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1930-1940 Cadillac V-16


1934-1936 Cadillac V-16s and the Aero-Dynamic

The Aero-Dynamic was an early example of how GM used show cars to presage and test future styling ideas. Among its features that later went into production were an all-steel roof, elegant flowing fenders without sidemounts, and GM's first trunk containing a built-in spare tire compartment.

It also featured a recessed, illuminated rear license plate housing; a gas filler built into the top of the taillight (adopted in production in 1941); chrome window edges; and a chrome beltline molding to emphasize its unified lines.

cadillac v-16
A stylish newcomer to the 1934 lineup was
the Fleetwood-bodied Aero-Dynamic coupe.

Of the Aero-Dynamic, designer Dave Holls has written: "Cadillacs were much later than 1933 in form. . . . It was fine styling -- if you hold your hand over the front end and look at the car from there back, you begin to see a fair resemblance to the Cord Beverly. . . . This was a time when Cadillac began to make bold, yet careful steps toward change, while Packard hung tenaciously onto its long heritage, making only limited changes. A lot of people went along with them at the time, but the practice established a position, and they were stuck with it, later on with disastrous results."

cadillac v-16
The Aero-Dynamic coupe was an early
example of dream-car design as a preview
to production cars; the first Aero-Dynamic
appeared at the world's fair in Chicago in 1933.

In 1934, horsepower was raised to 185 and wheelbases lengthened to 154 inches. Production versions of the Aero-Dynamic Coupe were offered on all chassis; of the mere handful made just three were Sixteens. The division announced that it would build 400 Sixteens for the model year, only to fall embarrassingly short at 56.

All 1934 Cadillacs were distinguished by rather odd biplane bumpers separated by twin bullets, while Sixteens carried the first assembled eggcrate grille. The grille was retained, but a more conventional solid bumper substituted on the 1935 model, which was otherwise so identical to its predecessor that it retained 452D model designation.

cadillac v-16
The Aero-Dynamic coupe's 'banjo' steering wheel
would be copied by other automakers.

All-steel "turret top" bodies were introduced on smaller Cadillacs in 1936, and eventually on the Twelves and Sixteens as well, but multicylinder sales remained minuscule.

Although 1936 Twelves received hydraulic brakes, they weren't fitted to Sixteens until 1937, the year production bottomed at 49 and the year after the model received a new designation, Series 90. Now formidably priced (more than $9,000 for a Fleetwood town cabriolet), the Sixteen had become a prestige item: too famous to drop, too costly to be profitable.

Those early owner-drivers who had delighted in examples of unbridled flamboyance like two-passenger Fleetwood convertibles had mostly disappeared. The majority of Sixteens were seven-passenger limousines (24 of the 49 made for 1937, for example). Nevertheless, a broad assortment of body styles was still offered, all of them now Fleetwoods.

Production included five beautiful convertible sedans and a lone Aero coupe, the last descendant of the 1933 Aero-Dynamic.

To read about the Cadillac L-Head V-16, continue on to the next page.

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