It was 1915 when Cadillac introduced its very first V-8 engine. Later, in 1930 they would introduce the V-16, not only did Cadillac offer a variety of body styles over the years, but also a full complement of available drive-trains.
Despite the economic downturn, Cadillac, like other prestige manufacturers found itself in the middle of the 'cylinder wars,' which they basically started after firing the first shot in 1930 by introducing the V-16. They added a V-12 model for 1931, and the Twelve and Sixteen shared parts as well as dimensions and angles, so production didn't have to proceed from scratch. A bright-white Series 370 V-12 roadster was driven by Willard 'Big Boy' Rader and paced that year's Indianapolis 500. While the flagship V-12's and V-16's gathered all the fanfare, the V-8 powered models like this convertible coupe sold in steady numbers helping Cadillac's bottom line during difficult economic times.
After the Great Depression, Cadillac produced an exceptionally wide range of body styles and even more engine choices. The 355-A, such as this example, is slightly longer in length than the earlier styles and it features the 'rectangular doors' offering easier entry and exit.
Engine horsepower was slightly under one hundred and for the 1931 model year Cadillac would sell fewer than 11,000 examples of this model. The wheelbase is 134 inches, and the power train features a three-speed synchromesh transmission. The famed Harley Earl was acknowledged as the chief designer at the time.
This car was originally delivered new to Philadelphia in November of 1931, later residing in Connecticut and then Indiana. It was found derelict and removed from a Goshen, Indiana, orchard in 1969 by its previous owner. Some work was done though it essentially remained in storage until 1992, when purchased by its current caretakers, who completed the restoration in 2017. It retains the original chassis, engine, transmission, rear axle, and the Fleetwood body as shown on the original factory build sheet.
Henry M. Leland's automotive career included working with Henry Ford and building engines for Oldsmobile. In 1903 he created the Cadillac Company with their first offering being the Model A, a vehicle similar in design to the Ford. Production of the Model A continued until 1908.
In 1915 Cadillac introduced an 8-cylinder engine in 'Vee' configuration. In 1916 over 13000 examples were created and were heavily used by the US Army during World War I. In 1930 Cadillac shocked the automotive world by introducing a V16 model. This undoubtedly made the Cadillac brand of automobiles one of the most respected luxury automobiles produced by an American company. A new division had been created, called the Art and Color Department, under the direction of the famous Harley Earl. The success of the Cadillac brand persisted during the hardships of the 1930's due to their established dealer network and their impressive styling and engineering.
The engineering arsenal of Cadillac included an 8, 12 and 16 cylinder. This meant they had the right car no matter the customer or their demands. The 355A Cadillac V8 Fleetwood Roadster was an exceptional automobile. This roadster shown here came complete with a golf club door, rumble seat and full luggage rack. By Daniel Vaughan | Apr 2008
The body for 1931 was longer and lower than previous models. It had a longer hood with five hood ports. Oval sunburst brass instrument panel, radiator screen, battery and tool compartments under front seat and an enclosed trunk. The Cadillac masco [Read More...]
Sold for $90,798 (£44,000) at 2007 RM Auctions. Sold for $110,000 at 2008 RM Auctions. This 1931 Cadillac V8 Phaeton is mostly un-restored and a wonderfully preserved example of the Series 355. Its 5785cc V8 engine produces 95 horsepower which is sent to the rear wheels via a three-speed manual gearbox. [Read More...] By Daniel Vaughan | Apr 2008
High bid of $120,000 at 2009 RM Auctions. (did not sell) This 1931 Cadillac Series 355-A Phaeton is a former AACA Senior Award winner. It has been giving a restoration since new, and is finished in a white exterior with gleaming brightwork and a black folding top with red piping. There is a top boot, sid [Read More...] By Daniel Vaughan | Sep 2009
Sold for $63,250 at 2008 RM Auctions. Sold for $52,250 at 2009 RM Auctions. This 1931 Cadillac 355 Eight was once in the collection of noted California-based collector Art Astor, who acquired the car in the early 1980s. It has been given a full restoration, after which it was invited to participate in the Pebble Beach Conco [Read More...] By Daniel Vaughan | Oct 2009
This classic 1931 Cadillac Fleetwood V-8 Dual Cowl Sport Phaeton 355-A Series by Fleetwood was purchased by the current owners in 2008. The car has been renovated twice in the past five years. For the 1931 model year, 10,717 355 A-Series were produce [Read More...]
Sold for $27,500 at 2013 RM Auctions. This Town Sedan features blind rear quarters offering privacy for the rear seat passengers. This is an original car that wears an older restoration in two-tone blue. The interior is upholstered in tan wool broadcloth and trimmed in walnut and pewter. [Read More...] By Daniel Vaughan | Dec 2013
The 1931 Cadillac's were given deft styling improvements and engineering changes including ventilated doors that replaced hood louvers and a chrome plated screen that covered the radiator. The deepening Depression prompted a reduction of some of the [Read More...]
The Cadillac 355A appeared in September of 1930 and shared some similarities to its predecessor of 1930, the Series 353. In the front the radiator had a screen. The raditor had been mounted lower. There was a single bumper bar and dual horns. The hood was longer with five hood ports on the side. Under the hood was a V8 engine that displaced 353 cubic-inches and produced just under 100 horsepower. The floor boards were now metal, a big improvement over the prior years. The tool and battery compartments were relocated to under the front seat.
The Cadillac 355A was available in twelve different body styles with coachwork by either Fisher or Fleetwood. The elegant bodies rested on a 134 inch wheelbase and was 203 inches in length. A larger 152 inch wheelbase was available and used mostly for commercial vehicles. The lowest priced 355A cost just under $2,850 while the top-of-the-line 355A was nearly $3,800 which was the same price as an entry-level 370A with a twelve-cylinder engine.
In January of 1932 Cadillac introduced the 355B. This was the same time the LaSalle model line was introduced. There were various styling changes that occurred for the 1932 model 355B such as a restyled front and lowering of the roof-line by three-inches. The long hood now had six side vents. The vehicles now sat atop a 134-inch wheelbase or a 140-inch wheelbase. The base price was $2,795 which was the two-door coupe with seating for two/four. The top-of-the-line vehicle was the four-door limousine Brougham which had seating for seven and carried a $4245 price tag. The four-door Town Cabriolet with seating for seven also was offered for $4245.
Coachwork was by Fisher and Fleetwood. There were thirteen body-styles for Fisher in both open and closed configuration. The Fleetwood body-styles for 1932 were all closed-style configuration.
The V8 L-head engine was capable of producing 115 horsepower which was an increase in power over the prior years. This increase was due to the updated manifold design and carburetor revisions.
In 1933 Cadillac introduced the 355C. There were over twenty bodystyles to select from sitting on a 134-inch or a 140-inch wheelbase. The vertical hood doors were replaced with horizontal doors. The grille was V-shaped and the radiator shell was painted. The chrome-plated radiator-shell was offered as optional equipment.
For 1933 Fisher introduced the No-draft ventilation system which featured pivoting vent windows in the front and rear door windows. This allowed the passengers to operate the vents interpedently of the window glass. The engine was a 353 cubic-inch L-head V8 which produced 115 horsepower. An optional unit could be purchased which would raised the compression ratio to 5.70 and increased the horsepower rating to over 115. By Daniel Vaughan | Dec 2006
The eight-cylinder Cadillac Series 355 was in production from 1931 through 1935. Just like the other Cadillac models at the time, they came in a variety of body styles including 2- and 4-door versions. The 1931 Series 355A was similar to the Series 353 except that it was lower and longer. It also had a longer hood with five hood ports. Power came from the 353 cubic-inch powerplant found in the 353. The floor boards were now made of metal. Inside, the battery and tool compartment were now located under the front seat. The instrument gauge grouping was the same as in the Series 353.
In the front of the Series 355 was a radiator screen with a single bar bumper and dual horns. The headlights were slightly smaller, decreasing in diameter by one inch. The radiator sat lower in the frame and there was now a condenser tank for cooling operation. The fan was also mounted lower to match the lower radiator.
The Series 355 had a new frame with divergent side rails. The suspension springs now had metal covers.
The Series 353 was named after its engine, a 353 cubic-inch V8. The Series 355, however - which also had the 353 engine - no longer matched the displacement. The L-Head V8 offering 95 horsepower and was mated to a three-speed synchromesh gearbox. The engine featured a five point suspension system, similar to the one being used by the V-16 models. An intake muffler was added and the distributor now sat 1.5 inches higher.
For 1932, the Series 355 became known as the 355B. It brought with it several changes, becoming longer and lower and given a restyled front assembly. The hood now had six hood ports. In the front was a flat grille that was built into the radiator shell. Cadillac did away with the fender tie bar and monogram bar. The license plate was mounted on the bumper. The head and side lights were now bullet shaped, and the dual taillights matched the headlights. The lights, a Super Safe three filament bulb, had four contour positions for degree and angle of illumination. The running boards had a curved design which matched the sweep of the front fenders and blended into the rear fenders. The tail of the back fenders blended into the fuel tank valence. There was a larger ventilator on top of the cowl and none on the sides. Separate body moldings were eliminated.
Inside, the driver's vision was improved by 30 percent due to the elimination of the outside visor, and the construction of a 12-degree sloping windshield and corner posts. The driver's view of the instrument cluster was improved thanks to a three spoke steering wheel. A 'locker' was added to the right side of the instrument panel.
The trunk on the town coupe, town sedan, and five-passenger convertible coupe was integral with the body.
Another exciting change for 1932 was the increase in horsepower, now rated at 115 BHP. Yet it was not enough to increase sales. In fact, sales plummeted to 2,700 by no fault of Cadillac. Instead, the world had plunged into the Great Depression and the pool of capable buyers able to purchase these elegant and modern vehicles dwindled.
For 1933, Cadillac again worked hard on enticing buyers into purchasing the 355C. But at the end of the year, just 2,100 examples had been purchased. The 1933 Series 355C was given bumpers that were sectioned, with plain ends and a three bar center. The grille became V-shaped and blended into the painted (or optional chrome) radiator shell. The tie bar returned and was sectioned and the center section was hidden behind the grille. The radiator cap was now under the hood. Skirts were added to the front and rear fenders.
Cadillac introduced their no-draft Individually Controlled Ventilation (ICV) or pivoting vent windows in the front doors and the rear quarter or rear door windows. Early models with the ICV had to lower the front door window to disengage the channel at its front edge from the vent window to allow the vent window to pivot. This was later modified with the sealing channel being attached directly to the door frame rather than to the window glass. The vent window could then be operated independently of the window glass.
The windshield and rear quarter windows were now stationary. The closed cars had their windshield operating mechanism removed, allowing room to conceal the wiper motors behind the headboard.
Vacuum assist was added to the braking system, the controlled freewheeling was discontinued, and changes in shock absorber valves extended the range of the ride control system. During the year the dual point four lobe distributor was replaced by a single point eight lobe unit.
For 1934, the Model 355D brought with it significant changes including an entirely new chassis and a completely restyled design. Power was the same as the 1933 model year.
Cadillac divided the 1934 Model 355D into three series, the Series 10, 20 and 30. Fisher was tasked with providing bodies for the Series 10 and 20. The Series 30 was reserved for Fleetwood, and these bodies were also found on the Cadillac V-12 and V-16. An independent front suspension was introduced, called 'knee-action.' Engine horsepower increased to 120.
The designs were modern and focused on aerodynamics with a streamlined design and the concealment of all chassis features except the wheels. Cadillac improved the body construction which better insulated the interior from engine heat and reduced engine, road and wind noise. The horns and radiator filler cap were hidden under the hood. Chrome was limited throughout the vehicle, though a chrome plated radiator shell was available as optional equipment. The parking lamps were mounted on the headlight supports. The entire fender shape was mounted into the radiator shell. The fixed windshields were steeply slowed with the Fisher bodied cars having an 18-degree rake. The Fleetwood bodies were raked up to 29.5 degree. Cowl vents opened toward the windshield; one vent on flat windshield bodies and two on V-shaped windshield bodies. Rear fenders were airfoil shaped and held the rear lights which matched the design of the headlights. The gas tank filler was on the left side at the rear of the body, on Fleetwood bodies in the left rear fender. All bodies had a beaver tail deck which completely covered the chassis.
Unless the optional fender mounts were specified, the Fleetwood bodied cars had their spare tires concealed under the rear deck.
Front passengers received additional space due to having the hand brake lever moved to the left of the driver, under the instrument panel.
The 1935 versions of the 355 were known as the 355E and were very similar to their 1934 counterparts. Changes were minimal, including the replacement of the biplane bumpers with more conventional units. Fisher bodies were given the all steel Turret Top while Fleetwood bodies would not receive this until 1936. Engine horsepower increased to 130 BHP. By Daniel Vaughan | May 2013
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