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I had traveled back to Illinois in June to attend a party celebrating my brother-in-law's 70th birthday. I thought it would be a good time to expand my search for a late model Corvair convertible and research on the internet turned up one for sale in Frankfort, Illinois which was very close to the town we were visiting. It was being offered by a gentleman named Larry Claypool who owns a Corvair repair shop called The Vair Shop. I have learned that Larry is a nationally known authority in all things Corvair. My brother-in-law and I visited The Vair Shop to inspect and drive the Corvair convertible. Regretfully the car was not quite what I am looking for. While visiting and chatting with Larry I happened to glance in the rear of his shop and saw a very unusual car. It was in very poor condition and I could not identify the marque. My brother-in-law thought it was a Facel Vega. I asked Larry about the car and he identified it as the 1955 Cadillac LaSalle ll.

Crazy car dreamI was stunned to hear that we were actually looking at one of the famous mid fifties General Motors "dream cars" from the 1955 Motorama. Since I had attended the 1955 Motorama between March 26th and April 3rd in San Francisco I realized that I had seen this car in that show. The current condition of the car masked its former glory. I asked Larry about the car and he related the following story.

In December of 1959 the GM management had decided to dispose of a number of their mid fifties concept cars. The cars were no longer predictors of cars to come and many of the features like the cove sides and wrap over windshields had already appeared on production cars. The story goes on to relate that in the late afternoon of December 23 they loaded a couple on a transporter and a GM employee took them to a local Detroit wrecking yard. The owner was instructed to destroy the two cars. The first one off was the Chevrolet Biscayne and he proceeded to cut it into three pieces. Since they were fiberglass it was not too difficult a task. The GM employee decided that he was cold and it was late so he told the owner to just repeat the process on the next car and he went home. Rather than destroy the second car he moved it and the pieces of the Biscayne to a storage shed. The next day, Christmas eve, the process was repeated. Two more "dream cars" arrived at the wreckers with the same instructions and the GM person left without witnessing the demolition. These two cars joined the two from the previous day and the four vehicles spent approximately 35 years stored in a not too weather tight junk yard shed in Detroit. In the early nineties a gentleman by the name of Joe Bortz heard about the cars. Mr Bortz had spent a number of years buying and restoring former concept cars including some interesting Mopar examples from the fifties. He successfully negotiated a price for the GM cars with the owner of the wrecking yard who happened to be the same person who owned it in 1959. Bortz set out to restore these cars and the first one was the Chevrolet Biscayne that had been cut into three pieces. That car is complete and has been shown at Pebble Beach and Amelia Island. There are a number of web sites where these cars can be viewed. You can Google Joe Bortz as an example. He has almost completed the restoration of the LaSalle ll coup.

The car we were viewing was the LaSalle ll sedan. It is a four door no post sedan. It was interesting to inspect this car. It was never intended to be powered and when you look under the hood you see what looks like an overhead cam engine. According to Larry it is a non operating V6. Another interesting feature was the original tires. They were very narrow similar to a small motorcycle tire and had a white stripe around the tread surface. These cars were originally pushed on and off the stages at the Motorama. Joe Bortz lives about 90 miles from Larry Claypool and apparent Larry has a reputation as a mechanical restoration expert that extends beyond Corvairs. Bortz has employed Larry to fabricate new wheels and a braking system for his cars. Why brakes you ask. Bortz does not want to push the cars on and off the exhibition field. During the restoration process he will install a golf cart motor and batteries to propel the vehicle. Larry showed us special tires that have been fabricated by Coker to emulate the originals right down to the white stripe around the center of the tread pattern. When Larry completes the wheels the LaSalle will move on to another specialist who will address another stage of the restoration. Larry mentioned that the original glass windshield had been used on the coupe and that they will have to manufacture a one off windshield for the sedan.

All in all it was a great experience and I hope it is of interest to the readers of the newsletter. I have also sent you pictures and information from an internet source regarding the two LaSalles.

During my one week stay in the Chicago suburbs I also attended two car shows. The Chicago suburbs contain countless small towns and there is a never ending string of car shows in these towns.

This site verifies the details of my story.......Incredible.

Here are some fabulous pictures of the completely restored Biscayne by Joe is an incredible car.

Here is a link to an older story that basically substantiates Larry Claypools rendition with a few minor wrinkles.

Story by Jim D.


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