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Fleetwood Cadillac V16 Convertible Phaeton
Fleetwood Cadillac V16 Convertible Phaeton
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Cadillac's V16 was the first true 16-cylinder engine built from scratch, a project led by Owen Milton Nacker. The resulting engine was an engineering tour de force designed concurrently with Cadillac's own V12 engine with wide interchangeability of parts. The new V16 engine was an engineering masterpiece, 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.

Just as important as the car's mechanical specification was the under hood appearance. Wiring was hidden under covers, 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.

While the horsepower output of the V16 engine was rated by Cadillac at 175 horsepower, in truth it produced approximately 200 horsepower. Its mission, however, was not absolute performance and speed but rather to propel Cadillac's massive chassis, which could accommodate a multitude of relatively heavy and luxurious custom coachbuilt bodies.

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 to the head of the luxury class.

In the face of a declining luxury market, Cadillac managed to survive thanks to the financial support of its massive parent company, General Motors. Without this financial support, Cadillac could never have produced such a low-production, luxurious automobile. The shrinking Depression-era market meant that the V16 was produced in tiny numbers for those few who were capable of paying more than ten times the cost of a Chevrolet convertible.

For the first time in 1933, Cadillac gave the V16 a separate identity, with horizontal hood vent spears and matching chrome trim on skirted fenders. Also unique to the sixteen were massive four bar bumpers, chrome wheel covers with spinner caps, and very striking multi-coned art deco horns. Body lines and fender edges were highlighted with polished stainless trim, and the headlight, radiator shell and marker lights were painted for the first time ? but with chrome accents. It was also the first Cadillac to feature the "de Sakhnoffsky" hood, a striking feature in which the hood overlaid the cowl and reached to the base of the windshield.

Cadillac was so confident that the new look would be successful that the company advertised extensively that production would be limited to "just 400" examples. In fact, that proved optimistic, and just 126 cars were delivered. Fleetwood Cadillacs were true customs ? nearly 50 styles were offered, but only about 10 were built. Of those, just one Convertible Phaeton (Style 5580) was built by Fleetwood.

According to the factory build sheet, the example shown here (chassis 5000116) was ordered by the Chicago factory branch for G. E. Crandell, a Montgomery Ward executive who lived on Lake Shore Boulevard in Chicago. It took Fleetwood 16 weeks to construct, and at $8,000, it was double the price of the eight-cylinder Fleetwood all weather phaeton. For that sum, the new owner received, among other things, a personalized dash plaque giving his name and car number. In this case: #143. 


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