On January 4, 1930, Cadillac stunned the fine-car market at the New York Auto Show with the introduction of its breathtaking new V16. With it, Cadillac instantly catapulted itself to the head of the luxury class in one brilliant stroke. Until then, only Bugatti had produced a 16-cylinder engine, and it was accomplished by bolting two 8-cylinder inline engines together, which was an innovation that was originally intended for aircraft use.
Cadillac’s V16 was the first true 16-cylinder engine to be built from scratch, and it was a project led by Owen Milton Nacker under conditions of the utmost secrecy. In order to avoid knowledge of the project leaking from lower-level GM engineering departments and parts suppliers, a well-coordinated disinformation campaign was created. It included cover stories and notes on various blueprints that indicated that the project was actually Cadillac’s contribution to a new GM bus project.
The 45-degree cylinder bank angle and overhead-valve design kept the V16 narrow, while its external manifolds allowed easy access to the engine compartment. Furthermore, Cadillac’s V16 was the first automotive engine ever to be “styled,” as all of the wiring was hidden and the engine compartment was dressed up with plenty of gleaming, polished aluminum, porcelain and a pair of beautiful valve covers with brushed aluminum ridged surfaces featuring the Cadillac emblem.
This V16 roadster still presents utterly beautifully, with its carefully applied finish unmarred, and its interior is still tight and fresh. The underbody and underhood are clean and appear freshly restored, and its chrome still sparkles throughout. It is an heirloom that, for 81 years and four generations, has been the vehicle through which memories are made.