Not Much On Tap

I don’t have much to offer today. The last few months have been stressful; perhaps that explains my bouts of lack of inspiration.

(Probably) on this day in 1902, the first Cadillac was given its first test drive by Alanson Brush, the engineer who had contributed so much to its development. Brush later founded his own car company that manufactured about 15,000 cars from 1907 to 1911. I used the parenthetical because some sources claim the date was October 20, others October 16 or earlier. Too many people today, even very intelligent people, don’t understand that for the vast majority of human history, and even into the 20th century, record-keeping was nowhere near as “precise” as it is today.

Cadillac displayed its earliest vehicles at the New York Auto Show in January, 1903 and, supposedly, the cars generated so much interest that the company had 2,000 orders by the end of the event. Cadillac did build about 2,500 cars during “model year” 1903, which ranked second in US sales behind Oldsmobile’s 4,000. Obviously from RM Sotheby’s, a picture of a 1903 Cadillac Model A Runabout:


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Once again, I will offer the opinion that Cadillac should develop and sell an ultra-luxury car, even if it’s an electric or hybrid. There are no American cars on a par with Bentley, Rolls-Royce, etc., but the fact that the US is the largest market for such cars tells me that there’s a place for an American-made entry.

Speaking of Rolls-Royce, on this day in 1935 the company introduced the Phantom III, its first car powered by a V-12 engine. The Phantom III was like Duesenbergs of the same time period in that the car came from Rolls-Royce with just a chassis and drivetrain and the bodywork was completed by the coachbuilder of the buyer’s or dealer’s choice.

The V-12 had a displacement of 447 cubic inches, but even with its size and state of the art (for the time) twin ignition system, because the Phantom III could weigh more than 7,000 pounds fully assembled (the chassis and drivetrain weighed over 4,000 pounds), the car could probably not exceed 90 MPH. The Phantom III was only built until 1939, although the last chassis was fitted with a body and delivered to its owner in 1947. Something called World War II got in the way. A picture of a 1938 Phantom III from Blackhawk Collection:


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I continue to hope against hope that the recently passed bill allowing for low volume reproduction of classic cars will lead the way for cars that look like this to be seen once again on the road. I probably shouldn’t hold my breath or I’ll suffocate.







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Whither Cadillac?

No, Whither Cadillac is not the name of a Cadillac dealer. On this day in 1909, a relatively new company—General Motors—purchased the Cadillac Automobile Company. Cadillac was already an established maker of luxury automobiles. For example, the company earned a major distinction in 1908 when it became the first US automaker to be awarded the prestigious Dewar Trophy, which was presented the Royal Automobile Club of the United Kingdom.

To me, Cadillac seems lost. An old joke in the US car biz went like this:


Q: What is the average age of a Cadillac buyer?

A: Dead


Cadillac management has made an effort to attract younger buyers, but most young US car buyers seem uninterested. Here are Cadillac US sales and market share for 2015-2018:


2015 175,267 1.00%
2016 170,006 0.97%
2017 156,440 0.91%
2018 154,702 0.89%


You think that looks bad, look at where US Cadillac sales/share were 30-ish years ago:


1987 261,284 1.76%
1988 266,548 1.73%
1989 266,899 1.84%
1990 258,168 1.87%


The 0.89% market share for 2018 is the lowest since at least 1985, probably longer. By the way, all of this data comes from

HOWEVER, Cadillac is making huge inroads in China. Take a look:


2015 53,086 0.26%
2016 111,532 0.47%
2017 172,832 0.71%
2018 228,043 0.98%


Yes, China should “play fair” and not steal intellectual property, etc. However, US car companies can hardly ignore the Chinese market, which is only the largest car market in the world. Note that Cadillac sold more vehicles in China than in the US in 2018. Remember, too, that it was Buick’s success in China that saved it from the chopping block in the GM bankruptcy/reorganization of 2009 while Pontiac was consigned to the scrap heap with better US sales than Buick.

Not being 30-ish myself I don’t know why Cadillac doesn’t resonate with that demographic. For me, though, the cars seem boring, which doesn’t mean they are boring. Of course, I am not a typical car purchaser. I do think the three-character naming convention for models is awful, though. CTS, XTS, ATS, XT-4…who the hell can remember what is what?! I don’t know whether that idiosyncrasy negatively affects sales.

From a picture of a Cadillac ATS two-door coupe:


See the source image


The ATS used to be offered in both 4-door and 2-door versions, but sales have slumped and rumors abound the model itself will be discontinued. Cadillac does offer a “V” spec for the ATS, powered by a 3.6 liter twin-turbo V6 producing 464 HP/445 LB-FT of torque and available with either an 8-speed automatic transmission or a 6-speed manual. (Does anyone else think it’s very ironic that Cadillac offers cars with manual transmissions, but Ferrari and Lamborghini don’t?) From their peak at about 38,000 sold in 2013 US ATS sales have declined every year since reaching a very low number of under 11,000 in 2018.

I would very much like to read your thoughts on Cadillac. Given their increase in Chinese sales, does it matter how well they do in the US so long as they continue to build cars for this market? (The Chinese consumer would probably drop Cadillac quickly if it became an orphan make in the US.)






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When I think of Cadillac I think of cars like these:


From Vintage Car Collector a picture of a 1967 Eldorado:


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See the source image

From a picture of a 1993 Allante.


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From a photo of a 2008 XLR-V.


Of course, Cadillac, like every other automobile company, is basically just a manufacturer of SUVs. In the very near future, Cadillac will be producing only one car, unless the beautiful Escala concept car really will be brought to production.

On this day in 1909 General Motors purchased the Cadillac company. Cadillac was already a much respected and much awarded builder of luxury cars. It is the second oldest existing US marque behind Buick.

Cadillac was the first company to “mass produce” an enclosed car. The company leapt into prominence in 1908. From

“Cadillac became the first American company to win the coveted Dewar Trophy for the standardization of automobile parts. From the beginning Leland [as in Henry Leland, founder of Cadillac] stressed the concept of parts interchangeability. ‘No special fitting of any kind is permitted,’ he wrote in a factory manual. ‘Craftmanship a Creed, Accuracy a Law.’ The Royal Automobile Club of Britain became aware of Leland’s boastings so they decided to test them. They selected 3 Cadillacs out of 8, dismantled them, mixed in spare parts for good measure, and then were re-assembled with no special fitting, which was unheard of at that time. Most parts were hand-fitted. Each of the cars started immediately and were then driven for 500 miles with no problems.”

Cadillac actually won a second Dewar Trophy in 1912 for developing the modern electric starting and ignition system. In 1915, Cadillac built the first production V-8 engine. In 1930, they built the first V-16 engine. Although Oldsmobile first sold an automobile with a modern automatic transmission (beginning in 1939 as a 1940 model year car), that transmission was developed in cooperation with Cadillac.

The company has fallen out of favor as younger buyers, especially in the US, don’t seem to be interested.  A 2017 study revealed that the average age of a Cadillac buyer was 59. The company’s recent introduction of a “crossover” SUV, the XT-4, is designed to lure those disaffected buyers.

As for me I will continue to hope that the Escala is produced and that maybe, just maybe, Cadillac will think “third time is the charm” and introduce another two-seat automobile.


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Johan de Nysschen is out as Cadillac’s president. I hope this event does not mean the end of the Escala as a production car.


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From a picture of the Cadillac Escala.


What do dreams mean? What do you think of these?

First, I had a dream that my wonderful wife and I were at a party and when she went to the bathroom all of the other men in the room seemed to disappear and that the women were convinced that cats had magical powers. They argued that cats could walk through walls, make themselves disappear, levitate, etc. At first, I thought the women were kidding, but they were not kidding. I told them they were crazy and I wanted to see evidence of their claims.

Second, I had a dream that I was at some sort of car gathering and saw two 1967 GTOs parked back-to-back. I then realized that one of them was my first car and to prove it I lifted the engine out of the car, with no machine, to show people the exhaust headers. In the dream, the headers were much nicer than the ones that were actually on my car and, I know people say men don’t dream in color, the headers were a stunning copper color with light metal flake.


Yesterday was the 25th anniversary of the end of the Waco standoff with the “Branch Davidians.” I read articles where psychologists claim that it’s quite easy for people to succumb to a cult. I still don’t understand…