1930 Cadillac 353 Convertible Coupe - $169,900
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Documentation is extensive, with full restoration photos, receipts (totaling more than $278,000!), the original build sheet, and judging sheets.

Sometimes, nothing but the best will suffice. In spirit, that was Cadillac’s motto and despite the ravages of the Great Depression, GM’s top division still managed to create some of the most spectacular automobiles in the industry. In the case of this gorgeous 1930 Cadillac 353 convertible coupe, the owner decided that an AACA-first-prize-winning restoration simply wasn’t good enough, and embarked on a quarter-million-dollar quest to create what is quite likely the finest 1930 Cadillac V8 in the world. It has scored 99.5/100 points in CCCA competition and even more importantly, 98.67 points at the Cadillac-LaSalle Club national meet, and since then, the items resulting in deductions have been corrected.

The original build sheet that accompanies this car indicates that it was originally all black, including the body, moldings, undercarriage, fenders, and even the wheels, but when it was first restored in the 1970s, it was treated to a then-contemporary color combination of two-tone tan with orange wheels. In 1977 it was awarded an AACA National First Prize, arguably the highest honor such a car could receive at the time. In the intervening years, it was not driven much, but simply maintained and showed where it consistently won every top award that was possible. But after 30 years, even the best restorations start to show their age and in 2010, the owner commissioned D&D Classic Automobile Restoration in Dayton, Ohio to return the lovely Cadillac to show-winning condition. The body was stripped to bare metal and the finish was rebuilt from there, duplicating a stunning black cherry finish seen on a Duesenberg Model J. The chassis, which was still in show-winning condition thanks to almost no driving since it was complete, remained tan, creating a contrast that’s both unusual and stunning in person. The tan canvas top was replaced, the carpets renewed, and much of the chrome was re-plated, while the mechanicals were returned to 100% road-ready condition. The result is simply stunning.

If you’re familiar with the artists and craftsmen at D&D, you know their work is exemplary, with wins at Pebble Beach to their credit. Since the work on this Cadillac was completed in late 2010, it has scarcely been driven and has not seen water, being carefully cleaned so that the finish doesn’t even show the faint micro-scratches that most cars develop over time. The black cherry paint is luscious and deep enough to swim in, but also period-appropriate with no metallic or other distracting modern elements that make old cars look incorrect. Panel fit is excellent, and both doors were rebuilt to improve their fit at the lower edges. Vulnerable areas of the body, most notably the corners around the lower edges of the door, were reinforced to eliminate cracking in the future. All the chrome was removed and refinished to show standards, with a price tag approaching $50,000 for all the brightwork, but the results are certainly worth it. Even the massive headlight rings, which are prone to cracking, have been expertly restored to better-than-new condition. Finally, the body was pinstriped by hand, a procedure that required more than 40 hours all by itself!

Inside, the tan leather interior that was installed in 1977 was both highly accurate and beautifully preserved, so other than cleaning and conditioning the hides and replacing the carpets, it was not touched. The gauges, however, were rebuilt including the clock, which remains fully functional. The tan dashboard contrasts beautifully with the black cherry bodywork and the bright, airy interior is both luxurious and sporty, ideal for the convertible coupe. In back, the rumble seat is upholstered in matching tan leather, along with fresh carpets and a footrest, and it’s quite likely that nobody has ever been seated there. The canvas top was replaced during the recent restoration, duplicating the original support straps and rear window configuration, which offers an opening center section for both ventilation and communication with rear-seat passengers. For safety, seatbelts were retrofitted and secured to the steel portions of the body, not the wood frame, so they will work as intended if worse comes to worst. The top folds, although it has only been folded once to test it, and we decided not to risk wrinkling it simply for photographs.

Mechanically, the car was excellent thanks to the quality of the first restoration and the expert care it received since completion. The minimal mileage was surely a factor, but as a show car, it was never fully sorted. During the second restoration, D&D discovered several small details that were corrected, and the car is 100% roadworthy today. Those details include turning and truing all four brake drums, replacing the missing (!) linkage on the right rear brake assembly, and rebuilding the carburetor several times to solve a sticking float issue. Today, the silky smooth 353 cubic inch flathead V8 fires quickly and drives superbly, with great torque and a wonderful V8 burble from the tailpipe. The engine bay is dressed for show, and it’s interesting to see that Cadillac designers worked hard to tie the flathead to their all-new V16 wundermotor by hiding the spark plugs and cables in boxes designed to mimic the OHV V16’s rocker covers. Worth noting is that the sole deduction taken by the judges at a major event, a hairline crack in the distributor cap, is actually designed to be there and careful examination of the distributor shows Cadillac engineers were careful to add holes at each end to prevent its uncontrolled spread.

Cadillac introduced synchromesh in 1929, and it works as advertised in this 1930 convertible coupe. Shifting is effortless and there is no gear clash, so the system works as advertised. With an optional 4.75 gear ratio, it offers reasonable performance out on the road, cruising comfortably at 45-50 MPH. Braking, although still by mechanical cables, is surprisingly effective and the ride is, well, worthy of a Cadillac. The wire wheels were repainted tan to match the chassis, then fitted with new 7.50-18 Lester wide whitewall tires.

Documentation is extensive, with full restoration photos, receipts (totaling more than $278,000!), the original build sheet, and judging sheets. As I mentioned, all the deductions judges have found have been corrected. And while the car has competed in CCCA, CLC, and AACA events, it is eligible for the biggest events such as Pebble Beach and Amelia Island, where it has not yet been exhibited.

Anyone who has restored a car to this level knows the investment in both money and time such an undertaking requires, and the cost to take a car to #1 condition is so staggering that few collectors have the fortitude (both intestinal and financial) to do it. If you insist on the very best, a car without notable flaws and which has been finished by the best experts in the industry, there are but a handful available. Perfection has its cost, but it also has its privileges. There are simply none finer than this exceptional Cadillac convertible coupe. Call now.

Vehicle: 1930 Cadillac 353 Convertible Coupe
Price: $169,900
Stock Number: 115124
Mileage: 45,476
VIN: 508076
Engine: 353 cubic inch V8
Transmission: 3-speed manual
Gear Ratio: 4.75
Wheelbase: 140 inches
Wheels: 18-inch wire wheels
Tires: 7.50-18 Lester wide whitewall
Exterior Color: Black Cherry
Interior Color: Tan leather
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