Cadillac V-16 Convertible

In December 1929, Cadillac’s Division President Lawrence P. Fisher announced to all dealers that Cadillac would build the ultimate luxury car. The result was the famous V-16, a trump card that raised the stakes in the luxury car market. After a quiet three-year period of development, the new engine was introduced at the 1930 New York Auto Show. Known formally as the Series 452, its introduction created quite a stir, and despite the deepening Depression, orders began flowing into the factory for Cadillac’s magnificent new automobile, offered in various body styles with most designs executed by Fleetwood.

Longer wheelbases allowed long, graceful hoods, while the chrome and cloisonné “V-16” jewelry on the tie bar and hubcaps ensured that everyone knew this car was something special. Under the hood, the new V-16 engine was an engineering masterpiece, featuring an advanced overhead-valve design that incorporated automatic hydraulic valve lash compensators that ensured the engine ran as quietly as any side-valve engine. The narrow 45-degree cylinder bank angle produced a compact engine with good inherent balance.

Just as important as the car’s mechanical specification, however, was the underhood appearance. Styled by Owen Nacker, it was the first engine bay to receive special design consideration. Wiring was hidden under covers accented by cloisonné knobs, while gleaming black enamel contrasted with a brushed aluminum raised pattern on the valve covers. Fuel lines were plated, and a false firewall hid the necessary wiring and plumbing from view.

Despite the undeniable magnificence of the V-16s, they did not go unaffected by the worsening of the Great Depression. As the 1930s progressed, the great V-16 Cadillacs became more and more difficult to sell. Consequently, ownership of such limited, pricey automobiles was generally reserved for the elite and wealthy. Nevertheless, Cadillac experienced enough sales to sustain the company through the lean years and eventually even outshine its rival Packard.

This car was auctioned off by RM Auctions in July of 2011 at The Inn at St. John's, Plymouth, Michigan.

185 hp, 452 cu. in. overhead valve V-16 engine, three-speed synchromesh manual transmission, leaf spring front axle and torque tube rear axle, four-wheel power assisted brakes. Wheelbase: 154".

Source: RM Auctions

Gallery: Cadillac V-16 Convertible