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Excerpted from an auto show press kit distributed by the Division

Detroit -
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 Cadillac-LaSalle Club.

"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 Color 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 - The 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 stripes.

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 facility.

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.


Date Last Updated: March 25, 2020
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