One of the special classes at Motorclassica this year was a celebration of Cadillac, and as such there were a range of the cars named after the founder of Detroit on display, starting with this 1908 Cadillac S. There is quite the contrast from this single-cylinder machine to those that came later, such as the 1924 model behind.
Looking at early cars like this can be fascinating, with external valve gear and a copper water jacket for cooling. You can only imagine how hard it must have been to keep it running with primitive lubrication systems and dirt getting in everywhere thanks to largely unsealed roads. The engine has a 5” bore and stroke, resulting in 98 cu in or 1.6L. Power was 10 horsepower.
The passenger compartment shows that the control layout had not yet been standardised – perhaps the floor-mounted controls are a clutch, brake and the horn where you might expect to find the throttle! I do like the embossed rubber mat with the Cadillac script.
The 1924 V-63 touring car has a V8 that is a descendant of the 1914 V8. This car was built with right-hand drive in October 1923, and was sold in Melbourne in March 1924 to a station owner from Nhill in western Victoria. It still has its original registration plates.
This photo of the interior isn’t great, but shows the basic layout of the instruments which is very nice and different from most cars of the era.
Another early Cadillac was this 1914 Model 30 tourer, which had a 4-cylinder engine displacing a healthy 366 cu in. The car was sold into New Zealand before being imported into Australia decades ago.
The interior here is notable for the speedometer mounted at the far left side of the dashboard – reminiscent of some racing cars like the Ford GT40 many decades later. I tried a photo of it, but it was very blurry. Note the Cadillac script embossed on the leather map pocket on the door. Note the fold away steering wheel, in addition to the controls mounted on the column.
Next in terms of age was this 1930 Model 353 convertible coupe. This V8 car was also sold new in Australia, and has been owned by the same family since 1960. Apart from mechanical work and a repaint in the early 1980s it is in original condition.
This 1930 V16 dual-cowl phaeton was as good as you are likely to see. While I didn’t read the information board, it is in right-hand drive and the colour scheme is very handsome.
The driving compartment is quite conventional but exquisitely executed. It looks really comfy, within the perspective of an open car from 1930.
But it is the passenger compartment where this car shone – as is typical it has a speedometer and clock, as well as a handle to raise and lower the dividing window.
Here is a closer look at the rear instrument panel, which is timber instead of turned aluminium, and the very unusual panels on either side.
This 1939 Series 90 Fleetwood V16 is pretty incredible. Cadillac certainly went all-out with the V16, which had twin carburettors, fuel pumps, distributors and water pumps. It is not widely appreciated that Cadillac didn’t just build a V16 – they built two! The second one (in this car) had a very wide vee angle of 135° with side valves instead of overhead. From a slightly smaller 7.1L (431 ci) capacity it produced 185 hp. Only six V16 coupes were built in 1939 and three are known to still exist.
This 1941 is the last of the ‘pre-war’ Cadillacs, at least to the USA. GM-Holden had built some Cadillacs through the 1930’s, but only a handful per year for captains of industry and the like. Closely following Britain and France, Australia together with New Zealand had declared war on Germany on the 3rd of September 1939; almost immediately GM-Holden began work for the armed services.
Here is the rear; styling had started its longer, lower, wider evolution but was still clearly derivative of the 1930s particularly from the rear, while the front end was among the first to integrate the fenders into the body, which was the way of the future.
Here is an evolution of Cadillac tailfins, starting with a 1950 Coupe De Ville, then on the way up via a 1958 and on the way back down again with a 1960 hardtop.
The 1950 CDV had an incredible history, as it wasn’t sold until 1984, registered until 1987 or driven on the road until 1992! It sat in the showroom of Hubacher Cadillac in Sacramento CA all those years. The current owners do drive it, but apart from tyres and brake lines every other part is as fitted by the factory.
Then we have a 1955, a 1959 which won best in class, and one last car, a ’66. With limited time I’m sure you can understand that I focused on the earlier cars instead!
I did, however get this interior shot of the 1958 car, which is a good example of how well Cadillac were doing luxury interiors at the time; certainly comparable cars from Britain or Europe of the time may have been able to equal the craftsmanship, but not the technology or features.
The newest car was this 1966 DeVille convertible, with a 429 ci V8. You might make the case that this was a fitting place to stop, with subsequent models after this era having cheaper trim in the chase for higher sales volumes. In any case, there aren’t a lot of Cadillacs of any era in Australia so finding newer cars to match these amazing examples would have been quite the ask! Note that these all have the steering wheel on the left, so they have spent most of their lives in the USA, and why I made mention of the Australian histories of the earlier cars.