Between 1930 and 1937, Cadillac produced a declining number of its initial 452 V-16 series, with only 61 units in 1940. Suffering financial losses, General Motors even contemplated shutting down Cadillac. However, in 1938, Cadillac introduced a completely new V-16 model, sparking debates about the reasons behind this decision. What remains undisputed is that the new design was remarkably innovative.
The fresh V-16 featured cast iron construction with compact, square-shaped cylinders (3¼ inches bore and stroke) totaling 431 cubic inches. Its distinctive 135º v-angle cylinder arrangement and side valves for simplicity and easy servicing made it stand out. The wide V-style manifolds, dual carburetors, and a pair of eight-cylinder distributors also facilitated maintenance. Weighing 115 pounds less than the V-12 and 250 pounds less than the 452 V-16, it ingeniously fit within the 141-inch wheelbase chassis by placing the rear cylinders behind the firewall line.
This engineering marvel generated 185 brake horsepower, propelling the Cadillac 38-90 to an honest 100 mph with remarkable silence and smoothness. Subsequent years introduced subtle style enhancements, including a revised dashboard, updated taillights and bumpers, and sealed beam headlights in the 1940 swansong model.