My New Curbside Classic: 1969 Cadillac Sedan DeVille – 38¢ Per Pound

A few weeks back I was driving to work and passed a late 60’s/early 70’s Cadillac Sedan Deville. Based on its near-beater condition, it appeared to be driven regularly, if not a daily driver. Having always liked these cars, it got me wondering how much something like that would cost, with the intention of slowly restoring it.

[Kent Bell is the author and proud owner]

When I later checked AutoTrader, several appeared in my 500 mile search radius from Southern California. Some were pristine at over $16k. A couple more were in good condition at $10k. Neither was what I had in mind.  But at the bottom of the list, below the $2500 models at a junkyard in Phoenix, there she was.  A 1969 Sedan Deville located in Desert Hot Springs, asking price $2,200.

The ad had only two photos, but the car did look quite good.  The seller claimed the car runs well and is driven regularly. 132k miles. Perfect. Knowing my partner likes these cars as well, I forward him the link, thinking he still isn’t going for it. Much to my surprise, the email I get back a few minutes later exclaims “WOW!  Let’s go check it out!”

So I call the seller. He informs me the car is also listed on another site, with more pictures and detail, and directs me to the site. He stays on the line as I check out the ad. Here the photos show more the detail of cars condition, and lists 4 known issues. I ask the seller what the issues are. Transmission seal leaks, automatic climate control doesn’t work, rust on lower front fenders, and needs rear shocks.  None of these are deal breakers for me.  And the asking price on this site was $1800.

Since it was a Friday afternoon, and Desert Hot Springs (near Palm Springs) is 90 miles away, I ask if we can come see the car the next day. His response was yes, but call first because someone else is coming that evening. I call the next morning, and sure enough, the guy hadn’t shown up.

We head out, pulling up to his street by noon. When we turned the corner and first saw the car we both uttered expletives.  It was in MUCH better condition than we thought. We took turns on the test drive. It starts, runs and drives very well. The owner explains that he is recently retired, and they no longer need two cars, much less the maintenance required for a 43 year old Cadillac. He shows us the manila folder full of receipts from the past 40+ years. The first owner purchased the car in Laguna Beach and had it for 30 years. He even kept the original bill of sale ($7600!) and a notepad listing every maintenance performed. The couple we bought the car from bought it from the 2nd owner, kept it for 6 years, and they also kept meticulous records. After reviewing the title, we paid the man $1800 and got out of there before he changed his mind.

The car made it back to Long Beach just fine; we were a little nervous. I had assumed by “transmission seal leak” that it was NOT the pan seal, as that would be too easy a fix to just ignore. But upon further inspection, it was the pan seal, which we have already replaced. Next up, upholstery, rear shocks, rust and paint. We’ll tackle the automatic climate control someday, but being a pillarless hard top sedan in Southern California, I’m in no big hurry.