1931 CADILLAC MODEL 452 V16 MADAME X IMPERIAL (FAUX) CABRIOLET
COACHWORK BY FLEETWOOD
Engine No. 703006
Dark blue with black fenders and running gear with black leather interior in the front and broadcloth in the rear compartment
Engine: V16, 452.6ci., 165bhp at 3,400rpm; Gearbox: 3-speed; Suspension: semi-elliptic leaf springs with hydraulic dampers front and rear; Brakes: four wheel drum. Left hand drive.
As the 1920s drew to a close, General Motors under Alfred P. Sloan had only one field left to conquer. The luxury end of the market still eluded him. The roaring 20s were times of opulence and excess for many, and America's rich and famous were looking toward Packard and Duesenberg to fulfill their needs.
Cadillac's dilemma was exactly how to overcome their rivals. A V8 would not do. Cadillac had pioneered the V8 in 1915 and it had already lived up to the firm's slogan Standard of the World by being the smoothest, most refined V8 in production anywhere. It would not introduce a V12 that would merely flatter Packard by imitation. Therefore, chief engineer Ernest Seaholm and designer Owen Nacker were left with little choice but to go for a V16.
Seaholm brought many innovations to Cadillac's engineering, including the V16 engine. It powered the large flowing motor car with elegance. One of Seaholm's developments was the hydraulically silenced overhead valves that made driving quite a pleasure. The twin cylinder blocks were at a 45 degree angle, each having its own updraft carburettor system. The 452ci engine developed 165 horsepower and was capable of 100mph, but was designed for lower speeds where it produced smooth, effortless power and minimum gearshifting.
A sixteen cylinder engine, for all its perfect balance and smooth power that would propel a car weighing over 6,000 pounds swiftly to 100mph, was an extravagant gesture to say the least. The V16 set a standard of refinement unequalled by any manufacturer in the world. Its silence in operation has never been equalled and its synchromesh transmission, vacuum-assisted servo brakes and the powerful engine gave it performance that could be matched only by the noisy, comparatively rough and more expensive Duesenberg.
Style was the car's other hallmark and to complement the imposing engine, General Motors employed its Art and Color styling department under one of the most famous automotive designers, Harley J. Earl. An automotive engineer, Earl was hired in 1926 to make the most of DuPont's newly developed synthetic paints, and made such a success of the LaSalle in 1929 that he was put in charge of the newest, greatest Cadillac. Earl worked his magic on the V16 and it was one of the prettiest classics ever. Even the engine compartment was designed with aesthetics in mind. 1930-31 were the golden days for Cadillac coachwork. Numerous body styles were available Earl had been inspired by the Broadway play Madame X to provide his special V16 with an air of mystery. The Fleetwood bodied Madame X's had slanted windshields, suicide doors and chrome reveals surrounding the windows. These attractive and rare elements make the Madame X styled cars the most desireable of the formal bodied V16s
This lovely V16 Imperial Cabriolet has had a complete nut and bolt restoration that took nearly five years to finish. Prospective buyers should note that although the V16 is listed as an Imperial Cabriolet, the correct Cadillac designation, the body style does not have a convertible top. According to the restorer, this Cadillac has had the following work carried out under the watchful eye of V16 specialist, Mark Ohm: new wood and metal was fitted where neccessary by specialist Stan Francis, the running boards were restored to the original Mahogany finish with woodgrain by Estes, new stainless steel spears and the proper rubber inserts were installed to complete the process, both the front and rear axles were refinished with correct metal spring covers installed, the brake drums were turned and new pads installed, while the vacuum brake assister was rebuilt with new rubber diaphragms, the wheels were laced and trued with stainless steel spokes, a new wiring harness was installed, starter and generator rebuilt and new or rebuilt gauges installed throughout.
This list is endless and this freshly restored V16 will be a welcome entrant at many Concours events. While no expense was spared in the restoration, this magnificent V16 is being offered without reserve.