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The Case of the Unavailable Part




We recently were at a car show and ran across a 1956 Cadillac Coupe de Ville 2-door hardtop. The car was a very nice, totally stock vehicle, and in no way an overtly modified vehicle. The only external modification was the installation of narrow whitewall radial tires. What threw us for a loop was the fact the car was fitted with a bone stock, basic Chevrolet 350-cu.-in. V8 of no particular distinction. Why did this surprise us?

Basically, because the stock Cadillac V8 would have provided 365 cu. in. and 285 HP. We had to inquire with the owner why he made the swap, when the car was clearly not a street rod or presented as a modified car. The answer only made things worse.

He proceeded to tell us that the car ran great with the Cadillac engine in it, but he wanted to drive his car on antique car club tours and to car shows, and he was sure the "old" 1956 engine would "not" be dependable. Also, he was sure he "could not" get parts for it anymore if it did break down. Yes, he was a little disappointed about the performance of the anemic stock 2-barrel 350 he had installed, but he knew he was now safe on the road.

Myths all of the first order! His stock vehicle had a better, more powerful engine, loaded with gobs of torque. The GM Hydramatic was a well-proven transmission, and parts are available as any copy of Hemmings Motor News, the Cadillac-LaSalle Club magazine, or one of the new Cadillac sites on the Internet. Don't touch that ’50s or ’60s car's drive train unless you're planning a killer street machine.