LaSalle Convertible Coupe
Although not the first of the “companion cars,” Cadillac’s LaSalle was almost certainly the finest. Conceived to fill a gap between Buick and Cadillac, the LaSalle has the distinction of being America’s first styled automobile.
The “companions” were new makes created to broaden a manufacturer’s or division’s market share; in addition to Hudson‘s Essex, early companions included Jewett from Paige and the short-lived Ajax from Nash. Whippet, the Willys companion, became the third-best-selling car in 1928. Upscale companions included Marmon’s Roosevelt and the Blackhawk from Stutz. For a brief period, all General Motors divisions except Chevrolet had them. Pontiac, in fact, began as a lower-priced companion to Oakland.
In order to make the new car special, Cadillac president and general manager Lawrence Fisher recruited a young designer named Harley Earl from Don Lee, the Los Angeles Cadillac dealer. Lee had his own custom body shop, and Earl had made a name for himself designing cars for Hollywood stars and other LA luminaries. Until that time, what passed for styling had been done by “body engineers.” Earl, however, approached cars as objets d'art, and taking a cue from Hispano-Suiza sketched up a car with flowing lines accented by two-tone paint. The success of LaSalle led to Earl’s appointment as head of a new GM section called “Art & Color,” the automobile industry’s first in-house styling department.
Mechanically, the LaSalle was a small Cadillac, with a shorter wheelbase and a shorter stroke version of Cadillac’s L-head V8. Eleven body styles were offered, Introduced in March 1927, LaSalle sold more than 26,000 cars in its first year. In 1928, LaSalle helped push Cadillac division output over 40,000 cars for the first time ever. For 1929, with Cadillac it pioneered the synchromesh transmission; that year production of LaSalles exceeded Cadillacs by nearly 5,000 cars. By 1933, the LaSalle had taken on a distinctly Cadillac appearance and used Cadillac’s 353 cubic inch engine, though with lower compression it developed less power.
This car was auctioned off by RM Auctions in January of 2009 at the Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa, Phoenix, Arizona.
115bhp, 353 cu. in. L-head V-8 engine, three-speed manual transmission, suspension via front and rear semi-elliptic leaf springs, solid front axle, live rear axle, four-wheel vacuum-assisted mechanical drum brakes. Wheelbase: 130"
Source: RM Auctions
Photo Credit: Copyright Darin Schnabel and Simon Clay