- - Thursday, January 19, 2012

Witnessing the enjoyment that her husband, Jim, derived from taking his vintage Cadillac to various antique car events, Nancy Preston thought she could use some of that enjoyment herself.

That was a couple of years ago and the couple began a leisurely search for an appropriate antique automobile that suited Mrs. Preston. Her car had to be old, but not too old, and it had to be easy to drive, which meant it had to have an automatic transmission with power steering and power brakes. Air conditioning would be nice; but most importantly, it had to have style.

She would know it when she saw it.

Candidates from hither and yon were examined and found lacking until that fateful day a year ago. Mr. Preston found a 1953 Cadillac Coupe de Ville for sale on EBay. Several pictures of the car were posted and he called for his wife to take a look at the striking white-over-blue Cadillac.

One look was all it took. ‘Go for that,’ she said.

He did and the good news was that he was successful. The bad news was that the car was in British Columbia.

He bought the car in June 2005 and it was delivered soon thereafter in a truck so enormous that it shut down neighborhood traffic. ‘It was pretty exciting to see it come off the trailer,’ Mrs. Preston says.

Upon attempting to register the car, Mr. Preston discovered that there were some Customs issues that needed to be sorted out. The car was finally registered in September but by then an entire summer of driving fun had been lost. The outstanding color of the car dictated what the vanity license plate reads - ‘M I BLUE.’

In 1953 Cadillac was in the first year of its second half century and the results were fine looking and performing cars. Besides air conditioning, Mrs. Preston’s 53-years-old Cadillac is equipped with:

• windows

• steering

• antenna

• brakes

• seats

While all the aforementioned power equipment makes driving the big car effortless, the signal-seeking AM radio makes driving a pleasant experience. Sitting atop the padded dashboard an autronic eye awaits nightfall when it can detect through the one-piece panoramic wraparound windshield the lights of oncoming cars and automatically dim the Cadillac’s lights.

The two-door hardtop convertible design looks great but Cadillac designers acknowledged the difficulty of access to the back seat when then gave the rear-seat passenger assistance. The act of pushing the back of the right front seat forward automatically moves the cushion of the front seat forward in a swiveling motion to provide more space for passengers entering the back seat.

When the Cadillac left the factory it was a hair less than 18 feet long. That was before the Continental kit was added to the rear of the car.

The 4,189-pound Cadillac is supported by four-ply, 8.00x15-inch low-pressure tires mounted on optional chrome-plated heavy-gauge steel wire wheels on a 126-inch wheelbase.

The low-pressure tires with the independent knee-action front suspension contribute to the cushy Cadillac ride.

The 20-gallon gasoline tank is filled through a concealed gasoline cap located beneath the left taillight. The incorporated backup lights were standard equipment in 1953, as were the signal indicators. A pair of spotlights with mirrors on the back aid the driver’s visibility to the rear while the exterior sun visor detracts from visibility.

Providing power to all this luxury is a 331-cubic-inch overhead-valve V-8 engine developing 210 horsepower. A huge oil-bath air cleaner is mounted about the four-barrel carburetor, which, by the way, has an automatic choke.

While sifting through the documents detailing the 15-year-long restoration of the car, Mr. Preston came across an item showing that it had been purchased from a junkyard in Mount Home, Idaho, in 1979. The accompanying photographs show in detail just how far the Cadillac has come after being rescued. Sitting in the two-tone gray nylon cord and broadcloth interior with dark gray harmonizing carpet, the background of the car is difficult to believe.

When new, the Cadillac had a base price of $3,571 and 14,353 models were sold. The air-conditioned versions were easy to spot by the air scoops above the rear fenders.

Most of the air conditioning took place in the trunk of the car and the cool air was blasted up through plastic plumbing into the car through four ceiling vents.

Mrs. Preston, a corporate comptroller for Clyde’s, occasionally will drive her classy Cadillac when visiting one of the restaurants in midday when there is plenty of parking.