The Parisienne, a custom Cadillac built by Milton Melton, blurred the line between a custom and a coachbuilt classic. Most customs of the 1950s were built by or for young guys, often to impress their buddies and attract girls. However, with the Parisienne, this was not the case.
Milton Melton was a middle-aged supermarket executive from Beverly Hills in 1954 when he took possession of a brand-new $5738 Cadillac Eldorado. He immediately drove it to Barris Kustom Autos for a unique customizing treatment.
The Barris crew's main task was to section the car three inches. They took the metal out of the hood, the tops of the doors, and the rear fenders. The Barris guys also modified the hood with integral scoops on each side, chopped the windshield 1-3/4 inches, fabricated frames for the vent windows, and cut down the side windows.
The other radical work involved the rear portion of the 129-inch-wheelbase brute. The Barris shop laid back the housing for the Continental spare at an angle, sinking it into the decklid. This required pancaking the decklid and lengthening the fenders a full 20 inches to make the Continental kit appear integral. The extra length extended the car to almost 19 and a half feet!
In the process of lengthening the fenders, the Barris crew removed the Cadillac's characteristic rear fins and relocated the stock taillights in new, lower, openings. They also modified the rear fenders with '54 Packard-style bulges at the leading edges, and reworked the side trim by adding chrome-trimmed air scoops below the bulges. Finally, the exhaust was routed through a modified '55 Pontiac rear bumper in four shotgun-style outlets.
Prior to shipping it off to famous coachbuilder Bohman & Schwartz for a custom-built top, the Barris shop cut down the front seat four inches and added rolled-and-pleated upholstery to the dash pad.
At Bohman & Schwartz, the Parisienne received a two-piece top, done in the "sedanca de ville" style similar to town cars of the early 1900s. Maurice Schwartz built the top using an oak frame with sheetmetal panels covered with padding.
The rear portion was bolted to the car, and the front portion was clamped in place for easy removal. Bohman & Schwartz also added a pair of cast-bronze landau irons to the top and painted the car white.
The completed car made its debut at the 1955 International Motor Review in Los Angeles, dazzling classic and custom enthusiasts alike. The story goes cold from there until noted hot rod and custom collector Kurt McCormick found it in Hemmings in 1978 and bought it sight unseen for $2500. The car sat until '93, when Kurt restored it to the form shown here.
Kurt took a couple of liberties with the restoration, installing a 1960 Cadillac 390-cid engine bored to 396 inches, lowering the car 2-1/2 inches, removing the tuck-and-roll upholstery from the dash, and adding English wool carpeting in the interior and trunk. Kurt made all the changes in the true spirit of the car, only adding to this historic custom's stately coachbuilt demeanor.
To learn more about custom cars and hot rods, see:
- History of Hot Rods
- Custom Car Profiles
- Hot Rod Profiles