This 1959 Cadillac Coupe de Ville Is A CEO Sled Roaming Los Angeles On A Nearly Daily Basis
Photography by Ian Wood
Before we can live out our automotive dreams in 1:1 scale, a good deal of us enthusiasts make do with models and good old die-casts plucked from the local Target toy aisle. Jason, the owner of this beautiful slab of American motoring, got started with Hot Wheels as a kid, and for the past thirty-some years since then, he’s been cutting hair. Today he is the owner of his own salon in Los Angeles (and thus living up to the license plate on his clean Coupe de Ville), and the Hot Wheels collection has been supplemented with this larger-than-life Cadillac.
It was a long time coming, too. Jason always kept an eye on the market for ’59 de Villes, and even after getting one for himself the love hasn’t eroded—it’s been at the top of his list of cars for decades, and it’s probably not going to be dethroned anytime soon. Attracted to the big Caddy by way of nostalgia, Jason feels it’s a machine from an era he should have been born in. There was no doubt he’d own one one day, but getting the exact standard of car he wanted was not going to be as easy as jumping on the first available car at the local specialty car lot.
Jason knows his way around a machine, and started building custom vehicles back in 2000, focusing on trucks first and foremost. His clean custom builds were featured in publications, and his reputation grew in kind. His ambitions only expanded, with Jason moving into full-size truck builds and racing boats. It wasn’t the kind of work that one treats as a “job,” but there was a reason to be paid: Jason built and sold four Cadillacs to put himself in a position to finally afford his own ’59.
The car you see here was originally sold in San Fernando, and it was kept by the original owner for the majority of its life. About eight years ago however, Jason’s friend bought the car, and became its second owner. He hardly touched the car apart from reupholstering the interior in the tan and black scheme that’s still present in the car today. After the interior work, the de Ville spent most of its time gathering dust in a warehouse for a few years before the stars aligned.
In part due to this very limited ownership roster, the Cadillac has only been driven 35,000 miles. It’s chrome and most of its paint is original, and while Jason is keen to preserve its originality, he does so within reason—he’s still a custom vehicle builder at heart. He loves the car in stock form, but he’s not the classic purist that thinks “modified” is synonymous with “ruined.” Jason’s build is very considered. Anything he changes on the car, he does so with the mindset that it must stay in the spirit of what Harley Earl (the designer) wanted. It’s more about envisioning a trajectory for the look of the car that’s easily traced back to its original form and purpose. A perfect example of this is seen in the wheels, which are a custom, one-off design specific for Jason’s car, but draw distinct influence from the original Cadillac factory hubcaps.
“What about the ride height?” you say? I hear you. It’s not subtle. But it could be argued that—excuse the pun—lowering the car has elevated the look and presence, highlighting the extraordinary proportions and details in a way that cars often lose between concept and production versions. The correct terminology for this car’s extraordinarily low stance is “laying frame,” where the car in question must literally sit on its frame rails when the air suspension is emptied. In other words, this is not the car’s cruising altitude. Thanks to an airbag system on the suspension, Jason can drive along the roughest patches of LA asphalt without trailing a shower of sparks.
To get it sitting this low is no simple task though. It’s much more than an airbag kit and a compressor in the trunk. To put the rails on the ground, it was sent to JG Design and Fabrication in Ventura, where after a period of roughly six months, they notched the frame, revised the suspension geometry, stripped out the interior, and rebuilt the wheel tubs and exhaust. All this enables the 20” wheels to tuck way up into their wells, while also preventing the exhaust from being crushed by the weight of this street yacht.
Jason took on the task of restoring the front and rear grilles himself—a not insignificant effort by any means. Case in point, the front grille piece is actually made up of about 130 pieces, all of which were disassembled and cleaned in a true labor of love. And the fun really started once reassembly was underway, with the pile of similar-looking pieces acting as an infuriating puzzle. Part of the challenge of owning an old car is finding replacement parts should the puzzle be missing a few, and though it’s a popular car, there isn’t an abundant market for reproduction parts, and certain rare authentic ones trade for their weight in gold. To give some credence to this, it took Jason three years to find an original horn ring, and it was priced north of a grand.
All of that effort has paid off though, and he’s been rewarded with a dream that’s become tangible. To many in the scene, Jason’s is among the best Coupe de Ville’s in Southern California, and relative to the amount of de Villes out in the world, there are quite a few down here. The car is well known in the Los Angeles area, and it can be spotted on the weekends transporting Jason’s family to the local coffee spots. It’s his dream car but he’s not afraid of daily dreaming. Weather permitting (which means “always” here), he drives it at least five times a week. The big sled rides like you might expect, with the air ride suspension able to provide more than adequate comfort and enough stiffness that the thing won’t be a big barge of body roll. It’s not on rails of course—the only things that weigh this much and are, are trains—but it’s not a big pillowy mush. There are multiple settings for the air bags of course, and though air ride cars can be a little bouncy by nature, the prodigious mass of the Coupe de Ville seems to take the edge off this behavior.
If you see this great white sharking around Los Angeles, throw a wave and you’ll get one back with a smile. Because how could you not love life when you’re driving through it in something like this?