Cadillac is synonymous with Luxury and comfort. I’m sure you’ve heard the expression “It’s the Cadillac of the couch world,” or any other world for that matter. Founded in 1902, Cadillac has been a pioneer in the automotive industry.
The company was founded in August of 1902 by the former backers of the latest Henry Ford automotive venture. When Ford failed, yet again, Henry Leland came in and persuaded the shareholders to try one last venture using Ford’s chassis and a single-cylinder Oldsmobile design. The car was launched in October of 1902, and presented at the New York auto show in 1903. The car was a huge success, assembling a record number of units, and still barely keeping up with demand.
In 1907 Cadillac became the automaker they are famous for today, a symbol of luxury. Because of their attention to detail they began to manufacture identical parts for their vehicles, giving Cadillac worldwide recognition. In 1908 they participated in a standardization test by the Royal Automobile Club of London and they won their first Thomas Dewar Trophy, an award given for advances in automobile technology. In 1909 Cadillac became part of General Motors, who brought Cadillac’s founder Henry Leland as president.
Continuing to lead the automotive industry, by 1911 Cadillac released the first electric starter in the industry. Although many have tried, they found a winner in a Delco design, very similar to the starters used in modern cars. This reliable starter design won Cadillac another Thomas Dewar award.
1915 brought the first mass produced V8 in Cadillac’s lineup. With a top speed of about 65 miles per hour, it blew away the competition of the era.
Henry Leland left Cadillac in 1922 to work for Lincoln. As expected of Cadillac’s founder, Lincoln became Cadillac’s biggest competitor in the US. Cadillac didn’t stop though, releasing a much more balanced V8 engine by 1923.
In 1928 Cadillac released a Synchro-mesh manual transmission, the smoothest transmission to date. To match this beauty, Cadillac released their best engine to date in early 1930. The engine, a powerful V16, was everything we would expect from Cadillac, a beautiful work of art. Like its predecessor, the engine was smooth, balanced, and incredibly quiet. Although the engine didn’t sell very well, it helped Cadillac get to the level of the luxury manufacturers of the day such as Rolls-Royce and Duesenberg.
1932 brought Cadillac to the verge of bankruptcy due to record low sales. After a few adjustments and the incorporation of the newly designed Phillips screws and driver, Cadillac was back strong in 1934, and in full force by the end of the decade.
Cadillac designed a new V16 in 1938 but the big news came in 1941 when Cadillac offered GM’s automatic transmission on their vehicles. The transmission combined with Cadillac’s V8 engines played double duty, being used to power tanks during World War II.
After the war
It was right after the war that Cadillac stepped up their style points. The tail fin craze began in 1948 and continued on for years. And as always, Cadillac followed their luxury improvements with yet another great engine design, a 331 cubic-inch V8. With a revolutionary overhead-valve design, Cadillac once again led the automotive industry.
The nineteen fifty’s saw Cadillac rise to the top, not only as the standard of luxury, but also as a pillar of unchallenged performance with a Cadillac coupe finishing third at Le Mans. Driving after performance, Cadillac’s engines kept growing with a 365 cubic-inch V8 in 1956 and by 1959 saw the displacement reach 390 cubic inches.
A new design V-8 came to be in 1963 and although it was the same displacement as its predecessor, it was smaller and much lighter. For the 1964 line-up, Cadillac once again increased displacement to 429 cubic inches, but the block was at its displacement limit, and of course by 1967 that was not enough for Cadillac.
1968 brought a new V8 design, a 472 cubic-inch monster that stayed around for over 6 years. Cadillac was not done however, releasing a massive 500 cubic-inch beast, boasting 400 horsepower and 550 foot pounds of torque. Although displacement remained constant, compression was later lowered and the horsepower output decreased with it. By the end of its life in 1976, the rated horsepower was less than 200.
From that point on Cadillac began downsizing their engines while still keeping the performance up to par thanks to technology improvements such as fuel injection. In 1980 Cadillac developed the V8-6-4, an engine that was capable of shutting off unnecessary cylinders while driving under light loads. The engine was a marvel, but too far ahead of the technology of the day, both mechanically and electronically, causing most owners to disable the system due to lack of reliability. We do know however, that after 20 years of electronic advances, the systems are widely used in large displacement engines today.
Their next advancement came with their Northstar V8 design which came to be in 1992. This platform was exclusive to Cadillac until recently. Many created similar engines, but no other vehicle used the name until 2005, when General Motors gave the Northstar name to a Pontiac Bonneville.
Cadillac became known as a dressed up Chevrolet for some time. Models such as the Cimarron, which shared the same platform as the Chevy Cavalier. The first generation Escalade introduced in 1998, based on the GMC Yukon Denali, was also seen in the same light.
The Escalade, however, became a symbol of luxury and status, especially with the younger generation. Some adjustments were made, and the second generation Escalade stood out, making it the best luxury SUV on the road.
By adding the Escalade EXT, which takes after the Chevy Avalanche, and creating their V-series vehicles, Cadillac has made a comeback. It has become the favorite of new generation of Cadillac owners and enthusiasts, offering what many others cannot: top of the line luxury, wrapped around performance inspired machines.