Bill Frick Motors

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Bill Frick and Phil Walters, aka Ted Tappett, installing a brand new Cadillac OHV V-8 engine in a brand new 1950 Ford. Photo courtesy of The Hemmings Blog.
Thomas Campbell's 1949 Ford, Fordillac, was advertised for sale on eBay as a Bill Frick conversion. As Bill was known for installing OHV Cadillac engines in Ford's, and not the flatheads, this is a rare exception if the story is true.
In 1953 Frick started to install Cadillac engines in the Studebaker Starlight and Starliner coupe. The modified Studebaker was named Studillac. This is a Studillac price list. Photo courtesy of
An ad for the 1954 Studillac.[1]
The 1957 Bill Frick Special coupe, one out of three Bill Frick Specials.
In 1959 Bill Frick Motors installed a 389 Pontiac engine with two McCulloch blowers in Albert Ornellas' 1957 Ford Thunderbird. Albert was a street racer from Lowell, Massachusetts. The conversion took 663 hours to perform. The hourly charge was 5 USD, and the total price was $3315.00.
The receipt specifying the work performed on Albert Ornellas' 1957 Ford Thunderbird. Photo courtesy of M. Carlo.
The rear suspension on Jack Schleich's 1932 Ford 3-Window Coupe was built at Bill Frick Motors around 1961. Jack was an employee at the company at the time.

Bill Frick Motors of Rockville Centre, New York was run and operated by Bill Frick. Bill was an innovative road racer and race car builder that turned engine swapping into a fine art. Custom conversions and engine installations were his specialty. Bill's partner, Phil Walters, went under the pseudonym Ted Tappett when he raced Midgets and jalopies around Long Island. He reverted to his given name later on when he switched to sports cars with extraordinary success and went all the way to Le Mans.[2] Bill opened up Bill Frick Motors in 1949, and he began to build and market brand new Cadillac OHV-engined Fords under the name Fordillac. The Fordillacs were powered by the 160-horsepower, 331-cubic-inch four barrel Cadillac V-8's, and they were available with manual or automatic transmissions. Engine and chassis upgrades were also available. BIll's shop was located in Rockville Centre, New York, at 1000 Sunrise Highway. Nearly next door to him was Signal Motors, a Ford dealer. Frick would buy the new Ford, drive it 100 yards and yank out the new flathead for the Cadillac engine, so there was a pile of new flatheads in the back of Frick's shop during that era.[3]

Noted sports car builder and racer Briggs Cunningham purchased one of Frick's early 1950 Fordillacs. He drove it on the street for daily transportation, but he also raced it at a number of tracks.[4] February 2, 1950, Briggs clocked his Fordillac at Daytona at almost 107 mph. The following month he ran the Cadillac-engined Ford in competitive events at the Boca Raton Airbase in Florida. He took a 5th overall on the Gymkhana course and a 9th overall in the handicap race. This was events for sports cars, so the results were impressing. In 1950 Cunningham hired Frick to prepare two new Series 61 Cadillacs for the 24-hour race at Le Mans. Frick's Cadillac finished 10th in the race.[5]

In 1953 Frick started to produce Studebaker Starlight and Starliner coupes that were powered by the 210-horsepower Cadillac engines. The modified Studebaker was named Studillac. According to the ad for the 1954 Studillac, the Studillac combined the grace and beauty of the Studebaker Starliner with the power-packed performance of the new Cadillac engine. The Studillac was available with a manual steering column, or manual floor shift. It was also available with dual range Hydramatic. The conversions were priced from $1500. The Studillac was capable of top speed of 125 MPH, and it had an accelration from 0 to 60 MPH in 8.5 seconds.

In 1954 Bill Frick Motors was an exclusive U.S distributor for Kieft Sports Cars, and an an exclusive Long Island dealer for the Allard Motor Car.

Frick went on to build an exotic Ferrari-like sports car named the Bill Frick Special. The Bill Frick Special was designed by Michelotti, and it featured a hand-made body by Vignale. Three Bill Frick Specials were made, a prototype, a convertible, and a coupe. The coupe was built for Oregon businessman John Blodgett, Jr., and it featured a modified Studebaker chassis, Studebaker front suspension, a modified 1955 Cadillac Eldorado V-8, fourspeed manual transmission and a Mercury differential. The build was completed in 1957.[6]

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Jack Schleich worked at Bill Frick Motors. Jack's little brother Don Schleich remembers that Frick's was the place to be back in the days. He remembers the guys building a driveshaft cannon for recreation at lunch time. It had a Model T coil mounted on it and a spark plug tapped into the end. The guys at the shop made wooden projectiles on the lathe for it. They would light the torch, then kick the neutral flame out with their shoe and stick the torch in the open end of the driveshaft. As soon as they felt there was enough acetylene and oxygen, the projectile went in and the coil fired the spark plug. The pointed piece of wood would travel a good 300 feet without dropping an inch before it ran into the side of a concrete building.[3]

Don Schleich remembers that his brother Jack would bring home some customer cars to put some test time on them. He remembers a white 1956 Ford Thunderbird that they put a Cadillac engine in. It performed very well, much better than the 312 Y block from Ford ever did. They had a customer from Massachusetts named Albert Ornellas. Albert was a big time street racer for money, and he had a 1957 Ford Thunderbird that Frick and the boys put a 389 Pontiac with two McCulloch blowers under the hood. The only thing you could see from the outside was a little bump on each side of the hood where the top of the blowers would have interfered. There were also Latham superchargers being installed, several on the 300 series Chryslers. Don also remembers a Chrysler hemi powered Facel Vega that Jack brought home one evening.[3]


Frank Savona
Jack Schleich
Paul Seidenspinner
Teddy Schill

Cars Restyled by Bill Frick Motors

Jack Schleich's 1932 Ford 3-Window Coupe
Thomas Campbell's 1949 Ford - Fordillac
Briggs Cunningham's 1950 Fordillac
Briggs Cunningham's 1953 Studillac
Albert Ornellas' 1957 Ford Thunderbird



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