The automobile featured in this article is a 1940 LaSalle. It was an excellent new car designed by Cadillac engineers and built by the Cadillac Motor Car Company entirely in its own plant as a companion car to the Cadillac. The LaSalle 2 Door Coupe shown here definitely has some sleek lines and a sporty look.
Some may have first heard of the LaSalle mentioned in the opening lines from character Archie Bunker and his wife Edith in the TV sitcom "All in the Family". The LaSalle was named after the French adventurer who explored the Mississippi river in 1682.
Cadillac and the LaSalle
As far as General Motors was concerned, when they manufactured the last LaSalle in 1940, the LaSalle was a Cadillac. One reason probably was the fact that LaSalle was manufactured by the Cadillac Division of GM, but there's more to the story than just that. In the summer of 1940 the LaSalle was discontinued. Designers already had a 1941 full scale mock up completed when the model was pulled.
The LaSalle Was a Production Winner
It's impossible to talk about the LaSalle automobile without comparing it to the Cadillac.
Take a snapshot of 1939 production of both LaSalle and Cadillac and you'll see these kind of numbers. Total LaSalle production that year, according to the GM Heritage Center numbers, were 23,002 vehicles. That same year Cadillac had production of 13,495 vehicles.
For the last year of LaSalle production (1940), a total of 24,130 units were built. The year 1940 also saw Cadillac making big strides since the early 30's when the nameplate was unprofitable. Total Cadillac 1940 production came in at
Even earlier in the 30's there was some talk of getting rid of the LaSalle even though the nameplate was outselling the Cadillacs. Incredibly, the LaSalle was saved by new styling changes by Harley Earl's team. Earl helped make the LaSalle one of the most attractive cars on the road. The 1934 LaSalle came out with a newly designed chassis, an L-head straight eight engine taken from Oldsmobile with lightweight Lynite aluminum pistons, a single plate clutch, addition of hydraulic brakes which represented a first at GM, and independent front suspension.
Why the LaSalle Was Discontinued
There were a few reasons that the LaSalle was discontinued in 1941 and these really had nothing to do with the automobile itself as far as mechanics and design are concerned. The commonly accepted reasons for the discontinuance are as follows...
1) LaSalle had an exclusive market niche which appeared to disappear by 1940. Much had to do with price increases from Buick.
2) Productions costs.
3) A rearranging of the GM product line which had the LaSalle replaced by the Cadillac Series 61. By 1940 the separation between Cadillac and LaSalle was very close. Some thought that the LaSalle became a marketing mistake since the car was a Cadillac without the Cadillac badge.
With this being said, the LaSalle helped GM in several ways. It helped make a Cadillac type car more affordable for many. For the years it was in production, the LaSalle honored GM with some of the best styling from this automaker.
As mentioned above, the start of the LaSalle coincided with the start of GM's Art and Color Department. Last but certainly not least, during the depression years of the 30's, LaSalle sales figures helped out the often struggling Cadillac and Packard numbers. The car was priced right for the Great Depression years.
1940 LaSalle Specifications
The 1940 LaSalle Series 52 had a 322 cubic inch V-8 putting out 130 horsepower.
Brakes were hydraulic drum and the transmission a three speed manual.
The 1940 LaSalle 52 had a wheelbase of 123.0 inches.The cars weight came in at 3,900 lbs.
The new car price for the 1940 LaSalle ranged between $1,300 and $1,900.
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LaSalle Collectible Cars
LaSalle automobiles are popular collector cars. The LaSalle was produced for fourteen years. Many collectors feel that the restored LaSalle can make a good investment.
As of this writing there are several LaSalle models over various production years that have asking prices in a wide range of between about $25,000 and $90,000. As is always the case, originality and degree of restoration, frame off, will drive the price. The higher priced models on the price range above will be those in museum like condition. You'll likely run across some older restorations at attractive prices. We have seen a 1940 LaSalle Coupe in pristine condition with a lot of originality with an asking price of $37,000.
For those looking for a project car, we've seen models needing complete frame off restorations for about $12,000 and some much lower. Degree of rust on any project car models will affect selling prices.
(Article and photos copyright 2014 AutoMuseumOnline)