MotorCities National Heritage Area
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By Robert Tate, Automotive Historian and Researcher
Images courtesy of the National Automotive History Collection
Posted: 05.17.2016  


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In 1931, Cadillac Motor Car Co. President Mr. Lawrence P. Fisher informed his dealer network that the popular V-16 Cadillac models would soon be joined by yet another great and popular multi-cylinder machine – the Cadillac V-12.

When you take a look back in time at Cadillac’s great and rich history, Cadillac has always created a high standard for styling and creating beautiful automobiles along with advanced engineering and a good reputation for quality and reliability for its customers.

Of course, one of the most important Cadillac models that made its mark in history is the 1927 La Salle model. The 1927 La Salle was the first GM product designed by the late Harley J. Earl. The La Salle styling became an instant success with the motoring public.
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The history of Cadillac’s place and reputation in the world of great-looking vehicles was founded almost entirely with the manufacturing of the eight-cylinder, V-type engine design.

Forerunner of an era of 12-cylinder cars, the Cadillac V-12 definitely had established a new standard of great designs when it was introduced in Oct., 1930. With the single exception of the Cadillac V-16, no other car at the time provided a better or more luxurious vehicle for transportation for the consumer market.

The Cadillac V8 models offered 134-inch and 140-inch wheel bases along with 20 great looking body types of Fisher and Fleet Wood including an open convertible and a popular closed door model as well. The asking price for some 1931 Cadillac models came with a price tag of $2,795. During that time, however, Cadillac was competing with The Great Depression. It was not the best of times for many children as well as adults. Many automobile companies at the time were greatly impacted by the Depression, but Cadillac was still manufacturing and maintaining a great product for the consumer market through 1933 when sales started to drop off for the entire auto industry.
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In 1932, Cadillac introduced four completely new lines of vehicles which included the La Salle V-8 series 345-B, Cadillac V8 series 355-B, Cadillac V-12 series 370-B and Cadillac V-16 series 452-B. All models were offered in distinguished body styles along with attractive standard color combinations with great looking stylish interiors.

The 1930s Cadillac interiors offered increased headroom along with deeper cushion seats for that long trip or that special Sunday drive in the country. Passengers could also take advantage of the comfort of the newly design armrest or the fancy rumble seat along with a vanity case and smoking case, dome light and even a sheepskin rug that was standard equipment and available in limousine and Town car models.

Another great feature that Cadillac models offered to its customers were the stylish looking radiator ornaments which exemplified what Cadillac La Salle and the popular Cadillac models stood for. The Cadillac Heron and the Cadillac Goddess were original works of art. They were cast only in the finest metals and richly finished in sparkling chromium that permanently had retained its beautiful luster. Today, many automotive historians and enthusiasts still talk about the great craftsmanship and detail that was created on Cadillac’s great looking and stylish models for the 1930’s.
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In 1933, a new innovation Cadillac model was introduced to the public in Chicago. The show was called “Century of Progress” an exposition which featured General Motors products along with other manufactured automotive products which introduced a great looking streamlined Cadillac model called the V-16 Aero-Dynamic Coupe.

The concept model became a huge and great sensation at the show. The model was later manufactured, with only 20 cars which were built between 1934 and 1937. Some automotive historians and enthusiast have said that the best styling for Cadillac undoubtedly was introduced to the public on the 1930-36 models with their clean, flowing lines and a bewildering array of body styles.

In conclusion, Cadillac was founded in late 1902 by the late Henry Martyn Leland, who was a brilliant engineer with a long history of great experiences, from Ford and Oldsmobile. Today, Cadillac still has its great tradition and reputation for “Cadillac Style.”
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A special thanks to Robert Tate, Automotive Historian and Researcher, for contributing this story to the MotorCities Story of the Week Program. 

For further information on photos please visit http://www.detroitpubliclibrary.org/ or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 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 Co 1988; Holls Dave & Lamm Michael. “A Century of Automotive Style 100 years of American car design”. Lamm-Morada publishing 1996-1997; Kimes Rae Beverly & Jr. Clark Austin Henry. “Standard Catalog of American cars 1805-1942”. Krause publication 1987.)