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Smooth as Silk – Cadillac Enters the Multi-Cylinder Race

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  • Brent Merrill’s 1930 Cadillac Series 452 V-16 Fleetwood Coupe on the 2013 Pebble Beach Tour d’Elegance. Photos courtesy of 

While the term classic has certainly been overused to the point of absurdity, it is entirely appropriate to apply to the 1930 and later Cadillacs. In eight, twelve or sixteen cylinder form, the combination of style, quality and mechanical refinement found in these cars truly lives up to the company’s old slogan of Standard of the World. All three types are accepted as such by the Classic Car Club of America.

V-16-2       V-16-3       V-16-4

Refinement was the order of the day under the hood. A new intake muffler produced by the AC Spark Plug Company to Cadillac specifications reduced noise. Hydraulic valve lifters also contributed to quiet running of these powerful engines. The aluminum upper half of the crankcase and fan were polished and other engine parts, when not plated, where either finished in glossy black enamel or, in the case of the exhaust manifold, porcelainized. Plug wires, concealed in a wire loom within the “V” created a clean and uncluttered appearance.

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  • Large trunks on all models could carry all sorts of cargo.

Development work on the V-16 began as early as 1926 when ex-Marmon engineer Owen Nacker designed a prototype and used two straight eight engine blocks on a common crankcase for the experiment. It’s 452 cubic inch displacement gave rise to the model’s designation. Great attention was paid by Cadillac to buyers of these upscale automobiles. Through the Autumn of 1930, dealers were required to provide weekly and monthly owner reaction and service reports to the factory on the sixteen cylinder cars.

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  • Specifications above show the engines in the Cadillac-LaSalle lineup.   

And quality was not restricted to the engine compartment. Fifteen sets of roller bearings were used throughout the Safety-Mechanical Four Wheel Brakes to drastically reduce friction in the system and thus reduce pedal effort and increase efficiency. Synchromesh provided effortless shifting. Improved insulation in the nearly seventy different bodies offered by Fleetwood, Fisher, Murphy and other custom coachbuilders protected well-heeled passengers from both heat and noise. In the end, Cadillac lost money on the V-16’s despite prices that approached $10,000 on some models, but the lasting prestige they earned for the marque cannot be measured in dollars alone.

  • AI2      AI3       AI4
  • “Automotive Industries” August 30, 1930.

You’ll find almost thirty pages of Cadillac related posts on The Old Motor and enthusiasts of the make at the Cadillac & LaSalle Club.

7 responses to “Smooth as Silk – Cadillac Enters the Multi-Cylinder Race

  1. Buick didn’t have any straight eight cars produced until 1931. How
    did the ex-Marmon engineer procure some straight eight engines in
    1926? Cadillac V 16 engines weighed 900 pounds more than a
    Marmon V 16 engine. Maybe that’s the reason they let Nacker go.

  2. Hermann Goering the Luftwaffe’s Marshal, went to visit Hitler in the Berlin Bunker in May 1945. He was driving a 1938 Cadillac V-16 (of the flat head ilk) which got, at most, 10 miles a gallon of gasoline of which there was almost none in Germany.

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