1930 Cadillac V-16 Convertible Berline by Saoutchik
- Cadillac’s extraordinary sixteen-cylinder tour de force
- Unique, rare, one-off Saoutchik coachwork with several special features
- Remarkable full-length sunroof
- Superb Fran Roxas restoration
- Multiple awards, including two class awards at Pebble Beach
In 1930, Cadillac stunned the fine-car market with the introduction of its breathtaking new sixteen-cylinder models. The cars instantly catapulted Cadillac, which until then had been a mid-priced car, to the head of the luxury class.
Designed by Owen Nacker, Cadillac’s V-16 was an engineering tour de force, incorporating several unique features. Its 45-degree cylinder bank angle and overhead-valve design kept the engine narrow, while the external manifolding provided good access. Cadillac’s V-16 was the first engine compartment to be styled, with all the wiring hidden and plenty of gleaming, polished aluminium, shining porcelain and a pair of beautiful valve covers with brushed aluminium ridged surfaces.
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.
This particular one-of-a-kind body was built with a unique sunroof which opens over the length of both the driver and passenger compartments, sliding down into the rear body as a roll-top desk does. A glass sunroof, which is over the passenger compartment in the closed position, aligns with the rear window in the open position, allowing full use of the window in either position!
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.
The car’s fittings are particularly elaborate. A full set of Stephen Grebel lights are fitted. Sold only to custom coachbuilders, these are extremely rare and very valuable by themselves. The upholstery and woodwork in the interior of the car is very elaborate, in keeping with the latest Paris fashions. A full set of instrumentation graces the rear compartment.
The car was sold new in mid-1930, complete with its Saoutchik coachwork replacing the original Cadillac body. At some point in the post-war period, the car was found having been abandoned for several years in a Paris garage. Not long afterwards, it was bought by French automobile dealer Johnny Thuysbaert. Repairs were carried out in 1964 by the Francis Workshops near Paris, following which it was featured in an article in the August issue of France's Auto Journal.
The next owner was M. Serge Pozzoli, former editor of France's Fanatique de l'Automobile, who stored it in a warehouse at Avenue Jean-Jaures in Paris, where it came to the attention of Hubert Le Gaillais, who subsequently bought the car and began showing it at various meets in and around Paris in the late '60s and '70s.
In the late 1980s, the car was returned to the United States, where it was completely restored to the highest standards by respected restorer Fran Roxas of Alsip, Illinois for Fred Weber of St. Louis, Missouri. During restoration, this remarkable body was removed from the Cadillac chassis on which it was originally built – a chassis that was initially bodied by Cadillac as a roadster. Roxas then put the Saoutchik body onto chassis 700979, another correct V-16 chassis, originally fitted with a Fleetwood four-door sedan body and complete with its original engine number 700979. It is interesting that this chassis was originally ordered new by C.F. “Boss” Kettering, the creator of the self starter, Delco, and a leading GM engineer who went on to develop the Parade of Progress, making it, in itself, an historically important car.
After the car was completed, it was purchased by Detroit-area real estate developer Bernie Glieberman, with noteworthy results. Major awards included a Class Award at Pebble Beach in 1991 and at Meadow Brook in 1995 where it won Best in Class and the Engineering in Excellence Trophy. The present owner acquired the automobile in January 2001.
In its current ownership, this outstanding V-16 has won awards at the Pebble Beach Concours, with yet another Class Award, and Amelia Island, where it received the trophy for Most Elegant Closed Car, as well as at Palos Verdes and Newport Beach. Recently in the care of noted restorers Alan Taylor and Mosier Restorations, the car benefited from both a cosmetic upgrade and a mechanical freshening in order to prepare the car for touring as well as show purposes.
Few V-16s were coachbuilt; this one-off design features many innovative elements, making it a truly unique automobile. With its no-expense-spared restoration and maintenance, it offers a truly unique opportunity, featuring the very best in American Classic Era, cutting-edge engineering with the most luxurious of European coachwork.
Please note that this car is eligible for import into the UK at 5% VAT.