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452 Convertible Sedan by Murphy
In December 1929, weeks after the advent of the Great Depression, Cadillac President Lawrence P. Fisher announced that Cadillac would build the ultimate luxury car, and introduced it to the world in 1930 as the V-16. It was to be the first car with under hood design considerations. Styled by Owen Nacker, the polished black enamel contrasting with brushed aluminium accents on the valve covers, pleated fuel lines, a false firewall to conceal necessary wiring and plumbing from view, and ignition wiring hidden under covers accented by colourful cloisonné knobs. Cadillac produced V-16’s from 1930 to 1939, albeit in very small numbers.
The V16 (series 452 and 452-A) is one of the most desirable Caddies today for a number of reasons, but most of all because of the shape, style, and obvious quality.
Although full-custom bodies were built by Fleetwood, Murphy, Waterhouse, Saoutchik, Vanden Plas, Pininfarina, and others; most were "catalog customs" by Fleetwood. A few cars had Fisher bodies. Only about one fifth were open or convertible. Two-thirds were five or seven passenger sedans or Imperials. The rest were Coupes or Town Cars.
More than 50 body styles were offered, but the list consists of only a few basic shells with several variations each: metal or leather quarters, with or without quarter windows, fixed or collapsible (Landau) quarters, with or without Imperial division, straight or coach sill, plain or recessed hood/cowl, etc.
With few exceptions, the "41" styles had plain hood and straight sill, the "42" styles had plain hood and coach sill, and the "43" styles had recessed hood/cowl and straight sill.
Windshield treatment varied from vertical Vee to 22 degree
"Madame X" refers to a large 1884 "portrait by John Singer Sargent of a young socialite named Virginie Amélie Avegno Gautreau. She was an American expatriate who married a French banker. She became notorious in Parisian high society for her beauty and rumored infidelities." The painting was risqué for its time because of the plunging (i.e., revealing) neckline. The term as used on the Cadillac was applied to the "41" series bodies built in Detroit because it had an 18 degree flat, crank-up (V-V) windshield which "revealed" the occupants of the car. Possibly the term was used for this car because it was as big and bold as the painting of Madame X which was 2083mm tall and 1092mm wide.
It is unlikely that the Pennsylvania version with vertical Vee swing-out windshields were thought of as "Madame X" bodies. Job/style number 4276, being style 4476 with coach sill, also has a "Madame X" windshield.
Chrome plated window reveals were used on "41" bodies but were not unique to those styles. Although early body specs listed chrome plated reveals, July 1930 body specs listed painted reveals on "41" bodies. Painted window reveals on "Madame X" bodies are probably as rare as the "standard" rear-mounted spare tire.
In simplest terms, 1930-31 Fleetwood four door bodies with 18 degree windshield, mounted on Cadillac V-16 chassis are "Madame X"; and two Coupe body styles have the "Madame X" windshield.
Body details unique to the V-16 or introduced with the V-16 and seen on the full 1931 line include: Single bar bumpers, dual horns, and concave monogram bar, radiator screen. 330mm Guide "Tiltray" headlights, dual rear lights matching the headlights, triple moulding on dust shield panels of straight sill styles, five doors in the hood, single matching door in the side of the cowl, and none, one, or two rectangular vent doors in the top of the cowl. Most bodies with recessed hood/cowl had one triangular door in the top of the The new car attracted rave reviews from the press and huge public attention. Cadillac started production of the new car immediately. 1930 January production averaged a couple of cars per day, but was then ramped up to twenty-two cars per day. By April, 1,000 units had been built, and by June, 2,000 cars. These could be ordered with a wide variety of bodywork. The Fleetwood catalogue for the 1930 V-16 included 10 basic body styles; there was also an envelope containing some 30 additional designer's drawings. Research by the Cadillac-La Salle Club, Inc. puts at 70 the number of different job/style numbers built by Fisher and Fleetwood on the sixteen chassis.
After the peak in V-16 orders in mid-1930, production fell precipitously. During October 1930, only 54 cars were built. The lowest figures for the 452/452A cars of 1930–31 were August 1931 (seven units) and November 1931 (six units). Minimum production continued throughout the rest of the decade with a mere 50 units being built both in 1935 and in 1937. 1940 was only marginally better with a total of 51 units. Not surprisingly, Cadillac later estimated that they lost money on every single V-16 they sold.
The exterior design of the V-16 was not left behind though. Buyers could choose from a plethora of 54 bodies, with the most ornate and most expensive being part of the so-called 4100 series, a group of closed body styles distinguished by sporty 18-degree slanted windshields and narrow window pillars that were edged in chrome. Early on, the sobriquet “Madame X” was applied to the style, after a famous stage play of the era. It was a name never used by Cadillac, but has been enthusiastically adopted by enthusiasts.
Extra effort and expense went into a polished, plated, and enamelled. uncluttered engine compartment. Wiring was concealed and covers were used on engine and dash to hide plumbing and controls.
Twin coils were mounted in recesses in the radiator top tank. Spark plug wires came out the rear of the double deck distributor cap and disappeared under the cover inside the Vee. The narrow (45 degree) Vee allowed for outboard mounting of manifolds and dual carburettors. Intake pipes from higher in the engine compartment were added at engine number 702502 to eliminate the problem of road splash entering the carburettors. Fuel feed was by dual vacuum tanks operated by vacuum pump. By May, 1930, the chrome plated vacuum tanks were superseded by painted units. The dual exhaust system ended in fan-shaped tail pipe tips.
To silence the overhead valve system, hydraulically rotated eccentric bushings were used in the rocker arms. The early use of a different head thickness for various compression ratios was replaced by the use of a single head with gaskets of different thickness. Right and left heads and blocks were interchangeable. One row of head studs went through the block to the crankcase, the second row sealed in the block.
Engine lubrication was full pressure from oil pump on rear main bearing cap. At engine unit number 7-1038, the oil level indicator was moved from rear of right hand cylinder block to left side of crankcase. The belt driven fan was mounted on ball bearings, lubricated by grease fitting, not engine oil pressure. Crankshaft thrust was taken by centre main. A harmonic balancer was mounted on front end of crankshaft. A single chain to drive camshaft and generator was provided with automatic adjuster incorporated in an idler acting on the outside of the chain. A thermostat was used to close the crankcase ventilation intake at higher engine temperatures.
The double outlet water pump on the right side of the engine was driven by an extension shaft from the rear of the generator. A cooling system condenser tank was used once again.
The engine, transmission assembly was mounted at the four corners of the engine plus a dual mount at the rear of the transmission. The front mounts were supported by diagonal members in the frame.
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