- The Washington Times - Friday, November 23, 2001

Beneath the engine hoods of most luxury cars of the late 1920s were in-line eight-cylinder engines, V-8 engines or the occasional V-12 cylinder engines.
Under a shroud of secrecy begun in 1926, Cadillac decided to leapfrog its competitors and create a V-16 engine.With the rest of the car designed to match the ultra-exclusive engine, Cadillac intended to unseat Packard's domination of the luxury car market.
For eleven years, more years than any other automaker, Cadillac produced the exquisite V-16 engines beginning with the 1930 model year.Unfortunately, the V-16 Cadillacs appeared only months after the stock market crash of 1929 plunged the nation into the Great Depression.
Still, there were those who could afford luxurly transportation.The V-16 was essentially a pair of straight eight engines sharing a common crankshaft. Each side of the engine had its separate fuel distribution and exhaust system.
The magnificent 452-cubic-inch overhead valve engine developed at least 165 horsepower. The V-16 didn't even resemble other engines. It was the first engine that had its appearance enhanced by an artistic stylist. Unsightly wires and hoses were concealed by handsome covers while the bulk of the V-16 was a masterpiece of porcelain, polished aluminum, stainless steel, chrome plating and gleaming enamel.
The V-16 Cadillacs were intended to be the epitome of the best offerings of the automotive world.
But wait! There's more!
Inspired by 'Madame X', a popular stage production of the era directed by Lionel Barrymore and starring the lovely Ruth Chatterton, an exclusive 'Madame X' V-16 model was created.
The limited production of either 312 or 324 (records vary) 'Madame X' Cadillacs were all either Series 452 and 452-A four-door sedan models. 'Madame X' Cadillacs were limited to top-of-the-line Fleetwood premium 4100 body series.
'Madame X' V-16 Cadillacs were usually identified by a flat, one-piece windshield supported by very thin, slightly raked windshield pillars with lines flowing smoothly into the beltline molding at the cowl.The four side windows were trimmed on all four sides with a thin line of chrome.
The unique 'Madame X' Cadillacs for years had intrigued Pete Sanders. In 1999 the McLean resident decided to find a 'Madame X' car.Most of the few survivors had been restored and were priced out of sight.
Mr. Sanders did locate a raw 1930 'Madame X' Cadillac in Kansas City, Kan., and bought it in June, 1999. It was an abused, yet elegantly proportioned close-coupled style 4161-S Club Sedan. Most importantly, the wood skeleton, upon which the body is formed, had been recently replaced.
"The five-passenger aluminum body was okay," Mr. Sanders says. The remainder of the car was steel and, as Mr. Sanders exclaims, "The rust was amazing."
"The car had been stripped before I got it," Mr. Sanders says."It was a junkyard car."
Records indicate the car originally was blue with black fenders and creme pinstriping and left the factory Aug. 14, 1930. It was shipped directly to Greenlease Cadillac in Kansas City.
Once the trucking company had delivered the car to his home, Mr. Sanders fired up the mighty 16-cylinder engine." I ran the engine 30 seconds at most," he says. That was long enough to envelope the neighborhood in smoke.
"That was depressing," Mr. Sanders recalls. However, he still wanted to get the restoration project going and set about rebuilding the V-16." If it came apart," he says of the thousands of pieces comprising the car, "it came apart."
The bulk of the restoration was accomplished at the hands of Mr. Sanders.
The entire project was completed in a remarkably brief 27 months.The engine consumed 18 months.He says the V-16 had never been bored and had the original pistons.
The left front corner of the frame was severly damaged, leading him to believe the wreck occurred early on and then the Cadillac had sat for years, rusting away in a junkyard.
Mr. Sanders carefully straightened the frame and cut out cancerous metal, replacing it with healthy steel.
"I primed and sanded it about 100 times," a patient Mr. Sanders says.The principal part of the body is dark green while the top and fenders are silver. All four doors open on three hinges at the rear of each door.
With the rebuilt V-16 engine once more healthy and producing 165-horsepower, Mr. Sanders gently lowered the massive engine until it was nestled in place behind the 17 thermostatically operated shutters on the large radiator.
Flanking the radiator are a pair of enormous headlight buckets, each one housing a lens 11 1/2 inches in diameter. Atop each front fender is a smaller parking light version of the headlights, each with a 3 1/2-inch diameter lens. Looking at the details of the front of the car Mr. Sanders comments, "This car was built when they still put some effort into them."
Attention to detail sets this car apart. Details such as running board courtesy lights, chrome-plated klaxon horns with eleven-inch trumpets, six ventilator doors on each side five on the engine hood and one on the cowl, and of course, two adjustments for the rear seat.
Mr. Sanders points out a unique ventilation feature on his 'Madame X' Cadillac, explaining that 70 or so years ago virtually everyone smoked tobacco products of some kind. Around the perimeter of the dome light above the rear seat is a slotted vent. By raising the windshield an inch or two with a hand crank the breeze wafting into the car would carry any smoke out through the ceiling vent and on out the rooftop vent atop the six-foot, one-inch tall car.
The tombstone-shaped rear window has a shade for privacy.
On the valance above the wood grained running boards are what appear to be a pair of compartments on each side. The front compartment on the left side holds the tire changing tools while the corresponding compartment on the right side houses the battery. The two rear compartment doors are false.
Above the 18-degree angled windshield is a green glass visor. The two wipers each have two controls. Below the windshield on the handsome dashboard is a pair of Carpathian elm wooden trim pieces. All of the dashboard is visible through the four-spoke steering wheel.
The front seat cushion is notched in the middle to accommodate the gear shift lever mounted on the floor.
Mr. Sanders is amazed that the mechanical brakes binding the 7.50x19-inch tires on the 56-spoke wheels can halt the three-ton Cadillac. The Bedford Famous Coach tires have white sidewalls on both sides.
Below the diminutive trunk is a 25-gallon gasoline tank.He estimates his fuel economyu at about four or five miles per gallon.
The restoration of the 18-foot, 2-inch-long 'Madame X' V-16 Cadillac was completed Oct. 8, 2001. Sitting in the driver's seat, gazing at the 120 mph speedometer, Mr. Sanders admits, "I haven't had it over 45 miles per hour, but it's smooth."
When driving the Cadillac he observes, "I feel confident and satisfied. It's dead steady."
Now that his 'Madame X' dream is fulfilled, Mr. Sanders advises anyone elso with an impossible dream, "You can't be concerned about dollars."
He adds that if a certain car is what will make you happy, "Money can never stand in the way."
'Madame X' makes him happy.

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide