Cadillac logo (revised in 2009).
Cadillac uses as its emblem the arms of Antoine de La Mothe, seigneur de Cadillac, born in Gascony on March 5, 1656 of minor nobility. He founded Detroit in 1701, and was governor of Louisiana. His arms were: Quarterly, 1 and 4: Or a fess between three martlets sable, 2 and 3: quarterly gules and argent three bars azure. The count's coronet is fanciful, as was often the case in 17th and 18th c. France.
Cadillac was formed from the Henry Ford Company upon Henry Ford's departure. With the intent of liquidating the firm's assets, Ford's financial backers, William Murphy and Lemuel Bowen called in engineer Henry M. Leland to appraise the plant and equipment prior to selling them. Instead, Leland persuaded them to continue in the automobile business. Henry Ford's departure required a new name, and on August 22, 1902, the company reformed as the Cadillac Automobile Company.
Cadillacs were sent to England, where in Feb.-Mar. 1908, three late 1907 Model K's successfully completed the Royal Automobile Club's Standardization Test. As a result of these test results, the Cadillac Automobile Company was awarded the Dewar Trophy for 1908 (actual award date was Feb., 1909). The Dewar Trophy was an annual award for the most important advancement of the year in the automobile industry.
Cadillac was purchased by the General Motors conglomerate in 1909.
Cadillac became General Motors' prestige division, devoted to the production of large luxury vehicles.
In 1911 Cadillac was the first gasoline internal combustion engine auto to incorporate electric self-starting (as opposed to earlier crank start), utilizing the electric starter developed by Charles Kettering. Other innovations included the first V-8 engine in mass production, in 1915; shatter-resistant safety glass in 1926; and the first fully synchronized transmission (with gears "locked" in relation to one another to prevent clashing upon execution of a shift) in 1928. About this time, Cadillac acquired a smaller "companion" car called the LaSalle, which lasted until 1940.
Pre-World War II Cadillacs were well-built, powerful, mass-produced luxury cars, aimed at an upper class market, below that of such ultra-exclusive marques such as Pierce-Arrow and Duesenberg. In the 1930s, Cadillac added cars with 12- and 16-cylinder engines to their range, many of which were fitted with custom coach-built bodies; these engines were remarkable at the time for their ability to deliver a combination of high power, silky smoothness and quietness.
Postwar Cadillacs, incorporating the ideas of General Motors styling chief Harley Earl, innovated many of the styling features that came to be synonymous with the classic (late 1940s-late 1950s) American automobile, including tailfins and wraparound windshields. Cadillac's first tailfins, inspired by the twin rudders of the Lockheed P-38 Lightning, appeared in 1948; the 1959 Cadillac was the epitome of the tailfin craze, with the largest tailfins of any production automobile. With their chromed, bulleted bumpers (the bullets were nicknamed "Mansfields" or "Dagmars", after their resemblance to the breasts of certain Hollywood starlets), chromium eggcrate grilles, and general stylistic ostentation, the late 1950s Cadillacs were arguably too extreme even for most Cadillac buyers. At this point, Bill Mitchell succeeded Harley Earl as styling chief, and his preference for more austere design combined with changing buyer tastes caused the excess to be rapidly toned down in the early 1960s. Nevertheless, Cadillacs retained their tailfins through 1964, and suggestions of them remained in the peaked rear fenders of many models into the 1990s.
Somewhat surprisingly for a marque with such a strong design heritage, Cadillac has resisted the temptation to produce any "retro" models such as the revived Ford Thunderbird or the VW New Beetle, and has instead pressed ahead with a new design philosophy for the 21st century called "art and science" which it says "incorporates sharp, shear forms and crisp edges - a form vocabulary that expresses bold, high-technology design and invokes the technology used to design it."
Low points, and the beginning of a recovery.
Cadillac suffered from the malaise that set in to the American auto industry in the late 1960s to the late 1970s. There were high points, such as the launch of the Eldorado two-door personal luxury car in 1967, with its simple, elegant design?a far cry from the tail-fin and chrome excesses of the 1950s. However, the 1970s saw vehicles memorable for other types of excess: engine size, for one (the Eldorado featured an 8.2-litre engine at one point), weight, and physical bulk. The build quality also became poorer when measured against German rivals.
As with most American brands, Cadillac was forced to downsize its offerings between the 1973 and 1979 fuel crises. Its staple De Ville and Fleetwood lines were downsized for 1977 and again for 1985. It launched a smaller car around the size of the Mercedes-Benz 300, the Seville, based on a Chevrolet Nova platform. It was a success.
However, trying to extend its brand further downward to appeal to younger buyers, Cadillac launched in 1981 (for the 1982 model year) the compact Cimarron, a warmed-over Chevrolet Cavalier as a rival to the BMW 3-series. Buyers rejected this model for being too close to the considerably cheaper Chevrolet ? unlike the Seville, which did not resemble the Nova or other GM X-cars, the Cimarron was almost indistinguishable from the down-market versions. Buyers also objected to the Cimmaron's four-cylinder engine and low level of standard equipment. Although the motoring press lauded the first Cadillac manual transmission in decades, the automatic's extra cost also rankled buyers.
Another low point during the early 1980s was the variable displacement engine, branded the L62 V8-6-4 engine. Introduced in 1981, this 368 (6.0 L) engine sequentially shut down cylinders as demand dropped. Company marketing hailed the engine as cutting-edge technology, but it proved unreliable and was dropped the next year in favor of a family of smaller aluminum V8 engines rushed into production.
The mid-1980s saw Cadillac try to rebuild its image, aware that European and Japanese imports were on a rise, and with Honda launching its American luxury division, Acura. Some new design approaches were tried: the Seville, for instance, had gracefully rounded wheel arches with a hint of chrome. The greatest challenge to the imports was the Cadillac Allante, a convertible designed by Pininfarina of Italy, and built on what was touted as the world's longest production line?with the car's bodies fabricated in Italy and flown by Boeing 747 to the United States to meet their transmission and engine. The car was, sadly, not a commercial success, but today stands out as a modern classic and more than able to hold its own, image-wise, next to its Mercedes-Benz SL rival.
The Allante's styling influenced other Cadillacs, especially the Seville, which adopted its sharper, tailored lines. Indeed, Cadillac was so confident of the Seville that it was exported to Europe, but it faced stiff opposition.
The Art & Science era.
The latest incarnation of Cadillac styling - Art & Science (A&S) was previewed with the 1999 Cadillac Evoq concept roadster at that year's Detroit Auto Show. With its crisp lines, hard creases, and sharp corners, the Evoq not only had a striking presence of its own, but also marked a departure from the softer design of previous Cadillacs.
Distinctive characteristics of Art & Science design include stacked headlamps, vertical taillamps, angular grille, and creased body lines in addition to alphanumeric model names.
The 2000 DeVille sedan and 2002 Escalade sport utility were the first executions of the Art & Science design philosophy, though they should be appropriately noted as more transitional vehicles since they combine A&S with the last era of styling and tested the waters for public acceptance.
Cadillac's 2003 Cadillac CTS was the first ground-up incarnation of A&S and was an instant hit, partly due to product placements in the cyberpunk Matrix trilogy. Following in its success was the Cadillac SRX sport utility wagon and the Evoq-inspired Cadillac XLR roadster. The 2005 Cadillac STS is the latest in the A&S lineup and will complete the transition between the old school of design and the new. The new Cadillac V-Series was also introduced to provide sporty models based on Cadillac production cars, with very extensive chassis and engine upgrades.
A slight evolution of A&S was shown at Detroit's 2003 Auto Show with the Cadillac Sixteen concept, which had a rounded body with crisp A&S features. This version of A&S will probably see itself debuted on models that appeal to more conservative demographics, such as the DeVille's replacement and a possible ultraluxury sedan.
The 2005 Presidential Limousine first shown at the second inauguration of President George W. Bush features A&S design cues, and is said to foreshadow the 2006 Cadillac DTS, which is the replacement for the DeVille.
Also in 2005, General Motors announced the first Cadillac designed exclusively for the European market, a model called the BLS, to be built by Saab in Sweden.
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