Although both the LaSalle and the V-16 were dropped, Cadillac nonetheless offered a wide range of restyled models for 1941. An eggcrate grille that would become a Cadillac trademark was new, as well as Hydra-Matic automatic transmission. With good looks and solid engineering, Cadillac was about to strengthen its hold on the luxury market.
In 1941, General Motors' prestige division proudly proclaimed that "For thirty-nine years, Cadillac's manufacturing policy has remained one of the few certain things in an uncertain world. The organization, at its inception, decided to give its name only to the finest motor cars it was possible to produce. That ideal has never changed. Today, as always, the sole pre-occupation of Cadillac engineers and craftsmen is with perfection. And Cadillac and Cadillac owners have thereby gained a rich reward."
That quest for perfection, along with the breath of fresh air young William L. "Bill" Mitchell gave Cadillac design in the late Thirties, helped the marque emerge from the Depression with its reputation as the "Standard of the World" finally intact. One of the most desired automobiles on earth, buyers at the time would walk right by a Rolls-Royce or Mercedes-Benz -- or a Packard -- if they could have a Cadillac instead. Indeed, Cadillac boasted in 1941 that "In the field above two thousand dollars, approximately two-thirds of all motorists make Cadillac their choice."
Buyers knew that Cadillac was a solid, reliable, and beautiful car that would arouse the envy of their neighbors -- and it was American in the best sense of the word. One of the oldest of the Detroit marques, Cadillac had continually asserted its leadership in engineering. Most notably, it had won the Royal Automobile Club's Certificate of Performance in a closely supervised test in 1908, demonstrating for the first time true automotive parts interchangeability. And Cadillac was first with a mass-produced V-8, this in 1915. These developments exhibited good old American ingenuity and innovation at its best, and Americans were quick to appreciate the sound quality that went into a Cadillac.
Later, Bill Mitchell's 1938 Cadillac Sixty Special set the automotive world abuzz. It was such a surprisingly crisp and imaginative design that it is a marvel to behold even today. Then Mitchell pulled another rabbit out of the hat with his 1941 Sixty Special design, judged by some as Cadillac's all-time best.
As the Forties dawned, however, it became clear that consolidation was to be a major factor for Cadillac during the new decade. And the attitude at Cadillac was decidedly forward-looking, causing the old ways to be pushed aside -- side-mounted spares were last offered in 1940, for example, and the convertible sedan would disappear a year later. More to the point, both the V-16 and the LaSalle, Cadillac's "companion make," were eliminated after 1940.
Quite unfairly, the LaSalle had acquired the reputation of being a "cheap" Cadillac. Actually, it was no more a cheap Cadillac than a Bentley was/is a cheap Rolls-Royce. However, the LaSalle was a several-hundred-dollar step down in price from Cadillac in the GM hierarchy. Cadillac therefore compensated with a bottom-of-the-line Series Sixty-One for 1941. The coupe started at just $105 above the least expensive '40 LaSalle, thus filling LaSalle's rung in the GM "price ladder." Even though replaced, thought was given several times over the following decades to revive the LaSalle name. In the early Sixties, it was considered by Bill Mitchell for what became the '63 Buick Riviera. The name was brought up again when the design for the 1975 Seville, Cadillac's first "compact," was being developed. Early clay models of both cars bore LaSalle badges.
The phasing out of the V-16, which in any event was selling in minuscule numbers, allowed Cadillac to devote its full energies to the old "one make-one engine" idea that had prevailed at the division prior to the LaSalle's 1927 debut. The 5.678 Liter V-8 thus became the engine for all models through 1948. These moves didn't mean that luxury was abandoned, however -- they simply meant that great changes were afoot at the Cadillac Motor Car Division.
Even with the addition of the Series Sixty-One for 1941, the loss of the Sixteens meant that the model count dropped from 39 in 1940 to 26 for '41 (although the number of series increased from five to six), and for 1946 Cadillac would further consolidate its range to 11 models in four series. But in 1941, the lineup was confusing enough that Cadillac devoted considerable space in its catalog to describe it.
The price-leader Series Sixty-One was touted as "one of the finest and most powerful Cadillacs ever built -- yet . . . priced in the medium-price range, and challenges small cars for economy. . . . [A]nyone who pays above a thousand dollars for a car should plan on owning a Cadillac." The six-model Series Sixty-Two was "the Cadillac version of popular 'Torpedo' styling. Its cost is moderate and economy is remarkable." The Sixty-Three, "available only as a Five-Passenger Touring Sedan -- is a completely new and exclusive body design. With matchless beauty it combines unusual economy. It is the 'Sixty Special' of its field." All of the above models shared a 3200mm wheelbase. Riding a 3531mm span, the four Series Sixty-Seven models were "built specifically for motorists who want exceptional size and luxury without excessive cost." Sharing their body shells with the Buick Limited, they seated five or seven passengers.
Two series were designated as Fleetwoods for 1941. The three-model Fleetwood Sixty Special, on the 3200mm chassis, was "built especially for those who seek appearance and performance distinct from those of any other motor car. In design and engineering it is truly 'special' in every sense of the word."
1941 Cadillac Sixty-Special back seat
Finally, the eight Fleetwood Seventy-Five sedans, all on a 3454mm wheelbase, had seating configurations for five, seven, or nine. Further, they came with or without the glass "Imperial Division," which was electrically powered (also available on the Sixty Special and Series Sixty-Seven). The Seventy-Five was also available on a 4140mm-wheelbase commercial chassis. Compared to 1940, the Series Ninety (V-16) and Seventy-Two were gone, but the Series Sixty-One, Sixty-Three, and Sixty-Seven were new.
The price range for the '41 Cadillacs was wide, but not nearly as expansive as in 1940. For example, the '40 Sixteen seven-passenger Town Car had listed at $7175, whereas the most expensive '41 was the Fleetwood Series Seventy-Five Formal Sedan, a seven-seater, at $4045. On the other hand, one could purchase the bottom-of-the-line Series Sixty-One Coupe for $1345, just $63 more than a Buick Roadmaster coupe, but $340 less than the cheapest '40 Cadillac.
The Sixty-One was no dog, either, boasting unique fastback styling that was later copied by Bentley -- not to mention the copycats within GM and at other American producers. Its design theme harked back to 1934-37, when Cadillac had produced a limited number of high-priced fastbacks, called Aero-Dynamic coupes. Due in part to the attractive fastback shape, the standard Sixty-One coupe was the best selling model in the '41 Cadillac lineup (11,812 units), while the standard four-door came in second (10,925). It's hardly surprising, then, that fastbacks were continued through the 1949 model year. By 1950, however, Cadillac decided that the hardtop was the way to go, leaving the fastback a distinctive memory of the Forties.