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1915 Cadillac V-8 Type 51


The Engine of the Cadillac V-8, Type 51

The engine of the Cadillac V-8 was cast in two blocks of four cylinders each, located exactly opposite one another. Fork-and-blade connecting rods were fitted. The crankshaft was drilled, and full pressure lubrication was employed, while a single, centrally-located camshaft operated the valves. Water circulation was controlled by means of an impeller pump, with a thermostat located within each cylinder block.

Cadillac had advertised the old Model 30 at "40-50" horsepower, a respectable enough figure by 1914 standards. But the new 314.5-cubic-inch V-8 developed a rousing 70 horsepower, five more than even the Packard Model 38, a car costing nearly twice the price of the Type 51.

The clutch was of the multiple dry disc type, far superior to the leather-faced cone employed by the Model 30. A three-speed selective transmission was used, and the spiral bevel final drive utilized a ratio of 4.44:1. Steering was of the worm-and-sector type, and both internal and external brakes operated on drums fitted to the rear wheels.

Eight body types were offered, with the popular open styles selling for $1,975, exactly the same as the previous year's four-cylinder Model 30. Prices for the closed body styles ranged from $2,500 for the Landaulet Coupe to $3,600 for the prestigious Berline Limousine. In whatever guise, the Cadillac represented a phenomenal bargain, for the Type 51 proved to be a fine automobile, as durable as it was powerful.

Since the new engine was America's first mass-produced V-8, of course questions were raised about it. Cadillac Countered with an advertisement that is still considered a classic. Appearing first in the January 2,1915 issue of The Saturday Evening Post, the ad was titled "The Penalty of Leadership." It marked the beginning of a highly effective advertising campaign in which Cadillac, which already billed itself as "The Standard of the World," undertook to present its owners as a breed apart, people distinguished by their own superior taste.

In truth, however, the new engine wasn't completely above criticism. The problem had to do with the single-plane (180-degree) crankshaft. The Cadillac would cruise smoothly and remarkably quietly at speeds between 55 and 60 miles an hour. But between 40 and 50, a more appropriate speed range given the condition of the roads in those days, it exhibited the same secondary out-of-balance shaking force that characterized the four-cylinder engines of that time. Not until the coming of the 1924 models would Cadillac develop a solution to the problem in the form of an inherently balanced crankshaft.

The public responded well to the Cadillac V-8. On the next page, learn how the sales success of this innovative model.

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