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Colossal Cadillac Show Chassis Finished in Nickel Plate, Paint and Polished Alloy

This unique 1925 Cadillac V-8 Model 314 one-hundred and forty-five inch WB show chassis must have been a delight to view in person. It was used for Cadillac’s exclusive “Custom” Body Series automobiles and powered by a 314 CI L-head ninety-degree V-8 engine backed up by a multiple disc clutch, a three-speed transmission and a rear axle with a 4.5:1 final drive ratio.

The frame, engine blocks and other cast iron, and steel pieces were finely-finished in a dark-colored paint. All of the controls, trim work, and radiator shell were nickel-plated, the aluminum crankcase was polished, and the wooden-spoked artillery wheels were finished with varnish.

To add to the spectacle, the partially cutaway engine appears to have been rotated at a low-speed by an electric motor and gear set. To power this motion, apparently batteries were contained in the wooden box visible under the rear of the chassis.

Please share with us what you find of interest in this photograph courtesy of the University of Virginia Library.



32 responses to “Colossal Cadillac Show Chassis Finished in Nickel Plate, Paint and Polished Alloy

    • If you search here for “Chadwick”, there’s a photo of one stripped for a hillclimb. “Substantial” would be an understatement. Pierce-Arrow, Locomobile, and others were all built similarly. They make that Caddilac look lightweight.

  1. It would be interesting to see it compared to a Buick and Chevrolet chassis from the same year. Large, expensive cars were very different from lower-priced cars then.

    Anyone recognize the who the men were?

  2. You’re right that the massive chassis must have been a joy to view in person. I was also struck by the fact that the driver was expected to horse around something that size with no power assists at all. And mechanical brakes — did Cadillac even have brakes on the front wheels then? It was not a driving experience for the faint of heart.

    • Front brakes, I see what looks like cables – or pull rods – leading to the front wheels.
      As for the lack of power assists, I’ve driven an early Locomobile 48 and even with the great big steering wheel it took real effort at very slow speed. At road speed it was quite manageable, but very direct i.e. you had to drive it every inch. I’m over six feet and not exactly unfamiliar with heavy labor, those big old cars are a handful & you have to think well ahead. And, they are incredible fun!! Anyone who gets the chance should drive an American LaFrance six cylinder speedster, now THAT is subtantial.@

      • or a 1937 Seagrave with Vacuum assist manual rod controlled brakes and a T-Head six cylinder motor …all 23 feet of it …talk about 1920’s technology in an almost 1940’s vehicle ! Definitly was a depression era beauty !

      • From 1969 until my home was hit by lighting and destroyed in 2007, I owned and put almost 50,000 miles on a 1934 Packard 8 club sedan and it was a pleasure to drive. It had power brakes that could lock the wheels at 70mph and the steering had ball bearings at the kingpins and was easy to steer as long as it was moving. It would cruse at 75 to 85 mph all day. I miss taking long trips in that car.

    • High end cars(heavy) those days used to sport brakes assisted by mechanical servos. At least I know Hispano Suizas did.

  3. David the photo was no doubt taken in 1925 but the car is not a V-63. Rather, it is a 1926 model 314, the first Cadillac with a two unit starter/generator system and the new vertical starter motor can be seen at the rear of the engine. The new taller radiator is most distinctive and the shutters first used on this model are seen through the cut away radiator core. The 314 was the first model to move away from the old ‘platform’ rear spring arrangement and the new longitudinal semi-elliptic rear springs are prominent here. There are a host of other detail differences from the V-63 but these should suffice. It’s a wonderful photo and I would dearly love to know the names of the gentlemen lined up behind the chassis, they must have been pretty proud of themselves!

      • Yes David the date would be correct as the 1926 model 314 was announced in July of 1925. This display chassis would have been prepared around that time for the up-coming motor shows in the latter half of the year. The same timing was repeated the following year with the 1927 model 314-A being introduced in July 1926. I’ve owned both models and they were fine cars but the 1930 353 caps them all and I still have several of those.

    • Interesting that it took 8 years for Cadillac to follow Packard in giving up their Platform rear springs in favour of semi-elliptics. Packard were beginning to trounce Cadillac in sales by 1925, so maybe GM decided that imitation was the best option. In summer 1917 the 3rd series Packard Twin-six had come out with a completely re-designed A shaped frame (with torsion tubes between the front and rear horns). This, with the later addition of front wheel brakes (Henri Perrot was brought in to help with those) was the basic Packard chassis design for the next decade. My second series T6 has precise light steering (1 1/2 turns lock to lock) and as a touring car corners flat, but the platform rear end gives you the very slight feeling of riding on the back of a snake as you drive down the straights. I’m anticipating that the 3rd series I’m rebuilding will have more precise handling and directional stability. The 3rd series Twin six touring was sixty percent more expensive and reportedly 14% heavier than the Cadillac 61 at the London Motor show in 1922 at 2 long tons and the heaviest touring car at the show.

  4. Nice piece of work, these dudes are pretty proud of the result it seems. Just wondering a bit about the Goodyear Balloon Tires. They look like motorcycle tires today in some ways, due to the tread curving around to the sides. Is this because some more traction was needed in mud or other unimproved roads. As a biker, I detect a pretty nice lean over angle, though not quite up to knee scraping specs….LOL. Hang in there David!! Lots of quarantined dogs (motor heads) out there depending on your output!

  5. There is a 1930 Cadillac factory display chassis that looks very similar on display at the ACD museum in Auburn. It too had lots of extra bright work. Photos are available on line, but would not reproduce well enough to forward to you. Best, Ed Minnie

  6. How do the priming cups work in this application? There don’t seem to be any valve levers. Would somebody hand-crank this V-8?

    • Before starting the cups are filled with gas, and after opening the petcock at the bottom raw fuel flows directly into the combustion chamber to make starting easier on the starter, battery, or the one who make be hand cranking it.

      • I guess that’s what confused me, I couldn’t see the petcocks. Looking at modern photos of that engine in restored cars, there don’t seem to be any petcocks either. Maybe the whole body twists to let the fuel into the cylinder?

        • That is more or less correct. There is no petcock as such on the Cadillac priming cup; you fill the hollow threaded top portion with gas and as you turn it anti-clockwise it lifts off its seat on the base and the gas flows through the gap into the cylinder. It was a clever design and Cadillac used it for many years until 1927.

          • Kelly, please accept my apology for misspelling your name above. It is well past this old man’s bedtime early this Thursday AM . I don’t know if there is a mechanism to edit postings here. . Good night, – Carl

    • If you are in the unfortunate situation of having to hand crank a large vintage vee engine with twin ignition, try opening the priming cups on one bank first…

  7. Who’s lurking in the bushes on the right in the white hat?? Shades of Leslie Nelson’s Spy Hard & Val Kilmer’s Top Secret…

    • The hat would have belonged to one of the men in the picture. He put it on the bush so it wouldn’t be in the picture. All of the men would have arrived wearing a hat. The fourth man from the left and the third from the right are holding their hats in front of them. I bet some of the others are holding them behind.

  8. The picture could not have been taken in 1925. Indeed, it is a 314, but a 1927. A late ’27 at that. 314 Cadillacs had two somewhat different engines. Two variants of the first engine, and later in 1927, a new, almost transitional engine. Though still fork and blade, it embodied some elements of the new offset block Nacker engine, which made its debut that year in the first LaSalle. This engine is immediately identifiable by the forward mounted distributor. You might say this was the last stand of the Leland V8s. More later , gotta run. – CC

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