1930 Cadillac V-16 All Weather Phaeton
Coachwork by Fleetwood
Chassis No. 701834
Body Style 4380
Body No. 221
160 bhp, 452 cu.in. ohv V-16 engine, three-speed manual transmission, solid front axle and live rear axle with semi-elliptic leaf springs, and four-wheel mechanical drum brakes. Wheelbase: 148 in.
In retrospect it seems mad to have introduced an all-new sixteen-cylinder luxury car just as the nation sank into depression, but in January 1930 the aftermath of the 1929 stock market crash was not anticipated, nor were its lingering effects foreseen. In any case, Cadillac had been working on the project for some time, and was intent on reaching the market before Howard Marmon had his own sixteen in dealer showrooms.
In the latter, Cadillac succeeded, as the new car, with the world’s first production V-16, bowed on January 4, 1930, at the National Automobile Show at New York’s Grand Central Palace. The late historian Griffith Borgeson recalled: “It really made history and it made Cadillac, beyond all discussion, the absolute world leader in motoring magnificence…It was the super engine that set the whole exercise apart.”
The brain behind this powerplant was Owen Nacker, an industry veteran who had worked on Marmon’s long-simmering V-16. Nacker’s first Cadillac project was the V8 for companion make LaSalle in 1927; shortly thereafter he was working on Cadillac’s V-16.
Nacker ignored much of Cadillac tradition. The new engine was had overhead valves, which Cadillac had never used. Overhead valves were noisy, but Nacker adopted a new hydraulic lifter setup developed by GM engineering, effectively providing zero-lash operation. Overhead valves allowed moving the exhaust manifolds to the outside, important because the narrow 45-degree vee left little room in the center.
The large aluminum crankcase held five main bearings and the crankshaft was counterweighted and fitted with a vibration dampener. The timing chain also drove the generator. The two cylinder blocks had cast nickel-iron liners extending down into the crankcase. The heads were cast iron. The central camshaft, with roller-type followers, worked tubular pushrods, which in turn drove short rocker arms. The new zero-lash hydraulic lifters made it all very silent.
The new sixteen was, in effect, two engines sharing a crankcase and crankshaft. Each block had a complete fuel system, including carburetor and vacuum tank, and its own exhaust. There was one distributor with two coils, which were recessed into the radiator’s header tank. The engine’s power pulses, which occurred every 45 degrees of rotation, overlapped to produce incredible smoothness. Brake horsepower was initially 160; eventually rising to 185, and it produced 300 pound-feet of torque at idle.
The engine was not only an engineering masterpiece, it was a work of art, claimed to be the first powerplant that was truly styled. Wood and clay models were made of the engine as development progressed, and studied for simplicity and appearance, as well as serviceability. All wiring and hoses were concealed to the extent possible, hidden behind covers or in raceways. Viewed from outside the engine compartment there was no clutter whatsoever.
There were lots of bodies from which to choose, 54 in the catalog, from roadster to town car, all from Fleetwood. Some were built in Fleetwood’s original facility in Pennsylvania, others at the new Detroit plant. Many of them did triple duty, available also in the V-12 and V-8 lines. In September, Cadillac introduced a twelve-cylinder version of the engine by simply removing the end cylinders on each bank. The Sixteen’s wheelbase was a vast 148 inches; by 1934 it would grow to 154, the longest of any American car. A few chassis were bodied by outside coachbuilders, such as Murphy, but not many.
After the V-16 had made the circuit tour of US shows, a trio of cars was sent abroad to Europe, where they were enthusiastically received. This was also true at home, for 2,887 found customers by the end of the year.
Cadillac records show this car was a rush order from General Motors of Canada at Oshawa, Ontario. The order, placed on May 7, 1930, called for delivery by June 1st for the Shriners Convention at Toronto. A fraternal Masonic order, Shriners International was organized in 1870 as the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine. Today, Shriners are well known for participating in local parades, often in miniature vehicles. This Cadillac is anything but miniature, and it had a special role in the 1930 convention, which dedicated the Shrine Peace Memorial, a sculpture on the grounds of Exhibition Place on the shore of Lake Ontario. The monument was presented to the people of Canada on June 12, 1930, as a symbol of peace and friendship between the United States and Canada. It was also meant as “an ongoing reminder that Freemasonry actively promotes the ideals of peace, harmony, and prosperity for all humankind.” The location is thought to be the location at which American troops landed for the Battle of York in the War of 1812.
As ordered for the convention, the Style 4380 All-Weather Phaeton was painted in Chevy Chase Straw; unusually the color was applied to body, moldings, fenders, wire wheels and even the chassis. A body stripe was applied in gold leaf, and the brake drums were painted “gold bronze.” The top and rear quarters were a standard Burbank 1528 fabric, and the upholstery was Wiese Bedford Cord in color 3897, Mouse Gray. Body number 221 of 250 All Weather Phaetons, it was equipped with an optional power tire pump. It was shipped on May 29th, meeting the June 1st deadline. Archival film of the convention shows the car in parade, attired, like other parade cars, in whitewalls, which were unusual, even on prestige cars in that period.
The history of this car following the Shriners Convention is a bit obscure. More recent owners have included collectors Johnny Pascucci in Connecticut and Dick Shappy in Rhode Island. The current restoration is some 20 years old, but presents as well as many newer efforts. The engine was rebuilt by noted craftsman William Rotella of Cranston, Rhode Island, reportedly one of his last projects before his passing in 2004. It has received awards at a number of concours events, notably at Newport, Rhode Island. It was also on display at the Larz Anderson Automobile Museum in Brookline, Massachusetts, as part of a long-term exhibit on American styling.