5-6 October 2017

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Lot 161

1936 Cadillac V-16 Convertible Sedan by Fleetwood

  • Engine no. 51102222
  • Body no. 100

Sold for $715,000

  • One of the very finest late first-generation Cadillac V-16s in existence
  • Only two private owners since 1949
  • Exhibited for six decades at Chicago’s Museum of Science & Industry
  • Sympathetically restored from an outstanding original example
  • Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance class award-winner

In the vast, cool Art Moderne halls of Chicago’s Museum of Science & Industry, crowds of millions of buzzing people have paused to reflect upon mankind’s greatest achievements. The objects displayed within include everything from the first Boeing 757 to the legendary streamliner train Pioneer Zephyr and the German submarine U-505. It is among this rarefied crowd that, from 1949 until 2008, a 20-foot-long Cadillac rested, quietly demonstrating the superiority of great American engineering from behind velvet ropes.

The 1936 Series 90 convertible sedan had been one of only six built that year, the second-to-last season for Cadillac’s original V-16. Its original build sheet, a copy of which is on file, notes that it was shipped to New York City, and eventually directed to Brooklyn for its original owner. Interesting for a late V-16, the owner’s name is not “tagged” on the sheet, indicating that the car was perhaps built for showroom display. If it was meant to stand and draw attention – foreshadowing its decades to come in Chicago – it had certainly been trimmed for the purpose. The body was finished in the wonderfully named Phantom Metallic, with Vincennes Red wire wheels with full discs, dual side-mounts with painted covers, a Master radio, and a gold Goddess mascot.

By the 1940s the car had been acquired by John B. Hawley Jr., of Minneapolis, Minnesota. It was modified during this era with streamlined, curved running boards; front fenders reworked with built-in headlamps; and deletion of the dual side-mounted spares (one of which was moved inside the trunk). Despite this custom work, the car’s interior remained original, as did the balance of its body. Mr. Hawley enjoyed the Cadillac until 1949, at which point, with only 17,000 miles recorded, he was compelled to gift it to the Museum of Science & Industry, then holders of perhaps the best-known antique automobile collection in the country.

Over the next 59 years, even as the Museum’s interest in automotive history waned and its collection was gradually sold off, the V-16 stayed, perhaps because of its impressive, imposing grandeur, which made it a visitor favorite. It resided on display for much of that time, and can safely be said to have been seen by more people in the modern era than any other automobile of its type. Indeed, the writer remembers viewing the car as a 17-year-old visiting Chicago in 2006.

Finally, in 2008, the famed Cadillac was deaccessioned by the Museum and acquired by its current owner, a longtime enthusiast and collector who was impressed by how original the car still remained. Inspecting the car upon its delivery to the famed Stone Barn Automobile Restorations of Vienna, New Jersey, it was found that the body had never been removed from the chassis, which showed the excellent preservation and condition of only 17,000 miles of use. Many of the original trim pieces, including the “sun dial” wheel covers, remained intact, aside from two door handles, the Goddess, and the bumpers, correct replacements for which were sourced. The engine was opened up, serviced, cleaned, and reassembled, with the rare proper carburetors, vacuum tanks, distributor, spark plug cover, and valve covers – all of which are the originals to this very car.

The only major restoration work required was to return the fenders to their original configuration and refinish the clean, rust-free body in that stunning original Phantom Metallic, with a proper interior in the correct leather. Original paint remains on the firewall, which carries original factory chalk marks, and the chassis beneath is still clean and original; the body has still yet to be taken from the frame, and yet the doors close beautifully and solidly.

Since completion of its restoration work, the Cadillac has been exhibited only selectively, to preserve its desirability for future owners, including a class award-winning appearance at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in 2015.

The significance of this V-16 among its brethren cannot be overstated. It has spent nearly 80 years with just two caretakers – one a well-known collector, and the other a renowned museum in whose care it became perhaps the best-known example of its type, the background for so many wistful photographs and fond memories. One imagines that wherever it goes from here, it should, if only occasionally, go back to Chicago . . . just so three or four generations can once remember a part of America’s past that once touched their own.

Please contact our exclusive automotive transportation partner, Reliable Carriers, for a shipping quote or any other information on the transport of this vehicle.

Alexander Weaver


+1 864 313 6844
California, United States

Alexander Weaver joined RM Sotheby’s in 2011 as a Car Specialist after graduating from Furman University in South Carolina. Born... read more

Augustin Sabatié-Garat


+44 (0) 74 1511 4179
United Kingdom

Augustin Sabatié-Garat joined RM Europe in 2012 as a Car Specialist after more than a decade in the collector car hobby. Gradua... read more

Barney Ruprecht


+1 203 912 7168
Ontario, Canada

Barney’s interest in classic cars began at an early age after being introduced to his father’s all-original 1965 Porsche 911. Barney l... read more

David Swig


+1 415 302 2247
California, United States

David Swig joined RM Sotheby’s West Coast division as a Car Specialist in May 2015. David is a life-long automobile enthusi... read more

Don Rose


+1 617 513 0388
United States

Don joined RM in 2006 after several years of professionally trading sports and classic cars, and after earning a reputation as a noted... read more

Donnie Gould


+1 954 566 2209
Florida, United States

Donnie Gould joined the RM team in 2002 as a partner and Car Specialist after more than two decades in the vintage automobile auction ... read more

Gord Duff


+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

Gord Duff began his journey with RM Sotheby’s in 1998. Since then, he has gained an intimate knowledge of a variety of marques a... read more

Jake Auerbach


+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Jake Auerbach got his start in the automotive industry at an early age, spending his summers during high school working at a classic c... read more

Kurt Forry


+1 717 623 1638
California, United States

Having worked for Bonhams’ Automobilia department for over 10 years, Kurt Forry joined RM Sotheby’s with more than a decad... read more

Matt Malamut


+1 805 231 6410
California, United States

A long-time car enthusiast and Southern California native, Matt studied Automotive Technology at San Diego Miramar College and complet... read more

Michael Squire


+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Michael Squire joined RM Sotheby’s European Division in the summer of 2016. He comes to RM with a prestigious racing background ... read more

Mike Fairbairn


+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

As one of the three founding partners of RM Sotheby’s, Mike has a long-standing interest in the classic car industry. Graduating... read more

Oliver Camelin


+44 (0) 75 0110 7447
United Kingdom

With an extensive background in exotic sports car history and sales, a particular passion for American curves, and fluency in three la... read more

Paul Darvill


+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Paul Darvill joined the RM Sotheby’s European team at the beginning of 2015. Paul holds a degree in French and Politics from the... read more

Pete Fisher


+1 519 784 9300
Ontario, Canada

Pete Fisher was first introduced to antique cars in high school, working for Classic Coachworks in his hometown of Blenheim, Ontario. ... read more

Shelby Myers


+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Shelby Myers grew up with the classic car industry infused into every aspect of his life. He had the unique opportunity to watch the R... read more

Tonnie Van der Velden


+31 653 84 19 60
United Kingdom

Tonnie Van der Velden joined RM Sotheby’s European division in September 2015 as a Car Specialist. A lifelong enthusiast, Tonnie... read more