Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index

Cadillac automobile

Cadillac is a brand of luxury automobile, part of the General Motors corporation since 1909, produced and mostly sold in the USA; outside of North America, they have not done well.

1941 Cadillac Series 62

In the United States, the name has become a synonym for "high quality", used in such phrases as "the Cadillac of lacrosse sticks".

Table of contents
1 Founding
2 Early Vehicles
3 General Motors
4 Postwar
5 Cadillac models
6 External Links


Cadillac was formed from the Henry Ford Company upon Henry Ford's departure. Ford's financial backers, William Murphy and Lemuel Bowen, with the intent of liquidating the firm's assets, called in engineer Henry Leland for the purpose of appraising the plant and equipment prior to selling them. Instead, Leland persuaded them to continue in the automobile business. Henry Ford's departure required a new name, and on August 22, 1902, the company reformed as the Cadillac Automobile Company.

Cadillac was named after the 18th century French explorer Antoine Laumet de La Mothe, sieur de Cadillac, founder of Detroit, Michigan. The city of Detroit celebrated the bicentennial of its founding the year before Cadillac debuted.

Early Vehicles

The first Cadillac car was completed on October 7, 1902 and the following January was shown at the New York Automobile Show, where it impressed the crowds enough to garner over two thousand firm orders. The Cadillac's biggest selling point was its refinement; it was simply a better made vehicle than its competition.

Cadillacs were sent to England, where they impressed, winning awards for reliability and build quality.

General Motors

Cadillac was purchased by the General Motors conglomerate in 1909.

Cadillac became General Motors' prestige division, devoted to the production of large, ostentatious luxury vehicles.

The Cadillac was the first gasoline internal combustion engine auto to incorporate electric self-starting (as opposed to earlier crank start), in 1911, utilizing the electric starter developed by Charles Kettering; other innovations pioneered by Cadillac included the first V-8 engine in mass production, in 1915; shatter-resistant safety glass in 1926; and the first fully synchronized transmission (with gears "locked" in relation to one another to prevent clashing upon execution of a shift) in 1928.

Pre-World War II Cadillacs were well-built, powerful, mass-produced luxury cars, aimed at an upper class market, below that of such ultra-exclusive marques such as Pierce-Arrow and Duesenberg for the extremely wealthy. In the 1930s, Cadillac added cars with 12- and 16-cylinder engines to their range, many of which were fitted with custom coach-built bodies; these engines were remarkable at the time for their ability to deliver a combination of high horsepower and silky smoothness and quiet when in proper tune.


Postwar Cadillacs, incorporating the ideas of General Motors styling chief Harley Earl, innovated many of the styling features that came to be synonymous with the classic (late 1940's-late 1950's) American automobile, including tailfins and wraparound windshields. Cadillac's first tailfins, inspired by the twin rudders of the Lockheed P-38 Lightning, appeared in 1948; the 1959 Cadillac was the epitome of the tailfin craze, with the largest tailfins of any production automobile. With its chromed, bulleted bumpers (the bullets were nicknamed "Mansfields" or "Dagmars", after their resemblance to the breasts of certain Hollywood starlets), chromium eggcrate grille, and general stylistic ostentation, the 1959 Cadillac was too extreme for most Cadillac buyers, and the excess was toned down in subsequent years.

Cadillac models

External Links