Curtis Perry Capsule: 1946 Cadillac Series 60 Special – The Beginning of Cadillac’s Dominance

The immediate post war era was when Cadillac found Eldorado, claimed the luxury car title, and left the others in its dust. Curtis Perry found this 1946 Series 60 Special at the Cannery Pier Hotel in Astoria, OR, at the mouth of the Columbia River. It appears to be one of a number of cars they display from their collection, and the salt air is making its impact felt on the rear wheel cover. But it marks the beginning of Cadillac’s ascent to utter dominance of the luxury car field, and is worth a moment of reflection, especially after a week when we’ve pondered its decline in several posts.

As a point of comparison, this was the most immediate competitor to the Cadillac 60 Special: the Packard Custom Super Clipper, looking still very elegant and barely changed from its mid-1941 introduction. Meanwhile, the 1946 (and 1947) Cadillac were also virtually identical to the then-new 1942 models. The Cadillac is the more modern looking of the two, especially from the front where its greater width and lower stance is fully apparent, and took full advantage of that right up to the all-new 1948s. Meanwhile, Packard decided to make do with a makeover, which put it at an even further disadvantage, stylistically.  The Custom Super Clipper cost $3,047 and had the mighty 365 CID flathead inline eight rated at 165 hp.

The Series 60 cost $3,095, and like all Cadillac models, it had the 346 CID sidevalve V8 rated at 150 hp. A minor plus for Packard, but Cadillac more than made up for it with the optional Hydramatic automatic transmission. And this power train combination was hardly something new and unproven like certain ones it would field in the 1980s: this V8 and Hydramatic were used to power huge numbers of tanks and other motorized weapons during WW2.

Cadillac sold 5,700 Series 60 Special sedans in 1946; Packard sold 1,472 Custom Super Clipper sedans and coupes in 1946. Although the two brands would trade places a couple of times in the annual sales charts, that was strictly because Packard’s main volume came from Clipper Six sedan, which competed against mid-level Buicks and such. In the true luxury price segment, Cadillac had already taken the gold, and wouldn’t lose it again for quite some time.