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1931 Cadillac V16 Roadster
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Model 452. Body Style 4302. 175 bhp, 452 cu. in. OHV V-16 engine, three-speed selective synchromesh manual transmission, solid front axle with semi-elliptical leaf spring suspension and hydraulic dampers, three-quarter floating rear axle with semi-elliptical leaf spring suspension, and four-wheel vacuum-assisted mechanical drum brakes. Wheelbase: 148 in.

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 history of the industry.

In the later part of the 1920’s, 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 middles 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 around.  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-be-be 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 implanted 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.

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.

The V16 powered car was a first in the United States, both extremely expensive and exclusive, with every chassis being custom-finished to order and this 1931 Cadillac V-16 Roadster is one of the finest examples you will see. It has been restored to a Show Condition in two-tone brown with orange wire wheels, it has a tan canvas top with a tan leather interior which remains In show quality condition, as does the dash and instrumentation. The car is also very well equipped, including dual side mounted 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.

The engine bay is as new and mechanically excellent. 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.

The car was delivered to the Philadelphia Branch of the Cadillac Motor Car Co. and 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 know CCCA member Ray Bowersox, who commissioned a full professional quality restoration in the late 1990’s. This magnificent V16 Roadster has been part of two major collections of some of the finest prewar cars over the last 20 years. In 2011, this V16 Roadster won a AACA National First Prize and remains one of the finest V16 Roadsters in any collection.

The originality of this example is undisputed, confirmed by the original factory build street.  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.

  • Body Types Roadster
  • Engine Size V16
  • Chassis Number 703118
  • Year of manufacture 1931