- The Washington Times - Friday, October 19, 2001

There have been years when one automaker or another has excelled over all others. There also have been years thankfully few in number when no car company produced anything more than mediocre.

A few select years, however, stand out as exemplary because every auto manufacturer, top to bottom, produced superior vehicles. Years that are notable across the board include 1955 and 1941.

Of course, every 1932 automobile was outstanding, including Cadillac's V-12 rumble-seat convertible.

Cadillac built only 8,084 cars in the Depression year of 1932, the worst performance since 1918. V-8, V-12 and V-16 models were manufactured with the 368-cubic-inch engines, V-12 models accounting for 1,709 cars.

One of those 135-horsepower, V-12-powered Cadillacs was a 5,060-pound rumble-seat convertible that was sold new in Albany, N.Y. The green and gray Cadillac carried a base price of $3,645.

Extra-cost optional accessories include:

• Six wire wheels……..$150.00

• Auxiliary trunk………100.00

• Pilot Ray lights……….57.50

• Two-tone paint…………50.00

• Heron radiator cap……20.00

• Strap-on mirrors………16.00

The history of the Cadillac becomes fuzzy until the car reappeared, fully restored in the hands of a Chicago man. He offered to sell the now silver car with burgundy fenders at a Kruse auction in September 2000.

As gorgeous as the car was, it failed to attract the reserve bid, so the owner took it back home.

Disappointed, he then traced it to a New Hampshire manufacturer and distributor of heavy equipment. The Cadillac languished in New Hampshire for a year before it once again went on the market.

July 1, 2001 is when Jim George, a Haymarket, Va., farmer first learned the car was for sale.

Mr. George spent a lot of time on the telephone talking with the New England owner learning everything he could about the Cadillac. He even checked the numbers to ascertain if this was originally a V-8 that over the years had been transformed into a more valuable V-12. The pedigree of the car was unsullied. Finally, the two men agreed that a meeting was in order.

The Virginia farmer squeezed that meeting into the time window between the first and second cutting of hay on his farm.

With wife, Brenda, and son, James, the family trio motored north to Newton, N.H., to inspect the 1932 Cadillac.

There the George family first saw the dust-covered Cadillac resting on 7.50x17-inch tires supporting the car on a 134-inch wheelbase.

"It came to life and ran so smoothly, I was amazed," Mr. George said. "It drove so nicely," he recalls, that he asked his son to be "alert for any abnormalities."

With nothing out of the ordinary discovered, Mr. George arranged to have the Cadillac trucked home. It was picked up in New Hampshire on Aug. 12 and delivered in Virginia on Aug, 14.

Mr. George was pleased to receive his vehicle with the first real grille on any Cadillac with the last tombstone-style radiator.

The happy owner points out that his 1932 open car is the first Cadillac to feature styling that displays sweeping lines incorporating the running boards with the front fenders capped with parking lights.

As a design element, each chrome-plated unit housing the 9-inch Super Safe lens headlights, 7 1/2-inch lens Pilot Ray lights, 3 1/2-inch taillights is capped with a wind split as well as one on the gas cap.

Both of the side-mounted stainless steel wheels, each with 40 chrome spokes, are capped with leather strapped rearview mirrors. Each side of the long engine hood is adorned with half a dozen stainless steel ventilation doors. Beneath the engine hood is a pedestal on the fire wall on which is secured the de rigueur oil can.

Interesting touches on the Cadillac are the arrows on the hubs directing which way is on and which way is off.

Instrumentation on the nearly 70-year-old car is amazingly thorough. The five small gauges giving readings of fuel, amperes, temperature, oil pressure and ride regulation are clustered between the large clock on the left and speedometer on the right. Stacked vertically in the center of the dashboard are a cat's-eye lighter, map light, choke and ignition switch.

Seated comfortably behind the three-spoke steering wheel, Mr. George adjusts the seat by turning a hand crank protruding from the base of the seat near the floor. He then comments on the 120 mph speedometer, by speculating: "An optimist might expect 85 out of it."

The six polished aluminum fan blades and chrome-plated steering column add to the glitter that is the Cadillac. That is what attracted Mr. George to the car initially. "I like all the chrome and the V-12," he explains.

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