In December of 2015, RacingJunk.com posted photos and the backstory of legal entanglements and state-to-state shuffling of Elvis Presley’s pink 1957 Cadillac Sedan de Ville. As the story unfolded, the iconic car landed in the capable hands of Dale Warrington at Custom Paint & Body of Ft. Pierce, Fla.
Warrington had speculated that restoring the Caddy would take roughly a year, but due to the rarity of some parts and the slow progression of refurbishing the car’s elaborately designed interior, the project chugged slowly into a 2-year venture.
“There was over $110,000 invested in this project,” explained Warrington. “The owner even brought in an investor to help cover the rising costs. But it’s finally completed and is headed for auction in the fall.”
Warrington’s reputation as an automotive perfectionist has spread well beyond Fla. Ratty old cars have been shipped from as far away as Chicago for him to transform into award-winning masterpieces. His recently acquired 9,000 square foot facility is jammed with antique cars, muscle cars and even a few European models – all in various stages of restoration. In fact, the youngest car in the shop is a 1970 Chevelle SS.
“I have cars on a waiting list that haven’t even arrived yet,” Warrington says. “I’ve hired a great shop full of craftsmen and we’re getting the cars done on schedule.”
As shown in our December RacingJunk story, Warrington and his team gutted the car and started a rotisserie frame-off. The frame itself was media-blasted and recoated. No body filler of any kind was used; all panels were checked, rust was cut out as needed and patches were welded in. The body and dozens of parts were then primed and finish coated with five coats of PPG Concept acrylic urethane paint in “Mountain Laurel” pink.
“We wanted the traditional single stage paint versus the two-stage (for authenticity),” Warrington revealed. “By the way, that ‘Mountain Laurel’ color later became known as ‘Mary Kay Pink.’ You’ll see the same color on all of those Mary Kay Cosmetics cars.”
Instead of polishing, all chrome pieces were sent to Space Coast Plating in Melbourne for refinishing.
“Even the inside-facing surfaces were chromed,” said Warrington. “Especially because this car has bumper-mounted exhaust outlets, because these Cadillac bumpers tended to rust out fast.”
To Warrington’s credit, the car was structurally restored and painted in late 2016, but the interior restoration took several months to complete.
“My interior guy had to drive all the way up from south Florida to work on it,” said Warrington. “He’s pretty much in retirement now, so he couldn’t be rushed. He did a perfect job, but it took him a long time.”
Elvis Presley had ordered the car with every available option: a power antenna and trunk release, air-conditioning, power steering, brakes and windows. It also had the “Autronic Eye” mounted atop the dashboard. Introduced by General Motors in 1952, the Autronic Eye used a light-sensing phototube to detect oncoming headlights, which would trigger the activation of low beams. A floor mounted radio switch allowed the driver to switch radio stations on the fly.
“The floor switch was a hands-free way to surf the radio stations – as you’re looking for an Elvis tune,” Warrington laughed.
The car’s owners, Bill and Linda Kinard, are hoping to see the car sell at an online auction in September. Bill would like to see the bidding run as high as $1.2 million.
Kinard inherited the Presley ‘57 Cadillac, and some additional Elvis memorabilia, from the estate of former Los Angeles Dodger Bruce Buseman after he passed away in 2004. The Kinards were surviving board members of Buseman’s ‘Professional Sports Hall of Fame Museum’ in Eugene, Ore. A court awarded many of the items to the Kinards.
The car has become famous worldwide and was recently featured on The Guardian UK’s news website. Bill Kinard believes this historically significant Caddy could bring upwards of $3 million at the auction, but indicated he’ll probably set a reserve at $1.2 million.