Cadillac V-16 Sport Phaeton

Cadillac stunned the fine car market at the New York Auto Show with the introduction of its breathtaking new sixteen-cylinder models. Spectators at the luxurious Astor Hotel were crowded elbow-to-elbow on January 4, 1930 when a crowd of some 20,000 spectators jostled to catch a glimpse of the new “Supercar.” With this single stroke, Cadillac instantly catapulted itself to the head of the luxury class. Until then, only Bugatti had produced a “U”-shaped 16-cylinder engine by bolting two eight-cylinder engines together, an innovation that was originally intended for aircraft use.

Cadillac’s V-16 was the first true 16-cylinder engine to be built from scratch, a project led by legendary engineer Owen Milton Nacker under conditions of the strictest secrecy. In order to avoid knowledge of the project leaking from lower-level GM engineering departments and parts suppliers, a well-coordinated disinformation campaign included cover stories and notes on various blueprints indicating that the project was actually Cadillac’s contribution to a GM bus or highway coach development project.

The resulting engine was extraordinary, designed concurrently with Cadillac’s own V-12 engine program with wide interchangeability of parts between them. Its 45-degree cylinder bank angle and overhead-valve cylinder head design kept the engine narrow, while the external manifolds allowed remarkable ease of access to the engine compartment. Furthermore, Cadillac’s V-16 was the first automotive engine ever to be “styled”; all the wiring was hidden behind conduits, and the engine compartment was dressed up with plenty of gleaming, polished aluminum, porcelain and a pair of beautiful valve covers with brushed aluminum ridged surfaces featuring the Cadillac emblem.

While the horsepower output of the V-16 engine was rated by Cadillac at “only” 175 horsepower, in truth it produced approximately 200 horsepower. Its mission, however, was not absolute performance and speed but rather to propel Cadillac’s massive chassis, which could accommodate a multitude of relatively heavy and luxurious custom coachbuilt bodies. With its peak torque output of 320 ft-lbs available at just 1,200 to 1,500 engine revolutions, the V-16 certainly achieved its design objectives.

The Cadillac V-16 was also incredibly smooth in operation, thanks in large part to its massive but well-balanced and tough forged crankshaft, well supported by five main bearings. Other special innovations included a silicon-aluminum crankcase, five-point engine mounts to reduce vibration, advanced overhead valve cylinder heads with the valvetrain actuated by pushrods and rocker arms, as well as carefully refined piston and piston ring designs. For ignition, the V-16 used a single distributor with two sets of breaker points controlled by two separate ignition coils.

This car was auctioned off by RM Auctions in October of 2010 at the Hershey Lodge, Hershey, Pennsylvania.

175 hp, 452 cu. in. V-16 engine with overhead valves, three-speed selective synchromesh manual transmission, solid front axle with semi-elliptic leaf springs and hydraulic dampers, ¾-floating rear axle with semi-elliptic leaf springs, and four-wheel vacuum-assisted mechanical drum brakes. Wheelbase: 148".

Source: RM Auctions

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