Long before the advent of the muscle car, supercar and hypercar, certain cars were distinguished not only by their enormous cost and complexity, but also by their bodywork. Such cars, especially those from the roaring twenties and early 1930s – just as the Great Depression was beginning – are among the most enduring icons in automotive history. Parked next to their contemporary descendants, they tower over even the most substantial luxury nameplates. And their presence was no less easily ignored in the days when square Ford Model As were the most common landmarks on American roads.
On October 5 and 6, RM Sotheby’s will bring its 16th annual Hershey auction to the Fall Meeting of the Antique Automobile Club of America (AACA) Eastern Division in Hershey, Pennsylvania. with coachwork from Fleetwood, the Pennsylvania coachbuilder acquired by Fisher Body in 1925. The Fleetwood name has been associated with the most exclusive Cadillac models for decades.
Few classic era (1925 to 1948) cars have the panache and swagger of this Cadillac V-16 Sport Phaeton. An open touring car, a phaeton conveyed the essence of speed and performance and was built for true sportsmen. Unlike double-shaded phaetons with a separate windshield for the rear passengers, Fleetwood’s body style 4260 lacked the second screen to maintain a sleek, streamlined appearance.
Although Cadillac built 85 Sport Phaetons on its V-16 chassis between 1930 and 1931, historians acknowledge that only 17 authentic survivors remain today, one of which is preserved in the General Motors Heritage Collection. “The Sixteen,” as the Cadillac model with a V-16 powertrain became known, was equipped with the first V-16 engine built in the United States. The model was the brand’s premium offering, with a total of 4,076 units of all styles built from 1930 to 1940, although the Depression slowed production to a trickle shortly after launch.
In addition to the V-16, a “mere” V-12 had been built from the same year through 1937, of which 10,903 were made. The Sixteen had a large engine, a displacement of 7.4 liters and a power output of approximately 165 horsepower with 270 ft lbs of torque. On lighter models – a relative term, given that some Sixteens weighed more than three tons – the top speed could exceed 100 mph.
The original owner of this car was Perry Williams Harvey, a multi-millionaire from Cleveland, Ohio, who enjoyed his prize for only a short time, as it expired in 1932. The next two known owners were from California, the last being Joseph Runyan of Pasadena who bought the Caddy in 1952. Runyan paid $25 for the car, which was basically abandoned on the seller’s lot, and then began to “restore” his discovery for $2,500 – a considerable amount to pay for what was just an old used car at the time. car. The proud owner continued to pay attention to his Cadillac, which in the 1960s – along with other important pre-war brands such as Duesenberg – had risen to collector’s car status.
Another restoration began in 1990 and was completed in 1995. The car then entered Otis Chandler’s important collection and, after additional work, was shown later in the decade. After Chandler’s death in 2006, it passed to car publisher Keith Crain, sold in 2020 and has since gained additional attention before being shown at the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance in 2021.
The Cadillac Sixteen – and certainly this Sport Phaeton from Fleetwood – is considered one of the most important pre-war cars, rated by the Classic Car Club of America (CCCA) as a Full Classic, and could fetch more than $1 million.
Click here for more photos of the 1930 Cadillac V-16 Sport Phaeton.