1949 Cadillac / New Post War Design

The 1949 Cadillac was among the first new design series since the outbreak of World War Two. Nothing was redesigned for civilian automobiles during the war and when the war ended in 1945, automakers began building cars that were for the most part 1941 and 1942 models. To be sure, the automakers started building civilian vehicles as fast as they could since there was an enormous pent up demand for new cars.

1949 Cadillac
1949 Cadillac

The New Post War Cadillac

The 1949 Cadillac came in a Sixty-One model and a Sixty-Two Model. The 1949 Cadillac featured in this article is a Sixty-One.

The newly redesigned Cadillacs, the 1948 and 1949 models, were considered some of the most elegant automobiles of that period with smooth flowing lines. The new design also sported a tail fin that housed the tail lights. Fins would become a trademark of Cadillacs for years to come. The 1949 fin you see on this model was nothing like what Cadillac would unveil at the end of the 1950’s.

1949 Cadillac’s had larger grilles, larger hoods along with grooved extension panels housing the front parking lights and chevron slashes below the tail lights on Series 61 coupes. It’s known that one way to tell the difference between a 1948 Cadillac from a 49 model was that the 48 had one back up light on each side.

1949 Cadillac Sixty-One
1949 Cadillac Sixty-One

Some have said that the 1949 Cadillac was the most beautiful Cadillac of them all. The Sixty-One Series Cadillacs were considered to be a bit lighter and faster than the Sixty-Two’s.

The Sixty-One’s were priced a few hundred dollars lower than the Sixty-Twos and did not offer a convertible in their line.

The Sixty-One Series Cadillacs were offered in a four door sedan model or in a coupe. In short, the 1949 Cadillac Sixty-One was somewhat less flashier than the Sixty-Two and had a relatively plain interior for a Cadillac. That was the chief criticism of the 1949 models from those who wanted to criticize the car. Aside from that it was hard to come up with anything else. Nonetheless, it’s new post war design was a real work of art and it represented the quality that buyers would expect from Cadillac.

Another major design change would be seen again beginning with the 1950 Cadillacs.

1949 Cadillac dashboard
1949 Cadillac dashboard

1949 Cadillac Model Sixty-One Specifications

The name of the game with the 1949 Cadillacs was engineering. General Motors fully understood even before the war that the current power plant needed replacing. Ernest W. Seaholm, head of Cadillac engineering, began work on the new engine even prior to Pearl Harbor. Seaholm retired in 1943 and his successors completed work on the engine that would debut with the 1949 Cadillacs.

The engines for the 1949 Cadillac Sixty One was a 331.1 cubic inch Overhead Valve V-8 delivering 160 horsepower. These were new engines from Cadillac which were designed with high performance and smooth and quiet operation in mind.

The engines were so highly thought of that almost stock Cadillacs were seen on the racing circuits including the 24 Hours of Le Mans in France. Cadillac actually entered two cars in this race in 1950, one being a stock coupe and the other a roadster with a hand made body. The coupe finished in 10th place and the roadster in 11th. Truly another new milestone for Cadillac.

1949 Cadillac
1949 Cadillac

The car was advertised to go from Zero to 60 in about 13 seconds with the manual transmission and in about 14 seconds with the automatic.

Advertised fuel consumption was about 11.5 MPG with the automatic and about 12.5 with the manual transmission. The low gas mileage had a lot to do with the car’s weight of about 4,100 lbs.

Top speed for both the Sixty-One and Sixty-Two models was claimed to be 100 MPH.

The 1949 Cadillacs offered either a three speed manual transmission or a four speed automatic. The automatic was named the Hydra-matic.

The 1949 Cadillac had a wheelbase of 126.0 inches which was shortened from the 1947 model, a length of 213.9 inches and a width of 78.9 inches.

Cadillac new design rear window
Cadillac new design rear window

Production in 1949 amounted to 22,000 Cadillac Sixty-One models and 55,000 Sixty-Two models. Both of these figures were up from 1948. The year 1949 was also when Cadillac produced it’s one millionth vehicle. The three top brands produced in 1949 was Ford with 1,118,000 vehicles and Chevrolet with 1,010,000 units. In distant third place was Plymouth with 520,000 vehicles built.

New car price for the 1949 Cadillac Sixty One was in the range of $2,800 to $3,200. As a comparison, a 1949 Pontiac Chieftain was priced around $2,200 and a new post war designed 1949 Lincoln, the first since 1932 without a V-12 engine, was priced in a range of $2,600 to $3,000, very similar to the Cadillac pricing.

Three additional photo articles on AutoMuseumOnline you’ll find interesting include…

1941 Cadillac Series 62

1931 Cadillac V-16

1949 DeSoto Custom Coupe


A few good books on the Cadillacs include Cadillac Automobiles 1949-1959 by author R.M. Clarke and The Cadillac Century by author John Heilig.

Cadillac's new post war design tail fin
Cadillac’s new post war design tail fin

1949 Cadillac Collector Car Prices

The 1949 Cadillac, both the Sixty-One and Sixty-Two models, are popular collector’s cars. Both the 1948 and 1949 models have significance because they were the first new design since before World War Two.

Both 1949 models are considered rare and retain or increase their value.

As of this writing, average auction sales prices for the Cadillac Sixty-One is in the range of  $35,000 to $45,000 with some models selling higher. The Sixty-Two model has garnered about $55,000 on average with some models selling quite higher such as the Convertible Coupe and the 1949 Coupe de Ville. The Coupe de Ville was just like the convertible except with a steel top. The Coupe de Ville was also the car that represented Cadillacs’s one million vehicle production milestone in November of 1949.

(Article and photos copyright 2013 AutoMuseumOnline)