Across America in dusty garages and overgrown fields are plenty of long lost builds that were forgotten and left behind. Projects that had grand aspirations but were at some point lost due to budgets, time restraints, life circumstances, deals gone bad, or just simply a loss of motivation. They become relics and carcasses of dreams gone by but sometimes the fortunate few get a second chance at life, instead of slowly disintegrating into their graves. The 1953 Cadillac Coupe Deville that is laid out across your screen was one of those fortunate ones after Leonard Erdman rescued it to breathe new life into a once forgotten build.
Photos: Joshua “Lunchbox” Coleman | Words: Josh Wilson
Leonard came to own this orphan by way of a good friend of his who had started the build on the ’53 Coupe but lost interest in completing the build himself. After two years of his friend whispering sweet nothings about the abandoned Cadillac, Leonard caved with a price that was just too good to pass up. Initially, he planned to just get the car back into one piece and move it own to a new home but soon after Leonard started spinning wrenches on this big beauty, a bound began to form and his plans for a quick flip slowly faded away.
In the past three years, Leonard has molded his ’53 Coupe into a serious big-bodied lead-sled by way of some serious modifications made possible by the previous owner and the finishing touches being put on the chassis by Leonard himself. From the start, he was confronted with a massive jigsaw puzzle but Leonard was up to the challenge since he has been tinkering with cars and motorcycles from early on and had previously built a ’28 Ford 5 Window and ’76 Datsun 620 from the ground up. Leonard describes this build as “A fun challenge that I was more than happy to take on.”
Even though this Coupe sports its original factory curves, they have been delicately coated with Eastwood’s Hot Rod Black and Dupont’s GM Flame Red on the roof to help bring this big beauty to life. Under the exterior skin lays a wide array of calculated modifications that transform a once dated platform, to a serious cruiser. Up front is a Camaro sub-frame with disc brakes, full Ridetech strong arm setup and a 3/8-inch steel plate protecting the oil pan of the massive 472 Cadillac V-8. Bringing up the rear is a Ridetech 4-link set and all of this is tied up with a neat little bow by way of a full air-suspension featuring Shockwave bags and Ridetech compressors and controls. This perfect stance plants the Cad flat to Mother Earth and ensures she’s looking sexy whether parked or rolling down the pavement.
Once inside the broad pillars and past the exterior beauty of this simple and clean cruiser, you’re find a full set of Pontiac Grand Prix seats and a custom painted dash, ’68 Caprice steering column and an original steering wheel that has been painted and modified to pair up to the Caprice column. Under the dash is a newly installed vintage heater and custom-built center console.
Now, to the untrained eye, some would think that this ’53 Cadillac is just a slightly face-lifted classic Leonard has gone to great lengths to make this a ride that he can enjoy on the open road in comfort. Making this build the ultimate road warrior and cruiser was the goal. He’s already taking the Cad on numerous road trips with many more planned for the future because “this vehicle was built to drive and enjoy.” When all is said and done, isn’t that what all builds should be about?
Owner: Leonard Erdman
Vehicle: 1953 Cadillac Coupe Deville
Hometown: Albuquerque, NM
15-inch powdercoated steel wheels
1959 Dodge Lancer hub caps
4-inch whitewall radials
Camaro Subframe with Disc brakes
Ridetech Strong Arms & Shockwaves
3/8-inch steel plate under oil pan
Ridetech compressors and management
Performed By: Previous owner and Leonard
Custom-built front radiator support
Front aprons trimmed to allow for lower clearance
New vintage heater
Painless wiring Harness
Painted Eastwood hot rod black with Dupont GM Flame Red on top
Roof bows and door trim panels all painted to match
Performed By: Owner
Front seats out of a Pontiac Grand Prix, original rear seat and armrests
Custom painted original dash
1968 Caprice steering column with tilt, original steering wheel painted and modified to fit
Custom built center console
Performed By: Ron’s Trim Shop & Owner
Auto Sound headunit and hidden speakers
GM Turbo 400 trans
GM 10-bolt rear
Dual exhaust with turbo mufflers
Original air cleaner modified to fit
Rebuilt power steering and power Brakes
Custom made front fan mounts
Oil pan and pick up tube shorted for clearance
Performed By: Jim S. & Owner
Special Thanks From Owner:
“I’d like to give a huge thank you to my buddy Jim S. for creating a work of art and helping talk me into taking over the build. I didn’t think it was something that I was going to keep around for long and now three years later I’m still cruising it everywhere I can.”