1940-1949 Cadillac

1941, 1942, 1946, 1947 Cadillac
New styling for 1941 included an eggcrate grill, seen on this 1941 Cadillac Sixty Special sedan.
New styling for 1941 included an eggcrate grill, seen on this 1941 Cadillac Sixty Special sedan.

A significant and attractive design change occurred for 1941, when Cadillac revived the Series 61 to replace its junior LaSalle line. This was a marketing decision based on the success of the Lincoln-Zephyr at Ford Motor Company and Packard's One Ten/One Twenty. And it worked.

While Packard continued to rely on medium-priced cars long after World War II, Cadillac (and Lincoln) returned to the luxury field exclusively, thus bolstering its "fine car" reputation, and sales, at Packard's expense.

The '41 Cadillacs wore a fresh face: a complex eggcrate grille with a central bulge carried down from the hood. Taillights were also more prominent, and one even concealed the gas filler, yet another feature destined for a long life. Departure of both the Sixteen and Series 72 reduced wheelbases to three: 136 inches for the Series 75, 139 on four new Series 67 sedans, and 126 for others.

Cadillac's big mechanical news for 1941 was a first in the luxury class: fully shiftless Hydra-Matic Drive. Developed by sister division Oldsmobile, which had introduced it a year earlier, this excellent automatic transmission would remain an option for all Cadillacs through 1949, after which it fast spread throughout the line as standard equipment.

Also new for 1941 was higher compression that lifted the V-8 to 150 horsepower. This combined with revised axle ratios to permit most '41 Caddys to reach a genuine 100 mph and scale 0-60 mph in about 14 seconds, impressive for the day.

Improved performance, the new Hydra-Matic, and a still-broad price span ($1,345-$4,045) pushed Cadillac production to a new high for the 1941 model year: 66,130 cars. That was only some 6,700 short of Packard, which was selling a much higher proportion of less-costly cars.

Bullet-shape fenders were one of the highlights of the 1942 lineup, which included this 1942 Cadillac Series 61 coupe.

Most of Cadillac's gain was owed to the revived Series 61, which was every inch a Cadillac despite simpler furnishings and lower prices. But sales of the Series 62 also were up dramatically, the Sixty Special scored a healthy 4,100 sales, and a new Series 63 four-door sedan attracted some 5,000 customers all by itself.

The 1942 lineup was mostly the same but had a new look. Chief highlights were big bullet-shape fenders front and rear, plus a fastback roofline (continued from the '41 Series 61) for a Series 62 coupe named "sedanet."

Unfortunately, this year's Sixty Special was more like other Cadillacs, and far less "special." Cadillac built a total 16,511 of its '42s before war halted production in February 1942. The division then turned out tanks, aircraft engines, and munitions until V-J Day 1945, an impressive output of vital weapons that helped win the war.

Resuming civilian operations took several months, so Cadillac managed only 29,194 cars for model-year 1946, of which 1,142, all Series 62 sedans, were built before the end of calendar 1945. All models were only slightly changed from the 1942 versions, but postwar necessity dictated dropping the Series 63, 67, and division-window Sixty Special models. What remained were fastback 61s, fastback and notchback 62s, a lone Sixty Special, and five regal 75s.

This 1947 Cadillac Series 62 coupe fastback has "sombrero" wheelcovers, a new design element for that model year.

Few changes occurred for 1947: round instead of rectangular parking lights (except with the large optional fog lamps), script instead of block letters for fender nameplates, a five-bar grille theme in place of the six bars used the previous year, and distinctive "sombrero" wheelcovers.

Galloping postwar inflation swelled prices by $150-$200, but production regained its prewar stride, nearing 62,000 units for the model year. As before, the Series 62 accounted for most of it with just under 40,000 units.

Read on to learn how Cadillac's postwar style innovation brought about its hallmark design feature.

For more infomation on Cadillac, see:

  • Cadillac: Learn the history of America's premier luxury car, from 1930s classics to today's newest Cadillac models.
  • Consumer Guide New Car Reviews and Prices: Road test results, photos, specifications, and prices for 2007 Cadillacs and hundreds of other new cars, trucks, minivans, and SUVs.
  • 1930-1939 Cadillac: Cadillac asserts its luxury leadership with magnificent V-16 and V-12 models that were among the greatest cars of an era of great cars.
  • 1950-1959 Cadillac: Cadillac symbolizes the optimism of a swaggering America with soaring tailfins and Elvis-era glamour.