People Staff
March 19, 1984 12:00 PM

Check out this Fleetwood, Mack. For $100, architect Tristram Metcalfe Ill bought this ’59 Cadillac from a junkyard in 1974 and then spent 300 hours converting it into a wood-burning fireplace. Talk about a hot car!

Metcalfe’s pride and joy now has a long-term parking space in the living room of his Windsor, Mass. home. “To have a flamboyant, decorative centerpiece is smarter than looking at a little black-box wood stove,” says Metcalfe, 40. “The Caddy has more whimsy, excitement, metaphysical joy.” In order to effect the transition from gas-guzzler to energy-saver, Metcalfe took out most of the passenger section, shortening the Caddy from a 21-foot sedan into a 12-and-a-half-foot coupe in the process. He removed the eight-cylinder engine, inserted quarter-inch-thick steel plates and split the grille horizontally to make room for the stove. Metcalfe also painted over its original dull gray with a racier black.

The Cadillac is unquestionably the visual focal point of the three-level, futuristic home Metcalfe built with wife Barbara Jo, 33. It complements their solar heating, warming things up when the solar panels aren’t enough to combat subfreezing temperatures.

Eight exhaust pipes, four on each side, conduct the heat from the Caddy into the living room, while a fan also draws hot air into a heat-holding rock pile in a crawl space beneath the house. The warmth from the rock pile is then emitted slowly into the home, which is kept at an even 68°F.

Metcalfe estimates that all of this saves $800 a year in energy costs, the only expense being for the two cords of wood (at $55 a cord) needed to carry the family through the winter. The wood is stored in the Caddy’s trunk; fireplace tools (some from the car’s innards) are kept in the wheel wells. The obligatory bumper sticker reads: “Solar employs—nuclear destroys.”

Fond though he is of his fiery Fleetwood, Metcalfe recognizes it as a dinosaur. “This car had a misguided evolution,” says Metcalfe. “Detroit didn’t see where it was going.” Truer words were never spoken.

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