In 1930, Cadillac made waves in the luxury car industry with the sensational debut of their all-new sixteen-cylinder engine. The sixteen and its twelve-cylinder sibling kicked off the so-called multi-cylinder war among luxury car manufacturers, which unfortunately coincided with the Great Depression. Unfortunately, this era coincided with the onset of the Great Depression, ultimately spelling the end for Marmon, Auburn, Pierce-Arrow, and others that tried to compete but lacked the financial means to survive the ensuing economic meltdown. With few peers, the Cadillac V16 shone as one of America’s most sought-after prestige motorcars, offering 175 horsepower and unparalleled refinement. Named for its displacement in cubic inches, the Series 452 V16 shared its architecture and sophisticated overhead-valve layout with the smaller Series 370 V12. The engine was more than up to the task of propelling appropriately large and heavy coachwork, typically in the form of elaborate, lavishly trimmed limousines and sedans from GM’s primary body suppliers, Fleetwood and Fisher.
To accommodate the big, powerful V16 engine, engineers developed a strengthened chassis and added power-assisted brakes and a “Clashless” synchronized gearbox. General Motors utilized in-house coachbuilders Fisher and Fleetwood to build the bodies for the new Series 452, with only a select few cars going to outside firms. Nearly one hundred body and wheelbase combinations were possible, which ensured the exclusivity necessary if Cadillac hoped to lure buyers from the likes of Rolls-Royce or Hispano-Suiza. The styling came from Harley Earl’s newly established Art and Colour Section at GM, while Fisher and Fleetwood crafted the beautiful bodies. Initial sales were robust for 1930 but tapered off dramatically in subsequent years as the Great Depression worsened. Despite losing money on nearly every unit produced, the Cadillac V16 remains a proud symbol of Detroit's achievements in the 1930s and stands as one of America's most coveted classic motorcars.
This extraordinary V-16 Cadillac is a rare gem, one of just 35 Transformable Town Cabriolets ever constructed, bearing the style number 4325, and only a handful have survived to this day. With bodywork constructed in Fleetwood's factory works in Pennsylvania, the body featured Fleetwood's distinctively Vee'd windscreen and matching trim molding along the spine of the hoodline that gently transitioned into the beltline wrapping the car. According to copies of factory build records, the Cadillac was delivered new to New York City's famed Uppercu Cadillac Company. In 1946, the elegant Town Cabriolet was registered in Los Angeles, California to J.R. Adams.
It was still an original and unrestored machine when "Cadillac Jim" Pearson of Kansas City, Missouri sold the car to V-16 enthusiast Fred Weber. This vehicle marked the final V-16 to undergo a comprehensive restoration in Mr. Weber's collection, with the painstaking work entrusted to Marc Ohm. The finished car made its debut at the 1993 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance, where it claimed a prestigious class award.
Subsequently, the Cadillac found itself in the hands of dedicated collector John McMullen in Lapeer, Michigan. Featured on the cover of the September/October 1995 issue of the CCCA's Michigan Region magazine, Torque, McMullen proudly declared the acquisition as "the dream of my life." The car graced CCCA competitions, amassing a top score of 99.5 points and achieving Senior Emeritus status in 2006. It also garnered Best in Class awards at both the Meadowbrook Concours d'Elegance and Eyes on Design.
The elegant livery is adorned with painted wire wheels, polished spokes, whitewall tires, a padded black leather roof for the passengers, and a black cloth top for the driver's compartment. The driver's compartment features black leather upholstery, while the passenger cabin boasts exquisite gray broadcloth—a common choice for chauffeur-driven cars of that era. Woodgrain accents adorn the door tops, central divider panel, and dashboard. A roll-up division window separates the luxurious passenger compartment from the driver's area. The soft trim has been impeccably maintained since the restoration.
Cadillac's formidable V16 engine is celebrated as the first engine to incorporate input from a styling department. Per Harley Earl's directives, all extraneous wiring and plumbing are concealed, and the black porcelain enamel valve covers feature silver fluted accents. These engines are renowned for their refinement, and this particular example is no exception, as it runs superbly, having undergone an overhaul by RM Auto Restoration in 2008. Apart from routine maintenance, the V16 remains in excellent cosmetic condition, boasting meticulous detailing and period-correct hardware and fittings.
Elegant, imposing, and powerful, the Cadillac Series 452 is undoubtedly a star of the Classic Era. This marvelous example benefits from years of attentive care and is a superb choice for Classic Car Club of America tours or similar events where the V16’s exceptional power and refinement can be experienced firsthand.
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