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Sweet V-16: Cadillac’s most exotic engine

At a time when fours and sixes were the norm and V-8s were exclusive to luxury cars, powering a car with a 16-cylinder engine was as preposterous as doing so with a nuclear reactor. But in 1930, Cadillac introduced the world’s first V-16 to reinforce the meaning of its “Standard of the World” mantra. Competing engineers were astonished. Beyond its technical eminence, Cadillac’s new engine was stunning to behold.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.hagerty.com/articles-videos/articles/2019/06/11/sweet-sixteen-cadillac-v-16-engine

I had given up model car building for a few years when Mom bought me a 1/24 scale Cadillac model kit when I was 19. It was awkward, but I thanked her gracefully. It was Al Jolson’s V16 and I had a great time building it. Forty years later, I was walking through Harrah’s museum in Reno and there it was, right in front of me, exactly as I had built it, but much larger! It was like being in a dream.

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Art and engineering in a beautiful blend. Stirs the soul.

Magnificence and beauty wrapped into one. Cadillac was and still is the standard for American Classic elegance.

Doubtful some…I have had many Cadillacs and still have one, last of long wheel base DTS like new still; awesome comfort…but Cadillac needs the CIEL model to bring absolute elegance the way it is meant now…I.E …Cadillac needs to shock itself …and shock us with an Absolute Luxury the way it was destined to be …way back then…in order to bring the true meaning of CADILLAC.
COME ON GM…GO FOR IT!

Thanks for a great article!

GM could use another Harley Earl.

Good Lord! Such an age of such incredible automotive engineering AND beauty!

We probably all still mourn the passing of many of these classic marques — Packard ( in its glory days, ) in particular.

All those designers, in their respective artistic and mechanical genius, created not just an industry; but an evolution in engineering, esthetics and consumer appeal. I don’t believe that we’ve seen another period like this one in automotive history, nor will we.

Sure; almost everything that followed were huge technical advances, but back then, there were still remnants of coach-building ; from folks who had built coaches .

I once worked at the Carriage Museum in Stony Brook, NY; and saw, first-hand, how incredible the craftsmanship was in building these. It comes as no surprise that well into the 20th Century, we still saw the label “coachwork…”

I once owned, simultaneously, three Cadillacs: a 1970 Coupe deVille, a 1967 Coupe deVille convertible, and a 1957 Sedan deVille. They were all magnificent motorcars, ( a word that itself seems to confer reverence. )

The history of Cadillac, ( named for the discoverer of Detroit; itself meaning Strait between rivers: Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac. Yeah I know, it reminds some of us of “Pierre Francois de la Brioski”, from that great Honeymooners episode… ) is one of incredible innovations.

Did you know that the “Self Starter”, ( the electric starter motor, ) was pioneered by Cadillac because a friend of Henry M. Leland was actually killed when a manual/crank starter backfired and the crank struck him in the jaw? See -

For so many decades, Cadillac truly was the “Standard of the World”: elegance, comfort, beauty and power.

I shudder for what they now most represent: among the largest and most hideous of eco-disaster SUVs; themselves all a tremendous blight upon the Earth. Oh well; as go popular vehicle sales, so goes humanity…

I recently participated in the CCCA Colonial Region’s Spring Tour where a participant brought a 1930 V-16 Cadillac. What a majestic automobile!! The V-16 is amazing especially given the time in automotive history.

To explain this to those who don’t appreciate the significance and elegance it could be said that the V-16 represents a time and place that will likely never be repeated.