There’s probably no other cars that reflected American luxury as best as the Cadillac did. From the point of its inception to modern day production, Cadillac has been the best of the best in the automobile industry. As popular as this model is, there are still probably a lot of things that you don’t know about this upper class car. Here are 20 facts that you probably never heard about Cadillacs before.
1. Founded by the Henry Ford Company
The Henry Ford Company founded Cadillac in 1902, and it is one of the oldest automobile brands in the world. In fact, it’s only second oldest to GM’s other brand Buick. Cadillac was formed after a dispute forced Ford to separate from his investors. Along with his partners, Ford was persuaded to continue manufacturing and build a new plant focusing his designer Leland’s single-cylinder engine. The new company was then reborn on August 22, 1902, the Cadillac Automobile Company. Cadillac has been operational since then and has been one of the top luxury automobile manufacturers of all time.
2. Named after a French explorer
From the late 1600s to the turn of the 18th century, there was a French explorer that was regarded by some to be the one of the great early heroes of colonialism. Others regarded him in a completely opposite way, as an embarrassment to New France. Antoine Laumet de la Mothe, who later on adopted the name Cadillac after the namesake town in Southern France. Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac became the founder of Detroit and Governor of French Louisiana during the 1700s. Henry Ford named his company after the founder of his home city.
3. Runabout and Tonneau
The 1903 Runabout and Tonneau were the first Cadillac automobiles, manufactured during the last quarter of 1902. Imagine a carriage with a horse—that’s exactly what this vehicle was, a 2-seater horseless carriage. It uses the single-cylinder engine designed by the Leland and Faulconer Manufacturing Company. The 1903 Runabout and Tonneau was powered by 10 hp and was highly reminiscent of the 1903 Ford Model A. This will continue to be manufactured until 1908, when the single-cylinder vehicles would be basically obsolete and replaced by larger engines.
4. The Cadillac way
The vision for the Cadillac is based on precision engineering and the complete luxury experience. This is the reason why Cadillac was at the time one of the finest cars ever manufactured in the United States. This tradition will carry on throughout its manufacturing history, and to this day, Cadillac still remains to be America’s finest luxury vehicles. Ford’s vision of precision manufacturing led to the ultimate reliability of his vehicles. Therefore, Cadillac’s reputation preceded itself as the better-made automobile compared to its competitors.
5. The fully enclosed car
In 1906, Cadillac manufactured the Model K runabout, which is basically the fully covered version of the earlier models. Before the 1906 model, the Cadillac models resembled open-air carriages. The curved bodies of the Model K are a graceful contrast to the straight edges of the covering. Cadillac was the first manufacturer that produced the fully enclosed car in high volumes. It was a mark of the innovation of Ford at the time. Although the vehicles were enclosed, it still provided a great view for the riders with its wide windows. The Model K was still a two-seater; the four-passenger Model M Victoria will be manufactured soon after.
6. The Dewar Trophy
Sir Thomas Dewar, a member of the parliament of the United Kingdom, started donating an award to the most deserving automobile in the industry during the early 1900s. The process itself is tedious, as it involves the dismantling of cars to its many parts using only basic tools such as wrenches, screwdrivers, hammers, and pliers. In 1908, three Model Ks were sent over the UK to participate in the interchangeability tests, and the Cadillac was awarded the Dewar Trophy that year for its most important advancement—parts interchangeability. Cadillac received this award the following year in 1909.
7. The electric car
It surely was exciting time for the automobile industry. Everything was still new, and the advancements were so far-reaching that it was truly an important time in automobile development. In 1912, Cadillac became the very first automobile manufacturer to use an electrical system in their vehicles. The electrical system powered and enabled the starting, ignition, and lighting of the cars. Cadillac won the Dewar Trophy again that year specifically for the incorporation of the electric starter and electric lights. After that year, it became clearer and clearer that the Cadillac brand was setting up to be the standard in the automobile industry.
8. The acquisition
In 1909, General Motors (GM) purchased Cadillac from Ford. Immediately, GM devoted their Cadillac production as the company’s prestige and luxury division. GM’s Cadillac line also became the commercial line for the company; they produced institutional vehicles such as limousines, ambulances, hearses, and a few others. Shortly after the acquisition, Cadillac climbed GM’s vehicle hierarchy and positioned itself above classic GM brands such as Buick, Oldsmobile, Oakland, and even Chevrolet. GM’s Cadillac models were much larger than how Ford made them or even pictured them to be. It was a projection of what the brand will be later on in the future.
9. The 1915 Cadillac
In continuing the spirit of innovation, Cadillac upped its engine standards by introducing the 90-degree flathead V8 engine that was capable of outputs of 70 hp and 180 lb-ft of torque. This allowed the vehicle to sustain a speed of 65mph—something that was faster than most road cars at the time. While this may be impressive for Cadillac or for any car during that period in automobile industry, it was just the beginning for the brand. In the coming years, Cadillac will be making plenty of firsts in the industry.
10. The next few firsts
From 1915 to 1941, Cadillac became a pioneer in the automobile industry from the many engineering advancements they introduced during that time. In 1918, Cadillac created the first dual plane V8 crankshaft. In 1928, Cadillac the first manual transmission that utilized clashless constant mesh gears. In 1930, Cadillac used the first V16 engine that gave the models then an output capability of 165 hp. This was one of the most powerful engines of the time, and it was also one of the quietest. The development of the Cadillac engines during this time—the V8, V16, and V12—is what elevated the Cadillac into the automobile industry’s standard globally.
11. The US Army
In 1917, Cadillac became the chosen car for the US Army staff. The Army was looking for something dependable, and what better car was there than the Cadillac Type 55 Touring Model. The Army tested these vehicles exhaustively on the Mexican border during that year before 2,350 units were sent off to France to assist in the efforts of the American Expeditionary Force during World War I.
12. Harley Earl
All of the Cadillac cars built during pre-World War II were all built well and targeted towards the luxury upper-class market. In 1926, Cadillac was trying to do something different in terms of design, so they hired famed automobile stylist Harley Earl for a one-time consultation. This consultation ended up becoming a 30-year partnership. Earl became the head of the Art and Color division for Cadillac by 1928, and he remained there until he retired. Earl first design is the LaSalle, another car named after a French explorer. The LaSalle was in production up until 1940. Since the LaSalle, Cadillac popularized the designer-style bodywork.
13. The turret top
All cars before the turret top were made out of fabric-covered wood. It was functional enough to make it work, but it wasn’t the most efficient option for cars. During Harley Earl’s time, the turret top was introduced. It was the first ever all-steel roof put on a passenger car. The all-steel roof was a ton more functional than the fabric-covered wood. It was also stylistically and aesthetically better. In addition, the turret top was sturdier than any other materials used before. It managed well during any kind of weather, much better than you could imagine fabric and wood did.
14. The Phillips connection
After the Great Depression, Cadillac’s sales went back up after the introduction of a mid-priced vehicle line, the Series 60. However, it was the invention of the Phillips screwdriver that would really propel GM and Cadillac ahead of its competition. In 1934, Henry Phillips introduced his newly invented screw and screwdriver. He managed to convince the Cadillac group that his products would make automobile assembly faster and more efficient. Cadillac became the first company to use Phillips technology in 1937, which shows just how far ahead of the game they were. The rest of the industry will adopt the practice in 1940.
15. Post World War II designs
After the Great Depression and the World Wars, Cadillac focused on stylistic changes to its automobiles. The brand still adopted a lot of the designs of Harley Earl with distinct adaptations. The tailfins became popular in 1948 up until the mid 60s. The front bumper started off as bumper guards, but they became more a prominent part of the designs in the 1950s. They even earned a nickname—the Dagmar bumpers—due to their notoriety. Eventually the trend died down. In 1956, the Sedan de Ville was introduced, the pillarless four-door hardtop sedan.
16. The millionth car
It’s impressive that Cadillac produced its one-millionth car only 47 years since its first car was produced. The introduction came on November 25, 1949, and the car was known to be the 1950 Coupe DeVille. That same year also set the new sales mark of 100,000 cars. This sales mark was match during the next two years, in 1950 and 1951. The Coupe DeVille was basically the 1940s Sixty Special Town Car with a coupe hardtop. The Cadillac DeVille will continue to be a popular model for Cadillac to this day.
17. The downsizing
From 1977 to 1988, the Cadillac models began to experience a downsizing in body size. This meant smaller exterior dimensions and smaller engines. It wasn’t necessarily a negative thing for the brand because it led to better fuel economy and better handling altogether. It also allowed for taller windows in the car. In 1980, a few of the models would also experience a redesign. Soon after in 1982, Cadillac introduced its first compact car, the Cimarron. It was during this time that Cadillac saw the closing of the Detroit Assembly, the factory where Cadillacs have always been made since 1921.
18. The introduction of technology
1980s was the time when Cadillac began to introduce technological features into its vehicles. Some of the features that were introduced include standard digital air conditioning and heating, the high technology engine, the Delco/Bose stereo system option, the trip computer, and a few others. A cassette/stereo system was also introduced at some point for $895.
19. Al Capone’s Cadillac
It can only be expected from the infamous gangster. His 1928 Cadillac sedan was the first ever presidential bulletproof limo. Capone’s car was fully armored to protect himself against attacks from rival gangs back then. When Capone was imprisoned in Alcatraz, his car was impounded by the Treasury Department. One day during the evening of Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt needed a protected car for transport, and the Secret Service got a hold of Capone’s car right away. This was Capone’s favorite getaway car, but he probably didn’t mind so much being that he was in jail. And yes, it had a pair of bullet holes in it.
20. The Brougham glasses
One Cadillac model came equipped with whiskey glasses—in true Cadillac luxury fashion. The 1957 Eldorado Brougham represented the American Lifestyle. It came with memory power seats, automatic locks, low profile tires, aluminum wheels, a makeup kit, and a set of magnetic whiskey glasses. It should be expected then considering the Cadillac cost double what normal cars did back then. It was the perk that came with the price, but more importantly, it was the lifestyle that was the biggest sell. The same sentiment would continue through other subsequent models, but the whiskey glasses will no longer be available.