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