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1953-1955 and 1961-1966 Eldorado included; 1956-1960 Eldorado, 1967-1985 Fleetwood Eldorado, and 1976-1979 Seville are in separate sections (see links above).1948 | 1949
Cadillac: The Standard of the World. Long considered America's top luxury car, owning a Cadillac tells others that you've "made it." Made famous through starring roles in movies, literature, and by celebrity endorsements over the years. Cadillac is an American icon, as celebrated as baseball, hot dogs, and Elvis Presley, who is perhaps the most notable Cadillac enthusiast ever.
Join Automotive Mileposts as we journey into the world of high society, fine living, and Cadillac Motor Cars. During the period covered on this site, Cadillac symbolized the finest the United States of America had to offer, with customer loyalty almost unprecedented by any other make. During its long and proud history, Cadillac has represented engineering advances, styling trends, and marketing superiority that was the envy of many. We believe you will find that Cadillac's praise is well deserved.
There once was a man by the name of Henry Martyn Leland who hailed from Vermont. He was a tall, bearded man who had a keen interest for accuracy, as in thousandths-of-an-inch accuracy. In 1902, Leland was associated with a rather well known machine tool business in Detroit, and had built an engine that he had presented to Oldsmobile, which promptly turned it down. Not long after Oldsmobile's rejection, a group of business men approached Leland regarding the liquidation of a horseless carriage company they had decided to liquidate. They thought the machinery might be of interest to Leland, and wanted him to inspect it for them. Realizing a potential opportunity to expand into the automobile business, which was still very much a new concept at the time, Leland expressed interest and soon learned the company in question had a car, but no engine for that car. And Leland, of course, had an engine! The group of men got together on the hot Detroit afternoon of August 22, 1902 to organize a new company, and the first Cadillac was completed on October 17, 1902. And the rest, as they say, is history! And what a history it is.
In the beginning, the Cadillac Automobile Company wasn't recognized as a luxury brand. In fact, it was priced far less than the top prestige makes of the day, such as Packard, Pierce-Arrow, and Winton. And that was just fine with Henry Leland at the time. His focus was on quality, not quantity, and before long word got around that the Cadillac was a top quality car. Before long, demand increased and success was a reality. Due to Leland's focus on close manufacturing tolerances and the principle of parts interchangeability, Cadillac was awarded the Dewar Trophy in 1908, an honor that was highly coveted. This attracted even more attention to Cadillac, and in 1909 it became a part of General Motors, at the time a very ambitious task of Billy Durant's. Cadillac still retained its operational autonomy, however, and in 1910 placed the first volume order for closed bodies, which got Fisher Brothers off to a strong start. Another Dewar Trophy was awarded to Cadillac in 1912 for the self starter. The first mass-produced V-8 engine was introduced by Cadillac in 1914, which brought about a lot of criticism on the part of Cadillac's competitors. This resulted in one of the most famous advertisements ever created: "The Penalty of Leadership." By 1917, Leland left Cadillac to start another company by the name of Lincoln.
Cadillac continued to lead the way with new innovations and advancements during the 1920s, including the inherently-balanced engine design, synchromesh transmissions, safety glass, and improved road illumination. Automotive legend Lawrence P. Fisher guided Cadillac during this time, and his focus was on dominating the luxury car market. Fisher hired Harley J. Earl to direct the styling of the cars, and Earl's first assignment was the new LaSalle models, a lower-priced companion make for Cadillac introduced in 1927.
This was the Jazz Age, a time of exclusive Automobile Salons, and Cadillac was offering 50 different body styles in an incredible spectrum of 500 color combinations at the time! It all ended abruptly with the market crash of 1929, and the Depression that followed. Nevertheless, the automotive world was taken by surprise with Cadillac's introduction of its new V-16 and V-12 cars. Cadillac also acquired Fleetwood, which built custom and semi-custom bodies in small numbers exclusively for Cadillac. Had Cadillac not been a part of the huge General Motors Corporation at the time, it might not have survived the Depression, as the expensive luxury models were hit harder than any other.
Luxury car makers like Pierce-Arrow, Marmon, Peerless, and Duesenberg soon began to fail. The custom body business virtually ceased to exist. Packard was the top luxury make in the United States at this point, and came out with a less expensive One-Twenty. Cadillac responded in 1938 by introducing a second generation V-16 and William J. Mitchell's Sixty Special, which was like nothing else on the road at the time. As 1940 came to a close, the V-16 was gone, as was the LaSalle. For 1941, the Cadillac name was placed on what would have been the '41 LaSalle. The new Series 61 Cadillacs were very popular and resulted in a new production record of 66,130 cars—20,000 higher than the previous record, set in 1937.
By the time the second World War came around, Cadillac found itself building tanks. Cadillac had a 346 CID V-8 engine that was rock solid, and had proven itself over many miles. Mated with GM's Hydra-Matic automatic transmission, the power team proved to be a tough, trouble free power plant for armored vehicles. In 1946, after the war ended, civilian car production slowly began again and manufacturer's could sell anything they could build. The nation was starved for new cars. Cadillac's first new design came in 1948, when it shocked the automotive world with its new styling touch—fish tail fins in the rear! Cadillac followed that success in 1949 with a short stroke, high compression V-8 engine design that set the standard for the entire industry for decades. Cadillac also built its one millionth car in 1949, and introduced a beautiful new two door hardtop model called the Coupe deVille.
In 1950, Cadillac sales surpassed the 100,000 mark for the first time, and Packard was now faced with being the second most popular luxury make in the land. Cadillac's 50th Anniversary came in 1952, and the legendary Eldorado Convertible was introduced for 1953. New production and sales records continued throughout the fifties, as Cadillac introduced flashy new styling as well as its famous "dollar grin." The expensive Eldorado Brougham came along for 1957, which was meant to serve as a challenger to Ford Motor Company's Continental Mark II, but the Mark II program ended that same year.
The relatively modest fish tail fins that were introduced in 1948 blasted off to new heights in 1959, eventually becoming an icon of the fifties. They soon came back down to Earth, as if the '59 models finally shocked the designers back to their senses. Lincoln introduced a beautiful new Continental in 1961 with center-opening rear doors. The styling was elegant, and Cadillac responded with more styling restraint for 1963 and continued emphasis on engineering advances that kept it in front of the competition.
The personal luxury Fleetwood Eldorado was introduced in 1967, and as more and more customers were ordering their new cars loaded up with options and accessories, engine displacement continued to grow as well. The 390 cubic inch engine of 1959 grew to 429 cubic inches for 1964, then to 472 in 1968, then to an unheard of 500 cubic inches for 1970.
Cadillac introduced the first smaller American luxury car in the spring of 1975. The "international-sized" 1976 Seville was built to compete with the luxury imports which were beginning to gain popularity in the states. The last convertible built by an American manufacturer rolled off Cadillac's Clark Avenue assembly line in 1976, and Cadillac took the lead and down sized all of its cars in 1977, except for the Fleetwood Eldorado, which would follow in 1979. The 1977 Cadillacs were more efficient in every area: fuel economy, interior spaciousness, luggage room, and serviceability.
Automotive Mileposts plans to incorporate the Cadillacs from 1948-1976, with the possibility of adding additional years in the future. Cadillac has a long history of building quality motorcars that are state of the art in their engineering, and with trend-setting styling. Customer loyalty was second to none during this time, and was the envy of the industry. Cadillac's advertising stated for many years that it was the standard of the world. Those were more than clever marketing words, they were the truth. Cadillac has had some ups and downs over the years, but no other automotive brand was as highly acclaimed as Cadillac during the years of interest on this site. Cadillac was the automobile all other manufacturers strived to better, and despite their best efforts, usually failed in that task.
Cadillac—the Standard of the World.
Cadillac Mileposts Over the Years:
Cadillac built its one millionth car on Friday, November 25, 1949. It was a 1950 Coupe deVille model (see image at left). The gentlemen pictured are, left to right; John F. Gordon, General Manager; Don E. Ahrens, General Sales Manager; and C.A. Raftrey, Works Manager. The photograph was taken on December 1, 1949. The one millionth post-war car was built during the final week of May 1956, and it was an Eldorado Biarritz Convertible.
On February 7, 1958 a Cadillac Sedan deVille was completed and became the two millionth Cadillac to be built.
The three millionth Cadillac built was a 1965 Fleetwood Sixty Special Brougham. It rolled off the assembly line on November 4, 1964.
A 1969 Cadillac Coupe deVille, built on June 19, 1969 became the four millionth Cadillac built.
A 1973 Cadillac Sedan deVille became the five millionth Cadillac built when it was built on July 20, 1973. It was painted Antigua Blue Metallic and was equipped with an optional White vinyl roof. The interior was Dark Blue Medallion Cloth.
Cadillac's popular Seville became Caddy number 6,000,000 when one of its new 1977 models was celebrated at the factory on February 7, 1977 as it came off the assembly line. It was shipped to California, for delivery to a customer who had placed a special order for a new Seville. Little did the new owner know that they'd wind up with something even more special!
We have completed the basic information in the 1967-1976 Cadillac, 1976-1979 Seville, and 1967-1978 Eldorado sections. Additionally, there is a special page for the 1974-1976 Cadillac Fleetwood Talisman, as well as a page on the Air Cushion Restraint System (ACRS or "air bag"). (We constantly update and add new information as it is verified, so completed sections are never really completed.)
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