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Cadillac Motor Car Division
Type Division of GM
Founded August 22, 1902
Headquarters Warren, Michigan, USA[1]
Key people Henry M. Leland, founder
Henry Ford, original founder (Henry Ford Company)
Industry Automobiles
Products Luxury vehicles
Parent General Motors Company

Cadillac (pronounced /ˈkædɨlæk/, is a luxury vehicle marque owned by General Motors. Cadillac vehicles are sold in over 50 countries and territories, but mainly in North America.

Cadillac is currently the second oldest American automobile manufacturer behind Buick and among the oldest automobile brands in the world. Depending on how one chooses to measure, Cadillac is arguably older than Buick. Since GM has discontinued offering Oldsmobile, Buick has the distinction as the oldest American make.

Cadillac was born in 1902, at the dawn of the twentieth century. Its founder, Henry Leland, a master mechanic and entrepreneur, named the company after his ancestor, Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac, born Antoine Laumet, the founder of Detroit. It was purchased in 1909 by General Motors and within six years, Cadillac laid the foundation for the modern mass production of automobiles by demonstrating the complete interchangeability of its precision parts, also establishing itself as America's premier luxury car. This is also the inspiration for the company’s crest, which is based on a coat of arms "created" by Detroit's founder, around the time of his marriage in Quebec, in 1687 (there is no ancient "Cadillac" family or coat of arms in France). Cadillac pioneered many accessories in automobiles, including full electrical systems, the clashless manual transmission and the steel roof. The brand developed three engines, one of which (the V8 engine) set the standard for the American automotive industry. Cadillac is the first American car to win the prestigious Dewar Trophy from the Royal Automobile Club of England - having successfully demonstrated the interchangeability of its component parts during a reliability test in 1908; this spawned the firm's slogan "Standard of the World". It won that trophy a second time, in 1912, for incorporating electric starting and lighting in a production automobile.



1903 Cadillac

Cadillac was formed from the remnants of the Henry Ford Company when Henry Ford departed along with several of his key partners and the company was dissolved. With the intent of liquidating the firm's assets, Ford's financial backers William Murphy and Lemuel Bowen called in engineer Henry M. Leland of Leland & Faulconer Manufacturing Company to appraise the plant and equipment before selling them.

Instead, Leland persuaded them to continue the automobile business using Leland's proven single-cylinder engine. The company after Henry Ford left needed a new name, and on 22 August 1902 the company reformed as the Cadillac Automobile Company. Leland & Faulconer Manufacturing and the Cadillac Automobile Company merged in 1905.[2]

The Cadillac automobile was named after the 17th-century French explorer Antoine Laumet de la Mothe, Sieur de Cadillac, who founded Detroit in 1701.[3][4]

Contributions to the automotive industry

1921 Logo

From its earliest years Cadillac aimed for precision engineering and stylish luxury finish, causing its cars to be ranked amongst the finest in the US.[5] Utilization of interchangeable parts was an important innovation in 1908. Cadillac was the first volume manufacturer of a fully enclosed cab in 1910, and in 1912 was first to incorporate an electrical system enabling starting, ignition, and lighting.[5]

In 1915 it introduced a 90-degree flathead V8 engine with 70 horsepower (52 kW) at 2400 rpm and 180 foot-pounds force (240 N·m) of torque, allowing its cars to attain 65 miles per hour.[5] This was faster than most roads could accommodate at this time.[5] Cadillac pioneered the dual-plane V8 crankshaft in 1918.[5] In 1928 Cadillac introduced the first clashless Synchro-Mesh manual transmission, utilizing constant mesh gears.[5] In 1930 Cadillac implemented the first V-16 engine, with a 45-degree overhead valve, 452 cubic inches, and 165 horsepower (123 kW), one of the most powerful and quietest engines in the United States.[5] The development and introduction of the V8, V16 and V-12 helped to make Cadillac the "Standard of the World."[5]

A later model of the V8 engine, known as the overhead valve, set the standard for the entire American automotive industry in 1949.[5]

Body design

Cadillac introduced designer-styled bodywork (as opposed to auto-engineered) in 1927. It installed shatter-resistant glass in 1926. Cadillac also introduced the 'turret top', the first all-steel roof on a passenger car.[5] Previously, car roofs were constructed of fabric-covered wood.

Tailfins were added to body shape in 1948.[5] The Eldorado Brougham of 1957 offered a 'memory seat' function, allowing seat positions to be saved and recalled for different drivers. The first fully automatic heater/air conditioning system was introduced in 1964, allowing the driver to set a desired temperature to be maintained by 'climate control'. From the late 1960s, Cadillac offered a fiber-optic warning system to alert the driver to failed light bulbs. Driver airbags were offered on some Cadillac models from 1974 to 1976.

Early vehicles

1903 Cadillac Model A

1908 Cadillac Model S

1929 Cadillac

Their first car was completed in October 1902, the 10 hp (7 kW) Cadillac. It was practically identical to the 1903 Ford Model A. Many sources say the first car rolled out of the factory on October 17; in the book Henry Leland — Master of Precision, the date is October 20; another reliable source shows car number 3 to have been built on October 16. In any case, the new Cadillac was shown at the New York Auto Show the following January, where it impressed the crowds enough to gather over 2,000 firm orders. The Cadillac's biggest selling point was precision manufacturing, and therefore, reliability; it was simply a better-made vehicle than its competitors. Cadillac participated in an interchangeability test in the United Kingdom 1908, when it was awarded the Dewar Trophy for the most important advancement of the year in the automobile industry.

General Motors

Cadillac Hearse.jpg

Cadillac was purchased by the General Motors (GM) conglomerate in 1909. Cadillac became General Motors' prestige division, devoted to the production of large luxury vehicles. The Cadillac line was also GM's default marque for "commercial chassis" institutional vehicles, such as limousines, ambulances, hearses and funeral home flower cars, the last three of which were custom-built by aftermarket manufacturers. Cadillac does not produce any such vehicles in their factory.

In July 1917, the United States Army needed a dependable staff car and chose the Cadillac Type 55 Touring Model after exhaustive tests on the Mexican border. 2,350 of the cars were supplied for use in France by officers of the American Expeditionary Force during World War I.[6]

Pre-World War II Cadillacs were well-built, powerful, mass-produced luxury cars aimed at an upper class market. In the 1930s, Cadillac added cars with V12 and V16 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 power, silky smoothness and quietness.

Automobile stylist Harley Earl, whom Cadillac had recruited in 1926 and who was to head the new Art and Color section starting in January 1928, designed for 1927 a new, smaller "companion marque" car to the Cadillac which he called the La Salle, after another French explorer, René Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle. That marque remained in production until 1940.

The Great Depression

1940 Cadillac 90 Town Car

In 1932, after Cadillac suffered from record low sales and charges of discrimination against black customers, Alfred Sloan created a committee to consider the discontinuation of the Cadillac line. Cadillac managed to survive the Great Depression by being part of GM. By 1940 Cadillac sales had risen tenfold compared to 1934.

1934 brought about a revolution in assembly-line technology. Henry F. Phillips introduced the Phillips screw and driver to the market. He entered into talks with General Motors and convinced the Cadillac group that his new screws would speed assembly times and therefore increase profits. Cadillac was the first automaker to use the Phillips technology, which was widely adopted in 1940. For the first time in many years all cars built by the company shared the same basic engine and drivetrain in 1941.[7]


1948 Cadillac

Postwar Cadillacs, incorporating the ideas of General Motors styling chief Harley J. Earl, innovated many of the styling features that came to be synonymous with the classic (late-1940s and 1950s) American automobile, including tailfins, wraparound windshields, and extensive exterior and interior bright-work (chrome and polished stainless steel). Fledgling automotive magazine Motor Trend awarded its first "Car of the Year" to Cadillac in 1949; the company turned it down.[8] On 25 November 1949, Cadillac produced its one millionth car, a 1950 Coupe de Ville.[9] It also set a record for annual production of over 100,000 cars,[9] a record it repeated in 1950 and 1951.[10] Cadillac's first tailfins, inspired by the twin rudders of the Lockheed P-38 Lightning, appeared in 1948; the 1959 Cadillac, designed by Peter Hodak, was the epitome of the tailfin craze, with the most recognizable tailfins of any production automobile. From 1960 thru 1964, the fins decreased in size each year and disappeared with the 1965 model year (except for the 1965 series 75 chassis which was a carry over from 1964). The use of extensive bright-work on the exterior and interior also decreased each year after 1959 and accelerated with the 1966 model year when even the rear bumpers were no longer all chrome with large portions painted and the headlight bezels were painted.

Cadillac's other distinctive styling attribute was its front-bumper designs which became known as Dagmar bumpers or simply Dagmars. What had started out after the war as an artillery shell shaped bumper guard became an increasingly important part of Cadillac's complicated front grille and bumper assembly. As the 1950s wore on, the element was placed higher in the front-end design, negating their purpose as bumper guards. They also became more pronounced and were likened to the bosom of 1950s television personality Dagmar. In 1957 the bumpers gained black rubber tips which only heightened the relationship between the styling element and a stylized, exaggerated bumper design. For 1958 the element was toned down and then was completely absent from the 1959 models.

In 1966, Cadillac would mark up its best annual sales yet, over 192,000 units (142,190 of them de Villes),[11] an increase of more than 60%.[12] This was exceeded in 1968, when Cadillac topped 200,000 units for the first time.[13]

The launch of the front-wheel drive Eldorado in 1967 as a personal luxury coupe, with its simple, elegant design — a far cry from the tail-fin and chrome excesses of the 1950s — gave Cadillac a direct competitor for the Lincoln and Imperial, and in 1970, Cadillac sales topped Chrysler's for the first time.[14] The new 472 cu in (7.7 l) engine that debuted in the 1968 model year, designed for an ultimate capacity potential of 600 cu in (9.8 l), was increased to 500 cu in (8.2 l) for the 1970 Eldorado. It was adopted across the model range beginning in 1975.

1960 Cadillac

Low points, and recovery

The 1970s saw vehicles memorable for dimensions not seen since the 1960s, but not extremely so. The 1972 Fleetwood was some 1.7 in (43 mm) longer in wheelbase and 4 in (100 mm) overall, compared to the 1960 Series 75 Fleetwood, while the entry-level 1972 Calais was 2.4 in (61.0 mm) longer than the equivalent 1960 Series 62, on the same wheelbase.[15] Growth in weight and standard equipment demanded increases in engine displacement before the downsizing era set in later in the decade. Performance waned after peaking at 400 hp (298 kW) (gross) and 550 foot-pounds force (750 N·m) of torque in the first year and further declined in 1971 and later years due to reductions in compression ratios necessitated by the advent of low-octane unleaded fuel and increasingly stringent emission requirements. Despite record sales in 1973 and again in the late 1970s, Cadillac suffered from the malaise that set in to the American auto industry in the late 1970s to the late 1980s, partly driven by a failure to respond effectively to new government mandates on safety, emissions and fuel economy.

The Art and Science Era

Cadillac Converj

Cadillac has resisted the trend towards producing "retro" models such as the revived Ford Thunderbird or the VW New Beetle. It has instead pressed ahead with a new design philosophy for the 21st century called "art and science"[16] which it says "incorporates sharp, sheer forms and crisp edges — a form vocabulary that expresses bold, high-technology design and invokes the technology used to design it." This new design language spread from the original CTS across the line all the way up to the XLR roadster. Cadillac's model line-up mostly includes rear- and all-wheel-drive sedans, roadsters, crossovers and SUVs. The only exceptions are the front-wheel drive Cadillac BLS (which is not sold in North America)[17] and the Cadillac DTS. Many of these actively compete with respected high-end luxury cars produced by German and Japanese manufacturers. The flagship of these efforts is the second-generation CTS-V, which is a direct competitor to the vaunted BMW M5.( An automatic version of the CTS-V lapped the Nürburgring in 7:59.32, at the time a record for production sedans.[18]

Despite Cadillac's re-invention, little work has been done with the Cadillac brand torwards the end of the decade due to GM's bankruptcy. A range topper based on the Cadillac Sixteen had been cancelled along with the Northstar engine replacement. With the STS and DTS scheduled to end production, Cadillac would be left without a proper range topper. A small RWD sedan was in the works but reports suggested it would move to the Epsilon II platform and position below the CTS range. However, Cadillac did commence with the second generation SRX in 2009. The SRX is now based on the Theta Premium platform and is offered in either FWD or AWD.

Reports suggested the Escalade would move the Lambda platform in 2014 but it has since been revealed the Escalade will continue on its body-on-frame architecture with a redesign in 2013. A Lambda-based Cadillac will join the line to complement the next Escalade, which could possibly cost more than the current model. Cadillac showcased the XTS Platinum concept in 2010 and announced intentions to build the FWD/AWD sedan on the Super Epsilon platform. Also, in late 2009, GM announced the upcoming 3-Series competitor, the ATS, will go into production on the RWD/AWD Alpha platform in 2013. Reports have surfaced that GM had green lighted not only a Zeta based 7-Series competitor, but another Zeta based full-size based on the Sixteen concept. The reports suggest the latter will carry a price tag of as much as $125,000 and will be positioned as Cadillac's halo. It has also been revealed the next CTS, scheduled for 2013, will move to a long wheelbase version of the upcoming Alpha platform. It is expected to grow in size and price and lose its coupe and wagon options. With that said, this would leave Cadillac with a full range of vehicles by the mid 2010's.[19][20]

Impact on American Culture

Cadillac through the years has become an icon of American success and the American dream. Today that is no different with Cadillac introducing new models such as the CTS-V, which is the world's fastest production sedan and many other world class vehicles. From the 1950s with the iconic Cadillac Eldorado, Cadillac has reflected the American's brashness and absurdity in vehicle design. Many cars, like the CTS Coupe, feature designs usually only found in concept vehicles. Further reflecting American times and especially in the 1980s & 1990's Cadillac was regarded as sub-par compared to the likes of Mercedes, BMW, and Lexus. As American culture changed in the 21st century, Cadillac style and exterior design changed in what the company called art and science design. The Reflection of Cadillac's art and science can be seen in such concepts as the Sixteen and the Converj. The style can even be seen in such production vehicles such as the Cadillac CTS and 2010 Cadillac SRX.

Cadillacs in art and sculpture

Cadillac Ranch is a public art installation and sculpture in Amarillo, Texas, U.S. It was created in 1974 by Chip Lord, Hudson Marquez and Doug Michels, who were a part of the art group Ant Farm, and it consists of what were (when originally installed during 1974) either older running used or junk Cadillac automobiles, representing a number of evolutions of the car line (most notably the birth and death of the defining feature of early Cadillacs; the tail fin) from 1949 to 1963, half-buried nose-first in the ground, at an angle corresponding to that of the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt.[21] The piece is a statement about the paradoxical simultaneous American fascinations with both a "sense of place" — and roadside attractions, such as The Ranch itself — and the mobility and freedom of the automobile.
A tribute to the Cadillac Ranch was featured in the Walt Disney and Pixar film Cars. The fictional town of Radiator Springs sits at the edge of an area referenced on a map as the "Cadillac Range", and throughout the movie, rock formations shaped like the upended cars can be seen as a horizon backdrop. General Motors is eying to launch Cadillac in the Indian market soon, as per a statement given by a top company official "We are looking at introducing our premium brand, Cadillac over the next couple of years."


A 1911 Cadillac Advertisement - "Only the Good Endures" - Syracuse Post-Standard, January 31, 1911

A 1917 Cadillac Advertisement - "Style, Utility, Comfort" - Syracuse Herald, September 30, 1917

A 1919 Cadillac Advertisement - Phaeton, 4-passenger touring - Syracuse Herald, September 30, 1917

See also

  • Cadillac Northstar engine
  • Cadillac V8 engine
  • Cadillac V-Series
  • LaSalle, companion make to Cadillac, 1927–1940
  • List of car brands
  • Cadillacs & Dinosaurs
  • Dolan's Cadillac


Smallwikipedialogo.png This page uses some content from Wikipedia. The original article was at Cadillac. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with Tractor & Construction Plant Wiki, the text of Wikipedia is available under the Creative Commons by Attribution License and/or GNU Free Documentation License. Please check page history for when the original article was copied to Wikia

  1. "Cadillac Centennial Anniversary (brochure)".
  2. [1]”Cadillac: A Century of Excellence” by Rob Leicester Wagner (ISBN 978-1-58663-168-0)
  3. Timeline Biography at website
  4. Granzo T History of Detroit
  5. 5.00 5.01 5.02 5.03 5.04 5.05 5.06 5.07 5.08 5.09 5.10 Laam, Michael (January 2002). "100 Years of Cadillac History", Popular Mechanics. 
  6. Bentley, John The Old Car Book, Fawcett Books (1952) p 12
  7. Bonsall, p. 17
  8. Flory, J. "Kelly", Jr. American Cars 1946-1959 (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Coy, 2008), p.190.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Flory, p.255.
  10. Flory, p.323.
  11. Flory, J. "Kelly", Jr. American Cars 1960-1972 (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Coy, 2004), pp.423 & 425-8.
  12. Flory, p.423.
  13. Flory, p.570. Karl Ludvigsen's "Cadillac: The Great American Dream Come True", in Northey, Tom, ed. World of Automobiles (London: Orbis, 1974), Vol. 3, p.297, mistakenly dates this to 1967.
  14. Flory, p.721.
  15. Flory, pp.20, 23, 878, & 880.
  16. Robyn Meredith (November 12, 1999). "THE MEDIA BUSINESS: ADVERTISING; Cadillac is redesigning its image before its retooled cars appear." (The New York Times), Retrieved on 2010-06-28. 
  17. "2006 Cadillac BLS - Car News". Car and Driver. Retrieved on 2010-06-09.
  18. "Cadillac CTS-V Blisters the Ring in Under 8 Minutes". Retrieved on 2010-06-28.
  19. "Next-Gen Camaro, CTS to Join Small Cadillac ATS on New Rear-Drive Platform - Wide Open Throttle - Motor Trend Magazine". (2010-02-04). Retrieved on 2010-11-30.
  20. "GM Flexes Alpha Platform Options - Motor Trend Auto News". (2007-02-26). Retrieved on 2010-11-30.
  21. McBride, Jim. "American Monument to the Dream", Amarillo Globe-News. 


  • Bonsall, Thomas E. (2004). The Cadillac story: the postwar years. Stanford University Press. ISBN 978-0-8047-4942-8. 

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