When the 1938 Cadillac V-16 Series 90 Convertible Coupe first came out there were very few of them produced. Buyers who survived the depression may not have been in the market for the grandiose Cadillac V-16 with its 141-inch wheelbase and luxurious interior. Just ten Series 90 V-16 convertible coupes were produced in 1938. That works to its advantage in today’s collector car market where scarcity drives up the value. It is currently the most sought after of the 12 catalog custom designs available from Fleetwood that year.
The grand Cadillac you see pictured here was ordered new through the Scotts Smith Cadillac Company in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. According to the original General Motors build sheet, this chassis number 5270289 was fitted with an Imperial Limousine body.
Acquired in 1952 by Mr. James Kiser of Wisconsin, he and his family would keep the car for over half a century. Retaining its original engine and transmission—as well as its optional radio and aerial specified on the build sheet—the Limousine body was removed and an exacting restoration was done with a Convertible Coupe body from a Series 75. Virtually identical to the Series 90 body, the Series 75 body was fitted in the 1980s by Russell Jackson and it is understood that the car was subsequently featured in a contemporary issue of the Cadillac Club’s magazine, The Self Starter, detailing the careful work completed to exactingly recreate one of the ten original Series 90 Convertible Sedans.
It was not uncommon that a V-16 Cadillac had custom designed features back in the 1930’s. Young Harley Earl’s design team took advantage of the large chassis Cadillacs to design some of the most beautiful models of the pre-war era. More than 50 different designs were available during the ‘30s decade. Most of the bodies were “catalog customs” produced by Fleetwood.
In January of 1930, Cadillac was the first American automobile company to bring to market a magnificent V-16 motorcar. It would not be till ten months later that Marmon would offer a V-16 powered marque. Cadillac’s V-16 was the most talked about design in both the U.S. and in Europe. The big engine ran so smooth it was remarkable for its era.
Alas, Earl and his Art & Color Department at General Motors were working on these designs in the late 1920’s. Because of the 1929 Market Crash and the great depression which followed, the market for these beautiful Leviathons was not as big as it could have been if America was in its hayday. Even at that, Cadillac managed to sell 15,000 V-16 and V12 motorcars in that era. Records tell us the only 515 V-16 Cadillacs were produced as of end of production in 1940.
V-16 Cadillac engines were redesigned in 1938, and downsized to 431 ci and came with a flathead configuration instead of the overhead valve design of earlier V-16’s. Luckily this chassis number 5270289, being built as an Imperial Limousine, came with the earlier 452 ci 7.4 Liter, overhead valve motor. The engine was fed by dual Carter carburetors and was rated at 185 base horsepower at 3,800 rpm. The vintage vehicle sported a 3-speed manual transmission, independent coil spring front and semi-eliptical leaf springs in the rear. Bendix hydraulic drum brakes were on all four wheels.
Finished in Italian Cream over red leather, this nicely finished 1938 Cadillac V-16 Series 90 Convertible Coupe is a CCCA® Full Classic and would make an excellent tour and event car. Most of the car’s rich leather interior was redone and shows well. This last of the V16 Cadillacs possesses all of the luxury and refinement associated with its more exalted predecessor yet offers superior roadability. Today this rare model enjoys well deserved classic status.
It was featured in the Cars On Line newsletter this weekend. The vintage 1938 Cadillac V-16 Series 90 Convertible Coupe is being offered for sale by The Auto Collections in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Auto Collections is one of our favorite museums of automotive history. Because it is housed in the Linq Casino in downtown Las Vegas, right on the strip, it is a special treat which you must put on your bucket list. Be sure to follow this link to examine their presentation on this 1938 Cadillac V-16 Series 90 Convertible Coupe with important photos.