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Douglas ( -1 )

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1938 Cadillac V16 Presidential Convertible Parade Limousine
Quantity Views Date Posted
1 3721 3/30/2010
Asking Price Shipping Amount Condition
$185,000.00 None Auction Results
Description: 1938 Cadillac V16 Presidential Convertible Parade Limousine
RM Auctions
Automobiles of Amelia Island Collector Car Auction
Amelia Island, Florida
March 13, 2010
AUCTION RESULTS: Lot 162 - Not Sold at a high bid of $185,000

Model 9006. 210 bhp, 331 cu. in. overhead valve V8 engine, three-speed manual transmission, coil spring independent front suspension, live rear axle with semi-elliptic leaf springs, four-wheel hydraulic drum brakes. Wheelbase: 165"

Although William McKinley was the first U.S. President to ride in an automobile in 1899, it was not until 1909 that a motor vehicle moved into the White House stables. Theodore Roosevelt was known to ride in automobiles, but he was first and foremost a horseman and had no use for a car for his own personal transport. It was left to his successor, William Howard Taft, to adopt the automobile by purchasing a White Model M steam car in February 1909. Taft was not, however, a steam devotee, for he also purchased a 48 hp Pierce-Arrow the same month and a 38 hp Pierce for Mrs. Taft two months later. In fact, Pierce-Arrows served most of the official White House transportation needs for the ensuing years.

In 1938, however, two custom-built Cadillacs were delivered to the White House garage. Dubbed the "Queen Mary" and the "Queen Elizabeth" for their size, they were Series 90 V16 convertible sedans, built on an extended 165-inch wheelbase.

Cadillac's second-generation V16 had just been introduced. While the first generation sixteen and its V12 stable mate had been 45-degree overhead valve designs, the new engine was a 135-degree L-head, developing 135 hp from 431 cubic inches. Each bank had its own distributor, carburetor and manifolds. The engine was six inches shorter, 13 inches lower and 250 pounds lighter than its overhead valve predecessor and had significantly fewer parts. Nevertheless, it developed the same power despite its smaller displacement. Introduction came at the October 1937 New York Automobile Show.

Sharing chassis and bodies with the V8-engined Series 75, the Series 90 Sixteen was offered in 14 body styles, all by Fleetwood, Cadillac's in-house coachbuilding company. This sharing was enabled by the compact dimensions of the engine, which could be tucked under the firewall, permitting a shorter car without loss of interior space. Its styling was the work of William J. Mitchell, the young designer who had penned the dramatic Sixty Special. The V16 was given a massive frontal appearance highlighted by a vertical die cast egg-crate grille, thrust forward almost to the bumper. The hood side panels, in a tribute to the 1933 V16, had simple horizontal louvers which were repeated, in inverse order, on each of the four fenders. Sidemount spares were optional, but most cars had them concealed under smooth metal covers. A new "goddess" hood ornament served double duty as the latch for the new "alligator" front-opening hood.

Cataloged body styles, all by Fleetwood, ran the gamut from two-passenger sport coupes and convertibles to five-passenger convertible sedans and from five-passenger sedans to the seven-passenger formal models. Prices ranged from $5,135 to $7,170, quite competitive with Lincoln's flagship Model K and Packard's Twelve but more expensive than Pierce-Arrow's offerings. Pierce, of course, would not last the year. Most popular was the Style 9033 Imperial Sedan, a seven-passenger, six-window car with division partition. A variation on the Imperial Sedan was the Formal Sedan, Style 9033F, with blind rear quarters and a padded leather roof. A few V16 chassis were released to outside coachbuilders. Particularly attractive was a fastback five-passenger coupe by Derham Body Company of Rosemont, Pennsylvania. Production, however, was minuscule: 315 cars in 1938, 138 in 1939 and just 61 in 1940, the final season.

Unlike the eight-cylinder Cadillacs, the V16s remained all but unchanged during those three years. Updates for 1939 were essentially trim changes; for 1940 the introduction of sealed-beam headlights was accompanied by chrome fender-mounted sidelamps. Cars for 1940 also had directional signals.

The Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth carried armor-plating, but not bulletproof glass, and were fully equipped for Secret Service personnel, with special running boards, grab handles and communication equipment, hidden compartments and warning lights and sirens. They remained in White House service until 1956, by which time they had served presidents Franklin Roosevelt, Truman and Eisenhower. President Harry Truman had taken delivery of two new Lincoln Cosmopolitan "bubble top" limos in 1950, but the Queens remained in the official fleet. Both cars were re-powered with new engines in 1953. This car still has this engine, a 331 cubic inch overhead valve Cadillac unit, but still wears its V16 emblems.

Partially restored three or four decades ago, this "Queen" has aged gracefully but looks her age. There are cracks and chips in the paint, including the dashboard and interior trim, and some pitting is evident in the paint. The boot cover is stained and soiled. The seats, however, appear to have been recently done in brown vinyl. The undercarriage looks totally original, and the body has clearly never been off the frame. The car has a number of remnants of its presidential service: two ROTC training rifles, two telephones and holsters built into the front kick panels.

In 2002, this car was awarded the RM Restoration Award for the best original unrestored automobile at the Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance. It carries that special cachet reserved for vehicles of extraordinary provenance, and a new owner will have to decide whether to preserve all its prior history by conserving it in its present condition or to embark on a restoration to some earlier time in its history. Regardless, this is a very rare and special automobile, and it presents a unique opportunity for a new owner.
Keywords: 1938 Cadillac V16 Presidential Convertible Parade Limousine


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