William J. Unger's 1949 Cadillac Convertible
1949 Cadillac Sport Custom built by William J. Unger of Chicago, Illinois. When you think of Cadillac, you might imagine luxury, sophistication, and class. However, Mr. Unger saw a canvas, and his 1949 Cadillac Convertible wasn't merely another luxury vehicle—it was an exceptional fusion of General Motors parts, a creation that uniquely stood out from the rest. The build was completed in 1950, and it gained national recognition when it was featured in Motor Trend October 1950. In 1951, two photos of the car appeared in Trend Book 101 Custom Cars, in an article named "Customs With Character - A Lineup of Cars With Singular Personalities."
A Fusion of General Motors Parts
Unger's Cadillac proudly displayed a 1950 Pontiac hood that he had paired with a 1949 Buick windshield. The front fenders were borrowed from a 1949 Pontiac, and the front bumper came from a 1949 Buick. The grille opening was welded shut, and scoops and chromed rings were used to lead fresh air into the engine compartment. The deck lid was a graceful nod to the 1950 Oldsmobile. Exhaust pipes from a 1940 Chevrolet were routed through the trunk for a sporty appearance. But Unger didn’t stop there. The rear of the car was dressed up with a 1950 Cadillac bumper that he combined with half Pontiac and half Cadillac rear body and fenders. The chassis was made from a 1949 Cadillac and a 1949 Chevrolet frame that he spliced together.
Under the Hood and Inside
The car's heart was a GM straight-six engine. Slide open those 1950 Pontiac doors, and you were greeted with a daring leopard print interior, an unmistakable signature of Unger's bold design choices. The seats, hailing from a 1949 Chevrolet, promised comfort, while the instrument panel, sourced from both Buick and Chevrolet, offered functionality with a flair. It ran Sombrero hubcaps and blackwall tires.
The Legacy Lives On
In 2022, Shirley Unger Calabrese, William's daughter, reminisced about her father's iconic creation with Sondre Kvipt of Kustomrama. "William owned and operated Unger Auto Marine and Standor Motors in Chicago from 1956 until 1965. He was a pioneer in the use of fiberglass in auto repair," she told Sondre. Beyond his talent in crafting unique automobiles, Unger ended his career in the auto industry as an educator, shaping the auto industry's future by teaching auto body repair at a college in Michigan.
Magazine Features and Appearances
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