we had to bring the car back to the paintshop....
Within a day it was repaired and we started to reassemble the car . We took great care not to damage anything on the fresh painted car. And within 3 weeks with 12-16 hours of work a day the car was completely reassembled. It was great to put all the new or refurbished parts back into the car.
Then it was time for the first test-drive after the restoration, and suddenly the transmission didn't shift up! After days of searching the mechanic found out that there was a vacuum leak in a tube that caused the problem.
After the car was finished the biggest shock was still to come: The bill! Suddenly it was twice as high as the maximum amount we agreed on, although he promised multiple times that we would still be within the financial frame we had set. I really felt ripped off and he held my car hostage... I had to borrow the additional money from my family and friends to get my car back...
Leather seat detailing in 2008
I found a shop which does detailing work on leather interiors. They can remove all tears and cracks and re-dye the original leather. I had them go over my front and rear seats. Now the seats looks like new. Click on the link to view the images!