Customs are a true exercise in style and balance. Defining that perfect combination is the ultimate key to creating one that’ll be memorable. When referencing design changes, too little can make the car lackluster while too much can ruin the vibe. Finding the ideal fusion of glamour and inventiveness—therein lies the art. Kevin Anderson of Indianapolis, Indiana, is no stranger to the custom world; in fact, he has had a hand in designing and building a number of noteworthy customs over the past few years. When you look at his prior accomplishments, which include a hammered ’50 Merc, ’63 Buick Rivera, and ’36 Ford tail-dragger, it’s easy to see wherein his roots lie.
It often takes a series of what-ifs to get artistic ideas flowing. Ask any devoted custom enthusiast, and they’ll tell you it’s the rush of looking at a body style that gets the mind twisting to see what can be applied to its flow in getting started. Having always held a fascination with Cadillac body styles of the ’40s, Kevin began looking at original factory brochures to help shape his vision.
While on countless road trips with good friend Mike Boerema, owner of Gas Axe Garage in Allendale, Michigan, the pair would often discuss cool ideas for potential builds. With the Cadillac project heavy on his mind, Kevin asked if he’d be interested in taking on the project should a suitable candidate be found. Boerema, already well-known for building ultra-traditional hot rods, many of which have graced the pages of STREET RODDER, was more than ready to apply his fabrication skills.
Establishing a proper baseline for creating the car took exhaustive research into the past to review builds of similar styles. There was plenty of influence from the likes of Westergard and Valley Customs on what it would take to breathe new life into comparable designs; however, this particular Cadillac platform had not seen much in the way of customizing. Further exploring proved remarkably there was only one located, a Barris-built Carson-topped ’42/’46 Cadillac convertible. With only three images to draw from, it took the creative efforts of the duo to blend their ideas into the final design to synthesize a proper rendition for the build. Kevin told us the transformation would bring “opulence, sophistication, and beauty” to the table by converting an ugly ducking into a chopped and dropped luxurious Carson-capped coupe.
Sourcing a 1947 Cadillac convertible would prove to be pricy as well as pretty unobtainable, however, there were a number of Series 62 four-door sedans available on the market. Kevin located a low-mile factory original one-owner car for sale at a museum in Minnesota that was thinning the herd. He had Boerema measure a factory convertible along with a four-door to see if the proportional values were close enough to take on the transformation. Fortunately, they were exact. There’s nothing like starting with a clean base so a deal was made, and the car was transported to Gas Axe Garage to start its 14-month reincarnation.
Once the car was disassembled, the spine and all related parts were sent off to be blasted clean. Once back, Boerema made a number of subtle modifications to the frame to support a new slammed stance, which included a substantial C-notch out back, as well as opening up the spring pockets to properly cradle the airbag suspension. Out back the rebuilt factory rearend packing 3.77 gears was set in place along with a custom two-link combined with Air Lift ’bags and Monroe tube shocks. Up front, a restored factory independent suspension was deftly matched to Air Lift ’bags and a ’57 Chevy power steering box to carve a path. When it’s time to drop anchor, a stock master pushes fluid through steel lines to factory binders mounted at each corner. Nothing says class better than a set of original steel wheels, sporting a set of 15-inch-wide Kelsey Tire/Goodyear Super Cushion whites crowned by Cadillac caps.
In 1947, nothing said power and performance better than a Cadillac driveline. Wanting to maintain the tradition, Kevin had Boerema completely refreshed the factory engine, starting with a complete disassembly of the 346ci V-8. The block and complete rotating assembly were massaged to perfection and once again matched to the factory cam. For a smooth getaway the factory cast-iron heads meet the stock intake and Stromberg carb get the job done in style. The goods move through a refreshed factory automatic transmission linked to the original driveshaft sealing the deal.
Taking on the evolution of the body relies on a true visionary working their craft, especially when converting a four-door. To prepare for the job, the body was first stripped clean, revealing a steel shell requiring no restoration work. With a blank canvas and torch in hand, Boerema started the transformation. He began with moving back the B-pillars to accommodate modified 1947 Cadillac Sedanette doors as well as crafting new door frames and vent windows to mirror those of a convertible. From there, the front fender pontoons were welded to the doors, along with the rear fenders being welded to the body. Once completed, Boerema focused on executing a perfectly balanced 5-inch chop, which also incorporated creating a skeleton for the Carson-styled top accenting the complete roofline drop (including suspension) a staggering 17 inches. There was also the exhaustive work in fabricating a convertible-styled windshield frame. Other notable changes include extended-down rear skirts, fabricating custom stainless trim, nosing and decking the body, shaving the door handles, side emblems, and antenna and removing the factory taillights The body was then final gapped and metal finished. From there, the stainless trim as well as grille and bumpers were treated to the shiny tank at Jon Wright’s Custom Chrome Plating in Grafton, Ohio.
With the fabrication work completed, the car was then delivered to Gary Brown of Browns Metal Mods in Port Leyden, New York, to work his magic in getting everything razor sharp and ready for paint. In selecting a color, Kevin wanted something that would add endless allure to the car’s newfound personality. Gary custom blended a House of Kolor Crystal Cadillac Cobalt Blue Candy and laid down a mile-deep coating across the body, bringing it all to life.
Wanting the interior to embody just the right amount of elegance, the stock dash and gauges were retained, complemented by having Dennis Crook of Quality Restorations resize the steering wheel for a better fit, mounted to an ididit tilt column. Kevin then called on Buckskinz Custom Fabrication of Grand Rapids to revamp the living room, starting with reworking the factory bench seat as well as crafting new side panels and headliner accented by stainless spears. Everything was then covered in a traditional pattern with 16 custom-dyed ivory hides from GST AutoLeather accented by brocade inserts and bronze Mercedes-Benz square-weave carpeting. The dramatic padded Carson-styled top was then upholstered using yards of oyster-colored Haartz cloth. Kevin added the final icing with his personally designed crystal door pulls and Cadillac badge emblems. This is one noteworthy custom that’ll be remembered for decades to come, showcasing the talents of everyone involved.