Like most wives, Tracy started questioning why her husband, Harold, had so many project cars lying around the house. Like most husbands, Harold resorted to the oldest trick in the book by offering to build Tracy a project car of her own. The plan worked beautifully, and the end product is a 1949 Cadillac Series 62 convertible that rides low and rocks a 975hp supercharged LSX. Just like it somehow looks traditional and contemporary at the same time, the Caddy hides its modern luxuries behind a mirage of vintage charm.
Right from the get-go, the direction of Tracy’s Cadillac build deviated from most project cars that husbands supposedly build for their wives. Husbands typically build whatever they want, however they want, then claim that their wives actually own the car. Tracy wasn’t having any of that, and played a very active role throughout the entire build process. After years and years of dutifully accompanying Harold at shows and on countless cruises, she wanted to enjoy the hobby on her own terms this time around.
All it took was one rather uncomfortable road trip to seal the deal. “We did the Goodguys Road Tour with the top down in Harold’s 1933 Ford roadster a few years ago. Half the time we were freezing, and half the time we were sweating,” Tracy recalls. “I told Harold that if we did the tour again, we were going to do it in comfort. My first car was a 1970 Mach 1 Mustang, so I’ve always liked fast cars. I saw a white Cadillac convertible with a blue top at a show years several back, and I fell in love with it. When I suggested building a more comfortable car for the Road Tour, Harold was all over it.”
After researching vintage Cadillacs online, Tracy decided that a 1949 Series 62 had to be in her future. “I really liked the lines, the curves, and the chrome on the 1949 body style. I was adamant about building a car with white paint, a blue top, wire wheels, and whitewalls,” she recalls. Eventually, Harold and Tracy found a suitable restoration candidate. It was black with a worn-out top and ragged interior, but otherwise the car was in great shape. Fortunately for Tracy, her husband just happened to own Customs and Hot Rods of Andice (CHRA), the same shop responsible for Billy Thomas’ Ridler-winning 1939 Olds.
Needless to say, the Caddy was in very good hands. Tracy, Harold, and the CHRA crew immediately collaborated to set a direction for the build. “We needed to give the car some attitude, so we talked Tracy into slamming it, putting it on 18-inch Dayton wheels, and stretching the wheelbase to put the front wheels in the right location after lowering it. I wouldn’t budge on those three things,” Michael Kaiser of CHRA recounts. “Tracy gave us a lot of flexibility with the build, and Harold let us go nuts with the fit and finish. The goal was to build a car that looked original, but with coach-built quality.”
Smart shopping meant that the Caddy required only minimal rust repair before diving into the fun stuff. “It was already a gorgeous car that only needed one new outer rocker, and patch repairs on the floor and tail panel. I don’t mind cutting a car up under the right circumstances, but this car looks so good straight from the factory that we just wanted to enhance what’s already there, as if GM made a coach-built car back in 1949,” Kaiser explains.
The body modifications aren’t dramatic, but they most certainly clean up the Caddy’s overall appearance. “To sharpen and tighten up the lines, we reshaped the rear fenders to create a crisp parting line. The front and rear bumpers have been narrowed and pulled closer to the car,” Kaiser says. “We also reshaped the bumperettes and the license plate recess. Tracy didn’t like how the exhaust hung down, so we built a custom aluminum belly pan and routed the tailpipes through the bumper.”
Beneath the Caddy’s streamlined yet traditional skin is an engine combo, driveline, and chassis that’s strays dramatically from convention. Power comes from a 454ci Don Hardy Race Cars supercharged LSX that kicks out 975 hp. The combo utilizes a Chevrolet Performance block, crank, and rods matched with custom DHRC forged pistons and a custom hydraulic roller cam. A Magnuson 2300 blower squeezes air through Dart LS3 cylinder heads, and exhaust exits through custom CHRA–built 321 stainless steel headers and dual 3-inch Borla mufflers. The big, bad LSX sends its 913 lb-ft of torque back to a Bowler 4L80E automatic and a Strange 9-inch rearend.
All that power combined with nearly 4,900 pounds of mass can be quite a handful to harness, so CHRA turned to the Roadster Shop for a custom chassis. It boasts beefy A-arms up front, a four-link out back, and a pair of sway bars to keep the big Caddy flat in corners. RideTech ShockWave air springs and shocks allow adjusting the ride height at will while keeping the ride quality comfy. Bringing it all to a halt on demand are six-piston Wilwood brakes clamping down on 14-inch rotors.
Somewhat surprisingly, none of the modern hardware is at odds with the Caddy’s old-school vibe. “We made a lot of changes to make the car look more period correct. Greening Auto CNC machined a set of custom valve covers that copy the shape of the originals and also hide the coil packs,” Kaiser explains. “The raised ribs and Cadillac script are a perfect match to the original valve covers. The carbon-fiber jackshaft on the blower really bugged us because it clashed with the era the car is from. Since simply painting the shaft would still show the texture of the carbon fiber, we came up with the idea of building a blower cover. It’s press-formed from 0.063-inch aluminum to mimic the waffle pattern of the blower. We finished the motor off with a custom CNC air inlet.”
Since a stock engine compartment isn’t worthy of an LSX this pretty, CHRA surrounded it in an equally stunning cocoon. Believe it or not, the cool recesses stamped into the radiator cover look very similar to stock. CHRA drew inspiration from the factory design, smoothed it out a bit, and created the cleaner, better-fitting piece. “We carried the stamped, recessed look over into the inner fenders and firewall. The idea was to keep a cohesive theme throughout the engine compartment to make it look like it could have been built that way from the factory.”
Granted there are many talented hot rod shops that can stuff a big motor into a Caddy and drop it down on airbags, where CHRA’s creations stand out are their painstaking fit, finish, and attention to detail. “Since we were building this Cadillac and the Ridler car at the same time, it was hard to ‘turn it off’ sometimes,” Kaiser admits. “We machined a custom motorized door for the center of the dash that flips down to hide the backup camera display, A/C controls, stereo head unit, and seat heater switches. The A/C bezels, power window switches, and trim rings are also custom-machined one-offs. The side glass frame has been cut to fit better, and the steering column and underdash covers are custom as well. We even custom-machined the trans dipstick to look more period correct.”
Not surprisingly, achieving monumental levels of fit and finish requires a monumental effort. “To get the car to the level it’s at now, we had to mess with every single panel and piece of trim. It goes from an elegant car to ‘Oh my goodness, look at that,’” Kaiser remarks. “Our fabrication team did a great job on the metalwork, Jay Schluter did a great job on the custom interior work, and our body shop brought the car home. It was a great team effort all around.”
Immediately after finishing the car, Harold and Tracy drove it from Colorado to Kentucky on the Goodguys Road Tour. Factoring in the drive to and from the event from their home in Texas, the trip tallied over 3,000 miles. Just as Tracy had hoped for, the car ran without a hitch, and just as importantly, she cruised in comfort. “The car has so much power that you can do whatever you want in traffic. It’s a lot of fun, and I love driving it,” Tracy gushes.
Ultimately, there’s a good chance that those too smart or too proud to fall for the oldest trick in the book don’t have 975 hp worth of slammed, stretched, and supercharged 1949 Cadillac sitting in the driveway. So who’s the sucker now?