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Dream Shed: the Pink Cadillac Diner

22 April 2015


What could be better than a shed full of ’50s vehicles with a perfectly executed diner to match?

Lois and Graham Thrupp’s dream garage build began only a year ago. But their obsession with American cars and culture goes back a whole lot further. The desire to build a place to not only house their ever-expanding collection of cars, but also to enjoy spending time with family, friends and car club mates has been on the agenda for some time. The more they thought about it, the more the plan progressed, until it became the vision of what you see here today. With a love for all things ’50s, finding a suitable location to store a bunch of such large vehicles was a challenge in itself, but as you can tell, it’s an obstacle they have well and truly overcome. 

It was just by chance that their love for Cadillacs was kicked off. Back 20 years ago when they decided to buy their first old car, they’d actually looked at an Edsel, as a friend of theirs owned one. After finding the red 1959 Cadillac Coupe de Ville though, Graham was sold, and it was soon purchased. From those fateful beginnings, you’d now be hard pressed to find anyone locally who knows more about the Cadillac brand, or vehicle specs than Lois. After a full rebuild of the vehicle, it’s now in amazing condition, as is every other vehicle in the collection.

It’s the extravagance of the era, and the shape that drew them to the vehicles, and while they’ve got a bunch of ’59s, Graham admits he prefers the front end of the ’57s more, but the rear end of a ’59 Cadillac is just unbeatable. 

They’re not completely loyal to the brand though, as the 1966 Ford Thunderbird was the next car to be added. It’s a bit more of a reasonably sized vehicle, and to this day actually remains Graham’s favourite, due to the way it drives more like a modern vehicle. Mind you, it neither has the class nor the head-turning ability of the Cadillacs. 

The Chev convertible was the next to join the family, around seven years ago now, and as with the Cadillacs, it’s all about the shape. This one has a surprise under the hood, though, and that’s a fuel-injected late-model small-block engine. As such, it’s no surprise that Graham calls it their most economical cruiser. The Persian Sand (pink/grey) Seville was restored locally; in fact, it was on Waiheke Island of all places, and was purchased after the couple sold-on a Mustang, which they’d won at Beach Hop! 

Of the 11 different models made by Cadillac in 1959, the couple were making good progress towards collecting one of each. One of those missing was a Fleetwood sedan, so around three years ago, they filled that gap by purchasing the green car. It’s a vehicle with an interesting history to it, and while the details do need confirming, the name that you can see ever so slightly on the driver’s door is that of Joe McCarthy, the long-time manager of the New York Yankees, so all fingers point to him having ordered the car new from Cadillac in 1959. With just 38,000 miles on the clock, it’s about as low mileage as you could ever hope for in a car that’s more than 50 years old!

The most recent addition is the extremely rare Biarritz Convertible — a car that Lois has sworn she’d own for many years, but only just managed to got her hands on this year. 
With the Biarritz added to the collection, there aren’t really any other Cadillacs that the pair feel they need. Sure, there are ambulances and hearses, but they’re not really their style. And besides, the amount of cars they’ve got in the shed now is perfect for the amount of space they have available. 

As it is, the 1978 Oldsmobile Delta 88 cop car is relegated to the workshop area of the shed. Mind you, it’s up for sale if anyone is interested in owning what Lois laughs must be the most photographed car in the country. For many years the car sat outside a business the couple owned. Not only did it draw admiring looks from passers-by, but tourist busses stopped for photos, and apparently it had a significant effect on the speed of the passing traffic as well!

The pair have worked hard for many years and it was after selling the business that they were in a position to build the shed that they’d dreamed of for many years. The style was always going to be that of a ’50s milk bar, and with plenty of neon signs from BOP Neon around, it really looks the part. The big ‘Pink Cadillac Diner’ sign atop the milk bar frontage was actually a fluke purchase, and a bargain at that, as it had been commissioned and never collected, and so was sitting for many years before being offered to them. And it was the perfect piece, not only in size, but also to give the milk bar a name.

The entire fit-out of the building was undertaken by Lois and Graham themselves, and is very cleverly done, and extremely well thought out. The matte-black paint that adorns the plywood walls and the roof really give it a great look, and make the perfect backdrop for the memorabilia that has been collected over a lifetime.

Included in the items around the walls are a number of old games, which would have been found in diners of the era. One wall houses a collection of money boxes, politically incorrectly (these days) called ‘Greedy N**** Boys’. Another hosts a collection of old ashtrays, while another is home to plenty of American number plates. The more you look, the more you find. 
Even Lois and Graham themselves were surprised at just how many items they’d collected over the years, as they’d never had the space to have everything on display before, nor the space to have all the vehicles under one roof. Now that the job of getting the shed to a point where they’re happy with it, Graham laughs that he should go and get a real job. 

With a jukebox that plays CDs sitting in the milk bar, and plenty of seating, it’s the perfect meeting point for Bay Rodders and Cadillac Club members, which the couple are members of. As Graham says, it’ll be compulsory for everyone who visits to have a milkshake.

So with a shed this good, and cars this pristine, which car do they get out the most in? All of them is the answer.

“They’re like your kids, you can’t have favourites,” says Lois.

We can’t think of any better way to live out a retirement than hanging out in a place like this and cruising in cars from an era that will never again be repeated. They’ve worked damn hard to get here, but we have no doubt now that, now they’re sitting back and enjoying it, that it was all worthwhile.  

This article was published in NZV8 Issue No. 92. You can grab the back issue here.