Home » Hacked-Up Cadillacs: 1978 Fleetwood Ute vs 2003 Escalade Convertible

Hacked-Up Cadillacs: 1978 Fleetwood Ute vs 2003 Escalade Convertible

Sbsd 6 23 2023
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Good morning, Autopians! It’s Friday – we made it through another one, and we’re rounding out our truncated week of single-marque showdowns with a pair of Cadillacs that are definitely no longer how the folks at GM envisioned them. But first, let’s take one last look at infinity, or rather Infintis:

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The G20 takes a comfortable win. I think this is the right call; it’s in better shape, and as someone who regularly fights with – I mean, maintains – a Nissan VQ engine in a longitudinal orientation, I don’t want any part of a transverse one. If the engine is turned sideways, four in a row is the way to go.

Yesterday, I asked you all to help me find an interesting Cadillac to go up against one that had already been posted on the Discord server. And oh boy, did you come through. There were a few good ones to choose from, but one clear choice stood out above the rest. These two show what can happen when Detroit luxury meets good old American know-how, a Sawzall, and a welder. I would be surprised if there weren’t some beer involved as well. So without further ado, I give you… the Cadihacks. Let’s check them out.

1978 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham – $3,250

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Engine/drivetrain: 425 cubuc inch overhead valve V8, three-speed automatic, RWD

Location: Elyria, OH

Odometer reading: unknown (listed as 123,456)

Runs/drives? Yes, but has been sitting, so needs some work

Believe it or not, this is not the first time I’ve seen a Cadillac sedan turned into a ute. Apparently, chopping the back seat, rear roof section, and trunk lid off a Caddy to turn in into something like a luxury El Camino was once a bit of a thing. What I haven’t seen, however, is this sort of vinyl roof treatment:

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Yes, that’s right – the vinyl top now continues down the sail panels and all the way along the edges of the bed. Unfortunately, the bed conversion looks a little half-assed: the bed floor is plywood, and not very deep, and the sheetmetal work to blend in the rear doors has a lot of sloppy Bondo work. It looks like it was all done a long time ago, and hasn’t aged terribly well. Also, I don’t think there is any tailgate, just a chunk of the original trunk lid welded back on. The missing bumper fill panels, were they present, might improve things a bit, but a complete re-do by someone who knows bodywork is probably the best bet.

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The interior is incomplete, and there’s no word whether the missing door panels or carpet are included. The good news is that the seat upholstery looks good, properly inviting and squishy like Caddy seats should be.

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The seller says this car runs and drives, but it has been sitting for a long while, so the fuel system and brakes and cooling system should be gone through. The engine is Cadillac’s 425 cubic inch V8, connected to the requisite Hydramatic. Before all the V8-6-4, HT4100, and Northstar nonsense, there was this cast-iron monster, and it was good.

2003 Cadillac Escalade – $4,000

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Engine/drivetrain: 5.3 liter overhead valve V8, four-speed automatic, RWD

Location: Muskegon, MI

Odometer reading: 189,000 miles

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Runs/drives? Yep

Times have changed, and the Fleetwood of yore has become the Escalade, a dolled-up version of GM’s large SUV. These things have been hugely popular for more than two decades now, and as a result it’s not hard to find used Escalades. And that means if you really want to, you can do something silly to one. Like cut the roof off, for instance.

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What surprises me about this is that the builder actually put some thought into it. We’ve all seen cars with the roof cut off; I had a friend in high school who decapitated a Datsun 210 and welded the doors shut for stiffness. Anyone can do that with a trip to Harbor Freight and a credit card. This seller has opted to retain the functionality of all four doors by adding braces between the stumps of the B and C pillars. They’re not tall enough to be rollbars, but they would make fine grab handles. It looks like the seller intended to relocate the shoulder belt anchors to these bars, but never did.

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They’ve even taken the wide curved center high-mounted stop light off the roof and added it to the top edge of the new tailgate. Safety first, I suppose. There is also what appears to be a truck running board across the back. Not sure what that’s about, but it gives it the appearance of a swim platform at the back of a boat. In fact, this whole car gives off a sort of boat-like vibe, though it might just be the pearl white paint.

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The seller says it runs and drives just fine, and has had some recent front end and brake work. There’s a significant dent on one quarter panel, significant enough to make me wonder if this car was rolled, and the resulting roof damage is what started all this madness in the first place.

Obviously, you’re not going to be interested in buying either of these unless you already had a similar idea, and want to purchase an already-started project. And neither one of these is ready for its big debut yet. But it does show what you can create by just altering a little sheetmetal. Not that you would, but if you were to take one of these projects on and see it through, which one would it be?

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(Image credits: Facebook Marketplace sellers)

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Chris D
Chris D
11 months ago

If I won Powerball, I would buy both of these, and play smash-up derby with them. Or a local non-profit could have a dollar-a-swing sledgehammer fund raiser. Once they were no longer running, they’d get donated to the local metal recycling yard. Neither one deserves to be on the road – they’re both ugly amateur hack jobs. It would be an embarrassment to be seen driving them, so the best choice is NO to both.

Myk El
Myk El
11 months ago

Another that needs a 3rd “aw, HELL NAW!” button.

Donald Petersen
Donald Petersen
11 months ago

Tsk tsk to all you principled wimps who choose “neither.” On those days when it’s, like, Datsun B210 vs Dodge Omni or BMW vs BMW or some other pairup that I’m really not interested in, I just don’t vote or post.

So when I do pipe up, it’s because I’ve gone all-in on An Opinion. And here it is.

I am not constitutionally opposed to either of these. I lived for seven of my first ten years in a trailer park, and I ain’t too proud to admit it. Nor am I too proud to show off that doublewide heritage with my ride. So whichever of these two I chose, I would actually drive, if I had the bucks to blow on it. And I could see myself heading out to the 7-Eleven in the Fleetwood just as easily as I could see myself tailgating in a monster truck rally parking lot in the Escalade.

Here, the deciding point (as it often is) is the model year. I don’t mind fixing stuff, but I have extremely limited interest in getting malaise-era vehicles to pass smog (for my purposes, that means anything between 1976 and 1992) unless it’s something I really, really want (like a ’77 Trans Am… trailer-park, remember?), and I don’t covet the Fleetwood that much. So Escalade it is, by default.

Barry Allen
Barry Allen
1 year ago

The Escalade is clearly in better shape for the money, but even if you made it perfect it’d still be a tacky convertible Escalade. The Fleet-amino is in terrible shape, but I’d love it if it were finished. Not having a working tailgate really makes me pessimistic about the build for some reason, though.

Hugh Crawford
Hugh Crawford
1 year ago

The Fleetwood looks like an old flower car, the shallow bed is a giveaway

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
1 year ago

Did I miss the part about someone forcing me to make this decision with a gun to my head?
I’m feeling pretty meh today anyway so I’m still gonna just say nope.

Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
1 year ago

wtf

Bradillac
Bradillac
1 year ago

Buy the ‘Sclade and turn it into a Ute.

Mark Joy
Mark Joy
1 year ago

Cadillac quit building the Mirage in 76, so anything newer is a self creation. There were a few kits being sold for the conversion. Caribou was selling them before Cadillac built, and sold them at the dealership.. More of them were shipped to Saudi Arabia than here

Stephen Reed
Stephen Reed
1 year ago

I’ll take the ute. I’d love to get rid of the vinyl top and make it normal, finish the interior, and do other necessary things I can’t think of right now to take it the next mile.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
1 year ago

Gotta go with the Escalade just for the sheer joy of stopping short and giving rear passengers a wake up.

Isis
Isis
1 year ago

these are both so bad

Jason Roth
Jason Roth
1 year ago

I wouldn’t be caught dead in that Escalade. Ugh.

There used to be a black Eldo ute in my neighborhood, in excellent condition, much prettier than this one. But the vinyl sails are pretty awesome, and the half-assedness of it all would deplete any temptation to take it seriously.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
1 year ago
Reply to  Jason Roth

I’ve seen Cadillac hearses converted that look well done

Boulevard_Yachtsman
Boulevard_Yachtsman
1 year ago

It’s the Fleet-ute for me! Of course the seller would have to reduce that asking price from 4-digits to 3, but I would buy it. The 425 is solid and it would make a fun parts chaser. My wife could use it as well – she says the bed in the F-250 is too high (always be careful for what you wish for). Meanwhile, the Escalade-gone-wild appears to need a covered domicile to remain useful for very long, and these are not the type of vehicles one reserves a garage space for.

Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
1 year ago

The Flutewood :tm:

OnlyFlans
OnlyFlans
1 year ago

If a pink version of that Escalade isn’t in the upcoming Barbie movie I’m demanding my money back. Look, it’s even got the grab handles like it was a toy to be picked up with your hand!

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