I’m in the middle of reading Thomas Bonsall’s excellent Cadillac: The American Standard. Published in 1993, it arrived at my local library by interlibrary loan from the Michigan Historical Library in our capital of Lansing, MI. It smells for all the world like a book that has sat on a shelf for years without being opened, a first edition that the late author obviously obsessed over, a labor of love. And although few readers will appreciate his work, its quality is evident. Just like this 1941 Cadillac’s.
What makes this Cadillac so special and so rare is its model designation: Model 67. Never heard of it? Neither had I. In fact, when I found this example at Sloan Museum’s “Golden Memories” car show in September 2018, I thought it was a Series 75 limousine.
Nope. The 75 has some subtle differences, the most distinct being its exposed running boards and more upright appearance (compare the rear door pillars of the 67 and 75). My mistake was forgivable, as neither car was a volume leader for the company, let alone the brand. The 75’s sales figures, however, easily eclipsed the 67’s: 2,104 to 922. Cadillac sold the 67 in four configurations, both five and seven-passenger, while the 75 could be ordered six ways. Regardless of the configuration, the Series 67’s wheelbase was actually three inches longer than the 75’s: 139 inches versus 136 inches.
The key difference is price: the Series 67 was not a Fleetwood, unlike the 75 and 60 Special, and thus made an extended-length sedan more affordable. The various 67 sedan versions cost about 15% less than comparable 75s. The 67’s body was also used by Buick (shown above) for its Series 90 lwb sedans/limousine, whereas the 75 was exclusive to Cadillac.
Although I didn’t count seats in our example, it was the first car I fell in love with at this particular outing: Its stance as it sat in the grass. That menace. Those fender skirts. Those gleaming fender strakes. Even my general disdain for mafia movies couldn’t dim my affection for this Cadillac, a car that seems ready-built for a starring role in a gangster drama.
According to legend (many of which are apocryphal), the 1938 Lincoln Zephyr was a catalyst for the 1941 Cadillac. Like most luxury brands, including Cadillac and especially Packard, Lincoln’s front ends were founded on vertical themes. Bob Gregorie, Lincoln’s chief stylist, created the Zephyr’s new grill out of necessity: The old upright grille starved the radiator of air, which inhibited its ability to do its job, namely, to radiate. Therefore, an obvious example of the stylists helping the engineers created a new styling trend, the horizontal grille motif.
Whether Harley Earl was already plotting something similar or not is open to conjecture, but either way, the ’41 Cadillac was a dramatic departure from the ’40; and its bold, handsome, glamorous new grille has helped make it one of the most popular true classics, according to the Classic Car Club of America.
All ’41 Cadillacs were powered by the same 346 cubic-inch flathead V8, directing 150 horsepower through the buyer’s choice of a three-speed manual or a new Hydramatic. It appears that the original owner of the feature car chose the manual, which is probably just as well. My research has told me that rebuilding an original Hydramatic requires quite a few special tools and even more special skills. Or money. Lots of money.
This view of the Cadillac highlights the pontoon fenders that would go out of style soon after the war, but not before they enjoyed one last surge of popularity with the ’42 models.
In 1942, the pontoons extended into the doors on all Cadillacs that weren’t Series 75 models. Cadillac only made 700 1942 Series 67s, and the example pictured above (thanks to RM Sotheby’s) sold for 16,500 dollars at their Motor City auction in 2016. That kind of a deal always hurts if it wasn’t yours. Regardless, the 1942’s styling held on through the 1947 models, while 1948 ushered in a new generation of Harley Earl-ness, including the new tailfins. Thanks to World War II, the fantastic ’42s didn’t get much of a chance in the marketplace, but the 1941 model’s styling hung on through 1949 on the Series 75 models.
Whether the ’41 or the ’42 looks better, however, is up to you and your stylistic discernment. I’ll take either, but this much is true, according to author Bonsall: this was the era in Cadillac’s history where Packard and Lincoln were left chasing what would soon be tailfins. Lincoln’s Model K ended production, and the Lincoln Custom was arguably not quite in the Cadillac stratosphere. Packard was introducing the new Clipper, which was aimed more at Chrysler than at Cadillac. While Lincoln almost always showed flashes of brilliance; from this point on, Cadillac was where it was at, as this uncommon Series 67 shows.