In the 1930s, if you had the means, you could have custom coachbuilder Fleetwood fabricate a one-of-a-kind Cadillac just the way you like it. Well-heeled customers would peruse a build book to pick and choose the accoutrements they most liked. About 15 months later, their custom-bodied Cadillac would be delivered for their enjoyment.
In Fleetwood's 1934 build book were drawings for a stunningly classy dual-cowl Phaeton and a supremely gorgeous rumble-seat roadster. Both were to be built on Cadillac's V-16 chassis but neither were ever ordered. Even during the Great Depression it's hard to imagine how these two cars could have been passed over.
But in 1984, classic car restorer Fran Roxas took a 1930s Cadillac chassis with the 185-horsepower 452-cubic-inch overhead-valve V-16 and created the Phaeton and then the roadster a few years later. In February of this year, the Phaeton sold at auction for $962,500, the roadster for $1,001,000.
Both will be on display at Pebble Beach this weekend sitting next to the Ciel Convertible the two cars inspired.
"The Cadillac Phaeton 5859 and Roadster 5802 are literally unlike any other vehicle ever built," Clay Dean, Cadillac design director, said in a press release (see below). "The Cadillac design team is still inspired by these two vehicles as we dream and conceive of future Cadillac entries."
Hemmings thinks there might have been two reasons why these cars were never built. First, Fleetwood wouldn't have built them on spec due to the enormous expense. Instead, someone would have needed to order and pay for them in advance only to wait the 15 months for delivery. That brings up the second reason they may never have been built. No one wanted to pay the exorbitant amount of money just to take delivery of a car that was at least one model year behind their neighbors' new rides.
Rare, Historic Cadillacs on Display at Pebble Beach
Custom 'none-of-a-kind' Fleetwood V-16s from 1930s featured Aug.16-19
DETROIT – A pair of one-of-a-kind Cadillac Fleetwood V-16s that were available but never ordered by customers during the Great Depression will be among the cars on display at the annual Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance in Carmel, Calif., this week.
Cadillac's exhibit, open to the public Aug. 16-19 at Peter Hay Hill, features Cadillac's newest cars, along with the two custom-built Fleetwood Convertibles from 1934 and 1937. Each has a historically significant pedigree.
A 1934 rumbleseat roadster model 5802 and a 1937 Phaeton model 5859 were part of Cadillac's made-to-order Fleetwood collection, featured in the "build books" that customers used to select options for their cars. All other body styles were built for customers, but these two lavish models went unselected.
Decades later, noted automobile restorer and coachbuilder Fran Roxas built the Phaeton 5859 and Roadster 5802 from scratch, relying only on the original blueprints of Cadillac designer John Hampshire. Both have won best-in-class awards at the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance.
The two one-of-a-kind models were rarely seen until being profiled in a recent Hemmings Classic Car article.
Each recently sold at auction. The Phaeton 5859 sold for $962,500 and the Roadster 5802 for $1,001,000. Both vehicles are powered by Cadillac's legendary16-cylinder engine. Cadillac designers recently used the original drawings as inspiration for the Ciel Convertible concept car shown for the first time in the Cadillac exhibit at Peter Hay Hill in 2011. It will be on display again this week.
Held annually since 1950, the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance is a premier exhibition of pre- and post-war automobiles and motorcycles, as well as concept cars from manufacturers across the world. In order to be showcased, vehicles must be a well preserved or accurately restored model of the original and offer "historic value" in the form of engineering and design and craftsmanship among other factors from the vehicle's time period.
"The Cadillac Phaeton 5859 and Roadster 5802 are literally unlike any other vehicle ever built," said Clay Dean, Cadillac design director. "The Cadillac design team is still inspired by these two vehicles as we dream and conceive of future Cadillac entries."
Cadillac will also showcase a 1953 LeMans at this year's event. The LeMans, a relatively small and athletic design, is one of the famed Motorama show cars of the 1950s.
Cadillac has been a leading luxury auto brand since 1902. In recent years, Cadillac has engineered a historic renaissance led by artful engineering and advanced technology. More information on Cadillac can be found at media.cadillac.com.