Cadillac was born a Ford (Part I)

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Cadillac La Salle Convertible CoupŽ Series 303 von1927

Cadillac was born a Ford (Part I)

1903 Cadillac Model A Runabout

There is a unique story behind the Cadillac brand. In 1899 The Detroit Automobile Company was founded with a $15,000.00 investment by twelve investors that were put together by a auto mechanic named Henry Ford. In 1901 it was reorganized in The Henry Ford Company. Due to financial reasons and less than a year later, Henry Ford left the company along with many of his key personnel.

1910 Cadillac Model 30. W10HVCA001

After Ford had departed, a man named Henry Leland was called in by Ford’s past financial backers to appraise the plant and machinery in preparation for liquidation. Leland envisioned something completely different. He convinced the two financiers to keep the plant open and to resume manufacturing automobiles. Using Leland’s proven single-cylinder engine, a new company was formed and the Cadillac Automobile Company was established on 22 August 1902. They re-purposed the Henry Ford Company factory at Cass Street and Amsterdam Avenue and Cadillac was born.

Cadillac was named after Antoine Laumet de la Mothe, sieur de Cadillac (March 5, 1658 – October 16, 1730). Cadillac was a French explorer and adventurer and reined from Canada to Louisiana. He was actually the Governor of Louisiana from 1710 to 1716.

1907-08 Cadillac Model G – President Taft.

In an ironic twist and in the same manner, during the early 1920’s, but with a different set of circumstances, Henry Ford ended up with the Lincoln brand in much the same way Leland had turned the Ford into a Cadillac. As history has it, one must wonder whether Cadillac would exist if not for Henry Ford’s failure and whetherLincoln would exist if not for Henry Ford’s success.

1912 Cadillac Model Thirty Print Advertisement

The first Cadillac’s were completed in October 1902. They were two-seat horseless carriages powered by a 10 hp (7 kW) single cylinder engine. Some said they were identical to Ford’s 1903 Model A. Cadillac attended the New York Auto Show in January 1903. They impressed the crowds enough to sale over 2,000 cars. Cadillac marketed themselves as a better-made vehicle than their competitors and it worked.

The Cadillac Automobile Company merged with Leland & Faulconer Manufacturing, forming The Cadillac Motor Company in 1905. Then in 1909 Cadillac was purchased by General Motors and the brand began it’s journey in becoming one of the most prestigious cars of not only it’s time, but for over a century to come.

In 1915 Cadillac introduced a 90 degree flathead V8 with 70 horsepower that would attain 65 mph. At the time it was faster than most roads throughout the country could endure, which set a new standard in the automotive industry.

1927 Buick LaSalle. W27HV_BU001

In July 1917, the U.S. Army was in search of a dependable staff car and the Cadillac Type 55 Touring Model was chosen. The Cadillac was rigorously tested in the desert on the Mexican border and 2,350 of the cars were chosen for use in France for officers during the war.

Cadillac continued to position themselves as the luxury car to have well into the 1920’s and anyone who owned a Cadillac was portrayed in a league of their own. In 1926 Harley Earl was hired as a short term consultant, but his tenure actually lasted for over 30 years. Earl’s first project was the La Salle, named after French explorer and founder of Detroit, René Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, The La Salle was a huge success and Earl went on to set many new luxury standards. He re-designed Cadillac with designer-styled bodies, installed shatter resistant glass and in 1926 he introduced the “Turret Top”, which was the first all steel roof on a passenger car. Before 1926 tops were constructed out of fabric covered wood.

1928 Cadillac Town Sedan

In a day and time when auto design is focused on autonomous vehicles and future technology and exterior designs look much the same, 100 years ago Harley Earl was focused on unique exterior quality design and luxurious changes that would change the auto industry well into the future. As a car enthusiast, I cannot help but wonder if the future holds a common exterior look, wherein the true character design of the manufacturer evolves into a similar mold to meet industry needs of other engineering feats that do not warrant the unique exterior look.

Look for Part II Cadillac of the 1930’s tomorrow!

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