Among the classic Cadillacs you can expect to see in Port Hope, Ont., this weekend to celebrate the 110th anniversary of this iconic American luxury brand will be a rare 1911 Model 30 Touring “Southern Tread.”
The addendum to its name refers to its unusual extra-wide tread or track designed to allow its tall 26-inch wheels to run in the wide-spaced ruts of the mule-drawn wagons employed on southern plantations.
That extra four inches between the tall artillery spoke wheels would have been one of the option boxes ticked by the car’s first purchaser, the owner of a South Carolina cotton plantation who would have paid about $1,700 for it.
Something he didn’t choose was front doors, which became available on Cadillacs for the first time in 1911. And he missed out on electric lighting and a starter, which wouldn’t be available until 1912 (when Cadillac became the first to offer a push-button alternative to the tricky and dangerous hand-crank).
He would likely have congratulated himself on being one of a growing number of discerning and well-heeled early car buyers taking notice of the Cadillac brand, which had been created in 1902 and was already becoming – thanks to a reputation for innovation, quality and reliability insisted on by founder Henry M. Leland – one of North America’s premier automobiles.
And he’d have been among the 10,019 who bought one in 1911, setting a new sales record for what was by this time General Motors premier division.
But unfortunately his new automobile didn’t just frighten the local horses (nothing scares mules), but its new owner as well.
After learning how to drive it – perhaps employing the instruction manual Cadillac sold for 25 cents – he crashed it, damaging a front wheel and fender. He had it repaired, but never drove it again.
This long-ago Southern gentleman’s 1911 Cadillac will be among the wide range of entries in the Antique and Classic Car Club of Canada’s 49th Annual Concours d’Elegance in Port Hope tomorrow, (Aug. 11) which will be followed on Sunday (Aug.12) by the club’s 7th Annual Pre-War Antique Car Tour.
The concours traditionally attracts some of the classiest classics in Ontario to compete in a number of judging categories, while the tour will see some 60 pre-1943 vehicles take part in a drive through scenic Northumberland County (for info go to acccc.ca and click on 2012 registration).
The 1911 Cadillac Touring hasn’t seen many custodians in its more than century-long existence. It was sold on its first owner’s death to a Florida resident and moved to Gettysburg with its third owner, an old-car hobbyist who paid $1,200 for it in 1951, arriving along with a truck-load of grapefruit. He restored it and then went on to win a number of show trophies with it before passing it on a few years ago to owner number four who promised him he’d keep it until he died, which he unfortunately did not long afterward.
Peter Fawcett, of the Fawcett Motor Carriage Co. in Whitby, acquired it in the U.S. after owner number four’s death. “I took a chance on it, we bought it without even hearing it run, but it’s a beautiful-looking thing,” he says. And, as he’d anticipated from being aware of the car and its owner, when he fired it up it ran like the proverbial clock. “All we had to do was tune it up and shine it up.”
Cadillac, which was founded by Leland from the remains of Detroit Automobile Co. (which Henry Ford was involved in), began producing small single-cylinder-engined cars in 1902 and soon hit its stride. It began producing an expensive four-cylinder model in 1905 and followed it up with the successful Model 30 that would seal its reputation in 1909, the year it was acquired by GM.
The 1911 “Thirty” was powered by a 286-cubic-inch, four-cylinder L-head engine that looks stunning with its copper-water jackets polished new-penny bright. It produced about 35 hp and drove the wheels through a three-speed transmission. Suspension was by solid axles front and rear, with brakes fitted on only the rear wheels. Wheelbase was 106 inches and overall length 150 inches (3,800 mm).
Standard equipment included a top, leather upholstery, gas headlights and oil side and tail lights, a horn and toolkit.
Fawcett, whose company is one of the Port Hope event sponsors, says that despite its age it copes with the modern world well enough. “You need to look at a map and pick a quiet route, but it will happily idle along at 45 mph all day. You can drive a long way at that speed, if you keep at it.”