For the duration of its 115-year existence, Cadillac has been held in varying high levels of esteem, based on the products it was turning out at the time.During the 1930s, Caddy reached for the stratosphere, introducing a world-renowned V-16-powered line that was the equivalent of a Bugatti Chiron hypercar today in terms of unmatched desirability. This put Cadillac on par with its legendary U.S. competitor Duesenberg, and European luxury carmakers such as Rolls-Royce and Hispano-Suiza.
Cadillac delivered a bare chassis with a V-16 drivetrain to Fleetwood, its in-house coach-builder, which crafted bodywork for customers such as actors Tom Mix and Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, making Cadillac’s V-16 a Tinseltown darling decades before the Escalade came out.
“Unfortunately, between the time Cadillac set out to produce its V-16 and its debut in 1930, Wall Street suffered the crash of 1929 and the Great Depression settled in, decimating the market for such thoroughbred machines,” says General Motors Heritage Centre manager Greg Wallace. Which was a shame. “The V-16 was a masterpiece of mechanical design,” Wallace says. With the V-16 falling short of its goals, Cadillac introduced a V-12 in 1931, with the idea that it had similar cachet at a lower cost. “You got the same kind of premium drivetrain overall,” he says. “Today they still prove their reliability... One of the most popular cars out there in the classic car world is the Cadillac because they are reliable.”
Cadillac took another crack at 16 cylinders with an all-new engine with an unorthodox 135-degree V angle in 1938, hoping that an economy finally sputtering back to life might be a fertile market for a next-generation V-16. Alas, that car also sold in minuscule numbers, so Cadillac dropped the V-16 engine.
The lovely Sixteen concept car of 2003 was a teasing reference to those classic cars, but unfortunately, that car was not approved for production.