Restored 1 of 8 Fleetwood Series 90 Formal Sedan V16
For over 100 years Cadillac has been the standard by which many define the very best. And in the 30s, when the marque was at the top of the luxury car market, custom coaches like this magnificent 1939 V16 Formal Sedan rightfully earned their famous 'Standard of The World' tagline. Fully restored, and as smooth now as it was over 70 years ago, this defiantly massive seven seater is the absolute pinnacle of pre-war automotive luxury and engineering. It's one of only 134 1939 Cadillacs fitted with a V16, one of only 18 seven passenger 1939 Fleetwood bodies commissioned, and one of only eight Formal Sedans produced. If you're looking for a museum worthy show piece which provides a remarkable combination of power, high style with whisper quietness, your steel chariot awaits!
Pre-World War II Cadillacs were well-built, powerful, mass-produced luxury cars aimed at an upper class market which included highly visible stars from the golden age of Hollywood. As highly regarded competitors to the world's finest automobiles, they combined custom bodies from GM's in house Fleetwood Coach Division with some of the world's most innovative and powerful engines, to create an unmatched sense of style and grandeur. According to a listing of Series 90 survivors prepared in the early sixties by Cadillac LaSalle Club member, Bill Tite, this 1939 Formal Sedan was then owned by C.C. Grier of Seattle, Washington. After a little over 20 years off the radar, the car resurfaced around 1985 in Belleville, Illinois and was then offered for sale at a Kruse auction in 1990. Roughly 10 years later, in April of 2001, Classic Car Club of Americas number three bulletin listed the car for sale by Coast-to-Coast Classics of Lodi, California. And in May of 2007, Ms. Audrey Barnes, Kruse International Auction Coordinator, confirmed the accuracy of the VIN and body number and stated that the car had been listed in the Kruse catalog in error as a 'Town Sedan' instead of Cadillacs larger seven passenger Formal Sedan. Presently, it has spent the last few years here in Charlotte, North Carolina in the care of a loving collector who implemented a regular maintenance schedule and performed some mild cosmetic and mechanical restoration.
Styling for this prestigious Formal Sedan was cued from would be legendary GM designer Bill Mitchells 1938 Sixty Special, and assembly of its body was charged to the Fleetwood Coach Division with Cadillac keeping a watchful eye over quality. As it sits today, the car is completely rust free and appears to have spent most of its life in storage and private collections. The steel Fleetwood built body is absolutely rock solid in every way and displays exceptionally straight lines which are a fine representation of one of America's most glorious eras of motoring. The doors, windows and heavy hood all fit well and close with a solid thunk, and there isn't a wave to be found anywhere from the knife edged front fenders to the large rolled trunk. On top of those straight panels, a glossy and even coat of Maroon basecoat/clearcoat paint has been sanded and buffed to a mirror-like shine which would look right at home in vintage tinted 1930s photographs.
At the front of the car, an upscale looking barrel-shaped chrome grille holds a bright “V16” emblem and Cadillac shield below a gold 'reaching ahead' hood ornament which also serves as the car's hood latch. At the sides of the grille, pristine, still separate headlights sit level with streamlined, fender mounted turn signals above an elaborate “Cadillac” branded chrome bumper and finned grille guards. Behind those headlights, fully enclosed steel one-piece spare tire holders that are capped in stainless trim hold clear “V16” emblems above inverse chrome fender louvers which, along with body-color hood louvers, pay tribute to the 1933 V16. Behind those spare tires, chrome trimmed running boards parallel stainless trim which traces the cars high beltline above good looking chrome front and rear suicide handles. At the top of the car, body-matched drip rails and vent window visors sit above like-new glass that includes a classic split windshield which is trimmed in well-maintained stainless and cleared by bright stainless wipers. At the back of the car, a segmented and stainless trimmed rear window hangs above a chrome trimmed trunk which includes a centered “V16” emblem and chrome tag holder. And prominent rear fenders prop a chrome fuel filler and clear, streamlined tail lights above a second set of chrome louvers and a second show worthy, “Cadillac” branded chrome bumper.
At the time of this Formal Sedans production, Cadillac alone held the title of the all-time largest number of cylinders to power an automobile, and the introduction of a new sixteen-cylinder powerplant was both historical and revolutionary. As America's most powerful automobile engine in 1939, the 431 cubic inch L head Cadillac flathead V16 is also one of the most docile and quiet engines ever produced. Cadillac built V16s before 1939, but this generation is a monobloc design that is cast in a 135 degree V which is more economical to produce, requires fewer parts and features a 250 pound lighter weight. Power is on par with Cadillac's previous OHC mills, at 185 horses, and the engine supplies smooth and seemingly endless torque which propels this 5,350 pound car from 10 miles per hour all the way to top speed in high gear. Like Cadillac companion V-8 and V12, models the big engine features dual two barrel carburetors, as well as separate water pumps and distributors for each cylinder bank. In the pictures you can see those dual carburetors in their chrome housings towering over the green motor which fits snugly between the fenders, and is detailed in an array of stainless studs and stainless tubing. At the front of the engine, part of the cars upfitted modern 12 volt electric ignition system sits between black hood braces while a fresh V-belt spins a modern fan and correct generator behind a large radiator. At the back of the motor, a green canister style oil filter is attached to a completely finished Maroon firewall. And at the sides of the motor, the louvered hood panels are covered in even satin black paint.
This 1939 V16 Series 90 rides a lengthy 141 inch wheelbase, tips the scales at close to 5000 pounds and could be had in over a dozen body styles; so the car chassis had to be well-made and tough. Providing the smooth, floating ride is an independent front suspension and live rear axle with semi-elliptic leaf springs. Completely rebuilt during the cars restoration, this advanced (for the time) suspension still wears a nice coat of satin black paint. Behind the big engine, a 3-speed column shifted transmission sends power to a restored rear end, and at the corners of the car, power drum brakes provide quick, drama-free stops. Above all this hardware, the cars solid floors sport a nice even coat of flat black paint, and on the driver's side of the car, a traditional single pipe system makes use of a fresh factory replacement muffler to keep the engine quiet and well-tempered. The car is set into motion by new 7.50x16 Firestone Deluxe Champion whitewall tires that surround correct steel wheels which and correct dent-free “V16” branded chrome center caps. Fully sorted and ready to hit the road, this big cruiser would be right at home attracting attention at a parade or chauffeuring the family to a favorite dinner spot.
Open this Cadillac's doors and you'll find a highly accurate interior which is exceptionally roomy and still features a lot of ornate, original craftsmanship. All of the seating areas: the front bench, rear bench and trick, foldable jump seats have been restored and covered in an upscale beige fabric which looks great against the cars Maroon exterior. Below those seats, good looking brown carpet is protected by color coordinated beige floor mats, and above those seats, a brown headliner is stretched tightly from the wood framed front window to the wood framed rear window. At the front of the car, an original wood dash features a rebuilt clock, a rebuilt AM radio and rebuilt gauges behind glass faces which are a combination of original and one off hand-made replacements. And at the sides of the car, matching beige door panels sit below original chrome handles, original armrests and wood window frames with spectacular wood inlays. Behind the driver, a divider panel houses the folded up jump seats in front of an adjustable foot rest for the back passengers; and in front of the driver, an original banjo style steering wheel holds a gold Cadillac horn button which is wired to awesome sounding air horns. Since this Cadillac was originally envisioned as a chauffeur driven car, rear passengers are treated with a host of luxurious conveniences which include full armrests, complete original courtesy lighting, original chrome cigarette lighters and ash trays, and enough leg room for even 6 foot plus occupants to stretch out. Behind those passengers, the cars fully restored trunk holds both a vintage tool kit and a hidden fire extinguisher.
Documentation for this car includes restoration and maintenance receipts.
Exotic and stately this 16 cylinder Cadillac is truly among the best-of-the-best. From its excellent finish to its stellar interior and awesome history, this is a classic that's equally at home in a museum collection or on the open road.