As the roaring twenties gave way to the 1930s and the Great Depression deepened, many luxury car manufacturers suddenly found themselves fighting for survival. A notable exception was Cadillac, which had the might of General Motors behind it, allowing them to forge ahead with unrivaled confidence despite the ensuing economic meltdown. For the 1930 model year, Cadillac unveiled an all-new flagship model powered by a complex, expensive, and revolutionary overhead-valve V16 engine. They followed that act with a twelve-cylinder version of the same design, triggering a so-called “multi-cylinder race” as other luxury manufacturers scrambled to respond with twelve and sixteen-cylinder engines.
While the powerful and sophisticated V16 stole the headlines, Cadillac’s V8-powered Series 353 carried on as the marque’s mainstay, providing the bulk of sales throughout the decade. Introduced in September 1929, the Series 353 featured an enlarged version of the 90-degree L-head V8 that first appeared in the Series 314 the previous year. Named for its 353 cubic-inch displacement, the Series 353 featured a host of improvements and refinements. The beautiful, European-influenced styling was courtesy of GM’s new Art and Colour Section, led by the indomitable Harley Earl. The 353 also marked the arrival of Cadillac’s new “Clashless” synchronized 3-speed manual gearbox, affording seamless shifting, and making the Series 353 particularly popular with owner-drivers.
The 353 was Cadillac’s bread-and-butter, though the massive catalog of available body styles ensured exclusivity for buyers. Cadillac offered seven styles from Fisher and an astonishing thirty-seven different selections from Fleetwood. Looking at the sales charts, the mid-price La Salle led the way with an annual tally of nearly 15,000 units, yet the Series 353 was close behind with sales of more than 11,000 – which would be the high point for several years to come. The Series 353’s balance of power, refinement, and performance helped Cadillac inch closer to Packard in their heated battle for American luxury car supremacy.
This 1930 Series 353 is a lovely example of the breed, fitted from new with the handsome Convertible Coupe body, style number 168 from Fisher’s catalog. Presented in a striking two-tone red livery with black-wall tires, this Cadillac features a high-quality restoration that was completed in 2006 and has been well maintained in the years since. Factory build records confirm this is to be a genuine Fisher-built Convertible Coupe, delivered new via Cadillac’s leading west-coast dealer, Don Lee, Inc. of Los Angeles – coincidentally where Harley Earl got his start. It is believed this car spent a good portion of its early life in the dry California climate, which undoubtedly contributed to the survival of its original coachwork. A previous owner purchased the car from a museum and treated it to an extensive, nut and bolt restoration finished to a high standard, and lovingly cared for it in the ensuing years.
The bold two-tone color scheme suits the car’s sporting nature very well, with metallic burgundy fenders and trim accenting the brighter red main body. Paint quality is excellent, with deep reflections and excellent fit and finish. The list of accessories is extensive, including a radiator stone guard, dual Trippe lights, goddess mascot, Cadillac-crest headlamps, dual side-mount spare wheels, and a trunk rack. Gorgeous red-painted wheels with polished spokes combine with the black-wall tires to give this 353 a decidedly sporty and purposeful appearance. Chrome plating on the body fittings is superb and indicative of the concours-quality restoration.
Cream beige leather upholstery covers the seats, door cards, and rumble seat. The leather and taupe colored carpets are in excellent order front and rear, with subtle creasing in the driver’s seat from light use, while the rumble seat area appears virtually unused. The burl wood trim surrounding the door windows and windscreen is excellent, displaying a slight mellowing of the finish since the restoration. Original style instruments and controls are set into a painted, body-color dash, and, like the exterior, the quality of the plated interior parts is superb. The convertible coupe offers the sporting character of the roadster for top-down days, but with a roomier cockpit with the top up, and well as the convenience and all-weather versatility of roll-up glass side windows.
The well-detailed, authentic presentation continues to the engine compartment and undercarriage. The 353 cubic-inch L-head V8 is the original engine per the build sheet, strong-running presented with fine cosmetics. Occasional use since the restoration resulted in some “baking-off” of the porcelain-coated manifolds, yet the overall appearance remains neat and tidy. It features the correct intake, oil bath air cleaner, high-compression heads, and other accessories.
The combination of Cadillac’s robust V8 engine, easy-shifting synchronized gearbox, and powerful brakes makes the Series 353 a remarkably usable car, even compared to its more expensive multi-cylinder brethren. With its superb, gently matured restoration, this attractive example combines the accessible performance with versatile, stylish Fisher coachwork and is sure to provide its next keeper with many years of enjoyment.
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Stock number 7531
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