At the start of the 1930s a new race was heating up among the world’s top luxury car makers. As the mechanical complexity of automobiles grew exponentially, so did a race to steal headlines with more and more sophisticated engines- and the so-called “multi-cylinder race” was on. Packard was ahead of the game with its Twin Six twelve-cylinder engine, while European players such as Hispano Suiza and Daimler began building V12 cars in the early 30s. Even the staid and conservative Rolls-Royce threw their hat in the ring in 1936 with a V12 engine for the Phantom III. For Cadillac’s entry, a V12 engine was just the start. They wanted to win this multi-cylinder race and earn their place as “The Standard of the World,” as their slogan so boldly proclaimed. Cadillac boss Larry Fisher led the charge with his chief engineer Owen Nacker handling the design of two new power plants – a beautiful 368 cubic inch V12, and a headline stealing 452 cubic inch V16. Apparently, Fisher himself leaked the plans of the V12 to the press in hopes of diverting attention away from the top-secret sixteen cylinder project.
Of course, the Sixteen was the very top of the line and sales were limited to only the most elite buyers. The 370A series V12 offered similar performance in spite of its lower power output, thanks to its lighter weight. The 370A sold moderately well considering the economic conditions in the 1930s. Over 10,000 examples were built over a seven year period, with 5,733 sold for the 1931 model year. Being range topping and exclusive luxury cars, V12 and V16 Cadillacs wore custom and semi-custom bodies from Fleetwood and Fisher as well as full custom bodies from various independent coachbuilders.
Of the eleven catalog body styles offered on the 370A, the rumble seat coupe as worn by this example is among the rarest. Handsomely presented with rich Cadillac blue fenders and upper body, with medium blue body sides and wire wheels, this Fleetwood-bodied 370A is a truly striking automobile. The dark Cadillac Blue paint is an authentic shade precisely matched using original color samples. With a solidly original structure, it appears never to have needed a ground up restoration; rather, it has been sympathetically restored as needed, with work being performed as recently as 2009 to good quality driver standards. The paint is deep and lush, with sound chrome, good panel fit and plenty of pleasing details. Accessorized with a trunk rack, dual side-mount spare wheels, radiator stone guard, dual chrome horns, twin Trippe Speedlight driving lamps, and a sun visor, it’s a good looking car with loads of period charm and elegance. It shows some age in areas, but remains a sound and thoroughly usable example. Fleetwood bodies are renowned for their exceptional quality, which is evident in this car’s straight and solid nature.
The cabin is luxuriously trimmed in gray broadcloth with complementary blue piping. Tan carpets have also been bound in blue. The seats and door panels are in very good condition, while the older carpets show some wear but are still perfectly serviceable as a driver. Wood grain caps are fitted to the doors and dash, and the instrument panel itself is a stylish combination of black lacquer and engine-turned alloy – a wonderful stylistic contrast with the wood and cloth. Mechanically, it is solid and complete and would make an ideal choice for weekend adventures or CARavan tours, especially considering the weather-tight nature of the coachwork and long-cruising legs of that big V12 up front.
Multi-Cylinder full classics are a highly desirable breed and Cadillac’s 370A V12 consistently tops the list of must-haves for enthusiasts. This solid and attractive car wears very rare coachwork, and has been very well maintained throughout its life, today presenting with good bones and sound cosmetics in an attractive and usable package.