The story of the Cadillac V-16 is the saga of not one but two colossal engines. Cadillac V-16The irony of the story is that these two luxury car powerplants, among the most remarkable the world has ever produced, were spawned during the world’s most far-reaching and destructive economic collapse.

Of course, during the heady days of the Twenties, when speculators in the stock market gave no thought to “how high is up,” the concept of a 16-cylinder engine for the ultimate in luxury machines seemed quite rational. The millionaires of the bathtub gin decade seemed more than willing to exhibit their wealth, and there were lots of car companies, in the United States and abroad, that were perfectly willing to help them in the endeavor.

So it seemed just another step in the advancement of the luxury car to assemble a 16-cylinder engine. After all, if eight cylinders were good, then 16 cylinders must be twice as good. It was as effortless as adding eight plus eight.

Mammoth multi-cylinder engines were nothing new in the aircraft business. Spurred on by the momentum of the Great War, Ettore Bugatti designed a 16-cylinder engine for aircraft use in 1917.   Before the war’s end, Read more . . .

Hypothetically, the sequel is never as good as the original; and that is definitely true of the Continental Mark II. Continental Mark IIThe original Lincoln Continental, produced as a one-off by Bob Gregorie and his design staff for the personal use of Edsel Ford, was, with little argument, the best American auto design of the 1940’s. Mildly production-ized and sold as a series into the late Forties, it was a masterpiece. Ford Motor Company attempted  to re-create the same magic some 15 years later with the Mark II, but to re-create magic is a tougher task than the first time.Though the Mark II lacked the essential rightness of the original’s proportions, still,  it was a car to be reckoned with. By sheer presence, sheer mass, sheer price,  it was a vehicle that epitomized 1950’s America.

Simply like Lincoln, but not quite

If you are known by the company you keep, then the Mark II warrants high marks. A wide swath of the rich and famous in the 1950’s owned one, including Elvis Presley, Dwight Eisenhower, Nelson Rockefeller, Barry Goldwater,  Frank Sinatra, Louie Prima, Spike Jones,  Henry J. Kaiser, Howard Johnson and the Shah of Iran. Read more . . .

Many distinguished cars have gone out of production simply because they didn’t sell well enough. Check the long list of our “Greatest Cars,” and you will see many that fall into this category. But very few famous cars have gone out of production because they sold too well. 1939 La SalleOne of that very select number, though, is the topic of this profile. The LaSalle marque didn’t cease to exist because it faced year after year of deteriorating sales. No, the death of the LaSalle, strange as it sounds, was caused by its success.

Affordable luxury car: Instant win

As Desi Arnaz would say, Okay, I have some serious “splainin'” to do, so let’s start at the beginning, which for LaSalle was 1927, the same year that Lindbergh flew from New York to Paris. By the mid-Twenties it had become obvious that the General Motors strategy of offering a variety of  models from low-priced Chevrolet to premium-priced Cadillac was not just successful but, practically, a stroke of genius that would eventually lead to domination of the American market and make GM the world’s biggest automotive company. In fact, it was in 1927 that the GM onslaught finally influenced Henry Ford that he would have to build something other than the venerable Model T to stay in business. Read more . . .

It is fitting that the quintessential military vehicle of today, the HMMWV (or Humvee), and the quintessential military vehicle of all eras, the Jeep, should arise from the same origin. Hummer H1Further, those roots are planted intensely in the soil of solidly Midwest Indiana, where they can be traced back to 1903, when Standard Wheel Company, a Terre Haute bicycle manufacturer, decided to enter the infant automobile industry with the introduction of the Overland Runabout, its first motor vehicle.

Competing for military respect

While Overland is a well-known name to antique auto buffs, a household name became associated with the enterprise when John North Willys purchased it in 1908, the same year the Chicago Cubs Read more . . .

Sometimes even the perfect  ideas need a second chance, and so it was with the Chevrolet El Camino1959 Chevrolet El CaminoThe concept of a extremely styled, civilized pickup truck was definitely not new when the El Camino was introduced to the public in the 1959 model year, and it turned out that the ’59 Camino was more an artistic triumph than a commercial triumph, but that does not diminish the importance of the vehicle. After getting its second chance, it produced a line that would extend for 25 years.

Passenger Cars versus Trucks

Panel  trucks and pickups based on car platforms were relatively ordinary in the 1920s and 1930s. Since practically every vehicle on the road in those days used separate body-on-frame construction, it was a fairly uncomplicated task to build truck-like bodies and place them on car chassis.  Hudson,  Willys, and Studebaker were among the American manufacturers who offered car-based pickup trucks direct from the factory during those years, and panel truck and pickup  conversions of passenger cars done by aftermarket body-builders were far and wide available as well. Read more . . .