General Motors was riding a wave of success in the late 1920s. Cadillac was enjoying brisk sales thanks to the volume-leading V8 models and the new junior LaSalle brand was performing well in the showroom, thanks in large part to the work of one Harley Earl, widely considered to be the father of American car styling. Around this time, Harley Earl and Cadillac boss Larry Fisher toured Europe, visiting the storied traditional coachbuilders in England and France such as Barker, James Young, Saoutchik, and Vanvooren in search of inspiration for a new Cadillac flagship. But instead of building bare chassis and employing traditional body builders, Cadillac would offer a full catalog of coachbuilt bodies that they would sell as complete cars. To accomplish this, GM had previously purchased both Fisher Body and Fleetwood Metal Body to essentially have full control of its own in-house coachbuilders and was fully capable of offering a complete range of custom, semi-custom and catalog bodies. Cadillac was on the verge of unveiling a new halo model that they hoped would stamp their authority on the luxury automobile market and to do so, they needed the most stylish bodywork they could offer.
In 1930, just after the stock market crash, Cadillac unveiled the breathtaking “multi-cylinder” engines. A V12 appeared alongside a headline-grabbing V16. The extravagant V16 was an immediate sensation and production began in earnest with demand strong, even on the verge of the Great Depression. The 452 cubic inch V16 made an astounding 175 horsepower in combination with turbine-like smoothness and refinement. Nearly one hundred body and chassis combinations were possible thanks to the resources of Fisher and Fleetwood, which ensure exclusivity, a must for the type of clientele Cadillac sought. Sales were very strong for 1930, but tapered off dramatically in subsequent years. It is widely believed that GM lost money on every V16 they build through 1940. Today, the Cadillac V16 remains one of the most desirable and collectible motorcars of the classic era.
This 1931 Cadillac model 452A V16 All-Weather Phaeton is a magnificently restored example of the king of the multi-cylinder classics. Wearing fantastic coachwork by Fleetwood, it is finished in the striking color combination of a rose main body over dark red fenders, wheels and swage lines. It is a truly breathtaking example, restored to a world-class standard by the renowned Alan Taylor Co. Inc. It was subsequently shown at Pebble Beach in 2003 and benefiting from light use and exceptional care, it remains in stunning condition to this day. It still wears its original Fleetwood body (per the included build sheet) and is presented in the same specification as it left the factory in 1931. The body features many interesting details, such as a split, opening “Pennsylvania windshield” (named such as it was a signature of the Fleetwood Body Works) and a glass division between driver and passenger compartments. It is also fitted with dual sidemount spares topped with correct Cadillac mirrors, twin Pilot Ray spotlamps, radiator stone shield, goddess mascot and a matching dark-red colored trunk that has been restored to the same exceptional standard as the rest of the car. Wheels are painted red and highlighted with polished stainless spokes for a gorgeous effect. Paint, chrome and finishes remain in impeccable condition, virtually every bit as beautiful as it was when first presented at Pebble Beach.
The lavish, early art-deco styled cabin is trimmed in tan leather covering the seats and door panels, accented with brown carpets. Interior soft trim exhibits virtually no wear, particularly considering the restoration was completed over a decade ago. Engine turned alloy trim accents the dash, another signature of Fleetwood cars. The tan top is similarly excellent, and remains fully functional. Of course, this being an All-Weather Phaeton, passengers are treated to full glass side windows and a well-sealed top. During fair weather, the top, side glass, and thin B-pillars lower to reveal a handsome and elegant machine with a separate rear windscreen to keep passengers comfortable during high-speed open runs. As one would expect from an Alan Taylor restoration, the engine bay is exquisitely detailed using concours-correct finishes, fittings and hardware. Likewise, it all functions beautifully and the performance is outstanding.
The Cadillac Sixteen is one of America’s finest motorcars, and this example is surely one of the very best available today. The unique color combination suits the style of the era and the quality of the restoration is beyond reproach. It is of course ideally suited for show, yet has been restored and prepared to a standard that make it reliable and usable for touring. This is a rare opportunity to acquire an utterly gorgeous Cadillac that embodies the slogan, “The Standard of the World”.
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