COAL #6: 1957 Cadillac Sedan de Ville

Not my car, but close enough. All photos are from the Internet.


The quest for another vintage Cadillac started again. I had found a ’58 Coupe de Ville on a used car lot in San Leandro, that looked like a good candidate, but I was unable to sell the Pontiac Astre in enough time to buy it. I was disappointed, but I kept looking in the classifieds, as well as cruising the used car lots along Mission Blvd. in Hayward. I would ride my Honda 750 out there in my free time.

Lots of chrome. Check out the speaker box on the transmission tunnel.


It seems that the right car always falls in front of me at the right time. One evening riding through Hayward, I saw what looked like a vintage Caddy in the back row of a used car lot. Always the back row! I stopped to investigate and found a very clean 1957 Cadillac Sedan de Ville hard top. Actually, all Cadillac sedans were hardtops in ’57, even the Sixty Special. It was tan with a white roof, with a black brocade and white leather interior. The body and trim, as well as the interior were almost perfect. It’s probably hard to imagine that twenty year old, finny type Cadillacs in good shape were still common on used car lots at that time.

The upholstery looked similar to his.


A test drive confirmed that it was in good running order. I was buying the car as transportation after all. I recall the price being 599.00. I got my brother to give me a ride to the car lot so that I could bring the car home.

After I got the car home it was time for a good washing, polishing, waxing, and detailing. This is something that I still enjoy, buying an older car that is still in pretty good original shape. Then spending the effort required to make it look as sharp as it can.

The Flying Lady had flown the Coop!


The ’57 was the first model with a flat hood. It also had a twin shark fin hood ornament, as the ’56 was the last year for the stylized Cadillac Flying Lady mascot. By ’56 she appeared more like a jet bearing a human face instead of a graceful goddess. The ’57 also had the basket handle C pillars for the roof. It was a very attractive and graceful greenhouse. This design would be reprised for the face-lifted ’77 -’81 F bodies. This was the start of my infatuation with roof lines. The flat topped, forward canted, tail fins also gave it a rakish aspect. I much preferred these to the rocket ship-shaped treatment that returned for ’58.

The rear view displays a couple of my favorite features.


I had added a chopped ’70 Harley Sportster XLCH to my motorcycle fleet. It was a good thing that I kept the 750 for a while, as that poor Harley had lots of problems and required quite a bit of work. Somehow I found the time to completely rebuild this motorcycle while attending school full time and working four or five days a week.

Cadillac knows how to do hub caps.


Lowriders were very popular, especially old 1950’s models, and I seriously considered lowering the car. But it already sat pretty low.  At first, I put the American 200S wheels that I had previously run on my ’70 Coupe de Ville. Later, I “borrowed” the stock wheels off my Dad’s ’75 Chevy step side, switching them for the American mags. The narrow whitewalls looked good with the original Cadillac hub caps. I wisely stored the original ’57 wheels in my folk’s backyard. They would go back in place when I sold the car. It seems that most car guys had at least one set of extra wheels lying around somewhere.

I was now attending college full time at San Jose State and during my second semester there, I got an almost full time job working as a “counselor” for the Santa Clara Juvenile Probation Department. It sounds more impressive than it was. I was supposed to be a more “empathetic” guard at the Juvenile Hall.

I generally rode my bike to school and work, as it was much easier to park in the free motorcycle zone. On the days that I didn’t ride my bike, I took the Caddy. I also drove it on the weekends to go out and to the clubs. I’ve never been a heavy drinker, and I was careful to cut off the alcohol hours before closing time, so I wasn’t driving under the influence (I hoped!) You’d think that a ’57 Cadillac driving around at 2:00 in the morning in San Jose, would be a red flag for the cops, but I never got stopped on those early Saturday or Sunday mornings!

The car served as reliable transportation. I could even carefully fit my ten speed bicycle in the back seat. After some time, it started to develop a problem. It once became very hard to start as I was leaving the high school where I did some volunteer tutoring. In fact, I had to walk several blocks down to a nearby K-Mart and buy a tune up kit. I installed that in the school parking lot and I was able to get the car home, but it was running pretty rough. The next day it wouldn’t start at all. so I just took my bike and decided to deal with it later.

When I took a compression check I found that two cylinders had almost no compression! I pulled the heads and found a couple of burnt valves. I dropped the heads off at a local machine shop. It’s a good thing for me that my Dad always had an extra car available.

The twin scooped air cleaner was also gone in ’57.


I learned something from my experience with the ’66 Lincoln. This time I had the shop perform a full valve job and then I just bolted everything back together. I had spent the downtime cleaning up under the hood. The engine bay looked nice and tidy with some repainted components.

I really enjoyed driving the ’57, even if it wasn’t a coupe. But four door hardtops are also pretty cool. It was a bit over twenty years old at the time, but I drove it just like a modern car on the freeway. None of this creeping along in the slow lane at 55 mph!

Looking back, it seems that I should have owned this car longer than I did, but it was probably only a year and a half. Cars came and went quickly at this time. I was finally in my senior year of college and looking forward to graduation. This was 1980; it had taken me seven years of work and study. Changing my major once, and attending junior college while mostly working full time through those years.

I had quit working completely for my first semester at San Jose State but soon realized that even without working, I was only going to study so much, so I went back to work. Even then I realized that these had been the best years of my life, balancing work and school. I never liked the idea of being a broke college student. I made more than enough to pay my way as well as have a lot of fun. Of course, living with the folks made things even easier.

It had taken a long time to finish college, I would be the first person in my family to graduate with a degree. I wanted to reward myself by buying my dream car, a late model downsized ’77 Coupe de Ville.

I put the ’57 on a consignment lot in Santa Clara, sure that the right car would fall in my lap. It had happened every time before!