For this installment of the LOWRIDER metal fabrication shop, we decided to visit the 1980-1985 Cadillac Coupe de Ville Brougham d’Elegance Edition. A lot of guys like the look of the smaller opera window openings but do not like the idea of having to run the padded vinyl top that accompanies it. So what they do is take these smaller window opening overlay pieces, which are made of plastic, and fiberglass or epoxy these pieces onto the metal roof. At this point they have to cross their fingers that they will be able to bodywork and paint over them and not have the seams crack back through. So to permanently remedy this situation we turned to David and Greg Engle for some metal masterfulness.
We started off by taking patterns and measurements off of the stock plastic window pieces so we could start the metal shaping process. One creative liberty we did take with this upgrade over the factory design is that we noticed the side window openings had a different finished inside edge than the rear window opening. So we decided to make all the openings match for a more cohesive-looking and natural look.
After determining our plan of attack, we called up our friends at Harbor Freight Tools to get a few pieces of equipment to help us form our sheetmetal pieces. A shrinker and a stretcher would help us dial in the exact contour of the pieces to match the factory profile of the roof and windows, and an English Wheel would help us give the rear overlay piece a softer shape in the flat areas to mimic the factory piece.
Once all of the sheetmetal pieces were formed we had to weld them onto the car. For this we turned to Miller Electric Manufacturing Company for our welding needs. The rear “Limo look” overlay piece goes directly over the factory full width window so we decided to TIG-weld the panel on with our Miller Diversion 180 TIG in order to prevent any sort of spatter damaging the glass during the process. Welding it this way did require that we go slow in order to minimize warping the metal panel, but after we were done it didn’t require nearly as much grinding as a MIG weld so there’s always a trade off.
For the side “opera” window pieces we utilized our Miller Multimatic 200 for its MIG welding process. We were able to tack-weld it carefully quicker but it did require sanding to flatten out our welds. The Fleetwood Brougham d’Elegance vinyl padded rooftop happens to be a way better look other than the roof design on the regular shaped Coupe de Villes. In our opinion the vinyl top is cool, but the molded metal look allows for added paint, patterns, and or stripping. Please follow along as we go step by step for that permanent Brougham look that you can also adapt on your 1980-1984 Cadillac Coupe de Ville as well.
The stock rear Brougham window overlay piece has definitely seen better days. The cracks were glued back together so we could take proper measurements and patterns to transfer them to cold rolled 18-gauge sheetmetal.
1. Once we had our plan of attack we started cutting out pieces of sheetmetal and bent them in our sheetmetal brake. With the pieces bent to the desired angle we then used our Harbor Freight “shrinker” tool on the edge to give our straight pieces the proper arch to match the factory window. Going slow and spreading the shrinks across the whole edge prevents any kinking in the part.
2. Now that the long pieces are done we moved onto the short side pieces. This is where it gets a little tricky, after cutting the pieces to the proper shape we decided to pre-stretch the areas where the corners are going to be shaped with our Harbor Freight stretcher. Also the reason for this is once the pieces are bent they will need extra material to hammer the corners into shape and keep the panel flat.
3. We then bent the edge of the panels in our sheetmetal brake to get the straight edge. Next we had to hammer the brake out of it where it started transitioning into the corner. With the corner drawn out we then used some Vise Grips to grab and bend the corner back into a rough general shape. Since we had pre-stretched these areas it was much easier to bend these corners then use our hammer and dolly to dial in the shape.
4. Once the edges were all finished we decided to run our panels through our Harbor Freight English wheel to give the flat areas some gentle shape. We put a piece of sheet rubber on the upper wheel so it would only bend our panels in one direction perpendicular to the direction we rolled it. This process takes minimal tension on the wheels to achieve some nice results.
5. With the pieces set over the original factory plastic piece, you can see our new sheetmetal Limo window is starting to take shape.
6. Before moving forward with our rear window transformation, we taped some chip board to it in order to protect it during the preparation process and also while we did the final fitting of our new overlay piece.
7. Now that our new overlay pieces are fully welded together and metal finished, we moved onto fitting it to the car and tacking it in place.
8. With the new sheetmetal tacked in the exact position that we wanted it was time to fully weld it to make it a permanent fixture. We decided to utilize our Miller Diversion 180 TIG welder machine in order to eliminate the chance of any sort of MIG welder spatter damaging our window at all during the welding process.
9. The factory side window pieces are made of plastic, but for permanent longevity and to ensure any cracks ruining your precious paintjob the only way to go is to make them out of metal.
10. Here you can see the Harbor Freight combination shrinker/stretcher in action. By bending strips of sheetmetal based off measurements of the plastic side window frame, we had the basis of our pieces. In order to arch them we carefully shrunk the inside edge of the sheetmetal a little bit at a time across the whole edge in order to not create any kinks.
11. With all the window pieces shaped, we started tacking them together. The front edge pieces were overlapped so we could scribe a cut line and create a perfect gapless weld joint.
12. We proceeded to use our Miller TIG welder to tack weld our front edge pieces on so they wouldn’t move around during final welding.
13. After final welding we used our Harbor Freight hammer and dolly set to flatten the weld joints back out again. As you can see with a little patience the results will require minimal body filler material to be added.
14. With all of the metal shaping done now comes the fun part. We decided to MIG weld tack these pieces on with our Miller Multimatic 200 due to the irregular joining areas, but we still took the same pains with making the joints perfect before welding.
15. As you can see the results speak for themselves, we now have a permanent Cadillac Brougham d’Elegance that will never have any fiberglass cracking problems.
Miller Electric Mfg. Co.