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scott12180

Cadillac V-12 of the 1930's

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Hi All ---

Could someone tell me the low-down on the Cadillac Twelve of the 1930's?

I'm curious if these are sound, reliable engines or do they have certain hidden and costly gremlins which will haunt you.  Such as the Packard's aluminum cylinder heads and complicated valve train or the many problems of Lincoln twelves. 

 

I've not owned one --- had several straight eights -- but have considered Packard Twelves and Pierce Twelves.  And have started thinking about a Cadillac.

 

Thanks for any insights, either public or PM.

 

-- Luke

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There are knowledgeable guys on here that will give you real feedback.   But my perception has always been that the 12 gives you the complexity of the 16 with the performance of the V8.

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I've always felt that the Cadillac V12 is more than 3/4 of a V16 in terms of performance, all for 1/3 the price. It isn't quite as burly as a Packard or Pierce 12, but it's a fine car in its own right that I think represents something of a bargain in terms of 12-cylinder Full Classics, second only to the Lincoln K which can be had for bargain basement prices for reasons that aren't altogether clear to me.

 

All old cars are going to have problems, both endemic to the brand and as a result of the past 70-something years. None are bulletproof perfect Toyotas. You have to embrace the pros and cons of whatever car you choose to own. Anything like a Cadillac V12 will be a high-quality machine, but maintenance history and restoration quality will affect your ownership experience at least as much as the design of the car itself. In fact, I'd argue that there is nothing wrong with the design and engineering, but indifferent/inadequate/ignorant maintenance and repair over the years turns most old cars into faint shadows of their former selves. If an old car is unreliable and problematic today, I blame the mechanics who have been working on it rather than the car or engineering behind it.

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A better question to ask is...........can I service, tune, and repair a V-12 Caddy myself? And the answer is no, not unless you are very talented with years of experience . The fuel, ignition, and carburetors are very challenging  for people who have been working on them for years. They are a HUGE learning curve, and most people can't keep up with them. Same goes for the 16. Even the 8 is way too much for most people.  Now, to answer your question, how is the engine overall? It's ok. Certainly not a powerhouse, and I would describe any early 30's 8 or 12 Caddy as adequate but NOT impressive. The 16 when properly sorted and dialed in is very, very nice to drive. Maybe one in fifty of the cars is "done right" all the rest are lacking. 

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Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, edinmass said:

Maybe one in fifty of the cars is "done right" all the rest are lacking. 

 

Ed, couldn't you make that statement about most of the big Classics?

Edited by alsancle (see edit history)

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2 hours ago, alsancle said:

 

Ed, couldn't you make that statement about most of the big Classics?

Yes!

 

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If you expand it to "all cars more than 25 years old" it might go to one in 1000.

 

All old cars are crap. Yes, even yours. And yours. And at least one of mine.

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2 minutes ago, Matt Harwood said:

If you expand it to "all cars more than 25 years old" it might go to one in 1000.

 

All old cars are crap. Yes, even yours. And yours. And at least one of mine.

 

One in a thousand is much more accurate, I just didn’t want to be negative. BUT, I will admit that mine are correct.......every one, that being said, I still get parked on the side of the road once in a while with a “failure to proceed” issue. My cars NEVER break down!

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I'm hoping that some knowledgeable Cadillac guys could share a few thoughts, as I asked.

 

Yes, I realize all old cars are crap.  I've been doing this for 40 years and can attest that much. 

Like Ed, all of my cars have indeed run at their very best.  Except when they don't.

I'd prefer to be a little more positive and encouraging than blanket statements that No, I can't service, tune or repair a Cadillac Twelve myself.   I agree that some old car owners out there appear to not know which end of a screwdriver to hold, and they would always be in need of professional help to even change their oil.  I've owned several antiques and classics and rebuilt many engines.  I may not be as talented as some, but anyone who is willing to learn should be encouraged to give it a try.

 

What I am after is not design flaws.  I'm sure these are good engines, as are most of the fine Classics.  But , I am curious along the lines if there are aspects which may be a concern.  For instance,  Packard Twelves had aluminum cylinder heads which are a corrosion issue today.  The 1933 Pierce Arrow with the Timken worm rear axle can be a problem today depending on how well lubricated they were.The 1938 Packard Super 8 engine is notorious for having cylinder block cracking due to metallurgical problems of the day.    The latter I discovered after I bought the car.  

 

So I'd like to become as educated as I can before I buy something.  Maybe there is nothing about the Cadillac engines of the '30's that were a concern.  Just normal wear and the ham-fisted abuse from shade tree mechanics of old. 

 

You guys are a great wealth of experience.  And I, as well as everyone else I'm sure, appreciates the sharing we do.

 

-- Luke

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Good reference.  Thank you. 

 

I do agree that most older restorations out there were restored for show and not to drive.  "Restored" meant pretty new paint, upholstery and top.  If it ran, that's all that was required.  Every car I've owned without exception has needed to have the engine rebuilt.  I would dearly love to buy a car that looks good and runs well from day one so that I can just enjoy it.  I suppose that's asking too much. 

 

So yes, with a Cadillac 12 and any of the big Classics, unless you know the history, who restored it, who rebuilt the engine, how it was rebuilt, how it was maintained, was it recently driven. . . it's most likely more than anyone with less than a Jay Leno checkbook wants to get into. 

 

-- Luke

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