By the mid-1920s, Cadillac had more than justified its worldwide reputation for luxurious, high-quality automobiles, living up to their slogan – The Standard of the World. Cadillac cars were powerful, well-engineered and crafted, and offered in a wide variety of bodies to meet virtually every demand from its increasingly discriminating clientele. By the late 1920s, automobiles became more accessible and reliable, and manufacturers increasingly relied on style to grab the attention of potential buyers, and General Motors aimed to be at the forefront of this seismic shift in the industry.
In 1927, GM recruited a young designer named Harley J. Earl away from the Los Angeles-based Don Lee Coachworks and gave him free rein to form the new Art and Colour Section at GM – America's first styling department. His first charge was to style the LaSalle, GM's new mid-priced "companion car" to the higher-end Cadillac. The new LaSalle, often considered the first production car truly "styled" an automaker in the modern sense, caused a sensation, and outshone that year's Cadillacs. Not to be outdone by a junior brand, Cadillac ensured Earl's influence was applied upmarket, with spectacular results.
This rakish 1928 341-A Sport Phaeton by Fisher perfectly demonstrates the immediate and dramatic impact Harley Earl had on Cadillac. Historians consider Mr. Earl the father of modern car design, and his talents are on full display in this breathtaking machine. The LaSalle influence is apparent in the cut-down cowl and bold, decorative feature lines, though made more dramatic by scaling the design up to suit Cadillac's longer 140-inch wheelbase chassis. Fisher's 1172-B Sport Phaeton stands apart from the standard 1172 Phaeton with its folding rear cowl and folding rear windscreen to keep back seat passengers comfortable and out of the wind.
The Sport Phaeton is strikingly finished in a suitably bold two-tone livery, with bright Kelly green featuring predominantly on the body, accented with a darker green on the fenders, body feature lines, and chassis. Fittingly for such a sporting car, it features a host of period accessories, including steerable Pilot Ray driving lamps, Goddess Mascot, dual side-mount spares with mirrors, Cadillac-crest cowl lamps, a painted trunk, and painted wire wheels with stainless spokes. The older restoration has matured gently, and the paint and brightwork still show quite well.
The vivid color scheme pairs wonderfully with the saddle-colored tan leather interior and tan canvas convertible top. Inside the cabin, a dark green dashboard houses a suite of gauges and a Jaeger clock. A trunk at the rear provides room for a weekend's worth of luggage—ideal for quick trips to the lake house—with a folding trunk rack offering the option of more cargo space for longer journeys. The upholstery is in excellent condition, having taken on an appealing light patina in the time since the restoration.
In 1928, Cadillac introduced a raft of changes to their venerable L-head V8 engine. Displacement was up to 341 cubic inches from 314, with new high-compression cylinder heads and other refinements pioneered by LaSalle. The engine made 90 horsepower in the Cadillac and, when paired with a 3-speed manual gearbox, ensured performance was on par with Packard and others, but with a more compact design. This car's engine bay shows quite well, with authentic finishes and hardware. It shows signs of regular use that are consistent with the age of the restoration and are sure to encourage continued enjoyment on the road.
Breathtaking in design, grand in scale, and athletic in character, this Series 341-A Sport Phaeton is rightly recognized as a Classic Car Club of America (CCCA) Full Classic and would be a perfect candidate for casual exhibition, club events, and open-air touring.
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