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Although both the LaSalle and the V-16 were dropped, Cadillac
nonetheless offered a wide range of restyled models for 1941. An eggcrate
grille that would become a Cadillac trademark was new, as well as
Hydra-Matic automatic transmission. With good looks and solid
engineering, Cadillac was about to strengthen its hold on the luxury
In 1941, General Motors' prestige division proudly proclaimed that
"For thirty-nine years, Cadillac's manufacturing policy has remained one of
the few certain things in an uncertain world. The organization, at its
inception, decided to give its name only to the finest motor cars it was
possible to produce. That ideal has never changed. Today, as
always, the sole pre-occupation of Cadillac engineers and craftsmen is with
perfection. And Cadillac and Cadillac owners have thereby gained a rich
That quest for perfection, along with the breath of fresh air young
William L. "Bill" Mitchell gave Cadillac design in the late Thirties, helped
the marque emerge from the Depression with its reputation as the
"Standard of the World" finally intact. One of the most desired automobiles
on earth, buyers at the time would walk right by a Rolls-Royce or
Mercedes-Benz -- or a Packard -- if they could have a Cadillac instead.
Indeed, Cadillac boasted in 1941 that "In the field above two thousand
dollars, approximately two-thirds of all motorists make Cadillac their
Buyers knew that Cadillac was a solid, reliable, and beautiful car that
would arouse the envy of their neighbors -- and it was American in the
best sense of the word. One of the oldest of the Detroit marques, Cadillac
had continually asserted its leadership in engineering. Most notably, it had
won the Royal Automobile Club's Certificate of Performance in a closely
supervised test in 1908, demonstrating for the first time true automotive
parts interchangeability. And Cadillac was first with a mass-produced V-8,
this in 1915. These developments exhibited good old American ingenuity
and innovation at its best, and Americans were quick to appreciate the
sound quality that went into a Cadillac.
Later, Bill Mitchell's 1938 Cadillac Sixty Special set the
automotive world abuzz. It was such a surprisingly crisp and imaginative
design that it is a marvel to behold even today. Then Mitchell pulled
another rabbit out of the hat with his 1941 Sixty Special design, judged by
some as Cadillac's all-time best.
As the Forties dawned, however, it became clear that
consolidation was to be a major factor for Cadillac during the new decade.
And the attitude at Cadillac was decidedly forward-looking, causing the old
ways to be pushed aside -- side-mounted spares were last offered in 1940,
for example, and the convertible sedan would disappear a year later. More
to the point, both the V-16 and the LaSalle, Cadillac's "companion make,"
were eliminated after 1940.
Quite unfairly, the LaSalle had acquired the reputation of being a "cheap"
Cadillac. Actually, it was no more a cheap Cadillac than a Bentley was/is a
cheap Rolls-Royce. However, the LaSalle was a several-hundred-dollar step
down in price from Cadillac in the GM hierarchy. Cadillac therefore
compensated with a bottom-of-the-line Series Sixty-One for 1941. The
coupe started at just $105 above the least expensive '40 LaSalle, thus
filling LaSalle's rung in the GM "price ladder." Even though replaced,
thought was given several times over the following decades to revive the
LaSalle name. In the early Sixties, it was considered by Bill Mitchell for
what became the '63 Buick Riviera. The name was brought up again when
the design for the 1975 Seville, Cadillac's first "compact," was being
developed. Early clay models of both cars bore LaSalle badges.
The phasing out of the V-16, which in any event was selling in minuscule
numbers, allowed Cadillac to devote its full energies to the old "one
make-one engine" idea that had prevailed at the division prior to the
LaSalle's 1927 debut. The 346-cubic-inch V-8 thus became the
engine for all models through 1948. These moves didn't mean that luxury
was abandoned, however -- they simply meant that great changes were
afoot at the Cadillac Motor Car Division.
Even with the addition of the Series Sixty-One for 1941, the loss of the
Sixteens meant that the model count dropped from 39 in 1940 to 26 for '41
(although the number of series increased from five to six), and for 1946
Cadillac would further consolidate its range to 11 models in four series.
But in 1941, the lineup was confusing enough that Cadillac devoted
considerable space in its catalog to describe it.
The price-leader Series Sixty-One was touted as "one of the finest and
most powerful Cadillacs ever built -- yet . . . priced in the medium-price
range, and challenges small cars for economy. . . . [A]nyone who pays
above a thousand dollars for a car should plan on owning a Cadillac." The
six-model Series Sixty-Two was "the Cadillac version of popular 'Torpedo'
styling. Its cost is moderate and economy is remarkable." The Sixty-Three,
"available only as a Five-Passenger Touring Sedan -- is a completely new
and exclusive body design. With matchless beauty it combines unusual
economy. It is the 'Sixty Special' of its field." All of the above models
shared a 126-inch wheelbase. Riding a 139-inch span, the four Series
Sixty-Seven models were "built specifically for motorists who want
exceptional size and luxury without excessive cost." Sharing their body
shells with the Buick Limited, they seated five or seven passengers.
Two series were designated as Fleetwoods for 1941. The three-model
Fleetwood Sixty Special, on the 126-inch chassis, was "built especially for
those who seek appearance and performance distinct from those of any
other motor car. In design and engineering it is truly 'special' in every
sense of the word."
Finally, the eight Fleetwood Seventy-Five sedans, all
on a 136-inch wheelbase, had seating configurations for five, seven, or
nine. Further, they came with or without the glass "Imperial Division,"
which was electrically powered (also available on the Sixty Special and
Series Sixty-Seven). The Seventy-Five was also available on a
163-inch-wheelbase commercial chassis. Compared to 1940, the Series
Ninety (V-16) and Seventy-Two were gone, but the Series Sixty-One,
Sixty-Three, and Sixty-Seven were new.
The price range for the '41 Cadillacs was wide, but not nearly as expansive
as in 1940. For example, the '40 Sixteen seven-passenger Town Car had
listed at $7175, whereas the most expensive '41 was the Fleetwood Series
Seventy-Five Formal Sedan, a seven-seater, at $4045. On the other hand,
one could purchase the bottom-of-the-line Series Sixty-One Coupe for
$1345, just $63 more than a Buick Roadmaster coupe, but $340 less than
the cheapest '40 Cadillac.
The Sixty-One was no dog, either, boasting unique fastback styling that
was later copied by Bentley -- not to mention the copycats within GM and
at other American producers. Its design theme harked back to 1934-37,
when Cadillac had produced a limited number of high-priced fastbacks,
called Aero-Dynamic coupes. Due in part to the attractive fastback shape,
the standard Sixty-One coupe was the best selling model in the '41 Cadillac
lineup (11,812 units), while the standard four-door came in second
(10,925). It's hardly surprising, then, that fastbacks were continued through
the 1949 model year. By 1950, however, Cadillac decided that the hardtop
was the way to go, leaving the fastback a distinctive memory of the
May 12/00; March 8/03
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