19-20 August 2016

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Lot 220

1931 Cadillac V-16 Roadster by Fleetwood

  • Engine no. 701432
  • Body no. 23

Sold for $1,457,500

Please note that this vehicle is titled as a 1931.

Model 452. Body Style 4302. 175 bhp, 452 cu. in. OHV V-16 engine, three-speed selective synchromesh manual transmission, solid front axle with semi-elliptical leaf spring suspension and hydraulic dampers, three-quarter floating rear axle with semi-elliptical leaf spring suspension, and four-wheel vacuum-assisted mechanical drum brakes. Wheelbase: 148 in.

  • One of the world’s finest Cadillac V-16s
  • Formerly of the renowned Briggs Cunningham collection
  • Multiple concours award-winning restoration by RM Auto Restoration
  • Exceptional authenticity and presentation to original specifications
  • A wonderful automobile, beloved by great enthusiasts since the 1950s

On 2 January 1930, Floyd E. Becker sat down at his desk at Dairy Farm in Roseland, New Jersey, and placed his order for a new Cadillac to the Uppercu Cadillac Company of Newark. The order he wrote out survives, spelling out a request for a V-16 roadster with map pockets in the doors, a top made to the same shape as on the Beckers’ previous Cadillac, no trunk rack, dual rear-mounted spares, wooden artillery wheels all around, and special Cannon Smoke paint color, interior trim, and monograms, not to mention the spare parts for the carriage house. All told, the total price came to $5,750, or about $80,000 US today—roughly the cost of 12 new Fords at the time.

Henry Becker accompanied his father on the trip to pick up their new car in May 1930. The Beckers retained the Cadillac until 1948, when, in the fashion of the time, it was sold upon its retirement to a longtime employee, Harry Travis of Livingston, New York, for $400. Thereafter it was acquired by S. Prestley Blake, co-founder of Friendly’s and a member of the American car hobby since its earliest days. Mr. Blake eventually traded the car in 1959 to Briggs S. Cunningham as part of a transaction on a 1914 Rolls-Royce, an automobile more in line with Mr. Blake’s collecting interests.

Briggs Cunningham was, inarguably, one of the most famous American sportsmen of his time, renowned to every men’s magazine reader for his pursuits in yachting and motorsport. His collection of automobiles was large and varied, with a focus on great performance automobiles from throughout history. It was no surprise that he should seek and find a Cadillac V-16 roadster, nor, with his typical well-connected tenacity, that he procured the best, most pure one that he could find.

The roadster remained in the Cunningham Museum at Costa Mesa, California, until the museum closed at the end of 1986. It passed with the remainder of the Cunningham cars to world-renowned collector Miles Collier. Seven years later, Mr. Collier elected to sell the V-16, which became one of the very few automobiles to leave what is today the REVS Institute for Automotive Research’s enviable collection. Its new owner maintained it for a further eight years before it was acquired, through RM Classic Cars, by the present owner.

A longtime and valued RM client, the owner had sought an exceptional example of the Cadillac V-16 and found exactly what he was looking for in this car. It was subsequently fully restored by RM Auto Restoration to exactly its original condition, as described by the documentation that had been fortunate enough to follow the car through the years, including the original order and invoice, documents from the Becker Family, and a copy of the original build record, all of which remain with it. These allowed the car to be finished, as it was delivered to Dairy Farm in the spring of 1930.

Most incredibly, the car’s wonderful original condition prior to restoration – essentially untouched aside from a 1950s repaint – meant that every piece of hardware was able to be re-used on every original body panel; with the exception only of two small pieces in the rumble seat area, every scrap of body wood is original and in fine condition. The engine has its original pistons and has never been sleeved; every nut and bolt and fastener on the chassis is original, with factory markings.

The restored V-16 was shown at the Pebble Beach Concours in 2001 (3rd in Class) and 2012 (2nd in Class), the Amelia Island Concours in 2006 (1st in Class), and widely in CCCA National judging, reaching Senior status with a 98.5-point score in 2010. It has been withdrawn from judging in the last four years, thus opening up a world of new concours d’elegance exhibition possibilities for the new owner, but has been faultlessly maintained and is still an exceptional example in every important regard. In fact, in selling the John Moir Collection’s own exceptional V-16 roadster in 2013, RM Sotheby’s had the ability to contact several knowledgeable V-16 enthusiasts, all of whom were in consensus that the Moir car was the best in the world—with the exception of that which is offered here.

It is often said that a collector car “ticks all the boxes,” but the ex-Cunningham V-16 roadster needs no such hyperbole. It speaks loudly and proudly for itself, in its documentation, its history, its unblemished authenticity, and its sparkling concours presentation. It is exquisite beyond measure.

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