There are two factors which led to John Rogers cruising around in an old Cadillac. The first reason is his grandchildren. John started with a T-bucket in 1966 and worked his way through several decades of street rods, most of them being ’32, ’34 Fords and ’37 Chevys.
Ultimately he seemed to find his way into two-seater cars, which became a problem as the grandchildren arrived. “I had to keep a list on my iPhone of which kids had rides and who was next,” John says. “Every time I gave one of them a ride, I left either the granddaughter or grandson sitting on the porch all upset.” Clearly, John was in need of a few extra seats.
The second reason for the Cadillac is the Power Tour of 2014 that stopped at Coker Tire in Chattanooga. John and his buddies decided that road-tripping with the crowd looked like a fun way to spend a week, but now that they were older, they should check into something with more room and a big enough back seat for napping along the way.
John is a customer of a lady in town who makes good old southern cakes and her son wheels and deals in old cars. One day while picking up a cake he was surprised to find a 1950 Cadillac four-door sitting under her carport. It was air bagged and slammed on the ground. The more he looked at it, the more he fell in love with the low roofline. “It looked like the top was chopped,” he says. “They raised the roof height in 1954 after customers complained of bumping their heads, but it looked chopped to me and I really liked it.” He says he ordered a second cake to take another look at the car and decided it was too far gone to make an offer on it.
Knowing what year he wanted, he went on the hunt for a clean four-doored sedan. He finally found this Series 62 in Hemmings Motor News and had it shipped to his home in Chattanooga from San Diego. He unloaded the car off the carrier and drove it the six miles home. The 331 c.i. V8 ran good and he fiddled with it for a few weeks before deciding to take it to Larry at Larry Griffey’s Hot Rods and Restorations in Knoxville, Tennessee. “In my excitement I had a local body shop guy pull the car apart, thinking I’d get a head start on the project,” says John. “But then I found out Larry wouldn’t be able to get to it until after the 2014 Power Tour, and I realized I probably should have just left it intact and drove it on the tour and let it break down on me and had fun.”
Once in Larry’s care, he and his long-time right-hand man Kevin Riffey got to work, lowering the chassis by massaging a Fatman air ride front clip and adding a John’s Industries 9-inch Ford rear with AccuAir. “My name is John, and I figured that a John’s rear end would be a good fit,” he says. A set of GM’s big rotors and disc brakes were added with a Hydratech booster that pulls off the power steering system and does a great job of bringing the big Caddy to a halt.
A good stance is nothing without the right wheels and tires, and after looking at them all, John called upon Rex at The Wheelsmith for help. His idea was a billet Sombrero design, and after a few revisions in the 3D modeling program, John had a beautiful set of 17-inch wheels with BF Goodrich rubber that does the Cadillac justice.
In keeping things Cadillac, an Escalade donated its iron-blocked LQ9. It was taken to Daffron Race Innovations where Sam built it with a set of GM LSA supercharged heads, a C3 intake, and a FAST throttle body. “He builds race engines and autocross engines,” says John. “I had to keep reminding him that I just wanted a ‘street rodder’ engine and nothing too crazy like the turbo he was suggesting. In the end, he told me he kept it mild and estimated horsepower to be around 575-580 but he promised it would idle forever in traffic and get about 22 mpg on the highway.” It’s backed with a 4L65E trans and uses Sanderson headers to feed a 2.5-inch Flowmaster exhaust that exits neatly in front of the rear wheel.
Exterior-wise the Cadillac was left stock, though Larry and Kevin did shave the flying lady hood ornament after peaking and leading the two-piece hood together for a smooth look. They also smoothed off the firewall and built the louvered inner fender aprons and smooth pans to cover the cross-flow radiator to keep her cool.
Custom ball-milled door sills where water jetted out of aluminum and Dan’s Polishing & Chrome in Adamsville, TN helped John realize just how much chrome an old Cadillac actually has. “The chrome parts for Dan to plate just kept coming,” says John. “There’s more than you realize.” John also added a four-camera monitoring system, with two cameras tucked into the rear bumper that points forward down the sides.
“I can drive all day long,” says John. “But backing into a parking space between two white lines takes me about three tries. The camera system solved that. It’s the handiest thing on the car. I can see everything and back up once.” The monitor is flushed into the headliner above the rearview mirror. All exterior lighting was upgraded to high-intensity LEDs.
The color was a no-brainer for John. He’s painted all of his cars red except one, and even though it won a bunch of awards, he says he wished he’d painted it red, too. John and Larry selected a Crystal Red from the 2015 Cadillac color pallet and toned it down just a little. It was paired with a silver/champagne top after Larry and the crew tightened up all of the body and door gaps.
For the interior, John simply told Steve Holcomb at Pro Auto Custom Interiors in Knoxville that he wanted something “street rod, Cadillac, and elegant.” When the sewing machines stopped, Steve had knocked it out of the park with tan leather, vintage-style cloth inserts, and a set of seats from a CTS with three-point seat belts for the grandkids.
Dennis of Quality Restorations cut the factory 18-inch steering wheel down to a more manageable 16-inch diameter and adapted the center to fit the Ididit steering column. Classic Instruments updated the factory gauge cluster to modern specs and LED lighting. A new Vintage Air unit went in with a set of Cadillac knobs for the controls and the radio was shaved from the dash. A secondary rear A/C unit was also added, with intakes in the rear package tray so cool air now comes out below the seats. With the second set of seat belts in the rear, John now has plenty of room for all of his grandchildren to ride, and enough power and reliability under the hood to take his buddies on road trips. With four doors, big seats and cold AC, there’s room for everyone to ride in John’s shiny red Cadillac. Like the car’s name implies, it’s a “LOTACAD.”