Cadillac Motor Division produced, mostly by hand, only six of these in 1934, and this is the only known survivor of the massive two-passenger coupe that looked the Great Depression in the eye and didn’t blink.
This is Mike Ames’ first acquisition that stands today among his collection of remarkable classic cars from every decade of the last century. It remains his most celebrated, having won the 2002 Best in Class Trophy at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance – the flagship event considered the world’s premier celebration of the automobile.
Mike explains, as he gently draws his hand along the expanse of its stainless trim, the one-of-a-kind pedigree, “Powered by a 353-cubic-inch, V-8 engine delivering 120 horsepower, car industry styling and engineering took a giant leap toward streamlining shifting from the upright, carriage-based platform to smooth deco design, providing better aerodynamics, space utilization and mechanics without being jarring or strange.”
I’m always interested in how owners of the cars featured on these pages every month obtained their vehicles. While some of them are true “barn finds,” Mike discovered his in 2000 on the fifth floor of a downtown San Francisco parking garage, where it had been stored for several years.
“The only way down was a freight elevator that measured 20 feet deep,” Mike recalls. “The big coupe fit with only a couple of inches to spare, and the lowering mechanism creaked and groaned until safely landing at street level. “An outdoor inspection revealed an incredible find: old and dirty with serious age on the paint and chrome, but a perfectly straight example with everything intact – a survivor that had journeyed only 20,528 miles over its lifetime.”
Mike went to work in his garage to restore the masterpiece, a process that included repainting and a mechanical rebuild where required. All the interior fabrics, carpet, dash, and fitments are original. In addition to being recognized for its pristine originality by the Pebble Beach judges, the Classic Car Club of America made Mike’s Cadillac its National First Place winner by giving it a score of 99.75 points out of 100.
The overall length of the car is remarkable even by today’s standards. It’s nearly 19 feet, 6 inches long – some 15 inches longer than Mike’s modern Suburban used to tow it.
Another interesting feature is the set of front and rear streamlined “biplane” bumpers. While stylish, they lacked strength, and Cadillac didn’t use them again – something else that adds to the uniqueness of this model.
To emphasize Cadillac’s risk of producing this degree of luxury in those depression years, this car was sold new in Peoria, Il for almost $4,600 in 1934 – the equivalent of seven Chevrolet Master Coupes of the day.
Never shying away from the challenge in a struggling economy, Cadillac’s sales message as reported by oldcarsweekly.com, went like this: “Cadillac’s leadership through its affiliations with General Motors has been pioneering developments that have contributed most to the real progress of the automobile industry.
“In all Cadillac’s history, value has never been so evident and pronounced as in these new 1934 cars. At their new prices Cadillac offers the finest and most luxurious and modernized transportation. These new prices will open up broader markets for Cadillac.”
Mike’s expression today takes the description ever higher: “Owning this historic car makes me fortunate, indeed. To many observers this is an old car. It is more than that. It is a reflection of the times.
“It is a product of men with a passion for art and engineering. And it was created at a point in history before regulations and computers. It must have been a great personal reward for the designers to see the result of their work on the road.
“Big, bold, beautiful and brimming with the technology of the day, this car is a product of a marque with guts and standards. In fact, the standard of the world.”
Indeed. Like the headline says, soon to mark its 90th anniversary, this classic is as extraordinary now as it was then.