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Douglas ( -1 )

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1931 Cadillac V16 Roadster by Fleetwood
Quantity Views Date Posted
1 3526 3/30/2010
Asking Price Shipping Amount Condition
$418,000.00 None Auction Results
Description: 1931 Cadillac V16 Roadster by Fleetwood
RM Auctions
Automobiles of Amelia Island Collector Car Auction
Amelia Island, Florida
March 13, 2010
AUCTION RESULTS: Lot 169 - Sold at a price of $418,000

Series 452A. 185 bhp, 452 cu. in. 45-degree overhead valve V16 engine, three-speed manual with reverse, front and rear semi-elliptic leaf springs with hydraulic dampers and four-wheel vacuum assisted mechanical brakes. Wheelbase: 148"

It is ironic that the greatest efforts of the fine carmakers were created during the greatest period of economic hardship the modern world has known. Ever greater engineering feats were met with a dwindling market, resulting in the failure of some of the greatest names in the history of the industry.

In the latter part of the 1920s, Alfred Sloan's General Motors was gaining on every front – from the new overhead valve six, which was pitched against Ford's four, to a full offering of middle and upper middle class cars ranging from Pontiac to Buick.

At the high end, however, it was another story altogether. Cadillac had largely failed to make headway against Packard, while Lincoln, bolstered by Edsel Ford's attractive new bodies, was gaining ground. Cadillacs were relatively boring, with old technology under the hood and stodgy styling.

Clearly, a new direction was needed. Utilizing a "divide and conquer" strategy, LaSalle was created to provide a relatively more affordable fine car. Meanwhile, the multi-cylinder writing was on the wall, and a crash program was instituted to supplement Cadillac's venerable V8 with not one, but two new engines – a V12 and a V16.

Equally important, GM created the Art and Colour department, headed by the soon-to-be legendary Harley Earl. The first real styling department, it was an acknowledgement that cars could no longer be sold purely on engineering. The first project was the 1927 LaSalle – a stunning new design that cribbed from the best in Europe while retaining a distinctly American flavor. Long, sweeping fenders cradled a beautiful upright radiator shell that was set back and surrounded by large chrome headlights connected by a handsome tie bar.

The same styling was implemented for Cadillac for 1928, but it took the mighty V16, introduced in 1930, to realize the potential of the new design. Longer wheelbases allowed long, graceful hoods, while the chrome and cloisonné "V16" jewelry on the tie bar and hubcaps ensured that everyone knew this car was something special.

Just as important as the car's mechanical specification was the under hood appearance. Styled by Owen Nacker, it was the first engine bay to receive 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.

The new V16 engine was an engineering masterpiece as well, featuring an advanced overhead valve design that incorporated automatic hydraulic valve lash compensators that ensured that the engine ran as quietly as any side valve engine. Its 45 degree cylinder bank angle and overhead valve design kept the engine narrow, while the external manifolding provided good access.

A wide variety of bodies were offered on the V16 chassis, most being Fleetwood designs. A few special Fisher bodies were offered as well, either on special order or, in a few cases, as cataloged offerings. The cars instantly catapulted Cadillac – which until then had been a mid-priced car – to the head of the luxury class.

For the next several years, Cadillac's competitors scrambled to keep up: among others, Pierce Arrow introduced its V12 in 1932, Marmon a V16 in late 1931 and Auburn a V12 in 1932. For most of these companies, the enormous cost of this development effort would combine with a shrinking depression market for fine cars, creating financial pressures from which the companies would never recover.

In the face of a declining luxury market, Cadillac managed to survive, thanks in large part to the financial support of General Motors. Nevertheless, the cars were brilliantly designed, and while the failing market meant that the V16 was produced only in tiny numbers, the few that remain offer us a glimpse into one of the most exciting automotive eras of all time.

The example offered here is one of the finest examples RM has had the pleasure to offer. Restored in the mid-1990s, the workmanship is exceptional, with very good panel fits and few, if any, chips due to minor wear and tear. Finished in two-tone brown with light brown wire wheels, it has a tan canvas top with dark tan leather interior which remains in show quality condition, as does the dash and instrumentation. The odometer indicates 38 miles, which appears consistent with mileage since restoration. The engine bay is as new (or better).

The car is also very well equipped, including dual sidemounted spares with correct metal covers, stainless spoke wire wheels, wind wings, Cadillac script spotlights, Pilot Ray driving lights, a chrome stone guard and a rear mounted lo-boy trunk.

Although the car's early history is long since lost, the car is well known among classic car enthusiasts, beginning with the world renowned Craven collection in Toronto, where it resided for many years. Upon the disposition of the Craven collection, the car was purchased by well known CCCA member Ray Bowersox, who commissioned a full professional quality restoration in 1995/6. Later, in March of 1997, Bowersox sold the car to a St. Louis collector named John Berra. On November 11th, 2004, Berra sold the car to George Westmoreland via dealer Mark Hyman. Then, in 2005, Westmoreland consigned the car to the Leake auction in June in Tulsa – where it was acquired by John O'Quinn.

The condition of the car today remains exceptional, with only minor polishing haze to attest to the years that have passed since restoration. Likewise, the chrome and stainless remain in as new condition.

There is little doubt that the V16 Cadillac is one of the ultimate cars of the era. Unlike many, the originality of the example offered here is undisputed, confirmed by the original factory build sheet. Notably, the car's body number – 107 – is the highest known, making this example in all probability the last roadster built. The exceptionally high standard of the restoration makes this one of just a handful of original high-point restored roadsters in existence today.
Keywords: 1931 Cadillac V16 Roadster by Fleetwood


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