Considering the Great Depression, 1935 was a pretty good year for the LaSalle marque in terms of sales. The prior year the company had sold 7,195 examples; in 1935 a total of 8,651. The numbers would continue to rise in the years to come, with 13,004 units sold in 1936 and 32,000 sold in 1937.
The post-Great Depression era was a difficult one, especially because they were desperate times. Many marque's were dropping the prices on all of their vehicles or adding additional paint schemes, numerous options, and many incentives in order to create a sale. Packard introduced their One-Twenty line, which was a strong competitor in the low-cost luxury market. It was priced right and carried the prestige of the Packard name.
The base price of the LaSalle in 1935 was around $1500. Few styling changes had occurred over the prior years. A two-door and four-door 'trunk-back' sedan bodystyle were added to the line. Horsepower rose slightly, from 90 to 95.
General Motors tiered its models to allow buyers to move up in price and prestige as their fortunes improved. LaSalle was designed as a stylish entry to fill the gap between Buick and Cadillac. The LaSalle is often referred to as Cadillac's 'Companion Car.' 1927 was the inaugural year and the vehicles were designed by Harley Earl. Sales were initially strong, but as the world inched closer to the Great Depression, sales began to slow from a 1929 high of almost 23,000 to 3,386 in 1932. The LaSalle would remain in production through 1940.
In 1934, a new design was introduced and helped save the marque. Changes included a thin vertical, grille (an art deco influence of the day), teardrop headlights and five circular hood ports. The 1934-35 models were restyled by General Motors head designer, Harley Earl, who was chosen to head-up the company's then-new Art and Color Department in 1926. For 1935, the LaSaslle convertible coupe sold for $1,325. Power was supplied by a 248 cubic-inch, inline eight-cylinder motor that developed 105 horsepower. Wheelbase was 120 inches. For the first time, LaSalle featured an all-steel turret top.
These automobiles are among the first General Motors designs to feature streamlining and art deco influence, shown through the narrow flowing and slim vertical grille, the slanted split-vee windshield, the teardrop headlights and the rocket taillight assemblies. They also feature Earl's signature five circular hood ports and the rear hinged suicide doors.
Power the Convertible Coupe Roadster is a 248 cubic-inch straight eight. In total, 874 convertible coupes were built in 1935. This example has been in the same family since 1962. In the 1950's and early 1960's it sat near their home in a garage in Harper Woods, Michigan. The neighbor's son had driven the LaSalle home from Naval duty in California. From there it passed the years virtually untouched until it was purchased by the current owner's father. It then sat for nearly five decades in his tool and die shop. IN 2005, he inherited it and finally in 2010 it would undergo a frame-off restoration returning it to its original glory. The restoration was completed in 2011.
During the first two decades of the 1900's, Cadillac was the leader in the U.S. luxury-car market. It wasn't until around 1925 when Packard Automobiles began replacing Cadillac as America's new favorite in the premium automobile market when Cadillac realized that they needed to step it up.
With the bottom-end Cadillac priced at $3195, many consumers were unwilling to spend such a significant amount when the top of the line Buick cost $1925. In the years following World War I, Packard's smart new group of lower-priced high-quality ‘pocket-size' vehicles were responsible for basically running away with the luxury market, and consequently, much of GM's business.
Conceived as a baby Cadillac with a bit more added style, the La Salle series was introduced on March 5, 1927. To present a youthful, dashing image completely opposite from the staid and proper Cadillac, the La Salle series was meant to be a stepping stone in a perceived gap between Cadillac and Buick in GM's lineup. Priced just above the Buick, the La Salle was designed to be a complete model line that would adequately fill out GM's product roster. The name La Salle was chosen in reference to the famed French explorer that Cadillac had been named after, as one of his compatriots.
Wanting the La Salle to be considerably more stylish than the Cadillac, President of GM Larry Fisher hired a young stylist from Cadillac's California distributor to aid in the design of the new junior series. Harley Earl was given the job as a consultant to design the first La Salle. Though assumed to be only hired for this specific task, Earl went on to become the company's director of design until he retired some 30 years later. During Earl's time at Cadillac, he influenced the entire industry in the areas of both styling and marketing strategy.
The original La Salle produced in 1927 became the first mass-production vehicle to consciously ‘styled' in the modern sense. Considered to by the most fashionable American automobiles of its day, the LaSalle was the first of the smaller and more maneuverable luxury vehicles. The LaSalle was also the pioneer in the automobile color industry. Up until this point all vehicles were produced in only black Japan enamel, the only finish available to dry quickly enough to stand up to the pace of mass production. The introduction to DuPont Chemical Company's fast-drying, polychromatic duco finishes in '24 supplied automobiles with a stunning array of colors. La Salle became one of the first cars to take advantage of this modern advancement.
The Series 350 was introduced in 1934 and was considered to be more like an Oldsmobile than a Cadillac. Borrowing an L-head straight eight from the Oldsmobile division to replace the traditional Cadillac V-8, the new series shared the same 240.3-cubic-inch (4-liter) displacement. A completely redesigned chassis was introduced with a much shorter, 119-inch wheelbase. Since the beginning of the La Salle, the double-plate type clutch was utilized until before replaced with a single-plate clutch. Hydraulic brakes were also newly adopted into the series adding yet another first to GM's repertoire.
Independent front suspension now reduced the unsprung weight problem that had been an issue since 1933. Cadillac was able to reduce the price of the LaSalle base models by $650 with these cost cutting new innovative features.
Considered to be the automotive industries fashion leader, the La Salle was equally impressive from its design side. The new design styling for the 1934 model was considered to be dramatic and eye-catching. High-set headlamps in bullet-shaped pods were placed on both sides of a tall, narrow vee'd radiator, along with curvy ‘pontoon' fenders at both the front and rear. Wheels were encased in smart chromed discs while hood vent doors gave to ‘portholes'.
The La Salle featured bumpers that emulated the shape of twin slim blades separated by two bullets, similar to the '27 Cadillacs. Trunks were absorbed into the main body on all models and spare tires moved inside the vehicles. The LaSalle Series 50 featured a four-door sedan, a new five-passenger club sedan, a two-seat coupe and a rumble-seat convertible coupe in its 1934 lineup. All models showcased Fleetwood bodywork and rear-hinged front doors. Cadillac's standard of quality and luxury were still rated as outstanding despite the money-saving measures. For the 1934 Indianapolis 500, the '34 LaSalle was chosen as a pace car for that year.
Unfortunately the following year's sales dipped far below expectations, even though they doubled the previous year's total. A total of only 7195 models were produced for the 1934 year.
Not much styling was changed for the 1935 LaSalle Series 50. Updates included two-door and four-door ‘trunkback' sedans joining the line with an industry trend. Fisher's new 'Turret-Top' construction was introduced to replace the original closed body styles. This update required steel to replace the traditional fabric inserted into the roof. Horsepower was up from 90 to 95 with a slightly higher compression ratio. Very few mechanical changes were made for the '35 model.
Due to the release of Packard's new One-Twenty, about the same size as LaSalle, though slightly lighter and 16% more powerful and costing $450 less, LaSalle sales suffered.
The following year Cadillac responded to the competition by reducing the little-changed Series 50 by $320, though even this wasn't enough to stimulate sales significantly. Packard's One-Twenty continued to thrive, and outsold the LaSalle by better than four to one for 1936.
Time to try a new approach, Cadillac next introduced a new ‘compact' Series 60 that same season.By Jessica Donaldson
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