Cadillac has always stood for quality, superior craftsmanship, and innovation in the auto community. They have always been a leader in automotive innovation, including the electric starter, V8 engines, V16 engines, automatic transmissions, shatter resistant glass, and tail fins. Cadillac was the only American auto manufacturer during the great depression that made a profit.
Cadillac - the early years
Cadillac was actually a spin off of the Henry Ford Company, his second failed try at an auto business. In 1902 an engineer named Henry Leland was brought in by Ford's financial backers to access the value of the inventory, and Leland persuaded the financial backers to continue the business rather than liquidate it. In August 1902, the Cadillac Automobile Company was created, and Leland introduced the first Cadillac at the 1903 New York Auto Show, where it was a big hit. In that week, he sold over 2200 cars for $850 each, and Cadillac produced nearly 2500 cars in 1903, which was truly remarkable in that short time frame of when the company was founded. Leland used the body that Ford had designed when he was with the company, and combined it with an Oldsmobile engine. Ford started another company in 1903 that was finally successful, and he used his body that he built earlier, with his own engine. So the first Cadillac and first Ford models looked exactly alike. Only the engine was the main difference.
Cadillac started upscaling it's automobiles by 1905 by adding a four cylinder model, and in 1907 Cadillac started using Johanssen gauges to create precise measurements. This helped them win the Thomas Dewar Trophy in 1908, which was awarded to an auto manufacturer for leading the automobile industry in advancements. Interchangeable parts were what helped Cadillac earn this award. What was remarkable for this time is when three different Cadillac's were taken apart piece by piece, and the pieces all mixed together, then the three cars were rebuilt. All three cars drove away perfectly. Before this, cars were generally built one by one, and each car had their unique nuances, and many parts had to be tweaked or modified to work in each model. With precise engineering and measurements on parts, the parts could interchange on cars of that model with no problems.
GM was very interested in Cadillac, and in 1908 Durant, founder of GM, offered Leland 3 million dollars for Cadillac. GM lacked a high end model line, and GM wanted a product line for every type of car owner, from the basic to the high end, so they could sell a car to anyone. Leland held out for 3.5 million, and after having successful sales in 1909, Leland upped the price to 4.5 million. Durant accepted the offer, and paid in cash from profits he made from Buick (Durant also bought Olds Motor Works in 1908 with cash he earned from Buick). Durant kept Leland running Cadillac until 1917. Leland eventually created Lincoln Motor Works, which eventually became Cadillac’s biggest competitor.
1910 – 1920
Cadillac created the first car with a fully enclosed cab in 1910, the first of many “firsts” for Cadillac as an auto manufacturer. Cadillac had the first electric starter in 1912, and the first V8 in 1914.
1920 – 1930
1930 – 1940
The Great Depression hit auto manufacturers hard, but Cadillac was quite successful during this period. Cadillac was the only American auto manufacturer to make a profit during the Great Depression, and sales increased 1,000 percent from 1934 to 1940. Another first – Cadillac became the first automobile manufacturer to use the Phillips screw. Cadillac also developed some of the largest, yet smoothest engines of the time, V12’s and V16’s
The late 1940's and 1950's GM styling of tail fins and wrap around windshields were prevalent on Cadillac's. The tailfin design led to the vertical tail light scheme that is the classic Cadillac look found today. The tailfins first appeared in 1948, designed after the P-38 Lightning, a famed American warplane from World War II.