1961 Cadillac Coupe De Ville – KANDY KAD

Back in 2005, this Caddy gave us a much-needed lesson in 60s style mild customs

Photographers: Cristian Brunelli

Richard Dabbs’s 60-style Brown Sugar Model A tudor brained ‘em at this Meguiar’s MotorEx 2014. With its wild stance, crazy paint and even crazier trim, it is clear the Victorian has a sharp eye.

Brown Sugar isn’t his first rodeo though – Mr Dabbs has been building stylish cars for years, as this Street Machine feature on his ’61 Caddy Coupe de Ville from back in 2005 proves.

First published in the April 2005 issue of Street Machine

Richard Dabbs seems to making a habit of turning ordinary 50s and 60s American coupes into some of the coolest mild customs we’ve ever seen. His first custom, a white ’63 T-Bird with lime green scallops and flames, was such a knockout that it won King of Kustoms on debut at John’s Picnic in 2002.

After receiving a ‘too good to refuse’ offer for the T-Bird, Richard moved on to a ’57 Cadillac Coupe de Ville which copped a flat black paint job with more scallops. That also made an impact, but when he spotted the ’61 in a local car yard, its days were numbered. Richard had always wanted a later model Caddy, so the sinister black ride was sold and it was straight down to the car yard. It turned out that the Coupe de Ville was a nice and original ride — a good starting point for what Richard had planned.


So what were those plans? According to Richard, it’s simple: “Take a 60s US coupe, slam it, paint it, trim it and you’re done!” At this point I guess we could just finish the story and let you look at the pics but for those of you who want to know more about the car dubbed Candy Cad, read on.

Richard says there are plenty of books out there for styling cues and inspiration, books full of cars from days gone by built by guys like George and Sam Barris, Gene Winfield and Ed Roth. For Richard, the greatest influence would have to be legendary US custom painter Larry Watson. The paint job on the Caddy is styled after Watson’s own ’59 Cadillac which he bought new, drove straight to his workshop and treated to a mild custom job.

With this style, body mods are minimal. It’s all about smoothing out some of the daggy bits and laying on a paint job that works with and enhances the lines of the car. Check out how the scallops and panel-painted sections on Richard’s car follow the body lines and trim. It really shows off the details of the car, as well as helping you pick out your ’61 Caddy from all the others in the car park.


So how long do you think it would take to build a car like this? A year? Two, maybe? How about nine months! That’s the beauty about creating a car like this: there really isn’t that much done to it. The motor is stock, not that you’d see it at a car show; on a custom the bonnet stays shut. The only mods to the body are the removal of all door handles, badges and fender mounted marker lights. The rear lip of the boot lid has been moulded in and the lock removed and for a bit more sparkle, 64 chrome bullets have been added to the otherwise stock grille.

Inside is a cleaning fanatic’s dream, with acres of pearl white vinyl stitched into a tuck and roll pattern by Carlo at Reservoir Trim. Covering the floor is dark red carpet while the tunes department has been sorted with a Pioneer CD/MP3 player and a handful of Pioneer speakers.


Outside is where it’s all happening — but where do you start with a paintjob like this? Well, if one of your good mates is Mat Egan, you’re pretty lucky if you happen to be in the market for a cool paint job. Initially Richard was planning on doing the layout for the paintjob himself, then get Mat to come in and lay down the House Of Kolor Kandy Apple Red and metalflake. That was the plan.

The car had already been painted GM Olympic White by another good friend, George at Nostalgia Panels, but it was soon obvious that there wasn’t going to be enough time for Richard to lay out the design and get all the painting done before John’s Picnic.

So a quick call to Mat and the job got done in double time. Once it was all masked off and painted, the whole lot was then pinstriped in metallic silver by Mat and Richard. It was then sent back to George for its final clear coats. In the end it made it to the Picnic, although not quite finished, where it took out the Hottest Paint award.


The final touch to complete the car was to get some pinstriping done on the glovebox lid. Fortunately, renowned US airbrush artist and pinstriper Craig Fraser was in town doing some workshops and Richard was lucky enough to meet him at Mat Egan’s workshop. If you haven’t heard of him, Craig is the owner of Kal Koncepts and has painted some of the USA’s best showcars.

Now, to trim a long story, Craig was keen to get his hands on an Aussie DVD version of Mad Max —apparently the only ones you can get State-side are over-dubbed with American voices. So Richard got his glovebox painted for the price of a Mad Max DVD. Richard was even more stoked when Craig asked if he could take back some of the pinstriping that Richard had done.

So what else is on the cards? Richard thinks he’s kinda got the hang of this custom car thing and is starting up his own shop called Satan’s Speed Shop. You might have to wait though: Richard’s wife Emma has taken a bit of a liking to the smooth Caddy and thinks she’d like something for herself. Looks like Satan’s Speed Shop has its first customer. Meanwhile, to make way for new projects, the ’61 has to go.


Colour:GM Olympic White; HoK Kandy Apple Red with red metalflake; silver pinstriping
Engine:390ci Cadillac
Exhaust:Twin two-inch with Smithy’s mufflers
Gearbox:Cadillac Hydramatic three-speed
Springs:Two-inch lowered all ’round
Brakes:Drums all ’round
Tyres:Coker Classic L-78 (f & r)
Wheels:Stock rims, polished Cadillac hubcaps with bullets and spinners