Cadillac V-12 Five-Passenger Phaeton

Cadillac made headlines in 1912 with the adoption of Charles Kettering’s new electric starting and ignition system. The following year, Cadillac won a second Dewar trophy in recognition of the system and late that year began advertising itself as the “Standard of the World,” perhaps a throwback to its earlier Dewar awarded for precision manufacture.

A V-8 engine was new for 1915, not a groundbreaking concept but a refined one that would be its hallmark for decades. It was given detachable cylinder heads in 1918 and a balanced crankshaft for 1924, when four-wheel brakes were also adopted. Although slightly trailing competing Packard in the late 1920s, Cadillac sold a steady 20,000 to 30,000 cars a year. With this as background, it may seem odd that in the autumn of 1930 Cadillac introduced a V-12 model.

At first glance, it seems foolhardy to have launched a twelve-cylinder car during the deepening Depression. Cadillac’s case appears especially reckless, for GM’s premier division introduced not only a V-12 but also a V-16, within months of one another. Actually, the sixteen, shown at January 1930’s New York Auto Show, had been a relative success, with more than 1,000 shipped in four months. The V-12 was basically the V-16 with some cylinders eliminated, although its bore was larger. The stroke remained the same. This resulted in 368 cubic inches from the 45-degree block, and like the sixteen it ran quietly, the benefit of hydraulic valve lifters. Rated at 135 brake horsepower, 30 less than its larger sibling, some V-12 aficionados feel it is better.

This car was auctioned off by RM Auctions in January of 2009 at the Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa, Phoenix, Arizona and in July of 2011 at The Inn at St. John's, Plymouth, Michigan.

135 bhp, 368 cu. in. overhead valve V-12 engine with three-speed manual transmission, solid front axle and live rear axle with semi-elliptic leaf springs, and four-wheel mechanical drum brakes. Wheelbase: 140".

Source: RM Auctions
Photo Credit: Copyright Darin Schnabel and Simon Clay

Gallery: Cadillac V-12 Five-Passenger Phaeton