Cadillac seemed to be serious about retaining the big car and going for sales: While the 1937 Series 90 had started at a towering $7,450, the 1938 version started at $5,200, and no body style cost more than $7,500.
A broad range of Fleetwood bodies was offered, including standard, Imperial, convertible, formal, and town sedans; coupes; convertibles; a town car; and even a special 161-inch-wheelbase "Presidential" model. The Sixteen enjoyed a modest renaissance, selling 311 copies in 1938. But production quickly fell again to 136 in 1939, and only 61 in the final year of 1940. The most popular models were the Imperial and Town sedans.
Taller fenders, a broader eggcrate grille design,
and a more compact 141.3-inch wheelbase
defined the look of the V-16 models
that arrived for 1938.
Cadillac had hoped that the revised, lower-priced Sixteen would appeal more to the owner-driver, but sales remained firmly rooted in the "professional car" market. A goodly number of the model offerings were produced annually in single-digit quantities; of the 11 body types made for 1940, nine had outputs of fewer than five units.
From 1938 through 1940, only very minor trim
changes differentiated each year's cars.
It was low production that, in the end, condemned the Sixteen to history. General Manager Nicholas Dreystadt, never a man to let enthusiasm get in the way of cost analysis, was responsible for the decision. The Sixteen had been a loss-leader in all but its earliest years, and with prospects of new, modern, overhead-valve V-8s in the wings, it made no practical sense to continue it.
Although somber sedans made up the majority
of the V-16s ordered, sportier and more colorful
bodystyles were still available.
What the Sixteen proved was more important than the money it earned. This is the car that truly established Cadillac as the "Standard of the World." It made it clear, as had no other model, that Cadillac had moved from the ranks of near-luxury to a genuine luxury nameplate -- and it represented the first time that Cadillac had fielded a car clearly superior to Packard.
Without a doubt, it was an engineering masterpiece. And as Cadillac's old ad man, Theodore MacManus, had said many years earlier in "The Penalty of Leadership," the Sixteen had "set a million tongues a-wagging."
The V-16 established Cadillac
as the "Standard of the World."
For models, prices, and production numbers for the 1930-1931 Cadillac V-16, check out the next page.
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