Pinal Ways preview: ’96 Caddy owner paints a nice picture

Editor’s note: This is an excerpt from a profile of Coolidge resident, bridge painter and custom-car aficionado Donnie Montijo of Coolidge. The full profile is in the summer 2012 issue of Pinal Ways magazine, on newsstands now. The theme of the issue is “Work and Play,” focusing on the differences that folks reveal between their professional lives and the ones they lead when having fun with their family and friends.

When Donnie Montijo, 33, of Coolidge started looking in earnest for a 1996 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham to fix up like one that had impressed him as a youngster, it was not his first rodeo.

“I used to have five or six cars like this,” says Montijo from the wheel of his customized Fleetwood, which he bought through an online ad from an older gentleman in Phoenix. The car was burgundy and the man was asking $4,500. In his head Montijo saw candy lime gold and negotiated the sale for $4,000.

“It ran fine,” recalls Montijo, “I put a new exhaust on it, gave it a good tune-up, fresh water, new oil. No problems.” Although Montijo used to work full-time as an auto body painter, and for six years has painted bridges for Stinger Welding in Coolidge, he had EZ Cruizer of La Palma paint his prized Caddy. “No time,” says the father of six, whose wife, Elisa, works for the city of Coolidge.

The idea for the color (which will be shown in all its glory in the upcoming issue of Pinal Ways, available by subscription or at any Circle K by mid-July) came to Montijo from an Olds Cutlass called “Bubblicious” in a custom-car magazine. He has yet to name his Fleetwood, but has a working title in “Daddy’s Caddy.”

The original went from stock 15-inch Goodyear tires on alloy rims to 13-inch Pirellis on 13×7 Dayton rims today. He says he considered adding hydraulics to make the body cavort in various ways as owners of this type of ride tend to do, but after recalling his own experience, he thought better of it. “I’ve had ten cars with hydraulics,” Montijo explains. “It’s a lot of maintenance. This one I can just get in and go. I don’t worry about oil leaks or hoses breaking. If that happens you can’t go anywhere. You’re stuck.”

For similar reasons, he also appreciates his Cadillac’s 350 cubic-inch LT-1 V8 engine. “It’s a lot of motor,” he says. “It’s similar to the Corvette’s. It’s not like the (other GM engine available at the time) Northstar, They don’t last. They blow up. This is a regular Chevy 350. If something happens it’s easy to fix.” He adds that he gets close to 18 miles per gallon in the Cadillac and would muchrather drive it than work on it.

He says he gets a lot of attention: “I get a lot of looks; more from old people than young people.” Would he ever consider selling it? Montijo thinks for a minute and strokes his pencil-thin beard. “I probably would,” he concludes. “Then I’d probably buy another one.”

Clifford and Mary Fewel offer unique driving impressions with their He Says/She Says columns in Copper Area News publications, and join forces each quarter with a dialogue about cars, trucks and life in Pinal Ways magazine.

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