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  • How Cadillac became "Cadillac"


  • I’ll have to go back to 1701 in what was known as “French North America.” A small party of men made their way upstream from Lake Erie. They stepped ashore on the west bank downstream from Lake Saint Clair. The officer commanding the detachment was a tall, handsome figure in thighboots, dark blue frock coat and red sash, white lace jabot and cuffs—his blue cocked hat and sword at his side, symbols of leadership and authority from a noble family. It was decided to build a stockade and establish a trading post and a permanent settlement where they were. It was to be called Ville d’Etroit. The name of the man who just established the site of what was to ultimately be called Detroit was Le Sieur Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac.

    Fast forward to February 16, 1843 near Barton, Vermont, when Zilpha, the wife of a farmer named Leander B. Leland, presented her husband with their sixth son. He was named Henry Martyn Leland. His Quaker parents taught him Christian ethics and a set of moral standards to guide him throughout life with an emphasis on practical Christianity—square dealing, kindness, and assistance to others. He also received patient instruction in everyday duties on the farm—the necessity for doing every job properly, no matter how small. Henry went to work at the age of 11 and began showing his aptitude for improving methods. He developed a way to peg soles that enabled him, as a schoolboy, to earn money comparable to adult pay levels. He later went to work at Colt (who had produced the first successful revolver) as a mechanic and made precision his passion. Then he went to work for another company called Brown and Sharpe, prosperous manufacturers of precision machinery where he enhanced his precision standards. They produced the first practical quantity produced hand micrometers with compensation for wear and accurate to one-thousandth of an inch in measurement. They advertised their tools as "The World’s Standard of Accuracy."

    Leland later began to think seriously about his own business and was attracted to the city of Detroit where he had a friend with a business selling machine tools. He met a wealthy man named Robert C. Faulconer and convinced him the city had a need for machine shops and they created the firm of Leland, Faulconer, and Norton in Detroit in 1890. Their main work was gear grinding and the design and building of special tools. Their business was booming with an emphasis on gear making. The bicycle boom swept the country at this time and Leland was asked to design and develop trouble free gears. The gears were accurate to a half thousandth of an inch and fully interchangeable. The company then went into motive power, both steam and internal combustion which was shortly to prove invaluable.

    Down the road in Lansing, Michigan, Ransom Eli Olds founded the Olds Gasoline Engine Works. While he and his father built gasoline engines for farm use, early Olds vehicles were steam powered. By this time, the gasoline vehicle idea was making headway, following the pioneering work of Daimler and Benz in Germany in the mid 1880’s. Back in America, Olds joined a group of American inventors in the early nineties and completed one of the pioneer gasoline automobiles in Michigan. In 1897, the Olds Motor Vehicle Company was established. They had a big problem with the gears in their transmissions trying to make them mesh not to mention the fact that they were intolerably noisy. Olds went to Leland and Faulconer (now called L and F), to make a quiet running transmission where the gears were precision ground and interchangeable from car to car without any hand fitting. In 1901, L and F was given a contract to make two thousand engines for Olds.

    There were 2 other brothers named Dodge that also supplied engines for Olds. The Dodge engine produced about 3.0 horsepower while the Leland engine produced about 3.7 horsepower. The Leland engine ran at higher speeds and had lower friction than the Dodge engine thanks to closer machining due to the higher craftsmanship (some things never change! ). Leland realized that his expertise could be of great use in the new industry. He had his team improve their original engine which now developed 10.25 horsepower. Leland presented his newly developed engine to Olds but they were selling so many cars that they didn’t have a need for a new engine, especially one that would increase cost and delay production. This was disappointing for Leland but it wouldn’t be long before his engine got some use.

    In August of 1902, two men came to see Leland about a company they were trying to liquidate. It had been organized three years previously and was named the Detroit Automobile Company. It had only produced a few cars but the company failed in 1900. It was revived and reorganized a year later with the chief mechanic now in charge. He renamed it after himself. It was called the Henry Ford Company but Ford left after 3 months when the company was failing again. The investors claimed that Ford only wanted to build race cars but Ford said the company was in too much of a hurry to make a profit and had no long term plans. The investors, now trying to just get out, asked Leland to appraise their automobile plant and equipment for sale. Leland agreed and went to look the factory over. This gave him a tremendous idea. He went and got his new engine and took it for his meeting. When he later met with the investors, he told them “I believe you are making a great mistake in going out of business. The automobile has a great future. I have brought you a motor which we worked out at L and F. It has three times the power of the Olds motor. Its parts are interchangeable, and I can make these motors for you at less cost than the others for the Olds works and it is not temperamental” (which was a problem back then). Impressed by the man before them, they voted to continue the business and gave him the leading role in the company which now needed a new name. The investors hoped that their new company would be the first successful automobile company in Detroit so what more appropriate title than the one the great French adventurer had first brought to that very spot some two hundred years before? It was dubbed the Cadillac and shortly afterward, the Cadillac family crest was adopted (the design was prepared using the celebrated many-quartered shield surmounted by a seven-piked coronet and garlanded with a laurel wreath) and registered as a trademark.

    Cadillac became the first American automobile manufacturer to win the coveted Dewar Trophy for the standardization of automobile parts. The Dewar trophy was instituted in 1904 to encourage technical progress. It was sponsored by a wealthy member of the British Parliament, Sir Thomas Dewar. It was awarded annually to the company making the most important advancement in the automotive field. From the beginning, Leland stressed the concept of parts interchangeability. “No special fitting of and kind is permitted,” he wrote in a factory manual. “Craftsmanship a Creed, Accuracy a Law.” In 1908, Leland became the first industrialist to employ the Johannson Gauges for checking the accuracy of his tooling. They were the creation of a Swedish-American toolmaker named Carl Johannson. These devices were extremely accurate blocks which measured tolerances down to two-millionths of an inch. The Royal Automobile Club of Britain became aware of Lelands boastings so they decided to test them. They selected 3 Cadillacs out of 8, dismantled them, mixed in spare parts for good measure, and then were re-assembled with no special fitting which was unheard of at that time. Most parts were hand fitted. Each of the cars started immediately and were then driven for 500 miles with no problems. Cadillac became the only company to win a second Dewar Trophy for its revolutionary Delco system of electric starting, lighting, and ignition developed by Leland and Charles F. Kettering of the Datyon Engineering Laboratories. The Delco system was a breakthrough and was the forerunner of the automobile electrical system as we know it today. It was also a breakthrough for woman since they could now start a car with a push a button instead of having to wind that heavy crank.

    Another important part of Cadillac history is when it first caught the attention of William Crapo Durant in 1908, the founder of General Motors. Durant was the man who first envisioned the “diversified product line” form of marketing, an idea which would make GM the industry’s dominant force in later years. He wanted to be able to offer someone their first automobile and as that person grew older and attained status in life, to be able to move that person through his automobile ranks ultimately achieving a new Cadillac. Durant started by buying Buick in 1904. It was a successful franchise that enabled him to acquire the Olds Motor Works in 1908. That same year, Durant’s desire for a high-quality product aimed at the price range just above Buick led him to offer Leland $3 million for Cadillac. Leland held out for $3.5 million and Durant declined. After more success at Cadillac, Durant tried again but Leland had upped the price to $4.125 million and then $4.5 million! Leland finally accepted and Durant actually paid in cash that he had earned from Buick. He invited Leland to stay on and run Cadillac until he finally left in 1917 when his control over Cadillac was waning. Leland later went on to found Cadillac’s biggest competitor—the Lincoln Motor Company!
    On January 2, 1915, a Cadillac ad appeared in the Saturday Evening Post that has become a classic. It was chosen one of the 100 greatest advertisements of all time. It was written by Theodore F. MacManus and is considered by some to be the greatest of all advertisements. There were no pictures or artwork—just text. It really makes you think. It is called “The Penalty of Leadership”

    In every field of human endeavor, he that is first must perpetually live in the white light of publicity. Whether the leadership be vested in a man or in a manufactured product, emulation and envy are ever at work. In art, in literature, in music, in industry, the reward and the punishment are always the same. The reward is widespread recognition; the punishment, fierce denial and detraction. When a man’s work becomes a target for the shafts of the envious few. If his work be merely mediocre, he will be left severely alone if he achieves a masterpiece, it will set a million tongues a-wagging. Jealousy alone does not protrude its forked tongue at the artist who produces a commonplace painting. Whatsoever you write, or paint, or play, or sing, or build, no one will strive to surpass, or to slander you, unless your work be stamped with the seal of genius. Long, long after a great work or a good work has been done, those who are disappointed or envious continue to cry out that it cannot be done. Spiteful little voices in the domain of art were raised against our own Whistler as a mountebank, long after the big world had acclaimed him its greatest artistic genius. Multitudes flocked to Bayreuth to worship at the musical shrine of Wagner, while the little group of those whom he had dethroned and displaced argued angrily that he was no musician at all. The little world continued to protest that Fulton could never build a steamboat, while the big world flocked to the river banks to see his oat steam by. The leader is assailed because he is a leader, and the effort to equal him is merely added proof of that leadership. Failing to equal or excel, the follower seeks to depreciate and to destroy—but only confirms once more the superiority of that which he strives to supplant. There is nothing new in this. It is as old as the world and as old as the human passions—envy, fear, greed, ambition and the desire to surpass. And it all avails nothing. If the leader truly leads, he remains—the leader. Master-poet, master-painter, master-workman, each in his turn is assailed, and each holds his laurels through the ages. That which is good or great makes itself known, no matter how loud the clamor of denial. That which deserves to live—lives.

    Excerpts were taken from: The Cadillac Century, Cadillac—Standard of Excellence, Cadillac—The Complete History

    Cadillac DeVille, Brougham, Fleetwood, Fleetwood Brougham, Sixty Special - An explanation

    Cadillac first began using the term "brougham" to represent their large, 4 door 5 or 7 passenger car back in 1916.

    The term "Fleetwood" comes from a custom coach builder named Fleetwood that became associated with Cadillac in 1927 when styling became very important (Cadillac with the first car company to have a car completely designed by a stylist named Harley Earl in 1927 with the introduction of the La Salle).

    Cadillac came out with a new line in 1936 called the Series 60 (previously they had Series 10, 20 30). In 1938, the Sixty Special Sedan was introduced.

    After the war in 1946, Cadillac began using the term "Series 60 Special Fleetwood." Also, "Fleetwood" began to designate Cadillacs top of the line cars, the "Series 75 Fleetwood."

    The new "pillar less" Coupe Deville was introduced in 1949. It was a 2 door convertible hardtop (I thought this was significant since Deville and Fleetwood were later so closely associated).

    The new exclusive "Sedan DeVille" joined the Coupe Deville in 1954.

    In 1958, Cadillac introduced the rare, top of the line Series 70 Fleetwood Eldorado Brougham with a hefty price tag of $13,074 (the average Cadillac cost around $5000!).

    In 1965, Cadillac for the most part dropped the "Series" designation. They had the entry Calais, the Deville line, the newly dubbed Fleetwood Sixty Special Brougham, Fleetwood Eldorado and the Fleetwood 75. The main distinction between the Deville and Fleetwood was the fact that the Devilles were "pillar less" (having no pillar between the front and rear windows) while the Fleetwood retained the pillar. The Deville also had small quarter window in the rear sail panel while the Fleetwood did not. Also, badging for the Fleetwoods contained the laurel wreath and crest while the Devilles usually had only the crest with the traditional "V" underneath it. The Fleetwoods were the ultimate in Cadillac luxury with more rear seat room than the Devilles (which came in a coupe and sedan form; the Fleetwood only came in 4 door form). Also, this was the last year the term "Fleetwood" was associated with "Eldorado."

    In 1977 when Cadillac downsized, the term "Sixty Special" was no longer used in the now "Fleetwood Brougham." The Deville and the Fleetwood were now the same dimensions with the Fleetwood still being the top of the line. There were still minor cosmetic differences one of them being the Devilles now had pillars.

    In 1981, Fleetwood introduced the "Fleetwood Brougham Coupe." The main difference between the Devilles and Fleetwoods was the use of the laurel wreath and crest for the Fleetwoods and the crest with the "V" for the Devilles. This continued through 1984.

    In 1985 with the introduction of the "Cadillac of Tomorrow" (the new, smaller front-wheel drive transverse mounted engines), there were now the Devilles (Coupe and Sedan [which now finally wore the laurel wreath and crest along with the Fleetwoods]), the Fleetwood (Coupe & Sedan) and the Fleetwood Brougham (which was still rear wheel drive).

    In 1986, "Fleetwood" became an option package for the Deville as well as a "Fleetwood d' Elegance" package.

    In 1987, the Fleetwood Brougham became simply the "Brougham." Only the "Fleetwood d' Elegance" package was now offered. The "Fleetwood Sixty Special" returned (FWD) with a five inch wheelbase extension and additional features not available on the other line.

    In 1993, the RWD Brougham was finally redesigned and now named the "Fleetwood." "Brougham" was also used as an upscale option for the Fleetwood. There was no longer a FWD version Fleetwood. There was the Deville (Coupe and Sedan [which incidentally would be the last year for the Coupe]) and now simply the "Sixty Special" sedan which were all FWD. The term "Sedan Deville" was still used until 1996 even though the "Coupe Deville" was dropped for 1994. It became simply the "Deville" in 1997.

    Of course, 1996 saw the ultimate demise of the RWD Fleetwood Brougham as well as the use of it's proud name(s).

    I'm sure somewhere in Cadillac's future, the names will undoubtedly appear somewhere.

    Cadillac Timeline

    1903 - Cadillac Model A Runabout with rack-and-pinion steering, variable intake-valve timing debuts at the New York Auto Show. Powered by a single-cylinder 10-horsepower engine, it traveled at over 30 miles per hour and got 25 miles per gallon.
  • 1905 - The Osceola was Cadillac's first concept car and featured the first fully-closed body. General Motors acquires Cadillac for $5,969,200.
  • 1908 - Cadillac becomes the "Standard of the World" and the first American automobile manufacturer to win the Dewar Trophy.
  • 1909 - Cadillac offers the world's first limousine.
  • 1912 - Cadillac offers the Delco Electric Self-Starter; becomes the first and only company to win the Dewar Trophy twice.
  • 1915 - Cadillac produced the first full-armored car; created the first mass-produced V8 engine - it was also the first engine to use thermostatically controlled water-cooling technology.
  • 1922 - With innovations like the standard windshield wiper and rearview mirror, demand intensified with production exceeding over 20,000.
  • 1924 - Cadillac pioneered the use of fast-drying Duco lacquer paints and offer over 500 color combinations while most competitors only offered black.
  • 1926 - Cadillac becomes the first automobile manufacturer to develop a comprehensive nationwide service policy.
  • 1930 - Cadillac produces the world's first V-type 16-cylinder engine for passenger cars. It was smooth, quiet and powerful with 160 horsepower from 452 cubic inches.
  • 1934 - Cadillac introduces the world's first independent front suspension on its entire line of automobiles.
  • 1937 - The Cadillac Lasalle V8 set a new speed and endurance record at the Indianapolis 500 with an average speed of 82 miles per hour.
  • 1938 - Cadillac introduces the first sunroofs in America: The Sunshine Turret Top
  • 1940 - Cadillac introduces the first fully automatic transmission: The Hydra-Matic transmission.
  • 1949 - The Cadillac Coupe DeVille introduced the world's first pillarless two-door hard top body style; Cadillac created their first overhead valve, high-compression V8 engine with 160 horsepower from 331 cubic inches.
  • 1953 - The Cadillac Eldorado, America's dream car for a record 23 years, was introduced with the industry's first wrap-around windshield, the first signal-seeking automotive radio, and the Autronic Eye - the first automatic headlight dimmer. Other innovations were leather upholstery and chrome wire wheels.
  • 1954 - Cadillac becomes the first auto manufacturer to offer power steering as standard equipment on its entire line of automobiles.
  • 1957 - The Eldorado Brougham introduced the first quad headlamps, six-way power seats with memory, automatic door locks, forged aluminum wheels and an air suspension.
  • 1964 - Cadillac debuted with the industry's first automatic climate control system: Comfort Control; Cadillac debuted an industry-first "Twilight Sentinel" system which automatically turned the headlights off and/or on at dusk/sunrise.
  • 1965 - Cadillac introduces automatic load leveling and tilt/telescopic steering wheels.
  • 1967 - The Cadillac Eldorado perfects front-wheel drive with a smoother, quiter ride than other luxury cars of its day.
  • 1969 - Cadillac introduces the industry's first closed cooling system, making overheated engines a thing of the past.
  • 1971 - Cadillac offers "Track Master", an advanced, computerized rear-wheel skid-control braking system as optional equipment.
  • 1974 - Cadillac pioneered the use of the air cushion restraint (air bag) system.
  • 1975 - Cadillac becomes the first U.S. auto manufacturer to install electronic fuel injection and introduces the catalytic converter.
  • 1978 - Cadillac becomes the first auto manufacturer to test digital computerization in cars.
  • 1987 - The Cadillac Allante becomes America's first automobile to compete in the ultra-luxury market. This two seater was designed and built in Italy by the renowned coach-building firm of Pininfarina.
  • 1988 - Cadillac is the first American luxury carmaker to implement a 24-hour, 365 day-a-year roadside service program.
  • 1990 - The Cadillac Allante becomes the first front-wheel drive vehicle with electronic traction control.
  • 1992 - Cadillac introduces the first 32-valve V8 engine (1993 model year): the Northstar
  • 1999 - Cadillac offers the first automotive application of thermal-imaging technology: Night Vision.

    Date Last Updated: March 25, 2020
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