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Custom Project: 1981 Cadillac El Caddy

Custom builds reflect the fertility and creativity that lies within the mind of the creator, and some of those minds are more fertile than others. This vehicle, affectionately known as “El Caddy,” is a great example of creativity, because it combines the luxury of a 1981 Cadillac Coupe De Ville with the versatility of an El Camino. It has deteriorated a bit since its glory days, but there is no reason why it couldn’t be transformed back into a real head-turner. El Caddy is located in Apopka, Florida, and has been listed here on Barn Finds classifieds. The owner is asking $5,000 for this custom Caddy.

The custom started life as a 1981 Cadillac Coupe De Ville 2-Door but was given the custom treatment in around 1983. It must have been a brave individual who would decide to make such major changes to a Cadillac that was a mere 2-years-old, but the custom car world is full of such brave souls. Unlike so many of these customs, this one has been crafted completely in steel. The roof was shortened, the rear window was moved forward, and a bed with functioning tailgate was added. The work looks like it has been completed to a high standard, but the last three decades have seen the vehicle deteriorate a bit. It certainly isn’t beyond salvation, and addressing the few rust issues that are present looks like it could be a surprisingly straightforward task. The rust in the lower body panels is minimal and should be pretty easy to repair. There is also some rust visible around the rear window, but given that this is all original Cadillac steel, fixing this shouldn’t be complicated. Rust has also developed where the roof has been spliced after the “cut-and-shut,” but once again, this doesn’t look like it will be terribly hard to fix. Water has found its way behind the seat, I suspect via the rear window or the roof splice, and with the carpet becoming wet for an extended period, rust has developed in the floor behind the seat. However, this is not bad and could be addressed with patches. The rest of the body, floors, and the structure of El Caddy seem to be in decent condition. I really believe that a person with reasonable welding skills should be able to fix all of the rust in a home workshop.

The El Caddy started life with the 350ci diesel engine under the hood, but during the custom build the vehicle received a 307ci Buick motor as a transplant. This suffered a failure on the way to a show back in 2011, so that was removed, and what we find now is a low-mileage 305ci TBI V8, backed by a 700R4 transmission. The engine doesn’t currently run, but the installation is complete, with the exception of the wiring loom. This will need to be adapted to the existing electrical system, so it will probably require the attention of an auto electrician for the work to be completed successfully. Beyond that, the El Caddy retains its original Hydroboost braking system that is fully functional, and the owner is including a disc-brake rear end from a ’78 Cadillac in the sale.

The interior trim of El Caddy reflects a great deal of the sort of detail that you would find in a Cadillac from the early 1980s, and the vast majority of it looks like it is in quite good condition. The original radio has made way for a CD player, and the door trims have been cut to accommodate aftermarket speakers. Beyond that, the interior trim looks quite good, and I think that a deep clean would have it presenting quite nicely. The only thing that I’m not sure of is the carpet. It isn’t visible in any of the photos, so a replacement might need to be sourced. From a comfort point of view, what you get is lashings of timber, air conditioning, and power windows as standard features. Included in the sale are several tubs of parts, and these comprise all of the pieces that would be required to return the vehicle to its car-show best.

The El Caddy is an interesting proposition because, with the possible exception of the electrical work, the vast majority of the restoration work required to return it to its former glory could be tackled by a competent person in a home workshop. That means that beyond the $5,000 purchase price, the capital outlay could potentially be quite minimal. An inexpensive custom that is capable of turning heads really has to be a tempting proposition, and I would love to see this beauty returned to its best.


  1. Nevadahalfrack Nevadahalfrack Member

    Another attempt to define a Cowboy Cadillac. Nice find, Adam, and it might’ve sold well somewhere that appreciates the idea (El Camino, Ford Durango, etc.) like Australia or NZ where practicality and utility were embraced more readily.
    This Cadillac rendition however is more along the line of “look at me, I’m different!”
    Here’s a better interpretation of unique transportation in extreme IMHO..

    You’d meet no one else that would have one like yours..

    Like 1
  2. Bob S

    Nevada, thanks for posting that, as a former OTR driver, that is bad a$$! As far as the Caddy, I’ve seen a lot worse, the build itself looks decent, but too many other issues.

    Like 3
  3. Jeff

    It kinda looks like a El’Commode.

    Like 3
  4. Maverick

    A couch builder converted a few for funeral flower cars.

    Like 3
  5. Jim in FL

    Flower car seems like the right answer. Black, trim it out to a high grade and it could be mistaken for converted caddy flower car. Would look much better that way than the white paint.

    Like 4
  6. Arby

    El Crappy

  7. Little_Cars

    307 Buick engine?

    So I kinda like this conversion in all metal. I question why the seller wants to keep the factory Cadillac wire wheelcovers in bags instead of putting them on the car for photographs?

    • David Ulrey

      I’m torn. That really says it all.

  8. KevinLee

    Big ugly land yacht, sure, why not turn it into a pickup? After seeing the purple interior, my question is as follows: why does a pimp need a pickup?

    Like 1
  9. Ross

    2 boxes of Cracker Jacks and a Ham sandwich. That’s My final offer. Take it or leave it!

    Like 1
    • KevinLee

      😂 Ross, that made me chuckle

  10. Claudio

    El cadilo
    Asking price for a non running pile
    But it could make a nice cruiser

  11. Little_Cars

    Third engine is in, and only needs a wiring loom to run. And….maybe an upper radiator hose? C’mon! I betcha that mill is sitting on two corks from the MD20/20 the seller’s been swigging.

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