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 Cadillac Series 452-A Sixteen photo
Image credits: © Cadillac. GM Corp.

1931 Cadillac Series 452-A Sixteen

Despite the economic hardship of the era, Cadillac introduced one of the greatest engineering feats to date. During the latter part of the 1920s, Alfred Sloan's General Motors was gaining on nearly every market segment, from the new overhead-valve six, which was pitted against Ford's four, to a full offering of middle and upper-middle-class cars ranging from Pontiac to Buick. Cadillac, however, was losing ground to the other marques, including Packard. Lincoln vehicles had grown in popularity thanks, in part, to Edsel Ford's new bodies. In comparison, the Cadillacs had stodgy styling and old technology.

As the multi-cylinder wars were continuing to escalate, Cadillac's venerable V8 was supplemented by two new engines - a V12 and a V16. GM also created the Art and Colour department, the first real styling department of its kind. It was headed by Harley Earl and the first project was for GM's newly created LaSalle Company. The designs had European inspiration but with a distinctly American flavor. There were long, sweeping fenders, an upright radiator shell, and large chrome headlights connected by a tie bar. For 1928, the same styling was implemented for Cadillac. In 1930 came the introduction of the V-16 engine, which helped realize the potential of the new styling and design. This allowed longer wheelbases and more elaborate and luxurious coachwork. The V16 bodies had graceful hoods, and V16 insignia on the tie bar and hubcaps.

The engine compartment of the Cadillac V16 was styled by Owen Nacker and was the first engine bay to receive design consideration. The wiring was hidden under covers accented by cloisonné knobs. It was painted in black enamel with a brushed aluminum raised patter on the valve covers. A false firewall concealed the necessary wiring and plumbing from view, and the fuel lines were plated.

The V16 engine had an advanced overhead-valve design that incorporated automatic hydraulic valve lash compensators. The engine was narrow, thanks to the 45-degree cylinder bank angle and the overhead valve design.

Fleetwood and Fisher bodies were offered, with most being of Fleetwood design. The Fisher bodies were special orders or, in a few cases, as cataloged offerings.

With the introduction of the mighty V16 engine and the modern bodies, Cadillac had catapulted to the head of the declining luxury market. The other manufacturers scrambled to keep up and due to the economic hardships, the enormous cost of the development effort created financial pressures from which many companies would never recover. Cadillac survived, thanks in large part of the financial support of General Motors.

For 1931, Cadillac offered a car for nearly every segment of the U.S. luxury car market. They had no less than four separate passenger car lines with power available from 8, 12, or 16 cylinders.


by Daniel Vaughan | Sep 2019

Related Reading : Cadillac Series 452/90 History

Henry Martin Leland and his son Wilfred were partly responsible for making Cadillac one of the finest of all American Automobiles. Henry was renowned for his precision engineering and for standardizing manufacturing. He helped make Cadillac into one of the finest of all American Automobiles. Later, he founded Lincoln. Even after the Lelands departed from Cadillac, the marque remained a top-of-the-line....
Continue Reading >>

1931 Vehicle Profiles

1931 Cadillac Series 452-A Sixteen vehicle information

Drophead Victoria by Lancefield
Coachwork: Lancefield

Built to each customer's individual taste, the V16 became an American icon of prestige and helped the company out-perform Packard and their V12. The introductory brochure proudly claimed 'Sixteen-cylinder powering, complete individuality in style tha....[continue reading]

1931 Cadillac Series 452-A Sixteen vehicle information

Sport Phaeton Style
Coachwork: Fleetwood

Cadillac had largely failed to make headway against Packard, while Lincoln - bolstered by Edsel Ford's attractive new bodies - were gaining ground. Cadillacs were relatively boring, with old technology and stodgy styling.....[continue reading]

1931 Cadillac Series 452-A Sixteen vehicle information

Sport Phaeton Style
Coachwork: Fleetwood

Chassis Num: 702797

There has always been pressure and competition to continue to improve the automotive product. During the 1920s and 1930s, this was no different. In many respects, the General Motors division was doing an exceptional job outdoing or keeping up with, t....[continue reading]

1931 Cadillac Series 452-A Sixteen vehicle information

All-Weather Phaeton
Coachwork: Fleetwood

Leading the way in the 'cylinder wars' was Cadillac, which introduced its V-16 in January of 1930. That was followed in September with a V-12 to complement the existing V-8. The V-16 displaced 452 cubic-inches (hence the 452 designations) and develop....[continue reading]

1931 Cadillac Series 452-A Sixteen vehicle information

Roadster
Coachwork: Fleetwood

When introduced at the January 1930 New York Auto Salon the Cadillac Sixteen raised the bar for American luxury automobile manufacturers. This car had it all - smooth ride, marvelous engine, luxurious appointments and a striking design (inspired by ....[continue reading]

1931 Cadillac Series 452-A Sixteen vehicle information

All-Weather Phaeton
Coachwork: Fleetwood

The 16-cylinder Cadillac engine was the product of the mind of Owen Milton Nacker. Lawrence Fisher recruited Nacker, from outside of GM, to design this engine. The logic, at the time, was that GM was busily preparing a V-12 engine, which they were, N....[continue reading]

1931 Cadillac Series 452-A Sixteen vehicle information

Roadster
Coachwork: Fleetwood

Among the most significant announcements made in the American automobile industry late in 1929 was the letter that Cadillac President Lawrence Fisher dispatched to his dealers and the motoring press on December 10th. A new sixteen-cylinder Cadillac w....[continue reading]

1931 Cadillac Series 452-A Sixteen vehicle information

Sport Phaeton Style
Coachwork: Fleetwood

Chassis Num: 452A703249

The Cadillac Sixteen carried an overhead-valve, 452-cubic-inch engine, which produced 165 horsepower and 320 pounds/feet of torque. One of the undoubted greats in an era of great cars, the Sixteen was theoretically available in 33 different models, ....[continue reading]

1931 Cadillac Series 452-A Sixteen vehicle information

Roadster
Coachwork: Fleetwood

Chassis Num: 702368

This 1931 Cadillac V-16 Roadster was offered for sale at the 2007 Christie's auction of 'Exceptional Motor Cars at the Monterey Jet Center.' It is finished in maroon with a black canvas top and gray leather interior. Power is from the overhead valve ....[continue reading]

1931 Cadillac Series 452-A Sixteen vehicle information

All-Weather Phaeton
Coachwork: Fleetwood

Cadillac's break through V-16 engine marked a continuation of engine leadership that began with Cadillac's introduction of the first mass produced V-8 in 1914. This magnificent engine delivered its considerable power with smoothness unmatched in the....[continue reading]

1931 Cadillac Series 452-A Sixteen vehicle information

All-Weather Phaeton
Coachwork: Fleetwood

At the dawn of the 1930's the cylinder race was on, and Cadillac produced arguably the greatest with its massive 452 cubic-inch V16. Not only was this a powerful engine, but it was also elegantly styled with polished enamel paint, plated accents, hi....[continue reading]

1931 Cadillac Series 452-A Sixteen vehicle information

Sport Phaeton Style
Coachwork: Fleetwood

Chassis Num: 702401
Engine Num: 702401

This 1931 Cadillac V16 Sport Phaeton is one of only 18 Sport Phaeton V16's in existence. It is fitted with body number 42 and style 4260. It was sent to Cadillac's Philadelphia branch on July 19th of 1930. The Depression made it difficult to sell the....[continue reading]

1931 Cadillac Series 452-A Sixteen vehicle information

Roadster
Coachwork: Fleetwood

The vehicle of choice for the country club playboy set of 1931, the Roadster was the lightest body offered on the Cadillac V-16 chassis and hence the most spirited in performance. This style could be ordered with an optional high-speed rear-end rati....[continue reading]

1931 Cadillac Series 452-A Sixteen vehicle information

Convertible Coupe
Coachwork: Fleetwood

Cadillac introduced its V-16 powered automobile in November 1930 and took the automotive world by storm. The engine was a 45-degree, overhead valve design, displacing 452 cubic-inches and developing 175-185 horsepower.....[continue reading]

1931 Cadillac Series 452-A Sixteen vehicle information

All-Weather Phaeton
Coachwork: Fleetwood

There were a total of 3,251 1930/31 V16s built in approximately 70 different body styles. There were 250 of this body style (Style 4380) all weather phaetons built and it was the fifth most popular style. This car's body number is 175. This body s....[continue reading]

1931 Cadillac Series 452-A Sixteen vehicle information

Imperial
Coachwork: Fleetwood

Chassis Num: 702879

This 1931 Cadillac Series 452 4100 V16 Seven-Passenger Imperial Sedan has coachwork by Fleetwood. It has the 'Madame X' raked windshield configuration and includes dual Pilot Ray driving lamps, a radiator stone guard, dual side-mounted spare tires, a....[continue reading]

1931 Cadillac Series 452-A Sixteen vehicle information

Sport Phaeton Style
Coachwork: Fleetwood

Chassis Num: 702406
Engine Num: 7-2246

This Sport Phaeton was sent to its first owner in Brookline, Massachusetts, through the local distributor, Boston Cadillac, LaSalle, and Oldsmobile. By the late 1940's, the car had been sold and was in the care of its next owner. It was sold in 1950 ....[continue reading]

1931 Cadillac Series 452-A Sixteen vehicle information

All-Weather Phaeton
Coachwork: Fleetwood

Chassis Num: 703110

The Cadillac V16 engine had a small 3-inch bore, allowing Cadillac to place the cylinders close together, minimizing the engine's length and the length of the crankshaft. The crank ran in five main bearings and the combination of the short crankshaft....[continue reading]

1931 Cadillac Series 452-A Sixteen vehicle information

Roadster
Coachwork: Fleetwood

Chassis Num: 703118

This Fleetwood bodied V-16 Roadster was given a restoration in the mid-1990s. It is finished in two-tone brown with light brown wire wheels, a tan canvas top, and a dark tan leather interior. The odometer indicates 38 miles, which appears consistent ....[continue reading]

1931 Cadillac Series 452-A Sixteen vehicle information

Boattail Convertible
Coachwork: Pininfarina

Battista Farina was born in 1893, the tenth of eleven children, and he was consequently called 'Pinin' Farina, meaning 'baby of the family.' He worked as an apprentice with the family coachbuilding firm of Farina before founding his own company in 19....[continue reading]

1931 Cadillac Series 452-A Sixteen vehicle information

Sport Phaeton Style
Coachwork: Fleetwood

Chassis Num: 702677
Engine Num: 702677

There were 85 examples of Fleetwood's Style 4260 Sport Phaeton built on the Cadillac V-16 chassis, and three examples were built to order with folding rear cowls. They are chassis number 702682 with body number 8, 702691 with body no. 7, and this exa....[continue reading]

1931 Cadillac Series 452-A Sixteen vehicle information

Coupe
Coachwork: Fisher

The Cadillac V16 debuted right after the stock market crash at the New York Auto Show in January, 1930. It became the first production road car to use the V16, which both Marmon and Peerless were also trying to launch.....[continue reading]

1931 Cadillac Series 452-A Sixteen vehicle information

Roadster
Coachwork: Fleetwood

Engine Num: 702891

Prior to the 1930s, Bugatti was the sole automaker to produce a 16-cylinder engine, which had been accomplished by bolting two 8-cylinder inline engines together. The engine was originally intended for aircraft use. On January 4th of 1930, Cadillac i....[continue reading]

1931 Cadillac Series 452-A Sixteen vehicle information

Sedan
Coachwork: Fleetwood

Engine Num: 703108

The Cadillac V-16 was the top-of-the-line car for most of the 1930s. All of these models were custom ordered and very few were made. The majority of the V-16s were made in 1930, with others manufactured until production ceased in 1940.....[continue reading]

1931 Cadillac Series 452-A Sixteen vehicle information

Imperial
Coachwork: Fleetwood

This prime example of luxurious American coach craft is said to serve its owners in two distinct ways. With the division glass in position, it becomes a formal chauffeur-driven automobile ready to take its occupants to the classiest of events. With t....[continue reading]

1931 Cadillac Series 452-A Sixteen vehicle information

All Weather Phaeton
Coachwork: Fleetwood

When Cadillac introduced the V-16 engine and chassis in the fall of 1929, the car became the world's number one status symbol. There had never been anything like it in the history of the automobile. 165 horsepower at 3200 RPM, 16 cylinders, 452 cubic....[continue reading]

1931 Cadillac Series 452-A Sixteen vehicle information

All Weather Phaeton
Coachwork: Fleetwood

The Cadillac 452-A was announced six weeks after the stock market crash of October 29, 1929. Off to a good start with 1221 cars sold in April and May 1930, sales soon plummeted as the Depression took hold. General Motors subsequently built these cars....[continue reading]

1931 Cadillac Series 452-A Sixteen vehicle information

Roadster
Coachwork: Fleetwood

In January of 1930, Cadillac introduced the beautiful V16 models, instantly catapulting them to the top of the prestige automobile segment. Up until that point, only Bugatti offered a V16 engine. Bolting two V8 engines together was something original....[continue reading]

1931 Cadillac Series 452-A Sixteen vehicle information

Sport Phaeton Style
Coachwork: Fleetwood

Engine Num: 703225

This Cadillac V-16 wears style number 4260 Fleetwood sport phaeton coachwork. It is believed that eighty-five original examples of the sport phaeton were produced, of which fewer than twenty 1931 models remain extant. This particular example is body ....[continue reading]

1931 Cadillac Series 452-A Sixteen vehicle information

Convertible Coupe

Engine Num: 702994

This 1931 Cadillac V-16 'Woodie' Convertible Coupe was originally delivered wearing a Series 4375 seven-passenger limousine. It was one of 438 examples built for that series and was originally sold from a Chicago dealership in February of 1932. The e....[continue reading]

1931 Cadillac Series 452-A Sixteen vehicle information

Convertible Coupe
Coachwork: Fleetwood

Chassis Num: 7/1/2921
Engine Num: 702807

This 1931 V-16 Coach Sill Coupe Convertible (style 4235) left the factory on October 30th of 1930 and had been built for the 1931 Chicago Auto Salon. The car was acquired from the show floor by Pat Carr, a gentleman from Casper Wyoming who owned the ....[continue reading]

Drophead Victoria by Lancefield by Lancefield
 
Sport Phaeton Style by Fleetwood
 
Sport Phaeton Style by Fleetwood
Chassis #: 702797 
All-Weather Phaeton by Fleetwood
 
Roadster by Fleetwood
 
All-Weather Phaeton by Fleetwood
 
Roadster by Fleetwood
 
Sport Phaeton Style by Fleetwood
Chassis #: 452A703249 
Roadster by Fleetwood
Chassis #: 702368 
All-Weather Phaeton by Fleetwood
 
All-Weather Phaeton by Fleetwood
 
Sport Phaeton Style by Fleetwood
Chassis #: 702401 
Roadster by Fleetwood
 
Convertible Coupe by Fleetwood
 
All-Weather Phaeton by Fleetwood
 
Imperial by Fleetwood
Chassis #: 702879 
Sport Phaeton Style by Fleetwood
Chassis #: 702406 
All-Weather Phaeton by Fleetwood
Chassis #: 703110 
Roadster by Fleetwood
Chassis #: 703118 
Boattail Convertible by Pininfarina
 
Sport Phaeton Style by Fleetwood
Chassis #: 702677 
Coupe by Fisher
 
Roadster by Fleetwood
 
Sedan by Fleetwood
 
Imperial by Fleetwood
 
All Weather Phaeton by Fleetwood
 
All Weather Phaeton by Fleetwood
 
Roadster by Fleetwood
 
Sport Phaeton Style by Fleetwood
 
Convertible Coupe
 
Convertible Coupe by Fleetwood
Chassis #: 7-2921 

Recent Vehicle Additions

Performance and Specification Comparison

Price Comparison

$72-$5,350
1931 Cadillac Series 452-A Sixteen
$9,700-$18,000
1931 Cadillac Series 452-A Sixteen Price Range: $5,350 - $9,700

Other 1931 Cadillac Models

Series 452/90

Year
Production
Wheelbase
Engine
Prices
2,887
148.00 in.
16 cyl., 452.00 CID., 175.00hp
$5,300 - $9,700
363
148.00 in., 149.00 in.
16 cyl., 452.60 CID., 165.00hp
16 cyl., 452.00 CID., 265.00hp
$5,350 - $9,700
300
143.00 in., 149.00 in., 165.00 in.
16 cyl., 452.00 CID., 165.00hp
$4,495 - $5,945
126
143.00 in., 149.00 in.
16 cyl., 452.00 CID., 165.00hp
$6,250 - $8,000
146.00 in., 154.00 in.
16 cyl., 452.00 CID., 169.20hp
$6,650 - $8,950
154.00 in.
16 cyl., 452.00 CID., 185.00hp
$6,750 - $9,050
52
154.00 in.
16 cyl., 452.00 CID., 185.00hp
$6,085 - $6,390
50
154.00 in.
16 cyl., 452.00 CID., 185.00hp
$7,350 - $7,950

Industry Production

#1#2#3Cadillac
1936Ford (930,778)Chevrolet (918,278)Plymouth (520,025)12,913
1935Ford (820,253)Chevrolet (548,215)Plymouth (350,884)
1934Ford (563,921)Chevrolet (551,191)Plymouth (321,171)
1933Chevrolet (486,261)Ford (334,969)Plymouth (298,557)6,655
1932Chevrolet (313,404)Ford (210,824)Plymouth (186,106)4,740
1931Chevrolet (619,554)Ford (615,455)Buick (138,965)16,813
1930Ford (1,140,710)Chevrolet (640,980)Buick (181,743)13,892
1929Ford (1,507,132)Chevrolet (1,328,605)Buick (196,104)18,103
1928Chevrolet (1,193,212)Ford (607,592)Willys Knight (231,360)20,001
1927Chevrolet (1,001,820)Ford (367,213)Buick (255,160)8,599
1926Ford (1,669,847)Chevrolet (547,724)Buick (266,753)27,771

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