Sign in to follow this  
1935Packard

Comparing 1931 Cadillacs -- V8 vs. V12

Recommended Posts

This group had a terrific thread a while back on comparing Packard 12s and Pierce-Arrow 12s, and I was hoping to get the wisdom of the group on another comparison: 1931 Cadillac 355a (the V8) versus 370a (V12).   In particular, I'm interested in knowing how the ownership experience of the two cars differs in terms of drivability, reliability, cost of repairs, and the like. I have heard second-hand that the V12s are harder to keep on the road because of the dual carburetors, and that the added weight of the 12 makes it a heavier car but not necessarily a more powerful one versus the 8.  But I'd love to heard the wisdom of the group on this.    Talking to owners of 370a's, I've had several tell me that they had a lot of problems with the cars when they first bought them: The impression I had was that 370as were often more for show than for driving these days, so that the restoration on the cars often left a lot to be desired in terms of the mechanical.  But I don't know if my conversations are representative. Any insights very welcome!  Thanks.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A well sorted out 31 V-12 is close to the ideal 30's car (third to an Auburn or Cord in my opinion) all be it a heavy steering car.  I spent a lot of time as a kid riding with Dwayne Pansing - they had a 31 V-12 Sport Touring that was silver red wheels and with red leather (last I heard it was still pretty unrestored and out on the West Coast) - a mostly original car that had lots of engine turning under hood - and it was owned new by Charles Kettering.  Basically, you get close to the V-16 engine without all the extra weight.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On ‎9‎/‎2‎/‎2017 at 10:10 PM, 1935Packard said:

 I was hoping to get the wisdom of the group on another comparison: 1931 Cadillac 355a (the V8) versus 370a (V12). ......... the ownership experience.........: The impression I had was that 370as were often more for show than for driving these days, so that the restoration on the cars often left a lot to be desired in terms of the mechanical. .... Any insights very welcome!  Thanks.

 

Interesting post.  Please - not picking on you or anyone else in today's "collector car" hobby - but your questions and comments do indicate an frightening lack of knowledge of even the basics.  

 

Cadillac did not get its reputation for excellence by cheating its customers.   You got what you paid for.  To compare the experience of owning and operating  an eight cyl. Cadillac with a much more expensive twelve or sixteen cylinder Cadillac is absurd.  

 

Of course ALL Cadillacs were outstanding buys within their respective price classes,  at least equal to anything else in their respective price classes.

 

You do have a point - about what today's collectors do and do not expect from their collector cars.    Yes, many collectors today are proud of what some of us call "trailer queens".....cars that have been turned into what amounts to costume jewelry.   Very pretty to look at....they get their satisfaction by the public's paying attention to them.

 

A prominent restorer once explained to me,  (when I was appalled at how miserable a so called "restored" car's steering gear was)   that he would be cheating his customers if he took their money to return the car to its mechanical condition when it was in service as a new car.    He correctly recognized that all the owner wanted was something that could drag its weary carcass from a trailer to the show lawn.    

 

At a recent very prestigious car show,   the Judges asked the owner to start his car ( an early P I Rolls - some of you may know why it wont start if you depress the clutch pedal.....! ).    The owner had a surprised, annoyed look on his face, explaining he had no idea how to start it - he had "staff" for that....needed a minute to find one of his people who DID know how to start a Phantom Rolls....!

 

So to that extent, I agree with your comment about many of today's collector cars are "restored" for show - not for actually driving them around.

 

Yes - the bigger, more technically competent, more powerful and expensive a car is, the more likely that a "cosmetic restoration" may reduce a more expensive car to be even more trouble and less pleasant to drive than a cheaper car.  To that extent, I would have to agree with the assumptions in your post.

 

Be assured, however,  if you ever have the opportunity to drive a well-maintained early 30's Cadillac V-8, and then, for comparison, drive an equally well-maintained Cadillac V-12 or V-16,  you will have a far better understanding as to why those who could afford it,  bought the more expensive car !

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

SaddleRiver,  yes, I'm not considering which new 1931 Cadillac I would buy at my local dealership if I had that option.  Rather, I would like to buy a 1931 Cadillac sometime in the next two years or so, and I am not sure how I should think about the V8 versus the V12 in the current marketplace given the cars likely to come up for sale.  I can see the typical difference in market value -- which seems to run perhaps $50,000 or so for a typical open model, although of course it depends on body style and condition.  And I can see the slight difference in looks.  But it's hard for me to know the different experience of ownership today, assuming a car that I would drive regularly, without any relevant personal experience with the cars.  So I was hoping to become more informed.

 

 

Edited by 1935Packard (see edit history)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Well.......having owned more 1931Cadillacs than anyone else on the planet who is still drawing air in his lungs, I shall comment.

 

The Eight and Twelve are vertically identicle in 1931, except the engine, hood, and chassis length. Lots of very minor trim details all over the car. For its size, the eight is a bit under powered, due to the terrible carburation. You can drive them on the highways, and they spin fast, and go along reasonably well.

 

The twelve has a better  power and torque, what I would describe as adequate for its size and year. It's a lot more complicated to dial in and keep running right. 

 

The sixteen is quite simple to describe. It's a SIXTEEN! 

 

1930 & 1931 were interesting years for Cadillac. For most collectors, getting an eight to run right and sorted mechanicals is very difficult. Twelve and sixteens are beyond most collectors abilitys to make run CORRECTLY!  But that's just 40 years of experience with them. Ed

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi again '35.       Since you are apparently in no hurry, and presumably havnt yet picked out a car you might consider - that's good...take your time.  You would be well advised to hire someone like Edinmass to go with you when you find a car for sale that interests you.

 

If your budget is such that you can only afford a eight cylinder Cadillac that has been properly maintained,   and thus only able to afford a 12 or 16 cyl., Cadillac that is only a "show-queen"...yes...I am sure Edinmass would agree....stick with something that has been properly maintained.   The big powerful "super cars" remind me of the expression we used to say in grade schools about "girls"....WHEN THEY ARE GOOD THEY ARE VERY VERY GOOD...BUT WHEN THEY ARE BAD....THEY ARE HORRID....!"

 

Unfortunately, another old saying " YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR"  is not necessarily true when one goes shopping for a collector car.   Especially if one has only limited mechanical knowledge.   Your posts suggest to me you are quite unfamiliar with why and how the 'best of the best" are so superior to the ordinary cars of their day.    Yes, from the firewall back, '31 Cads are quite similar.  But as Edinmas notes, what is forward of the firewall is different...QUITE different !     Again, Cadillac didn't get its reputation by cheating its customers.   As good as the ordinary Cadillacs were,  be assured the 12's and the 16's were vastly superior.   Heck..even the HEADLIGHTS are bigger and better !

 

Again, I am NOT making fun of a 1931 Cadillac V-8, or, for that matter, any of the fine upper-middle class cars offered by any of the other major manufacturers of the classic era.  My suspicion is that if you buy a 8 cyl,. Cadillac that has been properly maintaed.....you will be quite happy with it.   Until you get a chance to drive a V-12 or V-16.     Again,  properly maintained.

 

Because so much money is likely to be involved,   again,  I think you would be well-advised to hire a legit expert who knows these cars, and what they provide in the way of owner satisfaction IF properly maintained.,    As I noted in previous posts,   many restorers recognize what the typical "collector car" owner expects,  and what he dosnt care about.   They "restore" the customer's car accordingly.  The   "trick"   is quite simple - try and find a car that has been re-conditioned to reflect what it was MECHANICALLY when in service as a new car. 

 

(of course I wonder why a guy who, from his SN,  who owns Packards would want with a mere Cadillac....but that's a whole different question.....!

 

 

Edited by SaddleRider
ducks are known to go "quack" (see edit history)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
4 hours ago, edinmass said:

 

1930 & 1931 were interesting years for Cadillac. For most collectors, getting an eight to run right and sorted mechanicals is very difficult. Twelve and sixteens are beyond most collectors abilitys to make run CORRECTLY!  But that's just 40 years of experience with them. Ed

I'm not surprised that the V-12 with its more complex overhead valve arrangement might be difficult to deal with, but I wouldn't have thought the L-head V-8 would be problematic. Or was it some other part of the mechanicals?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
16 hours ago, CBoz said:

I'm not surprised that the V-12 with its more complex overhead valve arrangement might be difficult to deal with, but I wouldn't have thought the L-head V-8 would be problematic. Or was it some other part of the mechanicals?

 

You are catching on.    Of course ANY mechanical device can be "difficult to deal with"   .  All it takes is a combination of ignorance, arrogance,   and a desire to make a fast buck at someone else's expense.  That kind of "restoration" can reduce  any mechanical device's usefulness.

 

In case you didn't know,  the "overhead valve" concept has been in use since at least the middle of the First World War.   When that concept is combined with standard engineering practice,  proper maintainence like regular oil changes,   and quality materials,  it is trouble free.   Reliable.    Of course the 1931 Cadillac product line was reliable and trouble-free.   They were then,  and if properly maintained, are now. 

 

Hopefully, this fellow desiring to aquire a 1931 Cadillac will find one that had a LEGITIMATE restoration.  That means it was returned to approximate its MECHANICAL condition when in service as a new or late-model used car.

 

As I noted above, Cadillac ( or for that matter, the entire General Motors product line )  did not get their good reputation by cheating its customers.    ANY General Motors product by the early 1930's was an outstanding buy for its respective price-class.   (    Of course a Chevrolet ( or even a Cadillac 8 for that matter)  cannot compete with a 12 or 16.  Then or now.   Silly to compare a Cadillac V-8 with their much more expensive product line.

 

Now to be fair...yes...I have driven 30's era Chevrolets that were properly restored -  so - for what they were - a delightful driving experience.   Yes, I have driven Cadillac V-12's and 16's that were so scary I never got much further than the driveway before TRYING to get them to stop so I could back them up and get the heck away from them.  ( yes, my own Cadillac V-16 was a delight to drive...sadly, being a wild teen-ager in the 1950's,  I sold it  then because I couldn't afford two cars at that time,  and no question....a Packard Twelve is a faster, better road car under extreme conditions....!!  so I kept that one.....! )

 

There is no avoiding the obvious.    If you want your collector car to give you the satisfaction and driving pleasure built into it..    FIX IT RIGHT !  Hopefully, the fellow who started this "thread"  is catching on too !

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The problems of running a early 30's Caddy today are........

 

Terrible carburation when they were new.............

cork float and weird hinge set up for the float

poor mixture control......

same basic carb design since 1912

 

Stewart-Warner vacuum  tanks,  pot metal failure, different fuel formulation causing vapor lock......

 

Delco distributor body made of pot metal, causing expensive fix.......

 

I would say that Cadillac in the 1928-1931 V-8 Cars are the most challenging of the common big cars to own and maintain. They can be expensive, and hard to dial in. They require a lot of time to sort them. I have driven them many thousands of miles, in a strictly stock configuration, and many people over the years thought I had modified my cars with upgrades, because they ran so well and went down the road so fast........no, it was just a SH*T load of work!

 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On ‎9‎/‎9‎/‎2017 at 0:55 PM, edinmass said:

........, different fuel formulation causing vapor lock......

 

 

Agree completely.   

 

I have no explanation why some folks claim their pre-war cars do not vapor lock,  but most do.

 

For the simple reason that by the early 1930's,  refiners were making the gasoline more volatile.    Meaning...turns from a liquid to a vapor at lower temps. than prev.    

 

Get your old car's fuel lines "heat-soaked"  and you will have the fuel vaporize - cant pump gas vapor with the fuel delivery systems of that day - has to be in liquid form.

 

Tech manuals of that era were full of articles confirming car operators were getting increasingly tired of the trouble they were having when their cars were warmed up,  especially in the late spring when they took on some "winter" gas.

 

Unless you have a source for fresh gasoline refined prior to 1930,  I recommend an "AutoPulse" type  electric fuel pump for your collector car.  Several mfgs. still make them in 6 volts - typical cut-off pressure is about 4 lbs. psi - that will NOT bother a properly maintained vacuum tank's  "float valve",  or that of any carb.

 

The trick is to mount it as close to and as low as possible in relation to the gas tank.    With positive pressure in your fuel line,  (instead of the suction in a fuel line)  you will not have vapor lock.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I  ran a 31 Cadillac on its original vacuum tank, though I did have an electric fuel pump on car should I loose prime - that being said, I would never (and I do mean never) run an electric pump on a vacuum tanked car as too easy to override the valving in the vacuum tank you creating a good chance of fire as venting on tank is always too close to exhaust manifolds and .....).  If I were to decide to run it via the electric pump full time I would bypass the vacuum tank completely or rework the tank so it is just for looks - rework guts with direct tubing inside.  Also, I would think 1 lb of pressure is about all the carb could take.   And, I can first hand tell you the story of a 1931 Cadillac 355 V-8 Opera Coupe that had a vacuum tank problem (without an electric pump) and the engine was purring away as it was spraying gas all over the exhaust manifolds - with fire shooting out the hood vent doors = not a good thing.  

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

John has an excellent point - when pumping fuel into a old carb., there most definitely is the risk of a catastrophic fire.

 

This holds true regardless of the year of the carb, and whether you are feeding fuel to it thru a vacuum tank, mechanical fuel pump, or electric fuel pump.   A word of caution on adding an electric fuel pump to eliminate vapor lock.  Be sure you use an "AutoPulse" type, meaning one that by design wont go over 5-7 pls PSI.

 

By the early 1930's,  the then new concept of mechanical fuel pumps was pretty reliable - given the design of the "float valve",   they would not leak even well above the design fuel  pressures of the day of 4-7 lbs.

 

By the 1950's,   new techniques in rubber made a rubber-tipped float valve possible.  This provided an even better seal, and thus even better protection against the danger of leakage, and thus over-filling the carb.'s bowl to the point of where gas could be spilled on hot motor parts.

 

But that was then.  Over the years,  who knows what evils lurks in the bowls of old carbs.  Same for old vacuum tanks.

 

I strongly recommend to anyone operating a carb. equipped car of ANY year,   to pull it apart, make sure the bowl is clean (meaning nothing that could cause the float valve to not "seat" properly)  and use a good fuel filter between the gas tank and whatever kind of fuel pump you are using.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The big problem with the cars using vacuum tanks is the float, needle, and seat are meant to hold back very little pressure, just the volume in the tank with about six inches of head, thus one pound of fuel pressure will often push past the carb and overflow. There is a reason there is a pipe that goes from the center of the two cylinder banks and dumps on the ground........they leaked like a sive when new. Even the 16's had a factory directed modifacation that included a new lower air flange with a pipe to direct the leaking gas. Recently the bright red 16 Sport Pheaton that is well know from the show circuit burned under the hood. While overall the car is ok, the fire extinguisher made such a mess of the entire car and the hood was scorched so bad the car will need in my opinion an entire repaint and upholstery. At least there wasn't any major structural damage. I'm not sure what the car was using for a fuel system setup, but weather stock or modified the 20's and early 30's Caddies like to burn. Park them in your attached garage and the house smells like fuel for a week. 

Edited by edinmass (see edit history)
  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this