Ken Dennison is no stranger to auto restoration. He purchased his first hobby car, a 1929 Ford Pickup, which he owned for about 45 years. “I have taken that truck completely apart and put it back together a few times” says Ken. He also has experience restoring the rare cars in his collection. Including an Auburn Supercharged Cabriolet, and a 1928 Buick.
When the opportunity arose to acquire a 1940 Cadillac V-16 seven passenger Imperial Sedan, of which there were only twenty examples made, Ken just couldn’t pass it up. He purchased the vehicle from a member of his car club, the second owner, who owned the car for 57 years, bought it from a used car dealer in Tucson, AZ. The first owner had traded it in when the car overheated during a road trip to California. After owning the Cadillac for a period of time, the second owner began dismantling it for restoration, but realized the process was too much for him to handle. So he put the car up for sale.
Ken took up the restoration from there, which took five years and two months to complete. While he did much of the work himself, Ken had no upholstery experience, and there were no restoration interior kits available for the Cadillac. Therefore, he felt it would be best to leave the interior project to upholstery professionals. He started by getting quotes from upholstery shops, but determined that would be too expensive. Ken then began asking for advice from fellow car club members, who had previously restored their interiors. It was recommended that he contact Bill McHenry, a prominent automotive restoration expert known for achieving excellent results, and getting the job done in a cost efficient manner.
Ken contacted Bill and arranged for him to manage the upholstery project. Ken dismantled the interior and took photographs as he went. As mentioned previously, there were no restoration correct interior kits (or any interior kits, for that matter) available for Ken’s car. Ken needed to have the interior reproduced. Having past experience with LeBaron Bonney Company, Bill recommended the Cadillac’s interior components replicated through the LeBaron Bonney Design Service. The Design Service specializes in reproducing original interior items as high-quality kits that are complete and ready to install. After consulting with LeBaron Bonney, Ken sent the original upholstery so patterns could be made to manufacture the new components. Ken informs that LeBaron Bonney supplied all the components they needed for the interior work, except the some of the foam. Pieces reproduced included door panels, headliner, carpet, sun visors, and assist straps, and everything needed for the seats. Ken made the trunk liner himself.
Bill then began working with Ken to install the components supplied by LeBaron Bonney. Working four hours a day, three days a week, it took Ken and Bill about a month to complete the installation. Photos taken before disassembly helped guide them through the reassembly. Ken states “The reproduction project was a bit difficult as some of the original interior pieces had shrunk, so the patterns that were taken from them weren’t exactly right. In this case the reproduced panels needed minor alterations to fit right” Bill also found that fitting the new door panels by implementing the same assembly techniques originally used by Cadillac was going to be very difficult. To simplify, LeBaron Bonney suggested modifying the door panel so that it could be clipped on, rather than nailed on. The technique worked well.
“There was some back and forth on getting the interior components perfected, but that is to be expected. We got a very good product” said Ken. “Also, we enjoyed working with Aaron Blake, the Manufacturing Manager at LeBaron Bonney, who was our contact for the project. Aaron went above and beyond, he was incredible, and was great to work with”
“This was a huge undertaking as a patterning job from a far” states Aaron. “Some rework took place, but overall I’m quite satisfied”.
Now that patterns for these components have been developed, they are available for other Cadillac customers. Bill informs us that he knows of Cadillac owners that have since purchased LeBaron Bonney interior kits made with the patterns that were developed for his car.
For more information on the LeBaron Bonney Design Service go to http://www.lebaronbonney.com/design-service.php