The Point of No Return: How a 1912 Cadillac "Hobby" Restoration Became an Award Winner

When so much is invested in a project, it becomes difficult to change direction or abandon. Hudak just wanted a reasonably priced antique car to freshen up and enjoy. What he got was something else.
Rick Hudak's 1912 Cadillac 30 Touring
Rick Hudak's 1912 Cadillac 30 Touring
RICHFIELD, Ohio - Sept. 8, 2014 - PRLog -- Why on earth would a guy with a collision repair facility enter into such a complicated and difficult project?  At the onset, it seemed sensible enough.  Rick Hudak, owner of Richfield’s Village Auto Body, went on a short vacation with his wife and youngest daughter, to Greenfield Village in Michigan.  There they enjoyed several rides in the operating Model T Fords.  A recent grandfather, Hudak decided it would be fun to get a Model T with the eventual goal of taking his young granddaughter in it to a locally well-known ice cream establishment in Richfield.

The Search Begins ...

Wanting a car in a color other than black, he began searching for a Model T made prior to 1914 (the first year that they would all be made in black only, at least until 1926).  Also, he wanted a touring car (meaning it had a back seat).

He looked for a year for the right car: an older restoration of an original Model T, not a car put together with mis-matched parts, which could be touched up, polished, and enjoyed.  Finding few available, none of which was acceptable, he began looking for alternatives.  Eventually he found a promising prospect online in southern California, an older restoration of a 1912 Cadillac Model 30 Touring Car.  He contacted the owner, struck a deal, and the car shipped to Ohio.

A Bird in the Hand ...

It happens with some customers; a cross between a point of no return and a slippery slope. He discovered that the car had not been properly stored when put away - for decades.The gasoline and cooling systems had not been drained, and the car had been painted in lacquer with the prior restoration.  Consequently the gas tank had a substance in it similar to hardened varnish and the cooling system was plugged with sediment (rust).  The paint on the car could not be properly touched up.

The new owner was faced with just what he wanted to avoid: the only logical option, other than a frame up restoration, was to sell the car and begin looking again.  A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. He decided to completely disassemble the car and do a proper restoration.

It Takes a Village ...

The location of Village Auto Body played a major part in the decision.  Richfield is a dichotomy.  Named in 2014 as the top place to live in NE Ohio by Cleveland Magazine, and with a population of less than 4,000, Richfield Village is located directly between two urban areas - Akron and Cleveland.  The downtown districts of either city can usually be reached in about 20 minutes.  With such proximity to the customer pool this geography offers, and Richfield’s unique, quaint atmosphere, Village Auto Body has been blessed with a very diverse and informed customer base.  Also, with three Interstate highways converging in Richfield, customers from some distance away find it very convenient to use its services.  Major insurance companies have found it valuable for their clients for these reasons as well as their customer satisfaction track record.

He decided there would be no deviation from the repair processes used on customers’ vehicles. Although the facility has been built primarily on “production” collision repair, Hudak reasoned that a high end restoration of such a milestone car would demonstrate the capabilities of the shop.

The resources utilized were invaluable in accomplishing the restoration.  Multiple decades of combined experience among employees were essential, as well as the expertise of some customers.  Information gleaned from resources including the AACA Museum in Hershey greatly aided in the fabrication and location of many components of the car.

Modern Repair Techniques Challenged by Period Details

The application of modern repair techniques to create the finished product was a real challenge.  Having the skilled technicians and equipment to do the engine, chassis, electrical fabrication and repair, and refinishing materials and techniques in the same facility for the entire period of the restoration was a real time saver and expedited the whole process.  The research and communications abilities of the Internet were invaluable as well.

Fasteners were located to duplicate the originals.  Where plastic and high strength metal panels and fasteners are used today, wood, aluminum, brass, and copper was used extensively, and much of the car is assembled with nails and needle and thread.

Networking with others and knowing who to trust for sub-let work is a direct result of the daily situations encountered at Village Auto Body.  Working on multiple makes and types of vehicles creates a mindset open to outside advice and information from many sources.  Having the equipment to complete the restoration was never an issue.  What to do with that equipment was the challenge.

And the Winner Is ...

Was the result worth the effort?  According to Hudak, the answer is - absolutely!  Originally purchased to drive around town with family and friends, he decided to enter the restored Cadillac in the annual Father’s Day Car Show in 2013.  As an afterthought, he marked the registration form to have the car judged.

The Cadillac won the Best of Class award for Pre-1916 automobiles.  Quite an honor, he says he almost fainted when his name was called again, this time for People’s Choice, First Place.  His car took top honors at this Classic Car Club of America event, among some of the highest quality and rare vehicles in the world, marques such as twelve and sixteen cylinder Cadillacs, mid 30’s roadsters with golf club doors and rumble seats, eight and twelve cylinder Lincolns and Packards, as well as Duesenbergs and other ultra-high end and expensive cars and restorations.

After Stan Hywet, the same car took First Junior Award, the highest possible for a first time exhibitor, at the AACA National Fall Meet in Hershey, PA. In July 2014, it was one of only ten cars invited to be on display at the Automotive Hall of Fame Annual Induction Ceremony in Detroit.

Concours d'Elegance

Presently, Hudak’s Cadillac is preparing to be shown at the first Concours d'Elegance to be held at Stan Hywet Hall and Gardens September 19-21, 2014.  Then it is off to Hershey again in October, now eligible to compete for a First Senior AACA trophy.  When it comes home to rest for the winter, it will be happily displayed right in the owner’s office at Village Auto Body.

According to Hudak, the best part of owning and driving the Cadillac are the trips with friends and family (now including two granddaughters).  And the best of the best are the occasional trips to Country Maid Ice Cream for cones and, in the fall, pumpkins!

Melinda Mallari
Precision Market Services PRs
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