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Build thread, 1949 Cadillac

3004 Views 23 Replies 8 Participants Last post by  Ovidiu
Hello all! Another member here suggested I should post a build thread here!
I bought this car about a year ago, for the purpose of converting it to an EV. It's a 1949 Cadillac 60 Special. It was "running and driving" when I bought it, at least good enough to pull it out of the shop and line it up with the tow truck! Pretty solid, no rust, and complete as far as trim is concerned, so I think it's a good overall start to the project. It also has a decent chassis, which is part of the reason I chose this model, there's plenty of room for activities underneath.

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I've made a bit more progress since I bought it, I'll make some follow-up posts with progress!
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I am trying to make this build "high tech" so to speak, i.e. I'll use 3D scanning and CAD more than is necessary.

One of the first steps was to 3D scan the underside for a first check to see what kind of room I have under there, so that I know what I could use for batteries/motors.
My goal here is to put the batteries where the chassis goes, between the wheels, like in a modern EV for weight distribution.

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That's extremely difficult with that era's x-frames, unless you plan to replace the frame with a custom built one...
Yes, the plan is to replace the entire frame.

I originally wanted to do a '59 or '60 Cadillac, but the X-frame in those is worse, in that the rear footwells sink below the top of the frame in the middle of the X. With this one at least the entire floor is up above (for the most part) the top of the frame. So at least I'll be able to keep the floor original and not compromise that too much.

I haven't gotten to a point yet to where I have all the parts mocked up where they need to go, so it's not clear how much, if any, cutting is required.
Right around August of last year, I purchased the donor car for the swap. I bought a 2019 Tesla Model 3 Long Range AWD from Copart. I was hoping it might have the 980 motor, but I didn't luck out, I have the 990. Either way, the plan is to use the entire battery pack and both motors for the swap.
Here's what the car looked like the day I got it:
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I spent the rest of last year basically tearing down the Tesla and parting it out. It's been surprisingly good, apparently Tesla parts are in high demand!
Here's what the car looked like at the end of 2022:
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looks like a great project. have you decided on a controller?
Thanks! I think at least so far I am inclined towards using the Ingenext controller for battery and both motors, but I am certainly open to others.
Getting closer to present time with the updates here. Initially, I was thinking about maybe reusing the entire rear subframe and suspension components from the Model 3, so I set about 3D scanning and reverse engineering it.

I've scanned the rear subframe separately, motor and subframe together, and also every suspension link separately. Only things that were not modeled were the axle shafts and springs. After that, they were individually reverse engineered and put together in an assembly that allows you to articulate the suspension. This would be useful to check for fit in the car, fitment of wheels, etc...
Unfortunately, right about when this was done, I decided I wouldn't be using the entire Tesla Model 3 suspension in my project for a few reasons, track width being the main one, and also cost. I sold the subframe and the good suspension parts for a good amount.

Here's a couple of pictures of the 3D scans, and the end result. Also click on the thumbnail for a gif of the suspension flex.

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your model conversion looks fantastic, great work!
Thank you! I saw your build thread, did you figure out your drive unit separation?
I have a couple of updates, not that many. I started working on the rear suspension, I posted a new thread here:

I dismounted and scanned the front motor as well.
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Motor itself is intact, but I did have some damage around the area. Oil pump looks pretty toast, the wiring harness around the motor is damaged (I can see metal wires), and I also broke a plastic coolant inlet on the back driver side of the motor. The coolant inlet on the heat exchanger is also bent (visible in the scan there), so I might have to source one of those as well.
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Cad programs are ok until you start to work on the car, what your planning will end costing you about 80K$ Thats if your going to re do the whole car to look like a caddy, I had a customer send me a 67 Caddy hearse to convert, the weight, demanded 2 ,11 inch motors and 2 controllers, 170 volt LiOnP45 pack @ 300 AH cells was 22K$ if I remember,

after all that was done to what he wanted he was at around 52K$ when done. and that was with no body work , or painting, or interior work , He have me make a large wooden coffin to put all the cells in, A real waste of money in my opinion , but its a business. so you do what they want, Usually big dreams turn into real nightmares
Well, I bought a donor Model 3 , so I have the 2 motors, battery pack and a few of the random required electronics for way under $10k after selling off some of the parts I didn't need.
That being said, I am fully prepared for having extra costs on the build. Low budget isn't really a goal here, it's more of a learning experience, and ending up with a cool usable daily driver.
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Wonderful. Please let us know details on the replacement frame...I have a rumination of doing a '51 Studebaker, I just balk pretty hard at the $20k I expect a new frame to cost all told.

My alternative for the rear was to bolt in a Miata subframe...

PS - Nobody would be upset if your scans/CAD were open-source...
Yes I will! I'll post some updates in my M3C7 subframe thread shortly, although it's nowhere near close to being finished.

As far as open sourcing the CAD data, that probably won't happen, just because it's a lot of work, and I don't want to have commercial use of it for free. If you're a diy'er and have a need for it, shot me a PM and we'll figure something out.
Quick update here, pretty much done with the initial design of the rear subframe to mount the Tesla Model 3 RDU using C7 Corvette components. Everything fits nice and neat, there's a few details like the sway bar and maybe the top brace, and also coilovers, but I'll deal with those later.

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Now it's time to move to the front cradle, similar idea, use C7 Corvette components and mount the Tesla Model 3 Front drive unit.
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Why the C7 subframe over the Tesla? Aren't they both like 63"?
It's not a C7 subframe. It's a custom subframe using the C7 suspension pick up points and arms, but not the subframe itself. It's slightly narrower than the Tesla subframe for my application.
I chose this for a few reasons, packaging being one of them. I needed a slightly narrower setup, the Tesla subframe front mounting points are not in a great spot
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A pretty big update, although work on the front subframe is far from being finished!
Bought, 3D scanned and reverse engineered all the C7 front suspension components.

I also happened to have a fully reverse engineered 2013 Mustang electric steering rack from a customer that I mocked up, it's almost perfect. Almost, but not quite.

The front is significantly more difficult than the rear. A few issues that we've encountered:
  • the C7 doesn't have a AWD (duh), so we're gonna use rear wheel bearings, which will work, but the shock needed to be relocated in a cantilever setup, with a bow-shaped replacement piece where the shock was. You can kinda see the piece is this picture.
  • the Corvette steering geometry is a little wonky with regards to the Ackerman angle, which was sort of surprising. Apparently it's a known issue with C7s, at full lock slow speeds there's some skipping of the tires. Due to the significantly longer wheelbase, it's gonna be quite a bit better, but not quite perfect in the Caddy. Might need to do something about this at a later date.
  • the Mustang steering rack I have has a bracket that interferes with the passenger side axle. Luckily, newer Mustang racks don't have the bracket in the way, so I may use that. I do need to buy a new Mustang rack and reverse engineer it if I go that route.
  • Mustang steering rack travel is about 5.25" lock to lock. I could make the bump stops smaller to get maybe 6" of travel, which it looks like it gives the wheels about 30 degrees of turn. I need to figure out if this is less than stock Corvette, also if this is enough for my purpose.
Does anyone have any suggestions for electric assist steering racks? Or manual steering racks to use with the Prius assisted column? What's the general consensus here?

Other than that, it looks like everything kinda fits. Some issues to figure out but not too bad overall.
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