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Sweet Sixteen: 1931

Sweet Sixteen: 1931

San Francisco circa 1931. "V-16 at Don Lee Cadillac agency." A sixteen-cylinder leviathan beached on the shoals of the Great Depression. One of these cars might cost as much as 10 Chevrolets. 5x7 glass negative by Chris Helin. View full size.


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All the goodies.

Not only a Caddy but dual side mounts, accessory fog lamps that turn with the front wheels, radiator stone guard and whitewalls both inside & outside the tire. Plus all that chrome that's oh so rare today.

It was priced at just over $1 per pound

Weighing in at 165 pounds shy of 3 tons, this Cadillac V-16 sedan would have had a factory sticker price of $5950. A well restored one now might run 30 times that amount or more. And sedans are at the bottom of the current 1931 Cadillac V-16 price scale. Dual cowl phaetons are at the high end.

Still there

The Cadillac dealership, one of many on San Francisco's Van Ness Avenue Auto Row has been converted into a multiplex that preserves the showroom's beauty.

Beached but far from Belly Up

Despite the dire economic situation prevailing during that decade, Cadillac managed to keep the V-16 in production until the 1940 model year, even redesigning the engine in the late '30s. Marmon, alas, was not so fortunate, and the Peerless V-16 was stillborn.

As a kid, I had the distributor cap from a deceased family member's '31 or '32 Caddy V-16. I used it for storing drafting pens, and it held a whole set very nicely.

Reflections on a Bumper

The photographer and his assistant, "Legs."

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