The 1941 Cadillac.
What is there to say about a Caddy? A Caddy back when a Caddy was the car, more specifically. Before the invasion of America by the Germans that eventually led Mercedes-Benz to be considered the epitome of luxury and the subsequent usurping of the throne in 1990 by the Lexus LS400, Cadillac was it.
Back in the ’50s and ’60s (I’m told), your net worth could be pinpointed by which GM-branded car you drove. The poor have Chevrolets, the slightly richer have Pontiac, the next step up drive Oldsmobiles, the reasonably well monied bought Buicks, and the real players all drove Cadillacs.
1941 saw a whole mess of improvements and alterations to the Cadillac. The 1940 models (excepting the Sixteen) was rather plain-looking with a regular bar grille just like any ol’ Chevrolet. In ’41, though, the bar grille was replaced with an egg crate, which simply exudes luxury, somehow. Other improvements were made as well: the headlights were mounted flush with the fenders for the first time on a Cadillac, one of the taillights flipped up to reveal the fuel filler, and Cadillac’s first air conditioner was offered on this car, although it was enormous and could only be turned off by removing a belt in the engine compartment.
More importantly, ’41 was Cadillac’s return to a “One Make One Engine” policy. After discontinuing production of the Series 90 (or Sixteen), the 346 cid V8 powered everything they made. Mated to that engine was perhaps Cadillac’s most pivotal development yet, and one that would arguably ruin the automobile for decades to come: Hydra-Matic.
The first fully shiftless transmission in the luxury class, the Hydra-Matic was developed by Oldsmobile the year before and became an option on the Caddy in 1941. However unfortunate it is that Cadillac led to the removal of quite a lot of the purity and fun of driving, it’s a decision that makes sense–a Cadillac driver should not be required to do something so plebeian as shifting his own gears! This is a task best left to someone else, like a servant or a torque converter! It doesn’t seem like three-on-the-tree would be quite as visceral as a proper stick.
I can’t stay mad at you, Cadillac.
Did I mention that the gas filler is part of the driver’s side taillight fixture? That needs to make a comeback.