Cadillac 452A 4264B Town Brougham by Fleetwood

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452A 4264B Town Brougham by Fleetwood





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.

Of all the custom coachbuilders who built on Cadillac chassis, none is more closely linked to the marque than Fleetwood. While today the name is associated with the top model of Cadillac, in the past it represented the design and construction of bespoke bodies. Its origins go back nearly as far as the history of General Motors, which acquired Fleetwood more than three quarters of a century ago.

The Fleetwood Metal Body Company was formed in Fleetwood, Pennsylvania, and came into being in 1909. The company was not the result of an evolution of a carriage-building company, but rather, it was created specifically to build automobile bodies. Fleetwood was particularly known for quality interior woodwork.

In 1925 the Fisher brothers, who had sold out their body company to General Motors, bought Fleetwood outright. This gave Fleetwood capital to expand and modernize, and it gave GM a ready source for high-quality coachwork. Some work continued for non-GM customers, including many bodies for Chrysler. In 1930 the Fishers moved Fleetwood to Detroit and closed the Pennsylvania operations, relocating the construction operations to a former Fisher Body plant. From this time on, work was focused on GM, particularly Cadillac. Fleetwood’s president and chief designer had moved with them from Pennsylvania, and he provided continuity, even while also working with members of Harley Earl’s staff at GM’s Art and Colour Department. Cadillac promised delivery of their Fisher-Fleetwood catalogue customs within seven weeks, and while full-customs were also available, they took significantly longer to complete
unlike most builders of fine cars, Cadillac discouraged custom body builders, preferring to direct the business to Fleetwood, the company’s in-house coachbuilder. Only a very few chassis were made available for other builders, so most were forced to buy complete cars, remove the factory body and install their own designs. That, in fact, is what Saoutchik, the extravagant Parisian coachbuilder, did with this outstanding Cabriolet Berline design. Established in 1906, Saoutchik’s work was exceptional, respected for its workmanship and the quality of its fittings and finishes. The art and style of his work, frequently daring and outrageous, were patronised by the wealthiest of Parisians and exhibited at the world’s most exclusive concours events.

Although technically closed, the body’s clever design allows most of the advantages of both open and closed bodies. With the sunroof retracted, the centre pillars are removable, like a convertible sedan, creating an almost completely open body. And yet, by simply sliding the sunroof closed, installing the pillars and rolling up the windows, the car offers all the advantages of a closed body.

Production of the original V-16 continued under various model names through 1937. The body was redesigned in 1933 as the model 452C. Innovations included Fisher no draft individually controlled ventilation (I.C.V. or vent windows).

For 1934, the body was redesigned again and denoted as 452D, and as 452E in 1935. The V-16 now featured the Fisher Turret Top all-steel roof, though the cars were still built by Fleetwood. This same basic design would remain virtually unchanged through 1937. With a wheelbase of 154.0 inches (3,912 mm) and a curb weight of up to 6,600 pounds (3,000 kg) these are perhaps the largest standard production cars ever produced in the United States. Combined production for the 1934 and 1935 model years was 150. It was redesignated the Series 90 in 1936 as Cadillac reorganized their model names. Fifty-two units were sold that year, with nearly half ordered as limousines. Hydraulic brakes were added for 1937, the last year of production. Fifty vehicles were produced.

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