- The Washington Times - Friday, March 2, 2001

Bryce Frey's first car, a used 1941 Cadillac convertible coupe, served him well. Nevertheless, he traded it in on a postwar Cadillac coupe. That vehicle in turn became the down payment for an early 1950s Cadillac.
Eventually, realizing he most enjoyed driving his 1941 model, he commenced a search to replace his first Cadillac.
The year was 1961, and 1941 model cars were not antiques merely very used cars.
Young Mr. Frey outdid himself in his search.
He not only found a 1941 Cadillac convertible, but a convertible sedan one of only 400 such models manufactured. The shabby car was located on the back of a car lot in Culver City, Calif., with 75,000 miles recorded on the odometer.
"It was very run-down," Mr. Frey remembers. Still, it was a 1941 and a rare model to boot. He bought the Cadillac for $300 in January 1961. Twenty years earlier it was sold new at a Los Angeles Cadillac dealership, with a base price of $1,965.
Mr. Frey, now a General Services Administration manager, checked the numbers of his Cadillac to find it had been built in November 1940 and of the 400 it was No. 102.
Mr. Frey was soon driving his black beauty around Southern California. "The top was so rotten," Mr. Frey explains, "that the seams popped when I put it down."
Thereafter, because he was young and lived in the land of endless sunshine, he drove another year or so with no top at all.
By 1965 the 1941 vehicle was ailing mechanically. Mr. Frey obtained a 1940 Cadillac limousine, which came in handy when he moved to the East Coast later that year.
He attached the two ancient Cadillacs with a tow bar and set off for the nation's capital. "I was young and idiotic," reflects Mr. Frey from a distance of 36 years.
Antique Cadillac towing antique Cadillac was quite an adventure, with the most exciting part being the drive through a Texas snowstorm.
Once Mr. Frey moved into his new home, he settled his maturing 1941 Cadillac convertible sedan behind the garage under a tarp for the next quarter-century.
While the 4,230-pound Cadillac languished in the back yard, Mr. Frey slowly collected parts and pieces for the inevitable restoration. Additionally, he began gathering bolt-on speed equipment for the 346-cubic-inch flathead V-8 engine.
Early day hot rodders, who didn't believe the stock 150 horsepower was enough, favored Edmunds aluminum dual carburetor intake manifolds and dual exhaust systems. Mr. Frey found such parts while the getting was good.
Fifty years after the Cadillac was built and 30 years after Mr. Frey bought it, he decided to give the rare car a second life.
Although the parts and pieces he collected were helpful, even more were needed, including a front clip in far better condition than the original.
W.W. Motorcars in Broadway, Va., tackled the mechanical restoration as well as the cosmetic trim and painting.
The Cadillac was black when Mr. Frey purchased it. However, as the car was stripped to bare bones, the exposed numbers indicated it had left the factory wearing a coat of Berkeley gray with a maroon and gray leather interior accented by maroon carpeting and a tan top.
If that color combination was good in 1941, Mr. Frey decided it was good enough for 1991. Wide white-sidewall 7.00x15-inch tires on red wheels highlighted the exterior 50 years ago. Mr. Frey now runs 8.20x15-inch tires on the 126-inch wheelbase to enhance the already cushy ride.
The upholstery and top, with a small glass rear window, was completed by Jenkins Restoration in North Wilkesboro, N.C.
After 3 and 1/2 years of effort, one of the creme de la creme of 1941 Cadillacs was brought back to life.
The drivetrain was rebuilt and seven quarts of fresh oil was added. The eighth quart wasn't necessary because there is no oil filter.
It took 25 quarts of coolant to keep the temperature under control and the gasoline tank swallowed 20 gallons of fuel. The battery is a 6-volt positive ground. The three-speed manual transmission remains smooth and steady.
The well-appointed interior features a pair of courtesy lights to illuminate the rear seat. In the rear of the front seat is a cigarette light and ashtray.
In the center of the wood-grained dashboard is a seven push-button radio above the chrome bedecked speaker. The antenna is vacuum operated.
The 100 mph speedometer is flanked by temperature, battery, gasoline and oil gauges.
The convertible top is supported by three bows, in addition to the windshield header, and is raised and lowered manually on chrome-plated hinges.
The Cadillac was reconstructed in far better condition than when he bought it. Mr. Frey finds the powerful V-8 engine runs strong even though the fuel economy remains constant between 11 and 12 mpg. "No matter what you do," Mr. Frey said, "the mileage never fluctuates."
Since the completion of restoration Mr. Frey has driven his rare Cadillac to antique-auto events in Albany, N.Y., Long Island, N.Y., Warwick, R.I., and he intends to drive it to Maine in September for a tour. On each trip the spare tire, stored horizontally under a shelf in the trunk, has remained there.
If Mr. Frey ever does have a flat tire, hopefully it will occur on one of the front tires. Then he won't have to contend with the rear fender skirts emblazoned with the Cadillac wreath and crest emblem.
As for the 1941 Cadillac convertible sedan with the two-piece windshield he bought so many years ago, Mr. Frey said, "I never get tired of looking out over the long hood."
That's a view even the priciest aerodynamic new cars can't deliver.


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