Cadillac John

Odd Collections, Odd Jobs, People
on February 24, 2002

John Foust learned to drive at 12 when he got behind the wheel of the Cadillac hearse his family used for its funeral home. Then as an undertaker himself, driving a Caddy was part of his job.

Now he finds new life for cars that end up in his Cadillac graveyard—a 10-acre piece of land in Justin, Texas, (pop. 1,891)—where he salvages parts to keep other Cadillacs running.

Since 1984, Foust has owned and operated Honest John’s Caddy Corner—one of the world’s top dealers of obsolete Cadillac parts. The vintage Cadillac parts warehouse maintains an inventory of more than 300 Cadillacs to mine for needed parts. The warehouse has reproduction and rebuilt parts for Cadillac models from 1941 to 1991, and the shop houses a large Cadillac library, including original and reproduction workshop manuals.

Foust took the name for his business from a childhood memory of driving to a favorite restaurant.

“There were lots of used car dealers along the way and one had a neon sign showing a man in a leisure suit with his arms spread out with two halos and it said ‘Honest John,’’’ Foust say. Foust’s mother used to say everyone would remember the name.

While in high school, Foust originally wanted a 1966 Mustang.

“My dad said I could have one if I’d work and buy it, but I needed a car to get to work,” Foust says. “So, he gave me an old 1960 white Cadillac sedan that was sitting behind our garage. He said if I could get it started, then I could use it. I planned to dump it as soon as I could afford the Mustang.”

The Caddy had huge fins and a short circuit in the horn, so whenever he went over a bump or pothole, it groaned and honked. In 1970, friends helped him paint flowers on the body and a mural on the roof. He sold it a year later and bought a 1969 Corvette, but soon longed for a Caddy again.

He bought a 1968 white Cadillac limousine and drove it to college a few years later. After college, he worked briefly as a funeral director for the family business, then sold used cars until he got the chance to buy an auto salvage full of Cadillacs. He borrowed $10,000 against his 1980 Cadillac to buy the business.

Customers credit his success to his wit, personality, and enthusiasm for Cadillacs. Brad Goodbread, president of Truly Texas Limousines in Fort Worth, owns a pair of classic Cadillacs.

“You can tell he eats, sleeps, and breathes Cadillacs,” Goodbread says of Foust.

Randoll Reagan, historian for the North Texas Cadillac LaSalle Club and a longtime friend of Foust, agrees.

“A few times he thought he’d have to sell it and get a real job … all of us locally were promoting John and now he is known all over the world,” Reagan says.

In fact, people call from all over the world for parts, Foust says.

“One night, my wife, Donna, and I were up here about 11:30 p.m. cleaning the place up when a sheik in Saudi Arabia called wanting parts for a 1968 Cadillac,” he recalls. Almost all the business is mail order—shipping parts around the globe.

Leon Kappelman, a business professor at the University of North Texas in nearby Denton, says Foust is straightforward about his merchandise or the likelihood of locating a certain part.

Kappelman says Foust tells customers if they’re not happy, send it back. And he’ll send your money back if you do.

These days, Honest John drives a Chevrolet pickup to haul parts. He still owns one Cadillac, a 1966 formal limousine originally owned by the LBJ Ranch. He keeps his pride and joy garaged and says he rolls it out for special occasions.

“My wife loves being chauffeured around in it.”