Story of the Week

Posted: 08.13.2017
1937 LaSalle marked high point for brand
By Robert Tate, Automotive Historian and Researcher
Images courtesy of the National Automotive History Collection

 

 

I remember years ago when there was a TV show titled “All in the Family” which had a very popular run from 1971-1979. The show featured the late actor Carroll O'Connor along with the late actress Jean Stapleton.

Fans of this classic American TV show may not realize that the show’s theme song -- “Those were the days,” written and composed by Charles Stouse and Lee Adams -- touched on our automobile heritage with part of the lyrics stating, “Gee, our old LaSalle ran great.”

To me, that song highlighted the General Motors-produced LaSalle automobile for all of those who could remember what a stylish and inventive car it was and for its reliability. GM introduced the LaSalle under the Cadillac division and was marketed as a new luxury automobile for the consumer market.

The song also highlighted the history of the LaSalle nameplate which was introduced in 1927 by famed automotive designer Harley Earl who is the designer behind some of GMs most famous brands. The first LaSalle model turned out to be an immediate hit with the motoring public and received a number of awards soon after the new car hit the market.


This story, however, focuses on one of the most appealing years for LaSalle -- 1937. The 1937 LaSalle models offered the consumer a very stylish and distinctively narrow grille design which many consumers really admired. The 1937 LaSalle series 50 models in particular did well with consumers.

In 1937, the company introduced five different body styles. The average cost for a 1937 LaSalle model was between $1,320 and $1,680. The 1937 LaSalle vehicle bodies were constructed entirely of steel and improved from the previous year in almost every detail.


GM marketed the 1937 LaSalle lineup as, “...the lowest priced and the finest LaSalle ever built.” That year also marked a time of change for LaSalle. It also coincided with the largest sales volume for LaSalle (32,000 in production that year) largely due to the fact that consumers greatly admired the fresh design and innovative styling. LaSalle models had climbed to 15th place in the industry for 1937.

It was still well behind the Packard 120 model, however, which was seen as LaSalle’s main rival at the time. Owners of the LaSalle models were pleasantly surprised with the new and improved high mileage for gasoline and oil because of the highly developed efficiency of its Cadillac built V-8 engine.


LaSalle owners also enjoyed the advantages of great customer service, which was provided by Cadillac Certified Craftsmen -- all carefully trained in maintenance work of the highest standard for Cadillac automobiles. This Cadillac tradition and service is still provided today for many of its new customers when purchasing new Cadillac automobiles.


The 1937 LaSalle convertible was also a popular car, and was hand selected for the Indianapolis 500-mile Silver Anniversary race. The Silver Anniversary race was a great honor for GM and for the LaSalle nameplate. The late Ralph dePalma drove the La Salle convertible pace car in the race.


The interior for the new V8 LaSalle models offered the driver and passengers great riding comfort and a lot of roominess with its brand new “knee action ride,” design. For the driver, the instruments and the controls were all located within easy reach.

In conclusion, the 1937 LaSalle models were great looking vehicles, but unfortunately that marked the final high point for the LaSalle as sales the following year were dragged down by a U.S. recession and production was reduced to just 15,500. By 1940, the one-time pre-eminent luxury brand of automobile was totally discontinued by GM due to ongoing sales decline.

For more information on the La Salle, please contact the Cadillac La Salle Club at cadllasallecclub@aol.com or clal 614-478-4622. 


 

For further information on photos please visit http://www.detroitpubliclibrary.org/ or email nahc@detroitpubliclibrary.org. Please do not republish the story and/or photographs without permission of MotorCities National Heritage Area. (Bibliography: McCall, M.P Walter. “80 Years of Cadillac La Salle” Crestline publishing 1988; Hendry D. Maurice. “Cadillac Standard of the world the complete history” 1979.)

If you would like to contribute an article for the MotorCities newsletter, email info@motorcities.org or call 313-259-3425. 

 

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