When Cadillac launched its flagship sixteen-cylinder Series 452 in 1930, America was staring down the barrel of an unprecedented economic depression. In the first year of production, Cadillac managed to sell 2,887 V16s – an impressive figure for such an exclusive automobile. However, sales dropped immediately afterward and continued their downward trend throughout the model’s nine-year production run. By 1937, sales of the V16 had sunk to just 49 cars. General Motors remained committed to keeping Cadillac 'The Standard of the World,' and the V16 was an effective marketing tool despite its low production.
GM needed to revitalize its most prestigious model, and for the 1938 model year, Cadillac introduced an entirely new flagship Sixteen (now named Series 90), with a redesigned engine, chassis, and body. The 1938 Series 90 ushered in Cadillac’s second-generation V16 engine. Owen Nacker’s original V16 was a brilliant and ambitious piece of engineering, and while it was exceptionally refined, it was also massively complex. Cadillac’s new V16 was a simplified yet effective L-head, monobloc design with a 135-degree V-angle and square bore/stroke. The new engine was considerably less expensive to produce, with 1,627 individual parts compared to 3,273 for the original, and at 1,050 pounds, it was about 250 pounds lighter. Cadillac engineers accomplished all of this without sacrificing output, as the new engine was rated at 185 horsepower at 3,600 RPM.
Fleetwood was the primary coachbuilder for Series 90 production bodies. The styling fully embraced the Streamline Moderne era, with bullet headlamps mounted on pontoon fenders and side-mount spares concealed beneath metal enclosures. GM’s Art and Colour Section, still under the direction of Harley Earl, took full advantage of the grand 141-inch wheelbase chassis, with graceful and elegant forms and finely judged art-deco details. The new car was well-received, and sales improved for 1938, yet still, Cadillac built just 311 of the Series 90 that year, and the magnificent V16’s days were numbered.
This grand and imposing Cadillac is one of just twenty 1938 Series 90 V16s fitted with Fleetwood’s "Two Window" Town Sedan body. The initial owner acquired this elegant motorcar from the Chaplin Motor Company of Portland, Maine, and V-16 historian Chris Cummings noted later ownership by the esteemed Cadillac historian, Ron Van Gelderen. Subsequently, this Cadillac found a dedicated caretaker in longtime Cadillac-LaSalle Club member Richard Taylor of Pennsylvania before becoming part of a significant private collection in 2004. The car is presented in outstanding condition, with a quality that is equally suited to the concours field or touring the open road. The deep Antoinette Blue paintwork is beautifully finished and is complemented by excellent brightwork, and a richly appointed tan broadcloth cabin. Adorned with dual Lorraine spotlights and a host of intricate trim details characteristic of these meticulously designed vehicles, this Cadillac remains in remarkable overall condition, bearing only minor signs of aging and use. A closer look reveals a meticulous body-off restoration, with painstaking attention paid to the chassis, including the overhaul of all hardware. New lines, gas tank, and exhaust were thoughtfully fitted, and the engine compartment was masterfully restored. Notably, all glass retains its proper etching, including front and rear vent windows. The trunk houses a tool roll, lug wrench, spare wheel and tire, along with impeccably bound canvas-covered hogshair carpeting.
The L-Head V16 is a very different animal from the previous OHV version. Whereas the early models featured enameled valve covers and decorative shrouds to hide extraneous wiring and plumbing, there’s no such need on the second-generation V16. The unique 135-degree V-angle means the engine sits very low in the chassis and is largely hidden by the fenders and side panels. Two downdraft carburetors feed the individual banks, and twin oil-bath air cleaners dominate the engine bay.
An award winner, this Cadillac has earned the coveted AACA National First Prize and CLC National Senior First Prize and is ready to garner more awards. Whether on the show field or the road, this stunning example of Cadillac’s late-30s masterpiece is ready to take pride of place in your collection.
Offers welcome and trades considered
Stock number 7593
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