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Gretsch Cadillac Green
The rarest of all Gretsch round badge kits: Cadillac Green Nitron
In our opinion, this is the rarest and possibly the most desirable of all Gretsch kits. Cadillac Green Nitron was the color of the kit that Gretsch built as the house kit for the Birdland night club in NYC in the late 50s. Gretsch had been building a guitar that was finished in cadillac green with gold hardware and they decided to do the same with a drum set. There were only a few different nitron finishes and they were in the color line for only a few years, and cadillac nitron green is the most highly sought after and is the only color that came with gold plated hardware.

Over the years very few of these kits have surfaced. Through our research we know of less than a dozen in total. Despite the rarity of this finish we now have not one, but three such kits and a separate snare drum as follows:

13/16/22 six ply kit with matching 5x14 snare drum:
We recently acquired this kit. It came together as a set and has all of the original parts including tension rods. The lugs, rims, tension rods, Ts, claws, spurs, diamond plates, and tone control knobs were all gold plated. All SD rims, rods, strainer/butt parts are also gold plated. The rail consollette on these kits was not gold plated, although we have heard of some instances where the rail mount was gold plated. Over the years, the thin gold plating on our kit has worn away in many areas, but the drums still look excellent. In addition, some finish checking has occurred, but this is very common with the nitron finishes. The bass drum hoops on cadillac green nitron kits were factory-painted green, and the inlays are the factory original gold sparkle. This kit is a six ply set indicating that it was made later in the 50s. Also, the cadillac green nitron on this kit is the wrap version of this finish on the toms, and the lacquer version on the snare and bass drum. When Gretsch started producing these drums they originally sprayed the shells with green lacquer, but on later drums they fitted them with a cadillac green nitron wrap. It?s not beyond reason to find a factory matched kit that is mixed, much the same as it is possible to find factory matched kits that consist of some three ply and some six ply drums. The sound of this kit is remarkable, and it is currently not for sale, but instead will take its place in our museum.

Click Image

13/16/22 three ply kit shown with a matching 5x14 six ply snare drum:
This three ply kit came to us in excellent original condition. The toms and bass drum came together. The rail consollette on the bass drum was mounted unusually high, which makes it a little awkward to play, but the bass drum was not drilled elsewhere for a tom holder so the original buyer must have wanted it this way. The bass drum also has a bracket mounted on it for an internal muffler much different than the later Jimmy Pratt style muffler used by Gretsch. The three ply drums have certain different characteristics from the six ply drums: The Cadillac nitron green finish is lacquer, not a wrap; the toms have the 50s era stick chopper hoops rather than the die cast hoops that emerged later; and the floor tom has the 50s era double-post floor tom legs (which, in our opinion, are far superior to the later single hole diamond bracket which tends to bring the leg so close to the bottom rim that it can rattle at times). The finish is remarkably good for a lacquer finish, with only a minimal amount of checking after almost 50 years. The bass drum hoops have quite a bit of flaking of the green paint, but the original inlays are nice and tight. The gold plating on the kit is thin, as is typical, and is worn in areas, but is consistent and even across all of the drums and they look great as a set. The toms and bass drum from this set will remain in our museum, but the snare drum is available.

THE SNARE DRUM SHOWN WITH THIS KIT HAS BEEN SOLD. It came to us from a good friend and noted collector. The lacquer cadillac green nitron finish on this drum is original and is in remarkable condition. The drum was carefully restored by replating the hardware. Our preference would have been for the hardware to remain in original condition, no matter how thin, but, I can say that the plating job is first rate and the drum is beautiful. 

FOR SALE: 13/16/22: Three ply kit. Cadillac Nitron Green. Also Available: Matching 5x14 six ply snare drum. CLICK THIS LINK FOR PHOTOS:

This 3 pc kit is in good shape. The gold plating has the typical wear. Some of the tension rods are replacements, which we have antiqued to match the originals, and the bass drum had at one point been drilled for an unoriginal double tom mount, plus there are two extra holes from what appears to have been an extra diamond plate bracket for a cymbal arm. We have removed the double tom mount and will have a brass plate created and engraved with information about this set, and we will mount it to the bass drum using the holes drilled for the double tom holder. An original Gretsch rail consollette has been installed.
The bass drum was also missing several of the original Ts and claws for the bass drum. We obtained period-correct Ts and claws and we have antiqued them to match the originals. The green paint on the bass drum hoops has flaked in many areas, but the original gold sparkle inlays are present and tight.

This kit is a three ply set which indicates that it was made earlier in the production cycle of the cadillac green nitron finish. As a result, this kit is an excellent example of the sprayed lacquer finish. Also, you will notice that the floor tom leg brackets are the double-post variety that is typically found on the three ply era drums, rather than the diamond plate brackets typically found on the six ply kits. The tom rims typically found on three ply era kits are referred to as ?stick choppers?. On this set, the 16 has stick chopper rims, but the 13 has die cast rims usually associated with six ply kits. However, the plating wear on these 13? rims is consistent with the wear on all of the other plated parts on the kit, which would lead me to believe that the rims are original and were available at the time, but not necessarily put into standard production until later in the 50s. This sort of situation has been seen with other manufacturers as well, such as Rogers. Rogers made a switch in lug design and also rim height in the 60s, and it is not uncommon to see factory built drums that have a mixture of parts. During a cross-over point such as this it was a fairly common practice to use up any old parts rather than discarding them. The finish on this kit is in good shape given its age, with the 13? tom having the most scratches, primarily due to snare rub. This kit is in nice shape and represents the rarest of all Gretsch drum sets. The likelihood of seeing more of these in the near future is very slim. If you desire to own one of the rarest of all Gretsch round badge drum sets now is the time to call. Please call for more information and pricing.


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