In the 1950s, before cars were built on corporate platforms dictated by manufacturing efficiencies and shared parts bins, American vehicles were treated to frequent styling updates. Some designs, like this 1957 Cadillac Coupe deVille circulated for a single model year only. The 1957 Coupe deVille was lower, longer, and wider than the outgoing models. Fifty-seven was also the first year Cadillac used an x-member frame under all of that sheet metal.
When John Christenbury set out to build a car he would settle on nothing less than a 1957 Cadillac Coupe deVille. For over a year Christenbury chased lead after lead only to find parts cars and rust piles. After being disappointed by dozens of dead ends, he finally found a worn out, but solid unrestored deVille at a Carlisle event and dragged it home to Virginia.
It took Christenbury three years to build the deVille back into fighting shape, but this is no textbook restoration. The man wanted a stockish look with a bit of extra stop and go, and that’s what he built. Forward momentum for this deVille comes from a balanced and blueprinted 500 cubic inch Cadillac mill. The monster V8 is stuffed with Keith Black flat top pistons, ARP bolts, and an unspecified cam. The combination is topped with professionally ported and polished heads, an Edelbrock Performer intake, and a Quadrajet carb. It punishes the Turbo 400 transmission with over 500 ft.lbs. of torque when the go pedal is mashed.
The downside of building a low production car is that there are not a lot of aftermarket upgrades available, so Christenbury is in the process of piecing together a disc brake conversion to haul the deVille to a stop.
The Cadillac’s perfect stance was achieved with drop spindles up front and lowering blocks in the rear. The classic cruiser look is carried over to the interior. Christenbury located a local craftsman who took one piece at a time into his home workshop to be covered in leather and cloth. Christenbury’s wife Donna also jumped in and contributed to bringing the interior up to snuff. For some modern comfort they added air conditioning, and power seats, windows, and door locks.
One of the most impressive aspects of this build is the fact that Christenbury shaped and smoothed the sheet metal himself, covering it in primer in his garage before having it professionally shot in Ford Laser Tint Red. He also straightened the tin work before having it all chromed.
The end result is a modern classic with a little surprise under the hood, built by a man who knows what he likes.