Sweet V-Sixteen

April 12, 2016

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By Matt Wolfe

April 8, 1930, Cadillac produces its 1,000th V16 engine.

Rolling Stones singer Mick Jagger once said “Anything worth doing is worth overdoing.” The Cadillac V16 is the automotive embodiment of that quote. Built as a flagship luxury vehicle for Cadillac, the V16 is perhaps the most opulent of the prewar luxury coaches. Named for its massive 452 cubic inch sixteen-cylinder engine, the V16 rolled down the road with a greater sense of presence than the Holy Roman Army.

All the V16’s were custom built vehicles and they were the first V16 powered cars to reach production in the United States. The car was developed in secret while Cadillac chief Larry Fisher and GM’s head stylist Harley Earl toured Europe seeking inspiration from European coachbuilders. The bodies of the V16 were built by GM’s surrogate coachbuilders; Fleetwood Metal Body and Fisher Body. Though the craftsmanship of the V16 was impeccable, the timing of its release was dreadful.

The roaring 20’s came to a screeching halt when the stock market crashed in October of 1929. Three months later, the V16 made its debut at the New York automobile show as the most expensive Cadillac ever. Only 4076 V16’s were built between 1930 and 1939. The onset of WWII put a major dent in European sales of the V16, and the costly caddie was taken out of production in 1939. Large, lavish and ludicrously expensive, the V16 was a rolling showcase of American exuberance.

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