The Cadillac Historical Collection, housed close to the GM Technical
Center in Warren, Michigan, features the most significant models produced by America's
leading luxury automaker. The models on display go back as far as the first Cadillac
production car, a 1903 Model A Runabout. Altogether, the collection includes about 50
models that bring to life Cadillac's history of technological innovations and styling
throughout the century.
In addition to production vehicles, the Cadillac Division's
Historical Collection includes concept cars, landmark engines such as the first
mass-produced V-8 engine, and memorabilia from the Clark Street facility in Detroit where
all Cadillac's were built from 1921 to 1987.
"This collection represents an important heritage for
Cadillac," said John F. Smith, Cadillac general manager and General Motors vice
president. "We take great pride in the style, technological sophistication and
craftsmanship found in these great Cadillac models of the past. At the same time, these
models are an Inspiration as we strive to create future vehicles that make people say,
'Wow,' when a Cadillac goes by."
Origins at Clark Street
The museum began to take shape in 1988 when a group of Cadillac employees,
sharing a passion for the company's history and sensing a need to preserve it, located
space on the third floor of the Clark Street manufacturing building.
After renovating the space and laying out display areas,
they set about locating cars and other items that were stored away in various areas
throughout the company. More recent models, which had been shrink-wrapped and crated in
anticipation of the museum's opening, were brought from storage.
The 1959 Cyclone concept car
Company-owned cars, engines, old displays and artifacts
began to appear from storage areas. Cadillac's 1959 Cyclone show car was retrieved from
the Sloan Museum in Flint, Mich.; the 1907 Model M Touring Car was found in the
engineering basement; and the prized 1931 Sport Phaeton, which had been donated to
Cadillac by the original owner in 1975, was retrieved from the Detroit Historical Museum.
After Cadillac moved its head-quarters and production out
of the Clark Street facility, a new home was sought for the Cadillac Historical
Collection. The collection was moved in September 1994 to a site in Warren.
Chronicle of achievement
The museum gradually grew from its initial nine models to its current size through
acquisitions and long-term loans from Cadillac employees and members of the
"Over the years, Cadillac has achieved a significant
number of technological and styling milestones," said Greg Wallace, curator of
historical services. "Our aim was to select cars from representative eras that
showcased these innovative features as well as Cadillac's growth.
Among the many models and displays that exemplify
Cadillac's engineering and styling legacy are the following:
1903 Model A Runabout -
The first production
model for Cadillac featured a one-cylinder, 10-horsepower engine. It was ahead of its time
in terms of dependability, power and ease of operation.
1905 Osceola -
This first concept car," named
in honor of the famous Seminole Indian chief, was built for Cadillac founder Henry Leland
to determine the feasibility of building a closed-body car. Among its features is a tilt
steering wheel. An Osceola type car was offered to the public in both single- and
four-cylinder models in 1906, and was advertised as "The Ideal Physician's Car - The
Ideal Shopping Car - The Ideal Opera Car."
1907 Model M Touring Car-In -
The days when
crank-starting a car was potentially dangerous, this model introduced an early safety
feature. A metal cover prevented an opera-tot from inserting the crank handle unless the
spark timing was adjusted to the start position, thus preventing backfires and the
resultant injuries to operators.
1907 Johansson Gauges -
Henry Leland imported the
Johansson gauges ("Jo-blocks") from Sweden to use in the Cadillac factory to
facilitate the manufacture of precise automobile components with standardized dimensions.
In 1908, this precise manufacture of interchangeable parts enabled Cadillac to become the
first American manufacturer to win the Dewar Trophy, awarded annually by the Royal
Automobile Club of London for the most significant automotive advancement. After winning
this prestigious award, Cadillac adopted the slogan, "Standard of the World."
1912 Model 30 - This was the first production car in
the world to be equipped with the Delco electric starting system, eliminating the crank
start and malting automobiles accessible to a wider range of drivers, especially women.
The electric starting-lighting-ignition system enabled Cadillac to become the first to win
a Dewar Trophy for the second time.
1915 V-8 Engine Display
- Cadillac was the first t6
offer a production car with a V-type, water-cooled, eight-cylinder engine in its 1915
model year. This 314-cubic-inch engine produced 77 horsepower, pushing Cadillac models of
the time to speeds upwards of 70 miles per hour. The engine featured an aluminum crankcase
and a non-detachable, one-piece head and cylinder.
1918 Type 57 Victoria Opera Coup -
This car featured
Cadillac's V-8 engine, an all-aluminum body, tiltaway steering wheel and innovative
high/low beam headlights actuated by mechanically shifting the positions of the reflectors
inside each headlight.
1927 LaSalle Convertible Coupe - This
"companion car" to more expensive Cadillac models was the first volume
production car ever designed by a stylist, breaking the tradition that the same person
responsible for mechanical engineering also did the styling. Harley Earl was commissioned
to do the LaSalle, ushering in a new era of automobile design. This initial LaSalle was so
successful that Earl was appointed to head up and organize the GM Art and
department, today known as the GM Design Center.
1931 V-16 Sport Phaeton -
This dual windshield car
featured the world's first V-type 16-cylinder engine for passenger-car use, first
introduced by Cadillac in 1930. The secondary windshield cranked up and down to adjust air
flow to the back seat.
1948 Sixty Special - The first new body style after
the second world war introduced tailfins, modeled after the Lockheed P-38 fighter plane.
Cadillac featured tailfins until 1964.
1949 Coupe Deville -
pillar less hardtop roof and
Cadillac's new high compression V-8 engine were introduced with this model, which earned Motor
Trend's first "Car of the Year" award.
The 1953 Le Mans concept car
1953 Eldorado Convertible -
The Eldorado was
introduced as a limited-edition car. It boasted Cadillac's first wraparound windshield,
and established the styling trend for GM for the rest of the decade.
1957 Eldorado Brougham - Designed to be a modern
technological showcase, the Brougham featured air suspension, air conditioning, power seat
with memory, automatic door locks, a self-opening and closing trunk, low-profile whitewall
tires, quad headlights, a brushed stainless-steel roof and a pillar-less four-door design.
1959 Eldorado Convertible -
The postwar tailfins,
also called rocket fins, reached their peak with 1959 Cadillac models. The fins began a
gradual decline in 1960 and reached a subdued form by 1964.
1967 Eldorado - Between 1953 and 1966, all Eldorados
were rear-wheel drive convertibles. This coupe, built on a completely new chassis, was the
first Cadillac with front-wheel-drive, establishing a trend that continues today.
1976 Eldorado Convertible - After holding out longer
than any other American manufacturer, Cadillac abandoned production of the convertible.
This is the last one to roll down the assembly line, one of the final 200 convertibles
which were designated as "Bicentennial" models-white with red and blue accent
1979 Seville - This was the last rear-wheel-drive
Seville. The internationally-sized Seville first debuted in 1975, and was more compact and
maneuverable and offered enhanced fuel economy.
1983 Seville - A radical new styling for the
Seville, including the "bustle back" exemplified by this model, was adopted in
1980 when the Seville became a front-wheel-drive car.
1993 Allante - The convertible
front-wheel-drive car was first introduced in 1987 and pioneered many Cadillac
innovations, including traction control and the Northstar System. The Allante's body was
designed and built by the Italian firm, Pininfarina, in Turin, Italy, and the bodies were
flown to Detroit on 747s for assembly of the power train and chassis. This was the last
Allante to come off the line.
Artifacts add scope
From the start of the Cadillac Historical Collection, employees have added
artifacts that add scope to the exhibit. A model of the 69-acre Clark Street site is on
display, as well as photos and memorabilia such as the employees' entrance sign from that
Also on display are concept vehicles, such as the 1959
Cyclone concept car and a 1988 STS concept vehicle, along with experimental engines that
were developed over the years.
One of the unique aspects about the collection
is that virtually all of Cadillac's build records going back to the first 1903 Cadillac
are housed at the museum. The build sheets-some of them entered by hand-indicate the
serial number, standard equipment, color, type of tires, factory options and shipping
destination of the Cadillacs that were produced. In some cases, even the original owner's
name is listed. This information, which is of particular interest to restorers, is
available to the public for a nominal charge.
This information was included in
a press kit provided by the Cadillac Division of General Motors Corporation.