Monday, July 31, 2017

The Gilmore Car Museum, Hickory Corners, Michigan, July 31, 2017--Part 12: The Cadillac & LaSalle Club Museum

The Cadillac & LaSalle Club Museum and Research Center (CLCMRC) was established in 1999 by members of the Cadillac & LaSalle Club (itself formed in 1958) to preserve the legacy of these two car brands.  After a lengthy review of partnership proposals, it was decided to build as a standalone museum allied with the Gilmore Car Museum and in September 2014 the CLCMRC opened.  Its 10,000 square foot premises is modeled after a 1948 design found in a book from General Motors entitled "Planning Automobile Dealer Properties."

Cadillac rose from the ashes of the Henry Ford Company under the direction of Henry Leland, a leader in precision engineering, in 1902, with the first cars assembled in October of that year.  Leland's pursuit of precision resulted in the interchangeable parts that won Cadillac the Dewar Trophy in 1908 in Britain.

Cadillac was purchased in 1909 by the expanding General Motors conglomerate, where it was positioned at the top of the company portfolio.  By that time Cadillac had already established itself as a premier maker of luxury vehicles and the division went on to initiate a number of technological advances, including the introduction of electric start in 1912.  One of the few luxury brands to survive the Great Depression, Cadillac was to remain "The Standard of the World" into the 1980s, an aspirational car driven by financiers and movie stars alike.

LaSalle was introduced as a lower-priced companion model to Cadillac in 1927 and set new trends for the industry as industrial designer Harley Earl was brought in by GM managers from California.  His 1927 LaSalle (heavily influenced by Hispano-Suiza) is considered one of the first truly integrated designs from an American manufacturer and its success led to Harley Earl becoming GM's first Head of Design, a position he held until 1958.  Earl is considered to be the Father of the Corvette.  The LaSalle brand was discontinued in 1940, with the idea that it would be folded into Cadillac to compete with lower-priced Packards.

1903 Cadillac Runabout, with Tonneau
This, the first model to be produced by Cadillac, the car was announced in November 1902 but was introduced at the New York Auto Show in March 1903 and quickly sold out.  It was a two passenger runabout that could be converted to four passenger seating by bolting on the rear entrance tonneau, a $100 option as seen on this car.  Henry Ford's Model A of the same year bore a strong resemblance to the Cadillac.  Priced at $800, the little car gained a reputation for reliability, ease and economy of maintenance, and remarkable pulling and climbing capability.  It was powered by a single cylinder "Little Hercules" engine of 6.5 hp produced by Leland's Leland & Faulconer manufacturing concern (which was brought into Cadillac in 1905).  Leland & Faulconer had been noteworthy as the primary producer of engines for the famous Curved Dash Oldsmobile.  Henry Leland was to leave Cadillac in 1917 and with his son Wilfred established the Lincoln Motor Company that year.

1948 Cadillac Sixty Special Fleetwood Sedan
The 1948/1949 Cadillacs were the first all-new General Motors cars to reach the market after World War II.  They are characterized by the first appearance of tailfins (inspired by the Lockheed P-38 fighter plane) that was to become a hallmark of Cadillac for the next decade.  Costing $3,280, this Sixty Special fitted in Cadillac's lineup below the longer wheelbase Series 75 Fleetwood and above the shorter wheelbase Series 61 and 62s.  All were powered with Cadillac's prewar L-head V8 producing 150 hp.

1937 LaSalle Convertible Sedan
In 1937 LaSalle offered five different body styles, including this Convertible Sedan of which 530 were built, in ten different colours.  Previously using an Oldsmobile-sourced inline eight cylinder engine, in 1937 LaSalle received the same 322 cu. in. V8 used in the 1936 Cadillac Series 60.  The list price of this car was $1,485 and options included wheel discs, a flexible steering wheel, and metal spare tire covers.

1910 Cadillac Model 30 5-Passenger Touring Car
In 1910 Cadillac produced 8,008 cars, which was insufficient to satisfy customer demand.  The brand had established itself as a reliable and high-quality make and customers were willing to wait.  Typically new cars were unveiled at Winter auto shows for Spring delivery as road conditions were so poor but as Cadillac moved into closed cars it began to offer new models outside the calendar year, with many 1911 cars already sold before the end of December 1910.  The year's production had been presold.

This attractive Touring Car featured gas headlamps as standard equipment, with the Prest-o-Lite Style B tank as a $25 option.  Also optional was the windshield at $30, and a speedometer would have run $25-35 extra.  The car was powered by an L-head four cylinder inline engine of 254 cu. in. producing 33 hp.  The car rode on a 110 inch wheelbase and cost $1600, one of the lower priced Cadillacs for that year.

1912 Cadillac Model 30 Touring Car
Priced at $1,800, this was one of 13,995 Cadillacs produced in the 1912 model year and the first car to offer electric start as standard, along with an ignition lighting system.  The cars all had right-hand drive, along with a 3 speed (plus reverse) transmission, wooden artillery wheels on quick detachable rims, and mechanical brakes on the rear wheels only.

1931 Cadillac Series 355A 5-Passenger Sedan
In 1931 Cadillacs were offered with V16, V12 or the entry-level V8 engine used in this car.  There were numerous technical changes, including a new frame with divergent side rails and springs mounted directly under the frame rails.  Styling changes featured bodies that were lower and longer and hoods had the distinctive five vents that showed up on other GM cars in the following years, including Chevrolet.  This sedan was priced at $2,845 and weighed 4,675 lbs.  Its 353 cu. in. L-head eight produced 95+ hp. 10,717 Series 355As were sold in all.

1930 Cadillac Series 452 V16 Roadster
Introduced in January 1930, the Cadillac V16 set new standards for power and smoothness.  The 452 cu. in. engine produced 175-185 hp and was mated to a synchromesh 3 speed transmission.  3,251 of these cars were built and offered in an astounding 50 body styles, most of which were slight variations on a theme.  Almost all the bodies were "Catalog Customs" provided by Fleetwood from its shop in Pennsylvania.  This magnificent Roadster would have cost a hefty $5,350.

1940 Cadillac Series 62 Sedan
5,903 Series 62 cars were built in the 1940 model year featuring the new "Projectile" or "Torpedo" body style.  Series 62 cars featured a raked windshield and curved rear windows.  Running boards, as on this example, were available as a no-cost option and this was the last year Cadillac featured sidemount spares.  

1942 Cadillac Series 62 Deluxe Convertible Coupe

This particular car, one of 308 similar convertibles built in 1942, was owned by Admiral Stark, Chief Naval Officer of the US Navy from 1938 until 1942.  He took delivery of this special order Cadillac on December 19, 1941, just twelve days after the attack on Pearl Harbor.  The car was painted a non-standard "Dartmouth Green," last available in the mid-1930s.  It is only one of 12 convertible coupes known today.  Stored in a barn for 31 years, it was damaged when the roof caved in, wrecking the convertible top and damaging the doors and hood.  The car was fully restored in 2008.
1961 Cadillac Four Window Sedan
 Peak Fin was probably reached by Cadillac in 1959 but this car still features impressive fins.  Lavishly equipped with power brakes, power steering and an automatic transmission, the car rolled on a 129.5 inch wheelbase and was 222 inches (5630 cm) in overall length.  Power for the 4,660 lb car was from a 390 cu. in. OHV V8 making 325 hp.  It cost $5,080 without options and 4,700 were built in all.

1954 Cadillac Eldorado Convertible
The Cadillac Eldorado had been introduced in 1953 but in 1954 it simply shared the same sheet metal as regular production Cadillacs in order to lower its price.  Still expensive at $5,738, a total of 2,150 of these rather ponderous cars were built (a regular Cadillac Convertible was $4,404).  The engine was a 331 V8 making 230 hp.

1957 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham
Based on the GM Motorama show car of 1955, the Eldorado took two years to go into production and when it reached the market it was the most expensive car available in the United States at $13.074.  It featured a brushed stainless steel roof, air suspension with anti-dive control, air conditioning, cruise control, power steering, brakes, trunk lid, windows and radio antenna.  Interior features included an atomizer dispensing Lanvin perfume.  There were 44 leather interior trim options.  Meant from the outset as a limited edition vehicle, only 400 of these handbuilt cars were constructed to compete with Ford's Continental Mark II, which ended production the same year.  This car was used in the 1989 film "Driving Miss Daisy," driven by actor Dan Akroyd.

Scale Model of 1993 Cadillac Limousine
From its earliest days, Cadillac has provided chassis for commercial purposes for custom coachbuilders but also for specialized builders of hearses, flower cars, armoured cars and limousines for Presidents.  This is a 3/8 scale model of a Cadillac limousine with the new body style introduced in 1992.

1993 Cadillac Allante Pace Car
Used to pace the 1992 Indianapolis 500 race, the Cadillac Allante was billed as "the world's most powerful front wheel drive roadster."  Conceived to complete with the Mercedes-Benz SL, the Allante's body was designed by Pininfarina and built in Turin, Italy and flown on a special Alitalia Boeing 747 freighter to Detroit for final assembly.  In its final year of production the Allante was fitted with Cadillac's new Northstar engine. Between 1987 and 1993 a total of 21,430 cars were built and the price of the car in its final year had reached $58,000 or $103,000 in 2020 dollars.

Three slightly modified 1993 cars were used to pace the 1992 race, with an additional 30 stock cars used as Festival Pace cars.  58 1992 models were used at the track to transport race crews at the opening parade and at the conclusion of the race.  The 1993 car driven by Bobby Unser at the track was auctioned in 2009 for $62,000.

Left to right: 1964 Cadillac Series 62 Sedan; 1965 Cadillac Sedan de Ville: 1976 Cadillac Coupe de Ville

1976 Cadillac Fleetwood Eldorado Bicentennial Edition Convertible
It was decided that due to declining sales and possible new regulations GM would discontinue its full-sized convertibles after the 1976 model year ended.  This aroused enormous interest with the result being that speculators wanted one and around 14,000 were built, an increase of 56% over 1975 production.  There were requests for the last one to come off the line but General Motors wanted to keep that car for its own collection.  However, it decided that the last 200 cars built would be identical, with 199 to be sold to the public.  All were Cotillion White with white tops and had red piping on the seats and dual accent striping on the exterior.  The price for a regular Eldorado Convertible was $11.049 and the Decor Package for these Bicentennial Edition cars only added an additional $85.  The final car, which went to GM, rolled off the line on April 21, 1976. 

(Due to its position in the showroom window at the museum, I was unable to get a photo of the 1976 Cadillac Eldorado's exterior and have taken one from the Internet, but the interior photo is mine!)

Continue to Part 13 of the Gilmore Car Museum visit here

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