For those of us who have spent decades in the automobile business, even the most dedicated enthusiasts can sometimes be a bit desensitized. Thankfully, there are still cars out there that stop us in our tracks and take our breath away, whether it is a rare pre-war classic, a long-lost historic racing car, or in the case of our featured car, a custom unlike anything we have ever seen. This stunning machine is nicknamed “Thundertaker” and it started life as a 1960 Cadillac Series 75 hearse, originally supplied by Superior Coach of Ohio. One look will tell you it has undergone a radical transformation.
This incredible machine was designed and built by Bryan Fuller of Fuller Moto in Atlanta, Georgia. Bryan Fuller is a world-renowned builder of custom cars and motorcycles and you may recognize him as the host of several television programs such as Two Guys Garage, Naked Speed, Café Racer TV and Overhaulin’ among others. Fuller began his career in the motor industry as an apprentice at the legendary SoCal Speed Shop, where hot rodding icon Chip Foose recognized his talent and hired him. While under Foose’s tutelage, Bryan helped the team win two coveted Riddler Awards in 2003 and 2005. Later in 2005, Fuller set out on his own, starting Fuller Moto in downtown Atlanta, Georgia where he specializes in custom café racer motorcycles and sophisticated custom cars. Since then he and his crew have built a series of jaw dropping vehicles, winning countless awards and accolades along the way.
The Thundertaker started with a phone call to Bryan by one of his regular clients. This particular client had a tired old Cadillac Superior hearse and he wanted to do something “fun” with it. His idea was to transform the car so it could be used for family outings, weddings, proms, or even a night out on the town. Of course, it would have to be special and built to the standard expected by Fuller Moto. Once a design was settled on, work began in earnest with the original GM X-frame being pitched in favor of a custom built Art Morrison chassis – the longest ever created by the legendary chassis builder. The chassis features independent, double wishbone front suspension and a sophisticated, fully located live rear axle. The custom designed and built chassis had to account for the massive driveshaft, and was also built to allow the custom stainless steel exhaust system to run through the frame and exit out the original taillight openings. The original engine was also swapped out in favor of a GM ZZ454 big-block crate engine and heavy-duty overdrive automatic transmission. Twin-compressor RideTech air suspension gives not only a smooth and controlled ride, but also allows the car to be raised for driving or slammed to the rockers for show. Powerful Wilwood four-wheel disc brakes have been fitted behind the classic look of chrome wire wheels and wide-whitewall tires.
Once the frame was completed, the body was extensively reworked, with only the lower doors remaining stock. For starters, the roof has been chopped by 5.5 inches and stretched, with a massive Webasto-style sunroof cut into the middle. The drastically lowered roofline allowed Fuller to fit the A-pillars and windscreen from a 1960 Fleetwood, for more rakish look. After that, the entire body was channeled to sit low down over the frame. In the rear, the classic fins were raised by four inches to accentuate the classic Cadillac drama. Since the unique hearse rear glass could not be cut down due to the extreme curvature, it was cleverly sunken into the body to help Fuller achieve his perfect look. The body was then painstakingly aligned and finished in House of Kolor Orion Silver to a standard worthy of the concours circuit.
The stunning features don’t end when you open the door, of course. The interior has been trimmed in white with gray inserts made from the very last known bolts of fabric as used in the original 1960 Cadillac Fleetwood limousines. Custom plastic covers were then fitted not only to protect the beautiful upholstery, but to provide a bit of tongue-in-cheek humor to the build, as the size of the seats reminded Fuller of his grandmother’s plastic-covered sofa. Twin Vintage Air A/C units keep occupants cool and a myriad of electronics – flat screen TV’s, Alpine Audio, and Kicker speakers – keep everyone entertained. Fuller took great pride in the level of detail on the interior. In keeping with the period, he meticulously sourced genuine Cadillac trim parts to decorate the door panels and the like. He personally picked every part from a southwest breaker’s yard, drawing inspiration from many different Cadillacs. Not every piece is from 1960, he chose the pieces that were most aesthetically pleasing such as the ’64 door handles and a dome light from a ’49 coupe. It is this level of detail and care that astounds us every time we see this remarkable machine.
One of our favorite areas is beneath the hood. The GM ZZ454 is magnificently detailed, eschewing typical overly-chromed gaudiness for an elegant, Cadillac V16-inspired look. The engine has been painted the same glossy black as the original V16 and ribbed inserts in the valve covers harken back to the elegant pre-war multi-cylinder engines.
Over 10,000 hours were spent over the course of three years to construct this amazing automobile. It has been shown at SEMA, featured in Hot Rod magazine, and has won multiple awards since its completion in 2013. It remains in outstanding condition and at 22 feet in length, is truly a sight to behold. Like his contemporaries Chip Foose or Troy Trepanier, Bryan Fuller is more than just a hot rodder in the traditional sense. His inspiration comes from many areas; part traditional American hot rod, part industrial designer, and part European coachbuilder. This amazing automobile truly is a one-off coachbuilt special in the truest sense and we are honored to offer it for sale.