The new V8 was a landmark achievement, as it was quieter, more powerful and lighter than even the new Oldsmobile engine that was introduced at the same time

It is abundantly clear that The Motor found much to commend in the Series 62 Cadillac when testing Briggs Cunningham's personal car early in 1950: "The Cadillac is a vehicle manifestly intended to cover long distances at a high cruising speed whilst demanding the absolute minimum of effort from the driver and imposing the smallest of possible distraction upon the passengers."

Indeed, a Cunningham-entered Cadillac Coupe de Ville finished 10th at Le Mans that year, driven by the Collier brothers-in lounge suits. Although the body style had made its debut the preceding year, featuring GM styling chief Harley Earl's Lockheed P-38 inspired tailfins, the 1949 Cadillacs are nonetheless landmark models, being the first to benefit from the company's new 5.4-litre, overhead-valve V8. A maximum output of 160 hp meant that 100 mph was within reach of most models, with comfortable cruising between 80 and 90.

This pristine Series 62 Coupe was sold new in Switzerland and was acquired by the present owner in September of 1999. Finished in two-tone grey with grey leather/blue cloth upholstery, the vehicle is described by the private vendor as in very good condition throughout.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1949 Cadillac Series 62 Coupe de Ville
Years Produced:1949
Number Produced:2,150
Original List Price:$3,496
SCM Valuation:$20,000-$25,000
Tune Up Cost:$200
Distributor Caps:$25
Chassis Number Location:right frame side member
Engine Number Location:right face of engine block
Club Info:Cadillac-LaSalle Club, P.O. Box 360835, Columbus, OH 43236
Alternatives:1949 Chrysler New Yorker Club Coupe, 1949 Lincoln Cosmopolitan
Investment Grade:C

This 1949 Cadillac Coupe de Ville sold for $43,261, including buyer’s premium, at the Bonhams auction held in Geneva, Switzerland, on March 8, 2004.

Motor Trend selected the 1949 Cadillac as the outstanding car of the year based on its new engine, a 331-ci, short-stroke, high-compression, overhead-valve V8 that was introduced that January. This new V8 replaced the rugged “battle tested” L-head that had served the country during World War II as the power source for the M-24 tank.

The OHV engine was a landmark achievement, as it was quieter, more powerful and lighter than even the new Oldsmobile V8 that was introduced at the same time. The Cadillac V8 is often referred to as the “Kettering” engine, although this is incorrect, as the motor Charles “Boss” Kettering developed was a much smaller 180-ci six-cylinder.

The styling for 1949 broke less ground, for the most part continuing the look of the previous years. The egg-crate grill, though slightly revised for ’49, had first appeared in 1941 and would continue for decades. The “Dagmar” bumper guards were part of a restyling for 1942. The famed P-38 tailfins first appeared in 1948, and the chassis was a carry-over from that year as well. The 1949 Coupe de Ville’s most distinctive design feature is that it was the industry’s first pillar-less hardtop design.

The value of 1941-1948 Series 62 Cadillacs took a nice bump when the Classic Car Club of America accepted them as “Full Classics” and made the cars eligible for their tours and meets. (Having a car that is accepted by the CCCA has a positive effect on value, as that means the car is formally recognized for having “fine design, high engineering standards, and superior workmanship.”) They quickly became the weapon of choice for many drivers on the group’s popular CARavans, due to the cars’ reliability and comfort.

Alas, the 1949 model pictured here does not qualify, as the upper cutoff for all CCCA Full Classics has been established at 1948. There is ongoing debate within the organization regarding extending that date, but at this time no change is imminent. And I hardly recommend buying up ’49 Caddies on spec, in the hope that if the CCCA does change its mind you’ll be sitting on a gold mine. A pile of ’49 de Villes doesn’t conjure up a very exciting image. In any event, in terms of this Coupe de Ville, the CCCA has little bearing on European owners.

I would have pegged this car in the $20,000-$25,000 range, assuming that there are no glaring issues-at least that’s what they’re going for in the U.S. Indeed, the pre-auction estimate in Switzerland was a reasonable $23,500-$31,500.

So how do we explain the $43,261 selling price? Call it the magic of the auction arena at work.

We can’t call this car rare, as 2,150 Coupe de Villes were produced in 1949. And though they are certainly scarcer in Europe, the winning bid would surely have paid for a trip over here to buy one, plus transportation back across the Atlantic. We are left somewhat in the dark as to the condition of the vehicle, with the catalog description stating that the owner claims the car is in “very good” condition, with no mention of recent restoration or mechanical work, which leaves a lot of wiggle room.

And while de Villes are certainly not Ferrari-like in their restoration costs, you can still drop $10,000 pretty quickly if you’ve got some bodywork and mechanicals to attend to.

In the U.S., this would have to be a “best-in-the-world” example, with a few concours trophies stuffed in the trunk, to bring this kind of bid. In fact, over here, for this kind of money, the buyer could have landed a convertible Cadillac of similar vintage.

Unless these Caddys have a unique following in Europe that we are unaware of (and if there is one I am going into the export business), the best explanation is likely the old story of two very interested bidders determined not to leave Geneva with an empty trailer. Which in the end is what auctions are supposed to do-create an atmosphere where two sellers become so caught up in owning a car that they just throw their price guides away and keep their paddles high. And my guess is that the premium that was paid here isn’t really going to dent the lifestyle of the new owner.-Carl Bomstead

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