When a car is of poor design, you customize it. When a car's design is pleasing, minor restyling is often all that's necessary. That, in a nutshell, is John D'Agostino's custom car philosophy, explained to us while describing his latest creation, the '58 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham dubbed "Emerald Mist." It's a pretty sound premise if you ask us, one he has successfully used to design a stable of cool customs over the past four decades.

D'Agostino has never been afraid of using unusual and expensive cars for his custom creations, as evidenced by the "Caribbean" '56 Packard, the '57 Chrysler "Imperial Royale," or the "Royal Empress" '56 Lincoln. Even so, choosing a Cadillac Brougham was especially bold. He says he simply wanted to build a "rare and unique luxury vehicle," and this certainly fits the bill.

Derived from mid-'50s dream car designs, the hand-built, limited-edition Brougham represented the ultimate in opulence when introduced in 1957. At $13,074, the pillarless four-door was the most expensive production car in America (by comparison, Corvettes went for about $3,500 that year). For this price buyers not only got every creature comfort imaginable (automatic memory seat, magnetized drinking cups, and even a perfume atomizer spraying French fragrances), but also exquisite styling highlighted by a stainless steel, coupe-style top. A combined total of just 704 Broughams were built in 1957 and 1958.

"Compared to other production cars," D'Agostino says, the Brougham "had a Motorama look and elegance that was unmatched." That explains the restraint he exercised while instructing the father-and-son team at Oz's Kustoms (Oroville, CA) to put it under the torch. The most significant change was the front end facelift, which involved sectioning the fenders ahead of the wheel openings, installing a modified '58 Coupe DeVille bumper, and forming a custom grille opening that was filled with perforated metal and 160 chrome bullets. The front fender scoops were also exaggerated, and all emblems and handles were shaved.

"Probably the most challenging part of the customizing process was not chopping the top," D'Agostino says. "The car is so naturally proportioned that I felt chopping it would ruin the elegant Hollywood look." He had no such reservations about refining the rear end styling, however, so the team at Oz's tweaked and peaked the tailfins and relocated the taillights to the bumper. When the bodywork was done, Gene Winfield stepped in and applied one of his signature blended paint jobs using House of Kolor hues. D'Agostino describes the color as "white, platinum, and mint pearl blending to candy emerald, highlighted in diamond ice pearl." Whew!

With its pillarless top design and suicide-style rear doors, the Brougham really opens up to invite you inside. The Bob Divine upholstery-pearl white vinyl accented with green velour-simply enhances the effect. The balance of the car, meanwhile, remains nearly stock, a by-product of D'Agostino's ability to start with such a clean, original vehicle. A rebuilt, tri-carb, 365ci V-8 engine provides power, while Air Ride Technologies goodies properly tuck the Roadster wires and BFGoodrich whitewalls up into the wheelwells.

Some cars just seem to need less customizing than others, and while many folks might have had reservations about cutting into something as scarce (and attractive) as a Cadillac Brougham, it's tough to argue with the outcome on this one. D'Agostino says his goal was to "restyle it, but keep it elegant." Looks to us like he succeeded.