- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 5, 2012

Behind every successful man with a 1930 V-16 Cadillac there stands a woman.

Long before he was married to his wife, Barbara, Chris Cummings was busy being a teenager in Albuquerque, N.M. It was there that the mother of an eighth-grade classmate gave him his first ride in a Cadillac. He was impressed.

That ride sowed the seeds that lead to his 1930 V-16 Cadillac. Soon after that fateful ride, he bought a model kit of a relatively new Cadillac. His mother noticed the appeal the model had for her son and later surprised him with a V-16 model Cadillac from the 1930s. His fate was sealed.

As the years passed Mr. Cummings kept his eye on the availability and the going prices of V-16 Cadillacs whenever one of the elegant machines would come on the market. No matter how fast his income rose, the price of the Cadillacs seemed to rise faster, just out of reach.

In the summer of 2005, Mrs. Cummings, knowing of her husband’s long desire to own one of the multicylinder Cadillacs, applied to refinance their home and take some money out of the equity to get an old car. She was told it would take a few days.

In the meantime, Mr. Cummings, surfing the Internet, located a man in Wichita, Kan., who was selling a 1930 Cadillac V-16 five-passenger Imperial Sedan.

Negotiations ensued and a deal was agreed upon — if the money changed hands by July 29. Otherwise, the seller had two other prospective buyers who were ready to pay more for the car.

Anxiously, the Cummings waited for the refinance money to arrive. The day before the deadline, the money arrived and on the due date they transferred the cash to the Wichita seller.

Mr. Cummings could hardly believe that he was the owner of a car that he had yearned for most of his life and all because his wife had started the refinancing process when she did.

Rain started falling when the truck transporting the Cadillac arrived. Mr. Cummings rushed the car into the garage where he and his wife quickly dried it off. That brief period of dampness, he surmises, is as wet as the 76-year-old car has ever been.

Records that came with the well-documented car indicate that it has not yet been driven 7,200 miles, an average of less than 100 miles a year, and spent most of the past 76 years under cover.

Mr. Cummings says that his 18-foot, 6.5-inch-long Cadillac was shipped Dec. 5, 1930, to Prather Cadillac/LaSalle in Dallas. It wasn’t the last 1930 Cadillac but Mr. Cummings believes that it was the 22nd Cadillac from the end of the 1930 models.

The Cadillac’s history in the next 27 years is somewhat hazy but what is known is that it was sold in 1957 from the estate of a man in Brooklyn, N.Y. The new owner took the Cadillac to Southampton, Mass., in 1957 and kept it there until 1975 when it was sold to an owner who moved the car to Hinsdale, N.H., until 1990. The next owner took the car to Edmond, Okla., where it stayed until it was auctioned in June 1996 to the man in Wichita.

Totaling the mileage of all those moves, it is easy to see that Mr. Cummings‘ 1930 Cadillac has racked up more miles on the back of trucks than it has under its own power.

‘It’s basically a new car,’ Mr. Cummings concludes.

The elegant car is fitted with eight windows, the one-piece windshield being a VV model, the VV standing for Vision Ventilation. Not only was vision clear through the glass but the windshield could be raised with the twist of a handle to allow for ventilation.

Along each side of the lengthy engine hood are five small door that can be opened to let heated air escape from the engine compartment. A sixth, similar door in line but on the cowl, can be opened to permit cool air into the passenger compartment at ankle level.

Mr. Cummings learned that 10 quarts of oil keep his 452-cubic-inch V-16 engine lubricated so it can still develop 175 horsepower, which is capable, he says, of driving the 5,905-pound sedan up to at least 90 mph. The speedometer registers speeds up to 120 mph.

The power is transferred to the rear wheels through a three-speed transmission with synchromesh on the two higher gears. The enormous engine drinks, through a pair of updraft carburetors, from a 25-gallon gasoline tank at a rate of eight to 10 miles per gallon, Mr. Cummings estimates.

Bringing all this mass to a halt was a chore relegated to the brakes on the 148-inch wheelbase. ‘They are very advanced mechanical four-wheel brakes for its time,’ Mr. Cummings says.

Running boards with five rubber strips are illuminated by courtesy lights. Similar lights are on the ceiling and in the spacious rear compartment to light the way for passenger

The original build sheet indicates that the car left the factory with a Kelch heater with a floor register in the rear compartment only. It also was equipped with a radio, which is no longer there. Many of the early automobile radios produced only static and the owners had them removed.

Mr. Cummings points out that for the owner’s convenience, on the right rear of the front seat is a slot to hold an umbrella. Once settled in the comfortable rear seat, the owner could control his privacy by the use of the glass division window or any of the five window shades at his disposal. A clock is built in to the left rear armrest while an ashtray and lighter are in the right armrest. A rooftop vent surrounding the dome light is there to provide an outlet for cigar smoke.

When the chauffeur wasn’t guiding the floor-shift lever through the three forward gears, he was wrestling the shoulderwide, four-spoke wheel to steer the 7.50x19-inch tires. A pair of levers at the hub of the steering wheel control the headlights and the hand throttle.

The interior is original, Mr. Cummings says, as is most of the rest of the Cadillac. The fenders have been repainted, he says. Atop each front fender are mounted parking lights, small replicas of the gigantic headlights that are almost a foot in diameter.

There is no need to tell Mr. Cummings that he is blessedly fortunate; he is already aware of the fact.

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