Rare Rides: The 1933 Cadillac V-16 All-weather Phaeton
In the midst of the Great Depression, Cadillac offered a new range of ultra-expensive motorcars that featured 16-cylinder engines – a count never offered previously by a domestic automaker. One of the V-16’s most prestigious variations is today’s Rare Ride.
Presenting the extremely exclusive All-weather Phaeton sedan.
The launch of Cadillac’s most expensive line of cars occurred with some unfortunate timing. In development since 1926, the V-16 debuted a year after the start of the Great Depression, 1930. All the figures on this new Cadillac were superlative, not only the cylinder count. The enormous 7.4-liter engine produced 165 horsepower, at a time when a common Chevrolet Eagle sedan made just 65 horsepower with its inline-six. In 1930, the V-16’s base ask in cabriolet format was $6,500 (about $99,000 adjusted for inflation) before any customer personalization. The All-weather Phaeton was the most expensive version and started at $8,000 ($122,377 adj). And they were all made-to-order. For reference, the normies buying a standard Chevrolet sedan in 1933 paid $445.
Customers could choose from among 10 different body styles, built by the coachbuilders in and around Detroit. Each firm assembled their bodies atop a wooden frame. Available body styles included five- and seven-passenger sedans and limousines, convertibles and coupes for two, larger coupes that carried five, as well as town car styles for five or seven, and large convertible sedans (phaetons). Pictured above is the Brougham, where your hired driver sat outside because they were poor. Customers consulted with their Cadillac dealer to personalize the V-16 in almost innumerable ways, adding their own personal sense of style inside and out.
The first run of V-16 cars was from 1930 to 1937, and Cadillac sold around 3,800 in total. For the 1933 year in particular, 126 cars were built. A second generation V-16 debuted for 1938 and merged Cadillac’s prior V-12 and V-16 engines into a singular offering in the newly-designed 7.1-liter V-16. As WWII heated up, production ended in December 1939 with less than 500 second-gen V-16s completed. It was the only time Cadillac made a production V-16 engine.
Today’s Rare Ride started out in life with a standard Fleetwood-built sedan body. Through a couple of owners, this car made its way from New Jersey to St. Louis in the Sixties. There, it had its sedan body swapped with an original All-weather Phaeton body from the same model year. It was then restored to the highest order and kept in pristine condition since. In beautiful navy over navy, the Cadillac sold recently for an undisclosed sum.