Hey, this is Classic Car News, so of course we’re not talking about women who might run a house of prostitution. But to my eyes and ears, the two most fascinating cars at the recent and 50th annual trade show of the Specialty Equipment Market Association were Madam X and Madam V.
Both cars are customized classic Cadillacs and both are owned by Wes and Vivian Rydell. In 1976, Wes Rydell took over his father’s Chevrolet dealership in North Dakota and now has franchises in 14 states, a dozen of them west of the Mississippi River.
He asked custom car designer Chip Foose to take a 1939 Cadillac 60 Special four-door coupe and turn it into Madam X, a contemporary tribute to the “car that never was,” made famous by the 1935 concept sketch by Art Ross, who had just joined the GM styling department.
Marcel rebodied the car as a coupe powered by a Gen V LT-1 engine from a Chevrolet Corvette with an 8-speed automatic transmission from a Cadillac Escalade and the differential from a Camaro Z01.
To my eyes, the car was the most beautiful creature at the SEMA Show, and the bespoke billet aluminum wheels designed to resemble classic Cadillac hubcaps are works of art. Breathtaking!
But breathtaking also could apply to Madam V, the initial presumably in tribute to Vivian Rydell. Wes Rydell’s request of the Ringbrothers was to produce the offspring of a 1948 Cadillac fastback coupe and a 2016 Cadillac ATS-V, so that all of the ATS-V’s latest technology would function while being hidden within the classic Cadillac sheet metal.
This would be the first classic car project for the Rings, who previously have worked only on post-1965 muscle cars, for which they’ve become stars within the custom car world.
“It was a really unique challenge and represented a totally different way of working for us,” said Jim Ring, who with his brother, Mike, typically fabricate many new parts for their projects.
But this time, they not only had to keep everything from the ATS-V, but find a way to make it all fit and function in the Cadillac.
A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.