In New York on January 4, 1930, Cadillac stunned the motoring world as it introduced the breathtaking new V-16. While Bugatti had already produced a 16-cylinder engine by pairing two inline eight-cylinder units, Cadillac’s was the first true 16-cylinder automobile engine designed and purpose-built from scratch. Working under legendary GM engineering chief Charles Kettering, Owen Milton Nacker led V-16 development beginning in 1926, with strict secrecy including cover stories worthy of a covert operation and notations on various blueprints claiming the V-16 was simply Cadillac’s contribution to a new GM bus design.
Featuring modern overhead-valve cylinder heads, a 45-degree cylinder bank angle, and external manifolds, the Cadillac V-16 engine was easily accessible in the engine compartment for maintenance and repairs. Beautifully finished and presented, Cadillac’s V-16 was the first automotive engine ever to be “styled” with completely hidden wiring and polished aluminum and porcelain surfaces, topped off with a pair of striking rocker covers featuring brushed aluminum fins.
The V-16 was also renowned for incredible smoothness, thanks to evenly spaced firing intervals and a massive forged crankshaft, supported by five main bearings. The V-16 engine was whisper-quiet, thanks to ingenious hydraulic valve silencers. Other innovations included a lightweight silicon-aluminum crankcase, five-point engine mounts, and carefully engineered pistons and rings, plus a single distributor with two sets of breaker points controlled by two separate ignition coils. Among the V-16’s many attributes, it could be driven in high gear just above idle without stalling, allowing uncanny ease of operation in virtually any operating environment. Conservatively rated at 175 horsepower with a higher-compression 185-hp variant optional, the V-16 delivered incredible low-end torque – 320 pounds-feet at just 1,200 to 1,500 RPM – and propelled Cadillac’s massive long-wheelbase chassis and a veritable multitude of luxurious bodies by Fleetwood and select other custom coachbuilders with ease.
Cadillac managed to survive the rapidly declining luxury-car market of the early 1930s thanks to the financial resources of its parent company, GM. Without this support, Cadillac could never have produced such a limited-production, luxurious, and commanding automobile. Although the V-16 was brilliantly engineered and sold quite well at first, its fast-shrinking Depression-era market meant that the V-16 was produced in small numbers – 4,378 in all according to marque experts – through 1940.
While the V-16 chassis, internally designated Series 452, was an engineering tour de force, its coachwork was equally impressive in terms of styling and luxury. Based entirely on a regal 148-inch wheelbase for 1930 and 1931, the V-16, often known simply as the “Sixteen,” was available with an exceptionally wide array of custom coachbuilt bodies by Fleetwood and Fisher, encompassing virtually every style and passenger configuration imaginable. Undoubtedly, the most sporting of these offerings was Fleetwood Style no. 4302, a graceful 2/4-passenger roadster with outstanding proportions and clean lines devoid of extraneous chrome trim. The lightest factory body style on the V-16 chassis, its relative lightness made it a startling performer.
This 1931 V-16 Fleetwood-style roadster is the product of a meticulous restoration, with power delivered by engine no. 702104. According to a copy of its build sheet, this engine was first mated to a Style no. 4361S Club Sedan body supplied to a buyer in Chicago. It was later owned by Wayne Merriman, a prolific early Cadillac V-16 collector and historian from Kansas. The present roadster body was newly built to the original Style no. 4302 by the well-known craftsman Dick Kingston for Cadillac V-16 collector Walt Dietzel of Oklahoma. Following completion, the V-16 joined a noted and respected collection Detroit, Michigan. According to V-16 historians Alan Merkel and Chris Cummings, that collector sold the Cadillac in 1993 and it subsequently resided in Europe until 2022, when it returned to the United States.
As offered, this sporting, yet commanding 1930 Cadillac V-16 roadster is a sparkling example with an extremely well-preserved restoration finished in striking Black paintwork with Burgundy leather upholstery and a black cloth folding top. Notwithstanding some very slight age-appropriate mellowing, the passenger compartment remains in superb order, and the engine compartment is clean and attractive, showcasing the famous V-16 powerplant to superb effect. The Red-finished chassis frame and chrome-spoked wheels, accented by Burgundy pin striping and shod with period correct Blackwall tires, heighten curb appeal. Desirable period accessories include the radiator stone guard, “Goddess” radiator mascot, Pilot Ray auxiliary lamps, side-mounted spares with mirrors, wind wings, a luggage rack and trunk, plus side curtains.
A Cadillac V-16 roadster is one of the most desirable automobiles of the Classic Era®, and the example offered here is simply superb with its collector-grade restoration, purpose-built coachwork, striking livery, and many desirable features and accessories. Best of all, it is extremely well-sorted mechanically and a joy to drive, thanks to regular maintenance and enjoyment under prior ownership. Running and driving beautifully, this wonderful 1931 Cadillac V-16 2/4-Passenger Roadster affords you the opportunity to show it with pride, while being capable of enjoyment on a wide range of today’s classic touring events.
Offers welcome and trades considered