WOODBURY, CT – Sal Geraci has a fondness for classic cars even though he has a 2010 Dodge Charger and 2006 Dodge Challenger in the seven-vehicle collection found at his Woodbury home.
“Old cars have character. They look nice. You can look at a tail light or just a piece of the grille from a car in the past and you can tell what year it was, when it was born. You don’t have that today. Today everything looks alike,” said the 85-year-old Geraci back in late October.
“You look at the new cars today, they all look like jelly beans. You couldn’t tell a Lexus from a Mercedes if they went by you at 50 miles an hour.”
The oldest car in his fleet, which also includes a 1977 Pontiac Trans Am, a 1991 Mercedes Benz 350SDL and a 2000 Ford Crown Victoria, stands out from the rest because of its massive size and period tail fins. It’s a light green 1960 Cadillac Series 62 coupe that he bought in 1967 and drove until 1982.
What distinguishes the 1960 model-year Cadillac from the 1959 are its full-width grille, reduced chrome trim and smaller fins in the rear. Geraci’s car is powered by a 390-cubic-inch V8 engine with automatic transmission.
“I like the looks of the car. I know the 1959 Cadillac is the Cadillac that most people want because of the high fins but I think this is prettier than the ’59. I just like the looks of it. That’s all. It’s not a rare car. It’s not a ‘most wanted’ car. It’s just something that I like,” said Geraci. .
After driving it for 15 years after acquiring it, he then parked the Caddy for more than 20 years. “That was going to be my project when I retired. Unfortunately, I worked until I was in my 80s and that’s why I had to have somebody rebuilt the car for me,” he said.
“I had it all these years. What was I going to do with it? It wasn’t worth anything the way it was, so I had to do something with it.”
What happened next, as Geraci noted separately in an email, was a “money-pit horror experience.” The restoration business that he chose to do the work “nickle and dimed” him and failed to do major repairs, while charging for a broken saw blade and even 10 cents for a piece of sandpaper.
“We had a handshake that the car was going to cost between $25,000 and $35,000. That was the deal. He said, ‘When you get the car back, it’s going to be like a brand new car. The engine’s going to be redone. Everything’s going to be repainted and redone, and it’s going to be brand new,’” Geraci recalled.
But that wasn’t the case when Geraci retrieved it in May 2017 after five years of the car being away. “I paid the restorer well over $70,000 to get it back. They did not replace the ball joints. I had to do that separately. It’s supposed to have four mufflers on it. It’s only got two. If you look at the spare tire in the trunk, it’s a narrow white wall. You would think that if you’re replacing (something on) a car, you’d go back to the original equipment,” he said.
And that wasn’t all. “The wipers didn’t work. The carburetor needed to be rebuilt. The signal lights didn’t work. I’ve got a whole list of things that should have been done that didn’t get done. After $77,000 that’s pretty sad. It sounded like a good deal. It turned out to be a bad deal.”
At that point, he had no choice but to find other businesses closer to home to properly finish what needed to be done. Over the next four or five years, problems got sorted piecemeal – the malfunctioning signal light was traced to a grounding issue – and the interior renewed.
“About a year ago I finally got it up to the point it is now but I still need a little more done. Right now the steering is a little sloppy even though it has new ball joints. I’ve only driven the car about a hundred miles since I got it back so I don’t know how much more needs to be done,” he said.
To date, Geraci has spent $88,040.26 (yes, he was that specific) on the Cadillac, which is far more than the car is likely worth. But that’s okay with Geraci. The car has provided him with memories since he purchased it from a co-worker 56 years ago, and has been used in two weddings.
“I drove used cars all my life,” Geraci said. “This one was in pretty good shape and I figured, ‘Why not?’ My first Cadillac. I figured what the hell. I loved the car then and I could love it now if I get everything straightened out.”
See the 1960 Cadillac Series 62 in action in this YouTube video…