Highlights

Serial No. 5100034
Body Number: 3
Style Number: 5799

  • World’s first fastback coupe
  • 1 of 3 built in 1934
  • Considered by many to be one of the pinnacle designs of the classic car era
  • Known documented history from new
  • 10% buyer premium applies
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Story

One of the most important of the Harley Earl-era designs was the world’s first “fastback” coupe, introduced at the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair. This sensational coupe has tear-drop fenders, a slanted windshield, hidden spare tire and an all-steel roof, achieving the integration of many new innovations into the body design. Eight of these five-passenger aerodynamic coupes were built between 1934-37; only three were built in 1934, and this example bears body No. 3. It was closely patterned after the World’s Fair car but built on the longer 154-inch wheelbase, the longest ever used by Cadillac, giving it an even sleeker look than the original.

The 452 V-16 Cadillacs could reach a top speed of 100 MPH. They had massive amounts of torque, smooth acceleration and offered a quiet ride. This large engine was used to carry the equally large coachwork, resting on a platform that measured 154 inches. There was a long list of body styles, with one of the more exclusive versions being the five-passenger Aerodynamic Coupe with style number 5799.

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GM’s FIRST CONCEPT CAR AND THE INFLUENTIAL RESULT:

This car, at first, may look a lot like any other 1930s coupe, but it was one of the most influential cars of the era, impacting both the way that cars were styled and how they were promoted. The 1934 Cadillac Aerodynamic Coupe was GM’s first production car that was based on what we now call a concept car. Back then, they were more likely to call those concepts “show cars,” and not only was the Aerodynamic Coupe GM’s first production car derived from a show car, that show car was the automaker’s first attempt at creating a one-off vehicle just for promotional purposes. It also represented the solidification of Harley Earl and his styling team’s important role in General Motors’ hierarchy, and not so incidentally, it helped Cadillac replace Packard as America’s preeminent luxury automaker.

The fact that there was an economic depression going on did not stop American car companies from participating in the 1933 Century of Progress World’s Fair Exposition in Chicago. Several automakers prepared special cars for the exposition, particularly the luxury marques. Packard created the “Car of the Dome,” sometimes called “the most famous Packard,” a modified Dietrich-style sedan. Pierce Arrow showed its radically styled Silver Arrow, and Duesenberg created a Rollston-bodied supercharged Model SJ Arlington Torpedo Sedan designed by Gordon Buehrig and nicknamed “Twenty Grand.”

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With that kind of competition, GM’s newly formed Art and Colour Section took its task seriously. The long and smooth lines were supposed to convey the impression of power and speed. Those lines were accentuated by the sloping rear end and by tapered horizontal accents on the sides of the hood and fenders. Unlike most cars of the day that carried exposed spare tires mounted on the back of the car or as “side mounts” where the front fenders flowed into the running boards, the Aerodynamic Coupe stashed the spare in the trunk. Even the exhaust pipes were styled, an innovation that lasts till today, and the exhaust system was tuned to give the car’s V-16 engine an appropriate tone.

That V-16 engine, in production since 1930 and the first production V-16 used for a passenger car, was possibly the first car engine that was styled for aesthetic reasons. The motor received finishes in enamel paint, porcelain, polished aluminum and chrome. The V-16 looked so good that Cadillac would apply the same styling to its V-8 and V-12 engines.

A “winged goddess” Cadillac hood ornament topped things off, and even that received special attention with a polished finish on its front, while surfaces visible to the driver were dulled, so as not to create glare. Windows had walnut trim and sun visors were shaped like abstract leaves, made of fine cloth and mounted with screws that had heads of imitation pearl. Instead of metal handles, the doors were closed with rope pulls mounted below the armrests. As would be expected, the deeply cushioned and broad seats were extremely comfortable.

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In 1946, this incredibly special car was purchased by Mr. William T. Walter Sr. of Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania. Although Mr. Walter owned five other 16-cylinder Cadillacs, this car was Mr. Walter’s favorite, and he regularly drove it to meets and shows in the eastern Pennsylvania area, and it was seen many times in the 1960s and 1970s at the Eastern Division AACA National Fall Meet at Hershey. In 1984, Mr. Walter sold the car to a Mr. Charles Jones of California. Mr. Jones sold the car to the Blackhawk Collection in Danville, California, in 1997.

Blackhawk Collection immediately sent the car to Mike Fennel Restorations in Saugus, California, where it received a complete nut-and-bolt restoration.

Subsequently, the car was sold to a prominent car collection in San Francisco in 2007 where it has resided ever since.

This outstanding vehicle presents the opportunity to own one of the most important of the Harley Earl-era designs ever built.

Arrangements to purchase this vehicle can be made directly by contacting Mecum representative Rob Williams by phone or text at (262) 236-7705 or by email at rwilliams@mecum.com.

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