1960 Cadillac Sedan De Ville

1960 Cadillac Sedan De Ville

Country crooner Johnny Cash famously sang about a Cadillac created by a worker at the Cadillac factory – One Piece at a Time – as he, errr… took bits of car home over a period of years to create a car… but was it a ’60 or a ’61 or a…? Photography: Matt Woods. Words: Keith Harman.


1960 Cadillac Sedan De Ville

Pretty much ever since cars were invented, owners have sought to take vehicles as offered by the manufacturer and then changed them to suit their own personal tastes. As a car leaves the showroom, it may well be more than adequate for most owners in terms of looks and the way it drives; the new owner having left all the design and performance decisions to a design committee at the factory. But there’s always been that percentage of owners for whom the factory hasn’t gone quite far enough. The demands of this small group, however, were always catered for by a growing cottage industry of talented engineers, whose work has since gone on to create the huge aftermarket industry for customising, coachbuilding and hot rodding that we know today.

In America, the early custom guys had a keen eye for flow and design, creating much more streamlined and uncluttered interpretations of the then-current Detroit mainstream offerings. Unfortunately, in later years, taste often went out the window with change for the sake of change − you’ve all seen the results, either in magazines or at shows. Nevertheless, some guys these days can still take a car and, with a few changes, add extra charisma and appeal without going over the top – indeed, sometimes the changes can be so subtle that only the experts of the marque will notice.

Such is the case with Kevin House’s 1960 flat top in these pictures.


1960 Cadillac Sedan De Ville

Those in the Cadillac world who already know Kev will recognise him better under his moniker ‘Cadillac Kev’, and the fact that he has owned 25-30 different Cadillacs to date will account for that. Kev told us that there’s only been about six months of his life since he was 19 when he didn’t own a Caddy, adding that he’s now owned at least one of every year made, except a 1961.

When this article was first conceived and shot, it was originally meant to showcase Kev’s skills at car restoration and customising via his business KZ Kustomz, based in East Anglia. Unfortunately, some time after our pictures were shot, Kev and his partner and fiancée, Lynda, were involved in a nasty crash when a car pulled out into the path of the late model Cadillac they were travelling in. Kev is not only glad he wasn’t driving a classic at the time, but told us that he thinks that without the airbags in the Caddy it might have been a much worse outcome. Makes you think, doesn’t it? Anyway, the net result of that is Kev has decided his days on the spanners are over professionally, and he has now gradually wound the company down.


1960 Cadillac Sedan De Ville

But back to the ’60: the handsome sedan was bought on a trip to California three years ago, although he nearly didn’t own it at all as he had already committed to buying a ’51 sedan earlier in the trip. Luckily, Lynda stepped in to make up the shortfall in readies, enabling the pair to look forward to the arrival of two cars a few weeks later. The car initially didn’t come with much history, until Kev was replacing the carpets and found an insurance slip with the details of an earlier owner.

Kev was able to trace the name and found it had been in the San Diego area, where he bought the car, and had been with the same guy from 1972 to 2017.

Mechanically, the ’60 remains stock and untouched with its original 390cu in V8 and stock running gear and being a So-Cal car was mostly rust-free. Once home though, Kev did carry out repairs to the lower front fenders, the rear quarters above the fender skirts, and along the rear door bottoms − you know, the usual problem places found on older cars. The brakes were also gone through and rebuilt, and a new master cylinder installed. The aluminium radiator which you might spot in the pics, was in the car when Kev got it, but Kev did add a new twin-pipe exhaust system. Inside the car is all original apart from the carpets, the stock seats in particular being in really nice condition.


1960 Cadillac Sedan De Ville

Above: Kev’s modifications are very subtle ones; the addition of the ’61-style lower fins (or skegs) and the lowering of the tailfins.

Below left: full-size spare takes up most of the boot. Below right: powered trunklid pull-down was quite an innovation for 1960.


Though the ’60 was a sound car for the most part, it wasn’t a ‘minter’, so Kev had few qualms about breaking out the welder and grinder to carry out a few of his own changes – just in case you were worried – and, in the time-honoured fashion of period customising, with one of the goals being to ‘declutter’ the exterior by removing extra pieces of trim which otherwise interrupt the smooth lines of the car, Kev began his mission.


1960 Cadillac Sedan De Ville

To this end, the hood was de-badged and the holes filled (known as ‘nosing’ back in the day) with the long trims on top of the fenders also removed along with the stainless ‘eyebrows’ on the leading edge above the headlamps. The headlamps themselves have been swapped for aftermarket LED units which feature an orange halo effect around each unit, serving as the front-turn signals. The grille itself has been painted black to provide contrast to the ‘bullets’, which remain bright. Moving back along the car, you’ll notice the side trim has been removed and the holes filled, and the rear door handles have been shaved, both creating a longer, sleeker look to the car.

The real story, however, is the treatment Kev has given to the rear fins. We have to admit we didn’t notice straight away, but Kev made the brave move of slicing off both fins with an angle grinder before both shortening them by four inches and also canting them out four inches at a less vertical angle. Sounds like a weird thing to do, but when you look at the profile of the car, it’s hardly noticeable, except it accentuates the ‘fuselage’ look of the rear quarter as it tapers down to the rear light pods looking, as they already do, like the twin afterburners on a mid-20th century jet fighter − a radical, but subtle modification which adds drama to the design, without disturbing its natural flow. Incidentally, those rear lamp pods are one of the few items not original to the car, Kev picking them from the new old stock items while in the US.

Having completed the fabrication work, and to further carry off the illusion, Kev had to take care to modify and replace the stock factory stainless trim on top of the now shortened fins so that it still appeared like it had always been that way. Kev admitted that fabricating the piece where the fin stainless meets the rear window trim was particularly tricky − it doesn’t stop there though. To add balance, Kev added smaller fins – ‘skegs’ as they’re known – to the lower edge of the rear quarter, along the lines of the 1961 Cadillacs, something to really keep the purists guessing at shows!

With the modifications finally completed, the car was fully prepped and given a new glossy black paint job, with the whole process taking just six months.

The car was now worthy of its ‘Cadillac Kings’ club plaque on the rear parcel shelf; after all, Kevin is the president of the UK chapter of the CKs, a club formed in 2005 in Los Angeles, that has grown to be much more than just an owners’ club. If you know, you know…

As mentioned, Kevin has built the car mainly by himself; the car being a stylish exercise in both creativity and restraint, while not losing any of its Cadillac ‘class’, but he also cites ‘Magic Monroe’ as a major help, especially with electrical issues and, of course, partner Lynda.

KZ Kustomz may have closed its doors, but the car is a legacy to the times Kev ran the company, so we wish both him and Lynda luck as they go forward together into their next venture, running a pub in the wilds of rural Suffolk. Sounds good to us!

“THE CAR WAS FULLY PREPPED AND GIVEN A NEW GLOSSY BLACK PAINT JOB, WITH THE WHOLE PROCESS TAKING JUST SIX MONTHS.”

Frameless and pillarless doors. Immaculate rear seat in original fabric. Power everything! 1960 dash essentially carried over much of 1959. Top: flat-top roof styling is distinctive. Above: 390cu in V8 engine. Bottom left: air con compressor.

“KEV TOLD US THAT THERE’S ONLY BEEN ABOUT SIX MONTHS OF HIS LIFE SINCE HE WAS 19 WHEN HE DIDN’T OWN A CADDY, ADDING THAT HE’S NOW OWNED AT LEAST ONE OF EVERY YEAR MADE, EXCEPT A 1961.”

Kevin House and fiancée, Lyn. Updated headlights..

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