How cool to take a Sunday spin to the ice cream shop in an antique car! That’s what Rick Hudak wanted to do with his new grand daughter when he went looking for an open touring car “to have fun with”. What he ended up with, after an intensive 18 month restoration, was that and more. His 1912 Cadillac this year received two awards, including first place for Participant’s Choice, at the prestigious Stan Hywet 56th Annual Father’s Day Car Show, sponsored by the Ohio Region Car Club of America (ORCCCA). It is the first time the car has been shown in any type of competition.

Participants Award Top Honor

Receiving the Participant’s Choice First Place award, from over 350 cars in 25 categories, was a complete surprise for Hudak, owner of Village Auto Body, a collision repair facility in Richfield, Ohio. While his shop specializes in the repair of damaged late model vehicles, restoring a state of the art (in its day) 1912 automobile posed unusual challenges, considering the use of brass castings, wood and nails in the construction, riveted joints, nickel plated parts, a real lack of service information, and a whole host of other unfamiliar methods of construction and applications of materials.

The Search Begins

Originally not seeking an award winning crowd pleaser, Hudak says, “I was looking for a reasonably well restored Model T Ford touring car. Desiring a color other than black, I was looking for a Model T built prior to the 1914 model year, the first in which all Fords were finished in black, at least until 1926. I found it quite hard to believe the difficulty encountered. Several roadsters were available, but I could not locate a single touring car. I looked for over a year. ”

Finally, he came across an older restoration of a 1913 touring car, finished in dark red. The paint was checked and beyond repair. The windshield had been broken transporting it to the show and it needed a new top. It would need to be stripped and refinished and it had not been running in several years. The man selling it (at the 2010 National Fall AACA Meet in Hershey, PA) had recently inherited it from his father.

Hudak wrote down the engine number and checked with the Model T Club of America to be sure that the car had the correct engine; it had an engine made in 1922. While he was not looking for a concours show winning car, he also did not want to end up with an automobile which would be difficult to sell and which would always need to have irregularities explained. “To say I was disappointed would be an understatement,” he says.

What to Look For

Driveability, reasonable availability of parts, as well as the desirability of the make and model, in the event one should later wish to sell a car are important considerations for making a wise investment, according to Hudak.The purchase price and cost of repairs are also important factors to decision-making.

Modern Quest via YouTube and Google

Hudak went on several antique car websites, and in the wee hours of the morning he came across a YouTube video of a 1905 Cadillac being passed by a 1912 Cadillac. “I must have watched that same video at least a dozen times and, on a whim, did a Google search for a 1912 Cadillac Model 30 touring car for sale,” he says. Amazingly, there was one, an older restoration, in Southern California, which had just been listed earlier that day. The Cadillac Car and Antique Car rides at Cedar Point are scaled down versions of the identical Model 30 body style which, Hudak believes, is what most people envision when they think of an antique car. Also, it is a more drivable automobile (than a Model T) in today’s traffic.

Soul Searching

Now came the time for some very serious soul searching. Hudak, an antique arms collector, had just authored a groundbreaking book, “Harpers Ferry Arsenal and Joseph Perkin: The Classic Arms of the Early Years”, in which he discusses conditions for a purchase: value, rarity, desirability, and price. Taking his own advice, he reasoned that so long as he did not overpay or over invest in a restoration, he should do okay.

Buying “Sight Unseen”

He contacted the seller, received just over 50 photos of the car by email, and settled on a price. Hudak explains, “I had the car transported to Ohio and it appeared just about as I expected it. Some things were better than expected, some worse. Overall I was very satisfied and comfortable with my “sight unseen” purchase.” Although restored in the early 1970’s, the car had been stored in an airplane hanger in Southern California since 1978 without having the cooling system or fuel tank drained, which created all sorts of problems. Eventually the car had to be completely disassembled and restored from the frame up.

Restoration Challenges

The greatest challenge in restoring the car was locating and acquiring parts necessary to complete the restoration. Some had to be fabricated and others were located at the AACA Eastern meet in Hershey, PA. The engine’s valve springs, which came from Germany, were particularly difficult to locate. “I can’t imagine how I could have assembled everything needed without the resources of the Internet,” notes Hudak. “The car had a much later Carter carburetor installed and I was able to purchase a correct one (it, as with many other items on this car, was used in 1912 only) in Hershey in 2011. As luck would have it, another one came up a couple of months later, on eBay, and I purchased it as well.”

Two of the four water jackets were completely plugged with sediment, and he and his lead man, John Krofta, could not even get over 125 lbs. of air pressure through them. To remove the fuel tank the body must come off the frame as it will not fit through the frame below and it is much wider than the opening for the front seat, which is above it.

History Lessons Inform Accurate Details

“Restoring the car was a real learning experience requiring trips to the AACA Museum in Hershey,” says Hudak. “I found the folks at the museum an invaluable aid in allowing me to photograph details of the ’12 Cadillac they have on display. I was also fortunate enough to find and purchase a complete unrestored engine (including the starter) for a supply of spare parts and as a learning aid in working on the engine.”

The 100 year old aluminum hood had “work hardened” and had worn through in the corners. It had been repaired and had stress cracks and the rivets had been buffed almost flat in its prior restoration. After much consideration Hudak and Krofta decided to have a new hood fabricated. The nickel plating was worn very thin and had considerable pitting. All the components were completely disassembled and the trim was sent out for replating. While apart, the four copper water jackets were sent out to be reformed, repaired, buffed, and polished.

In 1912, all Cadillacs left the factory finished in blue varnish, polished with pulverized pumice. For an additional fee, the dealer would paint the car any color the new owner desired, prior to delivery. In doing the restoration there was substantial evidence that this car had been delivered finished in red with black fenders. Hudak decided to paint this car as the one on display in the AACA museum in Hershey, Pennsylvania; dark red with black fenders. It was painted in a BASF water bourn (latex) urethane automobile finish, much as is being used on new cars today. “I am very pleased with the finish on the car. Our choice of water bourn paint was a source of much discussion among the car buffs at Stan Hywet,” he says.

Milestone Car Features

Cadillacs made in 1912 are considered milestone cars in that they were the first production cars to come with nickel plated brass trim, demountable rims, electric lights, and an electric starting system as standard equipment, from the factory. Cadillac used this 24 volt, 6 volt combination starting system for 1912 only as it is an extremely complicated electrical system. A total of ten batteries (4 “wet” and 6 “dry”) were required to start and run the automobile. Most of the remaining Cadillacs of this year have had their electrical systems converted to some degree to modernize and simplify the starting and voltage regulation systems. This car has the entire original system complete and functioning as it was delivered in 1912.

One of the most attractive features of the car is normally not seen. The engine is appointed with much copper and brass hardware. The copper water jackets were originally uses as copper is a very malleable metal and seals well to the bottom of the individual cylinders, with only a contracting ring which is heated and allowed to cool and contract, pinching the copper and sealing the water jackets. The brass oil and fuel lines were used as it is easy to bend and form. The copper tubes are for the inlets and outlets of the water from the engine to the radiator. The upper copper tubing is actually the conduit for the ignition wires. It all comes together to make a very aesthetically appealing presentation when the hood is open.

Driving Skills Needed

Driving the car takes some getting used to. A switch must be set on the wooden (walnut) dash to enable the distributor on the right side of the engine to “take over” powered by the “dry” cell batteries. This is because when another two switches are engaged, and the clutch is depressed for the first time, a series of solenoids engage a circuit breaker to alter the four “wet” batteries to deliver 24 volts to the starter to turn the engine over. When the clutch is released the circuit breaker automatically retracts converting the “wet” or main batteries back to a six volt system. Once the car is running the spark advance lever on the steering wheel is moved to the run position and the switch on the dash must be set from the start to the run position. This allows the car to operate on the magneto and the left distributor on the engine takes over. As there is no voltage regulator, there is a timer inside the battery compartment mounted on the running board (looks like a tool box) which must be manually reset periodically to allow the batteries to be charged by the magneto.

There is no oil pressure gauge. Instead, a sight glass mounted on the dash allows visual monitoring as the oil drips to indicate that the engine is being lubricated. There is no provision for draining the crank case, as the engine is designed to burn and leak oil at (hopefully) the same rate as it is being supplied by the external reservoir and pump. A predetermined amount of Marvel Mystery Oil is added to the gasoline to insure lubrication.

The transmission is a standard “H” pattern three speed, with the shifter on the floor between the driver’s right hand and the right front door. This makes for cramped quarters as the steering wheel is on the right side of the car. While technically a four door car, the right front (driver’s) door is blocked from opening by the spare tire and the outside mounted hand brake. When shifting the car, because there are no synchronizers, double clutching is a must.

Although the car has an electric tail lamp, with a red lens, there is no brake light and no turn signals. One must remember that all other cars being offered at the time had oil accessory lamps which had to be lighted with a match. The car has two wheel mechanical breaks on the rear wheels, and enough distance must be allowed to stop the extremely heavy automobile. Top speed is much higher than what Hudak feels comfortable driving. It does very well at about 35 miles per hour.

According to the ORCCCA website, classic cars “encompass mainly pre war automobiles from 1925 to 1948”, thus Hudak’s astonishment for attracting the top prize for Participant’s Choice. The burgundy red Cadillac also took top prize for Best of Class Pre-1916 Cars.

Coincidentally, this car was built the same year construction began on Stan Hywet Hall, making for a classic pairing.