In 1902, Henry Leland founded what has become the most successful luxury car brand in American history–Cadillac. While fine cars from Packard, Duesenberg, Pierce Arrow, Auburn, Imperial, and others have come and gone, General Motors’ flagship continues to produce world-class cars to this day.
This weekend, the 2010 Cadillac & LaSalle Club Grand National event, hosted by the Cadillac Club of Kansas City, was held in Overland Park, Kan., and some of the finest examples of this storied nameplate gathered at the Doubletree Hotel for an extraordinarily impressive display.
Because there were too many beautiful cars to do justice in just one slideshow, we’re splitting this article into two parts to give you as many pictures as we can.
For this part, we’ll look at Cadillacs built before 1961. This break-off point was chosen because 1960 was basically the last year of the excessive, chrome-drenched models stereotypical of early Cadillacs. By ’61, there was much less chrome, the famous fins shrunk quickly, then disappeared, and public tastes became more restrained.
1910 Cadillac was one of the oldest on display. Author photo
There’s really nothing like an old Cadillac. General Motors built a lot of memorable cars over the years. Oldsmobile built some nice cars. Buicks featured sensible quality. Corvettes had sort of a sporty exotic quality to them. But Cadillac was the undisputed king. The interiors. The chrome. The over-the-top styling. The details. Cadillac simply built the most indulgent eye candy on the planet.
As this era wore on, much of the credit for this styling direction went to GM’s legendary head of the Art and Colour Department, Harley Earl. Earl understood that Cadillac was an aspirational vehicle. You were really somebody when you arrived in a Cadillac, and the car was meant to convey that. It was also a time of “planned obsolescence.” Each year, cars were changed significantly enough that the previous year looked outdated. If you wanted to have the latest and the greatest, and what Cadillac owner didn’t, you needed to trade up each year
The show featured cars from every Cadillac era. Cadillacs of the teens were huge, vault-like beasts. If the Ford Model T comes to mind when you think of cars from this time period, you can barely prepare yourself for how much different a Cadillac really was. And when you see them with Concours-quality restorations like the ones at this event, you really get a feel for how special they were.
Throughout the 1930s, Cadillac continued to up the ante. Despite their mass-produced origins, they had more precision, more chrome, more quality. Cadillacs were available with V12 engines. They were available with V16 engines. When they said they were “The Standard of the World,” they meant it–no one could touch Cadillac.
For most of the auto industry, the war-torn 1940s were a time of muted designs. Drab colors, scratchy broadcloth interiors, and limited ornamentation were the order of the day. But not with Cadillac. Brightly colored leather seats, real wood accents, massive chrome grills, and bright, flashy accessories separated Cadillac from other brands on the market.
The 1950’s were Cadillac’s high-water mark. Iconic designs, unapologetic fins, and acres of gleaming chrome send Cadillac’s reputation into the stratosphere. If Cadillac wanted a special design, they did it. Money was not an issue. Creativity was not an issue. Nothing could stop them. What an incredible time for the flagship vehicle of the most prosperous company in the world.
ALSO SEE PART 2: CADILLACS FROM 1961 AND NEWER AT THIS LINK
CLICK ON THE SLIDESHOW BELOW TO SEE MORE PHOTOS OF CADILLACS, 1960 AND OLDER, FROM THE 2010 CADILLAC GRAND NATIONAL CONVENTION IN OVERLAND PARK.
FOLLOW ME ON TWITTER!
DON’T FORGET TO HIT THE “SUBSCRIBE” BUTTON ABOVE THIS ARTICLE FOR THE LATEST UPDATES!