At the height of the Classic Era in the late 1920s, Cadillac had been long established as one of America’s most technically creative automobile manufacturers. Since its inception in 1902 (from the remains of The Henry Ford Company, and guided by Henry M. Leland) Cadillac has led the way with American innovation. The electric self-starter, safety glass, electric lamps, the all-steel roof (where previous cars had fabric roof sections), the synchromesh transmission, the dual-plane crankshaft V8 and even the V16 engine were all Cadillac firsts. Cadillac jockeyed for for top honors in the American market (as well as a handful of fickle overseas buyers) with the likes of Packard, Pierce-Arrow and others, buoyed by customers who remained loyal for their exceptional build quality, elegant style and robust performance.
1929 saw Cadillac get a light facelift over the 1928 models, with a few tweaks made to the front end sheetmetal by a new hire to GM’s Art & Color department named Harley Earl; a man who would go on to be one of the most influential stylists in history and put GM at the top of the game in the world of design. Styling aside, the most significant changes for ’29 lay beneath the bodywork. The 341 cubic inch, 95 horsepower V8 was mated to an all-new “clashless” synchromesh gearbox, freeing drivers from the need to double clutch when changing gears and elevating Cadillac to the top of the luxury car market with this new-found ease of operation. The new gearbox allowed the car to be driven smoothly and deliver quiet, effortless performance. 1929 also saw the introduction of safety glass, yet another industry first. Braking and road holding were also excellent thanks to the powerful four-wheel mechanical brakes and Delco dual-action shock absorbers which were fitted for the first time. As typical for the era, a wide variety of standard catalog bodies by Fisher and Fleetwood were available, though customers could elect to have a chassis delivered to a coachbuilder of choice, with such famous design houses as Kellner, Murphy and Hibbard & Darrin having put their mark on Cadillac chassis, as well as a handful of somewhat less famous coachbuilders the world over.
This striking 1929 Cadillac 341B wears unusual, one-off “Safari Roadster” coachwork supplied by Henry Kruse of Chelsea, London. Little is known about this particular coachbuilder or the earliest origins of this Cadillac, but it has been suggested this car was used as a game hunting car in India; the main clues being the fascinating cut-down, double-opening doors that may have been used for a hunter to lean out and sight a rifle. The very sporty and evocative body style also features a windscreen that both hinges open and folds flat, and a unique rounded tail with a large boot, in place of a traditional rumble seat. It is finished in a handsome combination of silver on the main body with black fenders, black top surfaces, and eye-catching red accents on the chassis, inside of the wings, and red coach stripes to tie it all together. It is comprehensively accessorized with dual sidemount spares topped with mirrors, dual Trippe-Light driving lamps on lovely chrome brackets, a radiator stone guard, a trunk rack, and the classic “Herald” radiator mascot. The wheels feature subtle silver painted hubs with polished spokes and trim rings and are wrapped in sporty black-wall Firestone tires. Overall quality is very good, with an older but high-standard restoration still showing in attractive order. The paint quality is quite good with consistent body and panel fitment, good quality chrome plating and detailing.
The two-place cockpit is trimmed in rich red leather to complement the chassis and body accents, and is presented in very good condition, showing only slight age and signs of use since restoration. The unique split doors open fully for easier ingress, or the smaller doors can be opened independently, presumably for a hunter in India to be able to lean out with his rifle without falling completely out of the car. A full folding top is trimmed in black canvas and piped in red, with matching side curtains included. Original instruments adorn the sporty and simple black lacquered dash panel.
The 341 cubic-inch V8 engine presents in very good condition, benefitting from a recent cosmetic freshening. Porcelain black heads and cylinders sit atop a cast-finish crankcase as original. The detailing is very good quality and appropriate for a car that would be best enjoyed on the road, though not out of place in a mid-level show. Previous owners have fully enjoyed this car, as it has participated in 5 Glidden Tours and is known among Cadillac LaSalle club stalwarts. It benefits from recent sorting by Brian Joseph of Classic & Exotic Service in Michigan and remains in outstanding mechanical order, ready for use and a joy to drive. This very special and unusual Cadillac is a beautiful machine with an intriguing past, and an excellent choice for CCCA CARavan Touring, Cadillac LaSalle Club and AACA events. Rare and exciting coachwork, an evocative color scheme and a well-preserved, quality restoration make this example a true standout among Full Classic Cadillacs.