I offer this letter as a follow up to my original letter that Julie published on the Jim Reeves Way web site re Jim Reeves' Cadillac.
I have received many phone calls from fans whom I know personally who are very pleased to see the photos of Jim Reeves' car. I am also pleased to report that I received a very favorable response from the leaders of the city of Carthage regarding the photographs and my letter.
Apparently people are questioning certain aspects re the authenticity of the car as to color and other issues. I will try to clarify this.
Matching the original color of the car was very difficult. With all of the various governmental regulations, paint is quite a bit different to what it was in 1960. I am pleased to report that the color matched so well that we did not repaint the inside door jambs on either door. The other amazing thing pertains to painting the inside of the trunk lid. The original cardboard instructions on how to operate the jack and other issues were attached to the underside of the trunk lid. The trunk liner itself was in bad condition. I am pleased to report that we did not have to paint the inside of the trunk or remove the original instruction cards as mentioned above. The paint job that was put on the car matches the inside door jambs and inside trunk lid which were left original. This was an issue that I was able to use when the car was judged at the Concours for originality. As it pertains to color match, you cannot tell which is the new and which is the old.
I will tell one final story about the difficulty of making this a 100 point car and I can assure you that in finding the piece that I am about to describe, it is not original to the car and almost impossible to find. On the next to the last Concours, the car received 100 points. I always knew the car had a serious flaw concerning the right hand side lower rocker molding which is made out of polished stainless steel. The car is extremely vulnerable on the right hand side. If you get close to a curb, you destroy the hubcaps (finding four hubcaps for that car almost proved to be another impossibility which I won't go into) and the lower right hand rocker molding.
For some reason at the next to last major show in California I got very lucky. The judges spent about 30 minutes judging the car and then at the end, they came back and spent at least 15 minutes more. This indicates that there is a tie. You know when they come back that you are being considered for first place. They are looking for a flaw that will either eliminate you, or they find a flaw on the other car, which will eliminate that car. We had put a considerable amount of effort in restoring the right hand rocker molding but it had been damaged so badly that it just couldn't be brought all the way back. I believe that the sun was causing such a glare on the car at the time they judged it, they just didn't see it!
I had been looking for this rocker molding for about two years. I followed dead end after dead end. One week prior to the last Concours, I received a phone call from a gentleman whom I had contacted three months before. He suddenly remembered to whom he had sold a brand new old stock right hand rocker molding. It was a fellow member of the Cadillac LaSalle Owners Club. Here's where the story gets interesting. I contacted the man he sold it to and to make a long story short, one phone call led to another and it had been sold four more times.
I finally made contact with a retired gentleman in Palm Beach, FL, who is a well known Cadillac collector. He had sold his 1960 Eldorado convertible and advised he thought he still had the part in a warehouse he owned. The original cost to replace this part was about $129. The man found the part and gave me a special price on it. The special price was $2,000. As previously mentioned, we were going into the last Concours of the year and I wanted this part on the car so I could get judged 100 points again.
I had the part air freighted to my restorer. I was there when we took the part out of the original packing crate. After we got the craft paper off, we discovered that although it was brand new, it was heavily scratched from having been in the original packing material and going through probably six or seven shipments to its various new owners. I was now down to about two days prior to the last Concours so we imposed upon a well known chrome and stainless detailer in Port Chicago, CA, to open up his shop after hours and spend 16 hours polishing all the scratches out of this brand new lower right hand stainless steel rocker molding, and mounting it on the car. After paying the man $900 for polishing this molding, we left for Murphys, CA that morning to our last Concours where once again, we took first place and were judged 100 points on the car.
One other issue that I didn't cover had to do with re-chroming all of the chrome on the car. Some of the items are what is called flash chromed over stainless, while some other items are fully chromed. Due to all of the environmental restrictions to do with the toxins in the re-chroming process, we found there is only one chrome plater in all of Northern California who could be trusted to do this project. As fate would have it, he wasn't close by and the parts had to be crated and shipped to him. Something as basic as the inside door handles could have been purchased as replacements from an outfit in Nebraska. The reason they were available as replacement handles had to do with the fact that this part was interchangeable on a number of Cadillac model years as well as other General Motors cars. No-one would have ever known the difference and it would have been cheaper to buy the replacements than to re-chrome the originals. I believe you get my drift ... I re-chromed the originals.
No, the right hand rocker molding on Jim Reeves' Cadillac, unfortunately is not original to the car. The tires are replacements, along with the battery and interior upholstery material, although the springs, frame, and other integral seat parts are original. But I assure you that 98% of that car was able to be preserved.
I am often asked didn't I have a lot of fun showing the great Jim Reeves' Cadillac. My wife will join me in echoing this as she was with me during the entire process. As illustrated to you, the restoration of Jim's car was a work in progress all of last year right down to the last Concours. To go through what we went through, redefines the word stress. You arrive at the Concours hours before the sun comes up then spend hours detailing it. You look the field over and you know there are at least a half a dozen cars that are better than yours. You get set in your mind that you'll be happy with third place and you anguish that you'll even win that. The Cadillac judges are pros. Most people in restoring a car like this will end up painting all of the under side of the hood in one black color. This is wrong. Certain parts of the underpart of the hood are painted in satin black and certain parts are painted in semi-gloss black. The oil filler cap has to be a certain color and most replacement caps are painted a different color. The list goes on and on of what these judges look for. Unless you are a trained judge, or a professional Cadillac restorer, the average person wouldn't know what to look for. One wrong item will cost you anywhere from a half point to a full point or more from a good Cadillac judge. No, we didn't have any fun. I never relaxed until the car was safely back home and breathed a sigh of relief that it was all over.
As tired and stressed out as you are, I have to admit there is a tremendous feeling of euphoria when you drive up the ramp to the sound of applause and they present you with a first place trophy. When you win first place, they always give you an opportunity to say something to the crowd. Believe me, I had a lot of fun telling everybody that this was Gentleman Jim Reeves' car. Then reality returns for it's a long drive home and you hope you will get there without any damage to the car.
I hope this sets the record straight and I congratulate Julie for a great presentation on your web site. Already I am hearing that the fans have really enjoyed seeing Jim's car.