Cadillac is synonymous with American luxury cars, and that’s because General Motors started building that reputation for the brand around the time the auto industry was taking off. In the 1920s, Cadillac was already the most important manufacturer of luxury cars in America. And they were known not only for luxury, but also for strength. Cadillac was the first car company to offer mass-produced V8 engines on its cars. But that wasn’t enough for the company, and in the late 1920s it wanted to make a car with the smoothest, most powerful engine yet.
After development began in 1926, the fruits of that labor finally came in 1930 with the Cadillac V-16. In hindsight, a few months after the stock market crash of 1929 might not have been the best time for Cadillac to introduce their most expensive and exclusive vehicle to date. But despite the impending onset of the Great Depression, the introduction of the V-16 was a huge success for Cadillac, as the car caused quite a stir. During the 10-year production run, 4,076 V-16s were made, which doesn’t sound very impressive on paper, but that’s the way of these hyper-expensive luxury models.
Ultimately, however, the Great Depression and the onset of World War II caused sales to drop rapidly, as it was not a good time to make mass purchases such as top-quality luxury cars, even for the wealthy. Therefore, the V-16 was discontinued in 1940. Despite its unfortunate timing, the V-16 is widely regarded as one of the greatest cars of the interwar period.
The Cadillac V-16 was the first production car ever with a V16 engine. Here’s what those sixteen cylinders will cost you almost a century later.
1930 Cadillac V-16 Specifications
The central feature of the Cadillac V-16 is in its name. The V-16 is a massive car, it has a 141-inch wheelbase longer than many large SUVs today, and weighs just two and a half tons. With such mass, Cadillac’s existing V8 engine wasn’t enough to power it. Cadillac considered a number of options to bolster its existing engine, such as superchargers and enlarging the cylinders.
But in the end, these options were rejected and they opted for the simplest solution: adding more cylinders. The result is a 7.4 liter naturally aspirated V16 engine, one of only three V16 engines ever fitted to a production car by the automotive industry. The result of all those cylinders is 185 horsepower and a top speed of 153 miles per hour. Which of course sounds rather disappointing after all that, but in 1930 those were pretty impressive numbers. The drivetrain is also typical of the time, with rear-wheel drive and a three-speed manual transmission.
The 1930 Cadillac V-16 has a modified body and interior
The Cadillac V-16 pioneered in more ways than just engine choice. Prior to their introduction, luxury cars were commonly built and sold as a bare chassis and engine. The customer would then take the chassis to a specialized bodybuilder to fit it with a body and interior to their own specifications. For the V-16, Cadillac wanted to sell the whole package.
The V-16 was still sold with custom bodies to customer specifications, but Cadillac worked with two GM bodybuilders, Fisher Body and Fleetwood Metal Body. That way, the whole process could be streamlined and kept under the auspices (and profits) of General Motors, though it was still possible to order the V-16 the old-fashioned way if the customer insisted.
The Cost of the 1930 Cadillac V-16 Today
The V-16 was Cadillac’s top model at a time when Cadillac was a lot more exclusive than it is today. The result was a price that matched the scale of his engine. In 1930, the V-16 had a list price of $5,350, which translates to $90,891 in today’s money. And that was just the base price, with the amount of customization available on the V-16 due to its custom nature, prices can easily exceed that amount.
Today, of course, the V-16 is a rare collector’s item, which is why prices have skyrocketed in the nearly century since the car was first launched. The average cost of a Cadillac V-16 today, according to Classic.com, is $333,579. Of course, what you actually pay will depend a lot on the condition of the particular vehicle, and V-16s in pristine condition can cost much, much more than that. In 2019, one V-16 was sold for 1.2 million dollars!