I started out this morning wanting to write a short story that was just part of what you’ll read today – the adventure of getting a 1953 Cadillac body off its chassis for our Maverick restoration. But…so many other parts of the story starting jumping into my mind that I thought I better start from scratch and tell the tale – at least our part of the tale that involves that beguiling 1952 Maverick Roadster.
The Story Begins: 2006
Back in 2006, good friend Bob Curtis shared with me a story about a Maverick – lost to time in Wisconsin, USA. The car had been sold by the Gladwin family (more about the history of this Maverick in a future story) some time after the passing of Sterling Gladwin – designer and founder of the Maverick Motors Company of Mountain View, California. When Bob first saw the Maverick, it was a magnificent shining example of the grandeur that cars could be – a wonderful example from the 1950s. That was about to change.
The new owner bought the car from a dealer in Minnesota and soon began restoration with a company near Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Not far into the restoration, a dispute arose and all work stopped. The Maverick body was left in one location – separated from its 1953 Cadillac chassis and drivetrain.
Bob lost track of the car and its components some time after that – in the 90s. Nothing was heard of the car since then and it was assumed lost.
The Maverick Surfaces: 2007
In 2007 I received an e-mail from John Englehardt of Wisconsin. John had found a Maverick body in Wisconsin, and had contacted another of our fiber-friends – Jeri Clark for help. Jeri is no ordinary car person. John’s friend Jeri is one of our fiber-gang, and built many of the original Grantham Stardust bodies in 1953. Way to go Jeri!
Small world – isn’t it! (You’ll learn more about Jeri Clark in the near future. Back to our story.)
It turns out that the owner of the Maverick was Randy Olsen and he had purchased it about 10 years prior. He had come to the realization that it was time to find another owner for it, and through John’s help and Randy’s enthusiasm for finding a new owner, we quickly struck a deal and Rick D’Louhy and I planned our next trip – when the snow melted and a path would lead us to the gleaming Maverick in southern Wisconsin.
Randy Olsen and the Maverick: 2008-2009
We arrived in Wisconsin in June, 2009 and to our great pleasure the Maverick had been in dry storage for over a decade in a barn. I love barn finds! We had Randy, Rick D’Louhy, and myself to get the body from the barn to the trailer – “piece of cake” – I thought to myself.
Damn! Maverick bodies are heavy!
It’s 5+ years from that day and I still remember what a bear it was for 3 strong, virile, and in great shape “car guys” to lift that body *wink* We estimate it was 300 pounds or more – Maybe 400 pounds. All I know is that I was 2 inches shorter after I lifted that body and secured it to the trailer for transport.
The Big Orange Moose: 2009
Anyway…after loading the Maverick it was late in the day and we were heading home from Wisconsin and then we spied it – it was like a mirage on the horizon – it was a sign that we had to stop – it was something so large that we couldn’t tell what it was but it was calling us to pull off the road. It was a BIG…..ORANGE…..MOOSE!
“Orange” like our Maverick.
The Big Orange Moose was a bar and restaurant in a hotel, so Rick and I took some photos and called it a night. And we now had the name for our car. We headed for home the next day.
A Proper Chassis Secured: 2009-2010
Late in 2009 we found the matching car to our dreams – a car that would complete the Maverick. A 1953 Cadillac Series 62 in which the restoration had been started but stopped before completed. The mechanicals were all done and many of the parts were off the car and could be easily sold – it was nearly a rust free car that was 50+ years old. The perfect car – exactly the chassis and drivetrain our Maverick was originally built on.
Except….it was in Washington state. We’re in Florida. That’s a long way away. Getting the Cadillac from Washington to Florida cost more than the car itself, but it was worth it. I knew that many of the parts could be sold reducing our overall cost on this purchase significantly.
So in early 2010, the Cadillac arrived – and it came with some “drama” too – an “arrival” night I’ll never forget.
The Cadillac arrived and was in great shape just as we thought. But not in running shape. The guys who shepherded the car from Washington to Florida knew how to unload a massively heavy non-running car – or so they told me. Let’s see if I can tell this part of the story right.
First: To pull the car off the trailer they had unloaded one car directly behind it and turned it into a “reverse tow vehicle.” This means that they attached a rope to the Cadillac and were going to pull it gently out of the trailer. You can see the rope attached to the Cadillac in the photos below.
Second: To stop the car on the ramps, they set down a 4×4 wood block – it seemed appropriate. The ramp was not steep and they “knew” it would stop the car from going down the ramps.
Now…What Really Happened: They gave the car a tug, and it lurched and moved onto the ramps. And this is where the small slope seen in the photos below vividly changes in my memory to the ski slope seen on ABC’s Wide World of Sports. The Cadillac reached an impressive speed and took down that ramp and rolled over the 4×4 as if it were a piece of paper.
The guy in the car – the tow vehicle – seeing that the Cadillac was now heading right for him hit the gas and tried to get out of the way. Of course he forgot that the rope was still attached and the Cadillac popped off the ramp and headed right for him – gaining speed. I swear this seems like a Ray Stevens song to me in the making – check out this Ray Stevens song – The Mississippi Squirrel Revival – to know how I felt that evening.
No one was in the driver’s seat of the Cadillac so why it didn’t veer off in some direction and crash into a mailbox, cars in the driveway, etc I’ll never know. The driver of the tow vehicle – now a ¼ block away and considering his next move with the Cadillac in close pursuit – hit the brakes.
The Cadillac sped by him and finally came to a halt only when it yanked the front end of the tow vehicle around nearly 180 degrees. By the way….I guess I’ll never know who owned the car that served as the tow vehicle but thank you “anonymous owner” for the great service of your car to these true professionals.
And that, my friends, is how the do it in the “big leagues.” The fact that it was at night made this adventure even more “adventureous.”
The Cadillac Body Comes Off: Late 2010
I’m blessed with great friends who help – with pizza, pay, and beer of course – in the many and sundry adventures we have. In this case, our next adventure with the Maverick/Cadillac was spearheaded by Scott Miller and Tim Masters.
I had tasked Scott with taking the ’53 Cadillac apart so we could sell parts and get the body off the chassis. Scott did everything and more – magnificently. And that meant we had to figure out how to get the body off with the tools I had at the time in my carport. Enter Tim Masters.
I had found a new owner for the body and now we had to figure out how to remove it. I sent out a call to all my fiber-friends across Tampa (we have a fiberglass horn on the top of our house that sends the signal – it’s kind of like the Bat Signal and serves the same purpose) With the horn sounded, our fiber-team assembled that evening.
And then Tim hit on an idea – let’s lift the body up and move it backwards. Then, rest the floor of the body on the rear wheels of the Cadillac chassis. Once the body/floor is on the rear wheels, we can push the chassis backwards and it will both roll the body backwards toward the trailer and….move the chassis even more rearward.
Tim’s a genius and it worked like a charm. Check out the photos below.
The Maverick Meets Its Chassis: Early 2011
Ben Emerson led the charge on this part of the story.
Ben worked with me for several years as a fabricator – particularly the chassis work on our 1937 Gougeon Streamliner. On this day I asked him if he could round up some of his friends so we could lift the massively heavy Maverick body onto its chassis (I remembered how heavy it was from several years before).
Ben grabbed two of his friends, and the four of us did it – although I’m sure they did most of the work. The proof I was helping – the lack of photos placing the body on the chassis below meant I was busy at that very time. Sometimes, it’s hard getting all the right photos – I can be a “player-coach” too 🙂
The Maverick Goes to Iowa: Summer of 2013
In 2013, Rick D’Louhy and I were off to the Milwaukee Masterpiece, but in the previous year we had been busy talking to Tom Chandler. After finishing the magnificent restoration of his 1952 Glasspar G2 (click here for more information about this car) Tom was interested in restoring another example of a 1950s handcrafted car. The three of us talked for awhile (Rick, Tom, and myself) and decided to advance our restoration plans on the Maverick and partner on this very special car.
In the summer of 2013 we had our chance to head north – to the Milwaukee Masterpiece Concours d’Elegance – and we took the Maverick in tow. We would drop off the Maverick at Tom’s house in Iowa on the way to the Masterpiece in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Restoration Begins: 2013+
Late in 2013 Tom started digging into the restoration of the Maverick, and with the help of our design team headed by Raffi Minasian and Dan Palatnik we now have a clear vision as to what we want our car to look like when complete (more about our design plans for this car in a future story here).
Tom and friends have a lot of work to do, but you can see restoration has already begun in the photos below.
While the story has been great fun to share, the most important part is about the community of folks that make up our group – the Forgotten Fiberglass Aficionados.
This group is all of YOU – we each have adventures in finding, researching, designing, and restoring our great handcrafted cars of years gone by. Each of you have your own stories and I encourage you to write them up and send them in – with photos as well – so we can share your adventures with the world here at Forgotten Fiberglass.
Oh….and one last thing. Rick and I recently acquired a second Maverick. Did I tell you it may need a chassis too?
Hope you enjoyed the story, and until next time…
Glass on gang…