I caught up with Brady and Vickie Richard and their stunning 1931 LaSalle 345A at the recent gathering of a few members of the Classic Car Club of America hosted by Mike and Joy Ames on their expansive lawn in South Arlington.
For those not familiar with the CCCA, the organization consists of members who own a “Full Classic” – defined as a distinctive automobile built only between 1915 and 1948.
So, the Ames’ annual gathering of about 20 of these unique vehicles offers an opportunity to see some truly amazing and rare domestic and foreign-made automobiles.
Every year four or five members in attendance with recently acquired Classics arrive ahead of the audience to “debut” their cars. They are lined up, fully covered, in front of where everyone will be assembled so they can be rather dramatically revealed along with their stories that are always special.
These “debutantes” are the center pieces of the occasion, surrounded by the other cars brought by the other guests – some that have occupied center stage in previous years.
Brady explains his recent acquisition while remotely attending an auction when the LaSalle arrived on the platform: “It just looked too good, and I had to have it.”
It was a short and simple declaration, but it captured the essence of a pre-war General Motors vehicle without a familiar GM name.
Founded 94 years ago by GM’s then-chairman Alfred Sloan to fill a gap between the company’s Buicks and Cadillacs, LaSalles were produced until 1940. Named after French explorer René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, it was considered the second-most prestigious marque in the company’s portfolio.
Today, however, its standing in the world of collectors has brought an enhanced pedigree because of its rarity. There were only about 10,000 of the 1931 version like the Richards’ produced that year while GM was delivering some 620,000 Chevrolets and 139,000 Buicks occupying first and third place among all domestic cars built that year.
When the LaSalle was first introduced in 1927 it came with an evolutionary design created by GM’s 30-year veteran Harley Earl, who would eventually control all design and styling for the big company.
It’s interesting to realize this innovation in style was taking place while Henry Ford’s Model T had only slightly evolved since its introduction in 1910. GM’s approach was to make annual appearance and model name changes across all its brands.
With the introduction of the 1931 Series 345-A, the LaSalle’s V8 engine was upgraded and additional optional equipment was added. That included the Goddess hood ornament that you could get for an additional $20 to further compliment the trademark “LaS” badge cast into the horizontal tie bar between the front lights.
Conceptcarz.com summarizes the ’31 model with these details: “The 1931 LaSalle was offered as a single model – the 345-A Eight and was similar to the previous year’s 340 except they had a new oval instrument panel and a single bar bumper replaced the prior year’s double-bar setup. The 353 CID engine delivered approximately 95 horsepower at 3,000 RPM and was backed by a three-speed selective, synchromesh transmission with a twin-disc clutch and shaft drive.”
Wikipedia offers a view of a poster hanging in dealer showrooms promoting the LaSalle as a European theme with images that it was a worldly vehicle fashionable in all settings and places.
It also gained notoriety in the 1970s television series “All In The Family,” when Archie and Edith Bunker sing, “Gee, our old LaSalle ran great” in the opening theme song, “Those Were the Days.” And it is the car the character Marcus Brody drives when he visits Indiana Jones in the film “Raiders of the Lost Ark” in 1981.
With such a history, it’s easy to see why Brady Richard said he “had to have it” and now shares it with fellow CCCA members and the rest of us.