Henry M. Leland was one of America’s great automotive pioneers. As an engineer and partner in Leland & Faulconer, he was an early proponent of standardized parts, and was instrumental in the development the single-cylinder “Little Hercules” engine. He soon became an expert in turning around struggling firms and with the encouragement of investors, he built his first car company from the ruins of the failed Henry Ford Company. After ousting the management and reorganizing the assets, the firm was renamed “Cadillac Automobile Company” and he set to work developing a new range of motorcars. Leland made enemies with Henry Ford in the process, but he would quickly establish Cadillac as a leader in innovation, mechanical sophistication and luxurious quality. That spirit continued under the auspices of General Motors after it took over in 1909. From the earliest days of single-cylinder Cadillacs, the company was renowned for their exceptional build quality and elegant style. Cadillac was proudly placed them at the pinnacle of the GM product line where it remains to this day.
Cadillac was riding a wave of success going into the 1930s. A wise decision to include a “junior” brand (LaSalle) kept the company afloat as the economy faltered. They entered the decade with a heady confidence that spawned the incredible V16 and V12. Aside from the volume leader LaSalle, Cadillac’s mainstay for the 1930s was the 355 series; an 8-cylinder model manufactured between 1931 and 1935. As typical, it was available in variety of standard catalog body styles that ranged from a formal limousine to a sporting 2 door roadster, mostly supplied by GM’s favored coachbuilders at Fleetwood and Fisher. Cadillac’s model naming system usually coincided with the engine size, but that changed in 1931 as the 355-A carried over the Series 353’s 5.8 liter, 353 cubic inch V8 L-head engine. However, much was new for 1931 including a redesigned frame and restyled lower and wider bodies. Output was a full 95 horsepower, which was plenty enough to give the big Cadillac very respectable performance for its day. Even in the face of the Great Depression, Cadillac enjoyed strong sales, with more than 10,000 examples of the 355-A built for ’31.
This lovely 1931 Cadillac 355-A has been part of two very prominent collections for many years. It wears body style number 4502, the 2/4 passenger Roadster by Fleetwood, considered the most sporting offering in the catalog for 1931. The body rides atop the standard 134” wheelbase chassis, which imparts the car with graceful proportions. This car has been treated to a high quality restoration that, while older, remains very attractive inside and out. It is finished in a tri-tone color scheme with the main body finished in off-white contrasted by burgundy fenders and swage lines, with brighter red wheels, frame and coach stripes. This former CCCA National First Prize winner wears a very high quality restoration that has aged quite well. Since its show days, it has been enjoyed carefully, mellowing slightly into a very attractive and pleasing car that would be a wonderful companion for touring. Paintwork remains in very good order throughout, and the chrome plating on the numerous accessories is outstanding. Numerous options include dual side-mount spare wheels, dual steerable Pilot-Ray driving lamps, radiator stone guard and goddess mascot. Other fittings include a chrome trunk rack, cowl-mounted search light and wind wings. It rides on a set of whitewall Firestone tires mounted on beautiful wire wheels that feature body color rims and hubs with polished stainless spokes. Throughout the car, the detailing and finish work impart a sense of quality, showing this car was restored properly and has been very well preserved since.
Inside, red leather upholstery covers the seats and door cards which remains in excellent condition, showing virtually no wear. Dark red carpeting is also excellent, as are the cockpit fittings and controls. The top is trimmed in dark red canvas which complements the body and interior color scheme quite nicely. Instruments are in very fine order, including the original Jaeger clock, and AC Speedo. The dials are set in a beautiful sunburst instrument panel flanked by engine-turned alloy inserts. A set of side curtains is included for the rare occasion this lovely Cadillac gets caught in inclement weather; although we imagine it will be the red canvas top boot that sees the most use, as this car looks absolutely fantastic with its roof folded, ready for motoring in the sunshine.
Mechanically, this Cadillac is well-sorted and very correct. These wonderful cars have proven quite popular with touring enthusiasts as they are renowned for their outstanding road manners, strong brakes and smooth, reliable nature. This 355-A is no exception, as the attractive and high-quality restoration translates into an enjoyable drive, making it a great candidate for CCCA CARavan touring, AACA events or casual show. Added to that is the desirable Fleetwood Roadster coachwork to make a finely presented and handsome example of one of Cadillac’s best driver’s cars.
Aug 10, 2015