The scrutiny of a dog at a kennel show can’t compare with the inspection that judges of the Antique Automobile Club of America afford classic cars entered in its annual show in Hershey, Pa.
Frank Nicodemus, founder of Castle Cadillac Classics and Antiques in Wappingers Falls, knows, because the professional restorer has not only been there; he has wrested first prize and other awards in the show’s Prestige Class.
He regards one first prize as a miracle. “In loading the vehicle onto a flatbed, two operators improperly put straps on the back of the vehicle to hold it in place and damaged the gas line,” he says. “Following in a truck, I noticed the vehicle was leaking fuel along Route 80. We found we needed to patch a damaged fuel line.”
Nicodemus prides himself on having the underpinnings of the car as perfect as the exposed parts. He can recall a judge inspecting the underside of his entry and summoning a fellow judge to admire the workmanship.
Castle Cadillac specializes in providing refurbishment for Cadillacs ranging from the 20th century’s teen years to the l970s. In his 22,000-square-foot shop and on the premises, Nicodemus and his partner, Chris Semke, house some 50 to 60 cars at a time, some being refurbished for customers and others available for spare parts.
The business started in Yonkers, where Nicodemus’ parents ran a car repair business. Their son grew up in the business, joining them full time after graduation from Mount St. Michael Academy in the Bronx. When young Frank initially fell in love, it was with the fins of a 1959 Cadillac. “I wanted a car like that one day,” he says.
The youth started collecting l959 Cadillacs, visiting salvage yards and advertising for needed parts. Finding others seeking the same parts, he embarked on manfacturing them and went into sales, promoting himself as “the Cadillac man,” selling parts and emblems.
Relocating to Wappingers Falls, he specialized in restoring Cadillacs for others, attracting clients by going to car shows and winning prizes. He boasts 50 AACA awards. He took in his friend and employee of 25 years, Semke, as partner, and together they operate the business at 1090 Route 376.
Nicodemus faced a major challenge when the CEO of Samsung approached him to refurbish a l957 Eldorado Brougham. In replating the bumpers, all of the original equipment manufacturer’s chrome was redone. The finished product is now housed in a museum in South Korea.
The second floor of the shop boasts an upholstery shop with leather samples for seats and materials for carpets. “We buy the leather hides and recreate the seats,” Nicodemus says. Two employees labor on upholstery. The shop provided a Cadillac seat to an individual seeking a unique couch for a den in which hosts and visitors watch television and drink cocktails.
Castle Cadillac met another challenge when an owner of a 1934 Hupmobile appealed to them for restoration of the rare model for the purpose of driving it, not merely collecting. The model has wooden wheels for which Nicodemus procured the replacement tires. He is working on the engine.
Future plans include establishing a show room and venturing into the field of antique car memorabilia and automotive art.
Nicodemus is licensed and bonded as an appraiser and adjuster for automobiles and is a board member of the National Automobile Dealers of America. He resides in Wappingers Falls with his wife, Sandra.
Challenging Careers focuses on the exciting and unusual business lives of Hudson Valley residents. Comments or suggestions may be emailed to Catherine Portman-Laux at email@example.com.