Burning Up the Miles
This 1956 Cadillac Sedan de Ville spent its life on the American road, highlighted by long driving vacations to Mexico, Alaska and annual trips to Florida. With over 100,000 miles on the odometer, this icon of '50s luxury was parked in 1971 and was forgotten – until then-high school senior and now current owner Murray Pfaff found it languishing in storage in 1986.
Neglected for 25 years and due to lose its place in a barn scheduled to be demolished to make way for a mall, the car caught young Pfaff's fancy. He asked his father for permission to buy it and rescue it from decay, but received a firm, “Over my dead body” in reply. Fortunately for the car and Murray, this Cadillac found safe haven until the purchase could finally be negotiated some 5 years later.
First up for the behemoth was custom bodywork under the guidance of Matt Shamey of Watertown, NY. This includes over 300 hood louvers, recessed hood ornament, shaved handles, trim, and emblems, custom skirts, frenched antennas, filled bumpers, and a Carson style roof. Then Brother Dave and a collection of friends again stepped in to help get the Caddy road worthy in just under a year motivated by the original 365 cubic-inch V-8.
Another 5 years had passed before the transplant of a 1976 Cadillac drive train began in Naples, FL. In order to help fit the 500-c.i.d. power plant under the hood, the firewall was recessed using a Jackson M-5 wheelbarrow. The big inch Cadillac motor benefits from high performance internals a polished Edelbrock intake, Holley Street Avenger carburetor, and plumbing from Earl’s.
From Florida, Pfaff moved to Northern California. There, the car got a complete repaint that Murray had designed himself. The flame job was generated by computer and was one of his earliest design explorations – one that would later lead to the creation of Pfaff Designs.
Now located in Royal Oak, MI, Murray subjected the car to its fourth and most detailed make-over. This included brand new chrome, all new glass, and a new interior and paint scheme to complete the traditional yet modern look. Charlie Vickerie sprayed the new Pfaff-designed graphics using Glasurit paint. Jeff Shea created art in motion by applying some tasty pin stripping. The overall effect is a long, low, and imposing land yacht exuding a style that is sweet and undeniable.
Open the vault like doors and you find a leather wrapped dash with a custom punched and flared purple insert and speedo cluster liberated from a 1960 Cadillac. A modified 1960 Cadillac steering wheel proudly sits atop an Ididit column. A center console features the bullet housing with integrated gauges from Classic Instruments. Pat Russell at P.J.’s Trim Shop in Hemlock, MI. stitched together the leather hides to match the designer’s vision while encompassing the MTX sound system. A whole host of good friends, including Tom Gardner, Steve Langdon, Cliff McKillop, and Ed Pashukewich spent many sleepless nights bringing this incredible '56 Caddy to life.
To help achieve the right stance, the car was dropped to the ground using Air Ride Technologies Shock Waves. Another distinctive feature is the two different styles of rims and rubber. One side features BF Goodrich wide whites with 15” Astro Supremes, while the other sports Goodyear F1’s around a custom designed 18” Billet Specialties wheel. The two looks are very polarizing while attracting compliments from two different crowds. The car rides and drives like a dream which is important to Pfaff since he has logged over 85,000 miles himself behind the wheel. To say he enjoys driving this car is an understatement.
At the rear of this tour de force lies the reason for the car’s name: Just take a look at the exhaust and you will see that Murray is serious about his flames. The two-stage fuel injection system shoots fire more than 20 feet rearward! Pfaff often leaves two scorched trails behind him as his calling card. Whatever you do, don’t tailgate this big, bad Cadillac, as there's a good chance you're gonna' get burned by the FireMaker.