1933 Cadillac V-16 All Weather Phaeton

“The Standard of the World” was not only Cadillac’s advertising slogan, but it was a doctrine for its engineers and designers to live by. During the 1930’s, the company went to great lengths to live up to that claim, building ever more exclusive and stylish models. Despite the economic hardships, the junior LaSalle brand and entry-level Cadillac V8 models were selling well, and some much-needed cash was swelling the coffers. Cadillac decided the time was right to add a bit of excitement to the “multi-cylinder” engine race that was going on between high-end manufacturers around the world. In 1930 they shocked the motoring world with introduction of both a V12 and an unprecedented V16 engine displacing 452 cubic inches. This put Cadillac right into the thick of the battle with such prestigious manufacturers as Hispano-Suiza, Lagonda, Rolls-Royce and their chief rival, Packard. Both engines were designed simultaneously by Cadillac engineer Owen Nacker, and they shared the same basic layout as well as many common components. The V12’s output was a healthy 135 horsepower, while the V16 put out a full 175 horsepower – a headline grabbing figure for its day. In 1933, a V16 Imperial Cabriolet started at $6,250 and stretched to a whopping $8,000 for the top line All Weather Phaeton. The starting price was a full $3,000 more than a comparable V12 model, keeping in mind that a 1933 Chevrolet cost $445. Of course, a whole range of custom and semi-custom bodies were available from within GM and outside coachbuilders. The Cadillac LaSalle Club has put the number at approximately seventy different combinations of chassis and body options, which undoubtedly allowed a high degree of exclusivity, considering just 125 of a planned 400 examples were built. The V16 Cadillac remains to this day one of the most collectible, exclusive and desirable of all American classics.

Imposing, elegant and visually striking, this 1933 Cadillac Model 452C V16 All Weather Phaeton represents the most expensive and exclusive Cadillac offered at the time. Only eight cars were built in 1933 with this coachwork. Chassis 5000082 was originally equipped with a Fleetwood 5575-S sedan body.  The car was purchased by well-known collector Jack Passey in the 1950’s, and is mentioned in his book, For The Love Of Old Cars. Jack kept the car for 10 years or so, and sold it to a collector in New Jersey. He eventually purchased his beloved 1933 V16 back, and the car was later sold to Fred Weber in St Louis, Mo. The Weber’s had a large collection of V16 Cadillacs at the time, and were actively restoring and trading cars.  They sold 500082 to the McGowan brothers, who had acquired a 1932 Cadillac V16 with an original 1933 V16 All Weather Phaeton body from Dana Morgan in California.  When the car was restored, this original V16 body was mated to the chassis. This stunningly beautiful machine has been fully restored to world-class concours standards and remains in excellent order throughout. The incredible Fleetwood coachwork exhibits the early beginnings of streamline design, thanks to its fully-formed fenders, split and tapered radiator shell and Art-Deco inspired streaks and slashes. It is truly a work of art and absolutely breathtaking to behold.

This example is finished in deep navy blue and fully accessorized to reflect its standing at the top of the range. At the front end, a fabulous quad-bar front bumper features polished strips and body-colored inserts. The badge bar wears a pair of Pilot Ray spot lamps and the horns are magnificent Deco pieces with concentric chrome inserts in the trumpets. The 1933 Cadillac is instantly recognizable thanks to the body-color split grille, which on this example is graced with a gold plated Cadillac emblem and goddess mascot. Dual sidemount spare wheels wear painted covers and the running boards are fitted with polished strips that accentuate the long, flowing lines, in true Art Deco fashion. In the rear is found a bustle back trunk along with a chrome trunk rack, dual tail lights, a repeating quad-bar bumper and correct dual-exhausts. The paintwork is executed to a magnificent standard and while this restoration was completed several years ago, it remains in impeccable order. Chrome trim and polished brightwork are likewise exquisite. Blue painted wheels wear full chrome wheel covers and whitewall tires, the smooth covers further enhancing the streamline styling.

Opening the doors, you are treated to a complementary blue leather interior that is accented with exquisite inlaid wood trim. The leather is in excellent order, showing only the very slightest creasing from light use, just barely gaining a broken-in appearance. Gorgeous detailing adorns the dash with its textured inlays, engine-turned escutcheons and correct original instrumentation. Rear passengers are treated to a large leather chair with a folding armrest, individual cigar lighters and beautifully detailed ash trays. The tan canvas top is in excellent condition, and this being an all-weather phaeton, passengers are gifted with roll-up glass windows and a folding B-pillar to seal out the elements.

It is difficult to determine whether the body or the engine is the star of this show. Opening the long bonnet reveals one of the most awe-inspiring engines of the era. The Cadillac V16 is a masterpiece of form following function. It is a piece of mechanical beauty. The narrow angle Vee is topped with black painted rocker covers accented with polished ribs. Virtually every nut, bolt, clamp and fastener is concours correct and precisely placed. This truly is a showpiece from top to bottom.

Few automobiles of the era can compare with the 1933 Cadillac V16 for its presence and style. This remarkable automobile represents the very best that Cadillac – and America – had to offer in the period. It is a piece of art, history and engineering brilliance than can be shown or toured with pride.

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