Cadillac V-16 Convertible Phaeton
Cadillac’s introduction of the magnificent V16 in 1930 sent the competition reeling. While others were working on new V12s, Cadillac leapt right past them. Then, in 1931, while the competition was still struggling to respond, Cadillac introduced the V12. Based on the V16, it created an unbeatable lineup – V8, V12 and V16.
The new V16 was truly a remarkable engineering achievement. With a novel hydraulic valve lash compensation system, the engine was as quiet as the side valve engines of the period. Nonetheless, its mechanical specifications and performance were nearly unmatched, producing prodigious torque almost from idle, allowing the car to accelerate almost from rest in high gear. It is also fitting that this engineering tour de force should showcase the first use of the designer’s touch under the hood. With its gleaming black enameled valve covers contrasting with brushed aluminum ribbing and delicate cloisonné medallions, opening the hood on a V16 was an awe inspiring experience, and it remains so today.
Cadillac had long since earned the motto “standard of the world,” and the quality of the cars was undeniable. Innovations such as the self-starter in 1912 and the synchromesh transmission in 1928, among others, kept the company at the leading edge. Few brands have earned the iconic cultural cachet Cadillac enjoyed; to this very day, to say “the Cadillac of (whatever)” is universally understood to denote the very best.
In the face of a declining luxury market, Cadillac managed to survive, thanks in large part to the financial support of General Motors. Nevertheless, the cars were brilliantly designed, and while the failing market meant that the V16 was produced only in tiny numbers, the few that remain offer us a glimpse into one of the most exciting automotive eras of all time.
For the first time in 1933, Cadillac gave the V16 a separate identity, with horizontal hood vent spears and matching chrome trim on skirted fenders. Also unique to the sixteen were massive four bar bumpers, chrome wheel covers with spinner caps, and very striking multi-coned art deco horns. Body lines and fender edges were highlighted with polished stainless trim, and the headlight, radiator shell and marker lights were painted for the first time – but with chrome accents. It was also the first Cadillac to feature the “de Sakhnoffsky” hood, a striking feature in which the hood overlaid the cowl and reached to the base of the windshield.
Cadillac was so confident that the new look would be successful that the company advertised extensively that production would be limited to “just 400” examples. In fact, that proved optimistic, and just 126 cars were delivered. Of those, just one of these striking Fleetwood built convertible phaetons was built.
This car was auctioned off by RM Auctions in March of 2010 at the Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island, Florida.
185 bhp, 452 cu. in. overhead valve sixteen-cylinder engine with three-speed synchromesh transmission, four-wheel power-assisted brakes, leaf spring and solid axle front suspension and leaf spring live axle rear suspension with torque tube drive. Wheelbase: 149"
Source: RM Auctions
Photo Credit: Copyright Darin Schnabel