1907 Cadillac Model M Straight Line Tourer

The Cadillac has long been the epitome of an American car: large, powerful, luxurious, and expensive. However, Cadillac started with a small vehicle created by master machinist and inventor Henry Martyn Leland using his 98.2 cubic inch single-cylinder Leland & Faulconer engine that Oldsmobile rejected on the grounds of retooling costs. While folklore usually touts Henry Ford as the de-facto “father” of mass production, Mr. Leland had been a champion of standardized manufacturing since his days with Colt Firearms in the 1860s. In fact, Cadillac was created from the remnants of the failed Henry Ford Company – a fact that Henry never forgot.

For the new Cadillac car, chain drive and a two-speed planetary transmission drove the rear wheels, while a foot pedal activated the brakes fitted to the inboard ends of the half-axles. It was available as a two-seat runabout or a four-passenger rear entrance tonneau. First produced in 1903, the runabout was priced at $750, and Cadillac quickly earned a growing customer base.

Now referred to as the Model A, the first production Cadillac was continued in 1904 and incorporated only modest changes. By the time the Model M came along in 1907, it was rated at 10 horsepower. However, its essentials remained basically unchanged from its predecessors, including the dependable Leland & Faulconer engine. Something else that was unchanged from the earliest models was Cadillac’s reliability in trials, hill climbs, and regular use by the American car importer to Britain, Frederick Stanley Bennett.

One advantage Cadillacs had over virtually all other automobiles of the day was precision engineering, which allowed the complete interchangeability of all parts from one similar model to another. In 1908, one year after this Model M Straight Line Tourer was built, three brand new single-cylinder Cadillac Model K Runabouts were randomly selected and dismantled down to the last nut and bolt under the scrutiny of Royal Automobile Club observers in the UK. The mechanics were restricted to basic hand tools, and the parts from the three cars were intermingled. Additional components were removed and replaced with new spares. When the three Model K’s were reassembled, they all started quickly and covered 500 miles at full throttle on the new Brooklands racetrack. The proof of the Cadillac’s parts interchangeability became front page news at a time when parts of most car manufacturers could not be interchanged between similar examples. Cadillac was subsequently awarded the Dewar Trophy for Outstanding Technical Achievement in the Automotive Industry, which led to adopting” Standard of the World” as the company’s slogan.

This lovely Model M wears a high-quality older restoration that still presents extremely well in its dark green finish with red pinstriping and artillery wheels. Highly polished brass adornments are plentiful, including headlamps, carriage lamps, and body trim, all playing brilliantly against the red and green livery. The canvas top features a red fabric lining and front storm shield and protects an interior upholstered in button-tufted black leather.

On the technical side, this Model M differs from the Dewar Trophy-winning Cadillacs by having a two-inch longer chassis to accommodate the “Straight Line Touring” body instead of the runabout coachwork used by the Dewar cars. The 10hp single-cylinder horizontal engine and pressed-steel, channel-section frame with a single transverse leaf spring up front and longitudinal leaf springs in the rear is essentially the same specification as the award-winning Model Ks. This car has remained in excellent mechanical order since its restoration, with the same attention to detail paid to the underpinnings as paid to the body.

Once a resident of Minnesota, the Model M touring car was shown in AACA competition with excellent results, and it still proudly displays a Minnesota Region AACA award badge. It will be an ideal early car for a wide variety of events and tours organized by the Horseless Carriage Club of America, providing the kind of joyful motoring that only an early horseless carriage can bring, and based on Bennett’s experience of more than 115 years ago, it should also prove extremely reliable.

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