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Crossing the country in a 58 Eldorado


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TWO thousand miles into the trip, with another 1,000 yet to go, it was a 30-cent fuse that finally stopped us. But maybe that’s the sort of trouble you have to anticipate when trying to cross the continent in an old car.

Read More: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/19/automobiles/collectibles/19CADDY.html

Author buys a 1958 Eldorado Biarritz, has the engine and transmission rebuilt, then drives from coast to coast.

Bruce

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I drove a lot in those days. Fuses in mission-critical systems were rare, but fusable links were there to prevent wiring fires. Apparently there was a fuse in the generator field coil circuit.

If this guy didn't start out with a new generator and voltage regulator, or an alternator retrofit/upgrade, well...

Then there's the matter of bias-ply tires, and what by modern standards was putting undersized tires on cars of that period. You better not hoof it across the high desert in the summertime with those tires. Of course, those tires are illegal on the roads these days, so at a minimum the car will have OEM-size radials, but even so...

Of course, a slow, daytime-only cruise with the top down in the autumn, plenty of photography, and a box of extra fuses in the glove box -- hey, I'll bet the Cadillac came with a spare fuse compartment in the glove box!

What a fascinating read. Just about all the strange high-mileage-old-car repairs were done for free by enthusiasts. It almost makes me want to relive those days again... naah.

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I hope BBF reads this travel log.

It would surely remind Mike of crossing the US with his folks.

Great article, I only wish it was longer.

1989 FWD Fleetwood, Silver

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1997 STS Diamond White

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I could no longer access the article, but I did access this blog on the article

http://wheels.blogs....illac-eldorado/

He has a bi-polar view of those days I feel. On one hand he is highlighting 'problems' that occurred on the other he highlights how "open" those cars were to adjusting chokes, adjusting the idle or God Forbid banging the starter with a hammer.

Then he compares the 'openness' of those cars to the closed engines of today "hidden under plastic"

My parents were entertainers and in the 50's through 70's travelled all over the Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware getting to shows all in 50s and 60's Cadillacs and a Packard. My Dad was a B17 mechanic in WW2, a Baldwin locomotive mechanic and a machinist in Sun Shipbuilding and Drydock. As a kid he showed me how to rebuilt starters and generators. We fixed mufflers in single digit frigid weather on our backs. Repacked wheel bearings and replaced seals and did brake jobs, cleaned out the fuel water separator and did oil changes before long trips. It was the prudent thing to do.

But in all my time, I never banged a starter with a hammer, if a starter did not operate, you pulled it and fixed it, there were NOT suppose to be flat spots on the commutator, if there were you got out the emory cloth and cleaned it until it shined.

The problems this fellow is describing come from a lack of maintenance, poor adjustments or cooling system problems but they were not necessarily a deficiency in the vehicles of the day. Oh yea on hot days after a stop it might turn over slow, but it was usually due to a weak battery that needed replacing. Vapor lock rarely occured in our Cadillacs. The 50s and 60s Cadillacs swooped down the highway like big birds but when they did break down we fixed them. The problem that occurred was that a lot of people did not know their cars, they did not know how to start them, how to open the choke if it was flooding by holding the gas pedal to the floor. I can not tell you how many owners I have helped over the years because I could "hear" what was wrong with their car, I would walk over and in minutes have it started. Owning a car in those days required listening and "feeling" the car, you could benefit greatly if you had those skills, that not everyone had. While my Dad was 'tuned in' to the car, amazingly, my MOM had that skill and knew when something was not right.

Problems occurred because carburators and chokes were out of adjustment, heat risers were stuck, cooling systems were not flushed (chemically), belts were not changed and adjusted, etc. Simply adjusting the plugs made a huge difference to performance and fuel economy. Another words maintaining and tweaking the car had its benefits.

As my parents travelled so much for work and depended upon their cars, my Dad was big into PM, which he learned at Baldwin and Sun Ship. He would say, we have a 600 mile trip tomorrow, lets "get the car in shape". The slubs that did not prepare for a long trip, were the people you saw sitting on the side of the road with steam coming out of the hood because they just drove the car without maintenance until it stopped. I became my parents pit crew when I was about 12 after 6 years of training by my Dad. Before his long trips, I would automatically, pull the wheels pack bearings, flush the cooling system, change stats, adjust the carb, adjust the brakes, adjust the points and plug gaps, change the oil and filter etc. When my Dad got home from the trip usually in the wee hours of the morning he would wake me excited to say, "the car ran incredible, it FLEW", Thanks

So in many ways I disagree with the writer of this article, if I were to take a cross country trip in that 58, I would have gone through it with a "fine tooth comb" and it would have been ready and I of course would have had my tools in the trunk including coolant, extra points, stat, fix a flat, etc.

I also disagree with the writer about the cars of today, they are NOT closed at all, all I need to do is hook up my laptop to the service port and I can find out what is wrong instantaineously not to mention the Cadillacs ability to tell me what is wrong with it by pushing two buttons. Maintenance and tweaking is just as important today and you would be a fool to just get into a modern car (unless it just came out of the showroom) and start driving it across country. Till this day when i see someone on the side of the road with steam coming out of the hood, I think of what my Dad used to say, "try opening the hood before the trip next time".

Today it is more true that Knowledge is Power but many people are intimidated by the cars of today that are just as tweakable and just as open to repairs. You can still rebuild starters, alternators, clean throttle bodies, change oil, filters, and diagnose them and replace as necessary, so to me, todays cars are still open, they tell you what is wrong, but you dont need to mess with chokes, idle speed, etc.

And yes Ted, Thanks, this did remind me of crossing the country in our 1955 Fleetwood, but I have fond memories of that trip in the summer of 64 where we traveled the southwest, fixing the car as needed. No fears or worries at all because in those days driving and repairing a car was so pedestrian compared to fixing a WW2 B17 for its next flight. They were a different generation and they had no fears. Imagine putting your 3 kids in a 9 year old 55 Fleetwood in 1964 and driving from Philadelphia to Lubbock, Texas non stop sharing the driving with your wife and then touring the southwest for the summer with a basic tool set and supplies in the trunk. Think we worried about vapor lock, chokes, generators or idle speed?

Pre-1995 - DTC codes OBD1  >>

1996 and newer - DTC codes OBD2 >> https://www.obd-codes.com/trouble_codes/gm/obd_codes.htm

How to check for codes Caddyinfo How To Technical Archive >> http://www.caddyinfo.com/wordpress/cadillac-how-to-faq/

Cadillac History & Specifications Year by Year  http://www.motorera.com/cadillac/index.htm

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Mike,

I pretty much agree with what you said about the older cars "AND" about the newer cars.

I do believe that a much larger "PERCENTAGE" of people back in the "OLD DAYS" knew more about their cars than people do now.

People now a days are just totally clueless about whats under the hood.

It amazes me just how dumb so many people are about their vehicles.

I have a program on my laptop where I can plug into the OBDll port and read codes for just about every module on my car.

I do believe that cars back in the 50's and 60's needed a lot more maintenance to keep them going than the cars of today.

It used to be an "EVENT" if you got 100,000 out of a car without a major engine or transmission rebuild... or maybe BOTH... :) :)

Now it is so routine that no one even mentions it any more.

Darling Wife and I were traveling thru the mountains of Colorado several years ago in our '84 Fleetwood Brougham deElegance, when the alternator light came on.

We turned off everything electrical and made it to the next little town.

I took the alternator off right there in the parking lot and rebuilt it. New brushes and regulator and it was still running several years later when I sold it.

It was funny...the guy at the parts house was amazed that a well dressed guy driving a Cadillac, knew how to rebuild an alternator. :) :)

It cost me around 20 bucks vs over 300 for one of theirs.

Lots of stories like that...but the point is...as you said...back then you did see a lot of people sitting on the side of the road waiting on help because they didn't know how to "LISTEN" to their car.

You can't drive across town now a days without also seeing someone sitting on the side of the road waiting on help.

Back in the day...they would usually have the hood up and at least be "ATTEMPTING" to do "SOMETHING" to get it going.

Now they are completely helpless.

They are just sitting in their car..waiting on "SOMEONE ELSE" to bail them out of trouble.

Then they will go around bad mouthing the car for breaking down...when it was their own fault for not during maintenance on it so that it wouldn't break down.

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I totally agree with you Jim, especially when you said,

I do believe that a much larger "PERCENTAGE" of people back in the "OLD DAYS" knew more about their cars than people do now

My MOM would get under the hood and get the car started, it was what they did in those days and I thank my parents for being adventurous and for having no fear and big balls..

Your stories remind me of many of mine, you probably remember me, replacing the water pump on my 91 Seville behind a Marriott with borrowed an purchased tools.

By the way what program are you using on your laptop that can read all modules, I can only read P codes...

I think we are related in some way Jim!

Pre-1995 - DTC codes OBD1  >>

1996 and newer - DTC codes OBD2 >> https://www.obd-codes.com/trouble_codes/gm/obd_codes.htm

How to check for codes Caddyinfo How To Technical Archive >> http://www.caddyinfo.com/wordpress/cadillac-how-to-faq/

Cadillac History & Specifications Year by Year  http://www.motorera.com/cadillac/index.htm

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I totally agree with you Jim, especially when you said,

I do believe that a much larger "PERCENTAGE" of people back in the "OLD DAYS" knew more about their cars than people do now

My MOM would get under the hood and get the car started, it was what they did in those days and I thank my parents for being adventurous and for having no fear and big balls..

Your stories remind me of many of mine, you probably remember me, replacing the water pump on my 91 Seville behind a Marriott with borrowed an purchased tools.

By the way what program are you using on your laptop that can read all modules, I can only read P codes...

I think we are related in some way Jim!

EFI Live...

http://www.efilive.com/index.php?page=shop.product_details&flypage=flypage_EFILive.tpl&product_id=63&category_id=11&option=com_virtuemart&Itemid=56

As for us being related...that may be possible...;)

I think both your Dad and my Dad, both got around the country pretty good...:D :D

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No doubt, after the war my Dad spent a few years in Kansas City, Ks working for Skelly Oil and building vending machines for Coke

Are you a Star Trek fan? If you are, you must see the most recent movie, it will remind you a lot of the greatest generation and the 'cowboys' that created this country. A show with real men, the cast is comprised of actors from all over the world

http://www.startrekmovie.com/

Thanks for the link

Pre-1995 - DTC codes OBD1  >>

1996 and newer - DTC codes OBD2 >> https://www.obd-codes.com/trouble_codes/gm/obd_codes.htm

How to check for codes Caddyinfo How To Technical Archive >> http://www.caddyinfo.com/wordpress/cadillac-how-to-faq/

Cadillac History & Specifications Year by Year  http://www.motorera.com/cadillac/index.htm

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