1931 Cadillac 452A All-Weather Phaeton Wins Best in Show at 2024 Greenwich Concours D’Elegance

Shoot For Details/Josh Sweeney

Cadillac’s “Standard of the World” slogan—first adopted in 1908 after the marque won the prestigious Dewar Trophy for automotive engineering—was a lot to live up to. But the V-16-powered 452A models were certainly worthy of the moniker. This particular 452A All-Weather Phantom, owned by Leigh Brent, was judged worthy of Best in Show at this year’s Greenwich Concours D’Elegance.

1931 Cadillac 452A All-Weather Phaeton rear three quarter 2024 Greenwich Concours Best In Show
Shoot For Details/Josh Sweeney

Cadillac dropped a 452-cubic-inch V-16 bombshell at the New York auto show in 1930. Well-heeled buyers increasingly expected their engines to offer strong acceleration while being smooth and quiet, and luxury manufacturers turned to more cylinders to increase power and reduce vibrations. Rival Packard had enjoyed a considerable head start in the prewar cylinder-count arms race with its V-12-powered Twin Six in 1916. But Cadillac’s 452A flagship leapfrogged Packard and was the first production car equipped with a V-16.

Engine output was an impressive-for-the-time 165 horsepower and 320 lb-ft of torque. But almost as important was the engine’s character. An English road tester reported “an engine so smooth and quiet as to make it seem incredible that the car is actually being propelled by exploding gases.”

Unfortunately, the Cadillac V-16 was a victim of bad timing. Only months before its debut, the stock market crashed hard, sending the economy into a tailspin. As such, the car’s high price ranging from $5350 to $9200 (Model As could be had for between $435 and $650) insured that few were ever sold. However, the rarity and prestige of the 452A has made it a perennial collector favorite and a frequent Concours winner.

Brent’s 1931 452A is the latest to take top prize at a major Concours. This 452A is just one of four All-Weather Phaetons known to survive and is among the final cars built by Fleetwood in Pennsylvania. The All-Weather Phaeton (different from a standard Phaeton because it features roll-up side glass rather than side curtains) was one of approximately 70 body styles and configurations available through in-house coachbuilders Fleetwood and Fisher. This example is also equipped with a rear division, separating the chauffeur from the passengers.

1931 Cadillac 452A All-Weather Phaeton interior 2024 Greenwich Concours Best In Show
Shoot For Details/Josh Sweeney

Although the Cadillac is an older restoration—done by Pruitt Automotive in 1986—it has been refreshed over the years and was recently treated to some paintwork. The fresh paint paid off as the Cadillac presented beautifully on the lawn of Roger Sherman Baldwin Park and wowed the crowd and judges.

“I was stunned to get a class award, let alone the overall win,” exclaimed Brent after accepting his first Best in Show trophy with the Cadillac. “I couldn’t be more thrilled.”


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    Another Cad V-16 or Duesenberg wins a tournament of credit lines, a janitorial d’non-elegance having little in common with the original concours in Europe from the ’20s into the ’50s.

    What else is new? Anyone long in this alleged “hobby” well knows there is no such thing as a “100-point” car, and that such a barouche as the above, transported via time machine or wormhole from 1931 showroom to such a show today would be hard-pressed to garner 85 points.

    Haven’t Cad V-16s been covered to death? Faced with custom bodies weighing three tons, Clark Street realized a bigger V-8 would return vibration, balance, thermodynamic woes, and be unable to use the existing transmission. So, to Packard’s chagrin, after years of crowing over their V-8, Cadillac introduced a straight eight with the firing impulses halved for less crankpin loading. The first series was lovely to behold, with its enameled and polished components, spark plug wires hidden. The flathead, nearly pancake 431-ci 1938-40 V-16 was a better engine, if agricultural looking.

    Cadillac did not turn a profit for General Motors until 1 9 5 0, so such cars were written off as marketing that might imbue the lower line GMobiles with panache. Marmon V-16 more interesting, and on a 1982 SAE poll of the 30 best auto engines in history.

    What’s next, another piece about “265 hp” Duesenbergs?

    Ay yi yi.

    Wait… Are you annoyed that an automotive website wrote factual information about a car most readers are likely to never see in person?

    There is a whole generation of not crotchety old farts filing into the hobby behind you and it takes education to make sure they do not just send these vehicles off to scrap when the owners punch their ticket to the great car show in the sky. Presenting information the way you do–like a prick–is the last way to make sure younger, or just less knowledgeable, people join our hobby.

    You make good points, after a fashion, but what some of us decry is the me-tooism focusing on a very few models with their thrice told tales to the exclusion of hundreds of other interesting cars from the same era.

    But, Herr Ol’ Jar, what “information” are you alluding to? Mr. Stark imparted nothing that couldn’t be gleaned in 45 seconds of Googling. Not a word about how and why such and such a car produced, or any perspective.

    You do understand that what is “gleaned in 45 seconds of Googling” comes from articles like this, right? Compiling accurate information in this age of misinformation is a worthwhile task.

    You have a high standard for journalism, and that’s not a bad thing, but even sites like this are woefully underfunded if the goal is to create what you are asking for. Keep it up and we readers will end up staring at a paywall or worse, the authors will just decide it’s not worth it to deal with people like you that will never be pleased and stop covering anything that’s not a press trip to Europe to drive the latest $100k silver SUV. At least then they get to see Europe rather than a B-grade regional “concours” put on by an insurance company…

    And finally, this was not an article about the car, it was about the car winning said insurance company concours. Your expectations were never going to be met.

    An engine providing performance and beauty. Thank you, Chris Stark.
    Long story, told short. In the spring of 1964, I discovered a V-16 Cadillac limousine sitting in an open field in central Mississippi. The story was that it belonged to a wealthy man from New Orleans who had lost his wealth in the crash of ’29. He owed money to a wealth farmer – and gave him the Cadillac in partial payment. When gas rationing came along, the farmer gave it to his sharecroppers who put anything in the gas tank that would make it run. One day, the old doll gave up. they walked away from it and there it sat for 20 years. Some on had stripped all the front-end – headlight, grille, radiator, etc. it was a six-wheeler with a division between the driver and passenger. In the fight rear upper corner, there was a funnel shaped device that ran to the driver – allowing giving instructions. It could have been bought for a song – but I was just out of college and newly married. Can you imagine the challenge of moving that big boy! For half a dozen years, I was a member of the national Cadillac-LaSalle club – nursing a fantasy. I have poor pictures – but don’t know how to post.

    That engine is beautiful. It’s a great looking car.

    Speaking of engines… “an engine so smooth and quiet as to make it seem incredible that the car is actually being propelled by exploding gases.” – This description could also be used for me after Taco Tuesday, at least the propelled by exploding gases part.

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