1930 Cadillac V-16 Roadster, Model 452  Chassis no. 701031 Engine no. 701070

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Lot 626• W
1930 Cadillac V-16 Roadster, Model 452
Chassis no. 701031 Engine no. 701070

Sold for US$ 280,000 inc. premium
1930 Cadillac V-16 Roadster, Model 452
Coachwork by Fleetwood Style no. 4302

Chassis no. 701031
Engine no. 701070
Three years in the planning, the Cadillac V-16 should have made GM’s luxury marque the talk of the world. There was no denying that the V-16 was a magnificent automobile in every respect. There is also no denying that the timing of the December 1929 launch—just a few weeks after the “Black Thursday” stock market crash--was nothing short of abysmal.

Cadillac’s V-8 line had been remarkably successful constructed for those in the upper echelons of wealth and power. Yet, the magnificent V-16 should have been just the ticket for the most powerful men and women in America. It would have had the conservative grace to match Packard and the cylinder count to humble anything other than the short-lived Marmon 16.

First shown to the public at the 1930 New York Automobile Show that opened on January 4, the Cadillac V-16 on display was a Fleetwood-bodied Landau Sedan featuring a collapsible rear quarter. It was majestic, it was elegant and it was the Series 452 automobile prepared in time.

Of course, the heart of this new Cadillac was the mighty V-16 engine. Designed by Owen Nacker, the “engine was a mechanical and artistic masterpiece.” In the final analysis, the engine was basically a pair of straight-eight cylinder blocks sharing a common crank case and crank. The model name was not arbitrary because '452' was the displacement of the massive 16. Each bank of the 45-degree V owned its own carburetion, intake system, ignition, and exhaust system. Unlike the many flat-head engines of the era, this new V-16 sported overhead valves. Rated at a seemingly modest 165 horsepower, what gave the new Cadillac such prodigious pulling power was the huge torque rating of 320 lb/feet at little more than idle—1,200-1,500 rpm. The massive torque was due largely to the four-inch stroke as compared to the three-inch bore, not to mention the sheer size of the engine. Because of that torque, Cadillac’s flagship only needed three forward gears to pull with alacrity.

A car like this needed to pull like a locomotive, because with a wheelbase of 148 inches there was space aplenty for some seriously heavy limousine and sedan coachwork. Yet, given virtually any burden, the top speed of a V-16 would still be between 90 and 100mph. More scantily clad, the newest Cadillac was capable of far more. Underneath that usually hefty bodywork and attached to the long X-braced ladder frame was a typical leaf-spring, solid axle suspension. The only thing startling about this car was the engine, although the drum brakes were hydraulically-activated and featured a vacuum booster, which the car desperately required considering its vast weight. And the most astonishing feature of that mighty engine was surely its comparative silence thanks to its hydraulic valve adjusters.

One of the most desirable of these silent monsters surely has to be the 1930 Cadillac V-16 Roadster on offer. Bodied by Fleetwood, it is long and elegant without being in any way stodgy.

The current owner acquired the car from Lawrence G. Written II of Easton, Connecticut, on March 30, 1972. As the current owner recalls, Witten had “saved it from destruction at a Yonkers [New York] salvage yard.” Since then, the owner used it very little, mostly for local outings. Less than enthusiastic about the beige and red color scheme, the vendor decided to have the car completely restored in a new livery.

In April 1989, the venerable Cadillac was entrusted to Al Rogers of Charlton, MA. When the car emerged three years later in the Spring of 1992, it was resplendent in its current green and black colors. At the same time, the interior and rumble seat was retrimmed in tan leather.

Between late 1929 and 1935, far fewer than 4,000 V-16 Cadillacs were completed. They were silent and powerful and the epitome of elegance. Most of the chassis that left the Cadillac works were fitted with various sedan and limousine bodies, which makes this Fleetwood-clothed roadster very rare indeed.

Although the restoration isn’t new any more, this V-16 remains very attractive and extremely usable. It is welcome on any Classic Car tour or at any other event where the finest automobiles are appreciated. There’s no telling when there will be another opportunity to acquire a big and lovely roadster with this many cylinders.

Saleroom notices

  • Please note that the Chassis number was erroneously printed in the catalog. In fact, 'Series Numbers' were not used for Cadillac Models 452.
    Additionally, there is documentation for this car describing in excess of $118,000 spent on restoration. This information is available at the office, upon request.
1930 Cadillac V-16 Roadster, Model 452  Chassis no. 701031 Engine no. 701070
1930 Cadillac V-16 Roadster, Model 452  Chassis no. 701031 Engine no. 701070
1930 Cadillac V-16 Roadster, Model 452  Chassis no. 701031 Engine no. 701070
1930 Cadillac V-16 Roadster, Model 452  Chassis no. 701031 Engine no. 701070
1930 Cadillac V-16 Roadster, Model 452  Chassis no. 701031 Engine no. 701070
1930 Cadillac V-16 Roadster, Model 452  Chassis no. 701031 Engine no. 701070
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