The V-16 Cadillac Sport Phaeton
The 1931 Cadillac Sport Phaeton shown in this article is a very impressive restoration. In addition to that, this 1931 Cadillac comes with a very impressive V-16 engine. The V-16 ran very smooth with little vibration. These type engines were built only into luxury cars of their era such as the Cadillac Phaeton shown. Although the V-16 sounds like it would have the most power of any automobile engine, the V-8 and V-12 engines with the same displacement could deliver the same power and for a lot less money. Several people were working on designing a V-16 engine during the latter 1920's. Cadillac's V-16 was designed by a man named Owen Nacker who joined the company in 1926. Nacker also developed Cadillac's V-12 and the two large engines shared many common components. By the mid 1920s several companies had a V 12 version in their stable.
Cadillac was the first automaker to get the V-16 into mass production. The sixteen cylinder engine utilized two blocks of the new Buick eight cylinder engine. The two Buick blocks were mounted on a common crankcase and at a 45 degree angle. A single camshaft mounted inside the V operated the valves by push rods. After 1931, due to the Depression, it wouldn't be until 1938 with the L-Head V-16 that Cadillac came out with a new V-16 engine. The 1938 V-16's were also noted for better fuel efficiency than the 1930 engines. The V-16's were produced by Cadillac in a variety of models up until 1941 but stopped then as a result of World War Two.
This was not an inexpensive automobile. During the Great Depression of which 1931 was certainly a part of, the Cadillac V-16 was the car of choice for the wealthy and celebrities. Clearly, Cadillac's V-16 was meant to make it competitive in the luxury high price end that automakers like Peerless, Pierce-Arrow and Packard held sway. The body for all 1931 Cadillacs were longer and lower than previous models. They also had a longer hood. The 1931's also had a chrome plated screen that covered the radiator.
An interesting side note regarding Cadillac was that they actually came out with a mass produced high speed V-8 engine as early as 1914. The Cadillac V-8 came out in the 1915 model year. Another distinctive note about the 1931 Cadillac was that the automaker predominantly offered complete cars rather than rolling chassis to be bodied by custom coach builders. Most of the 'standard' bodies were built by Fleetwood and Fischer, which had become a part of General Motors.
The Cadillac V-16 came out with such fanfare that a tour of Europe with five V-16 models took place in June of 1930 and awards were given out. This caught the eyes of many people who could afford such an automobile. Although 1931 model car sales for the V-16 took off during the first several months from introduction, sales then dropped dramatically. As an example, during the latter part of 1930, only some fifty-four V-16's were built. The problem that Cadillac had in 1931 and 1932 with selling this type of V-16 car had all to do with the country's financial collapse.
You could say it was the right kind of luxury car at just the wrong time. A total of 3,250 V-16's were produced by Cadillac during the years 1930-1931. The price for the Cadillac Sixteen could reach around $10,000. This particular Cadillac model sold new for $9,700. This was a high price vehicle in both the 1930's and 1940's. With the financial situation as it was in 1931, $9,700 was a huge amount of money to pay for an automobile.
1931 Cadillac V-16 Specs
The Cadillac V-16 automobile sported an overhead-valve, 452-cubic-inch engine, which produced 165 horsepower with a displacement of 452.3 cu inches. The car's weight averaged a heavy 6,200 pounds and the transmission was a three speed manual. The 1931 Cadillac V-16 wheelbase was a lengthy 148.0 inches. The car's front suspension was a rigid axle with semi-elliptic leaf springs. The rear suspension was a live axle with semi-elliptic leaf springs.
A Collectors Car
Obviously, the Cadillac V-16 is a rare automobile. In all eleven years that Cadillac produced V-16's on a little over 4,000 were manufactured an most of those were built in 1930. Many collectors would say that the 1931 Cadillac V-16 is arguably the finest pre World War Two car built. Some of these rare Cadillacs are valued in the range of $500,000.
(Photos from author's collection)