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Greg Boyd has been working on his 1930 Cadillac since buying it in 1980.
Greg Boyd has been working on his 1930 Cadillac since buying it in 1980.

Car Enthusiasts

A Depression-era classic Add to ...

It's hard to imagine the imposing V-8-engined Cadillac sedan pictured here being seen as a conservative purchase in 1930 - as the Great Depression gathered momentum like a cast-iron engine block tossed from the heights of the 1920s boom by the stock market vandals of the day - but its first owner quite possibly saw it that way.

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After all, he or perhaps she could have been less sensitive to the malaise of the "Dirty Thirties" and ordered one of the more extravagant V-16 or V-12-engined cars that were introduced that year by the luxury marque that had crowned General Motors since 1909.

Like other North American businesses, GM had been enjoying the artificially inflated prosperity bubble of the 1920s that burst with the stock market crash of October, 1929. It had given its showpiece brand the authority to develop new models to even more firmly fix its place among the automotive elite.

As has been the case today, few foresaw the collapse that resulted in U.S. car production crashing into a virtual brick wall, dropping by almost a million units to 3.5 million in 1930.

Lifting off the production line gas pedal wasn't an option though, as the 1930 range was being launched just as the financial collapse began. The result was that Cadillac's 1930s lineup included the V-16 and V-12 models that today are hailed among its grander achievements.

Not in sales terms, of course, with only 3,250 Sixteens (starting price $5,350) and 5,725 Twelves (priced from $3,795) built in 1930-31. The numbers tailed off rapidly and production ended in 1937. By contrast, sales of the $3,495 V-8 in 1930 totalled 11,005 and it continued to produce the bulk of sales, keeping the brand alive.

Buyers of V-8 1930 Cadillacs weren't shortchanging themselves in any significant way, just forgoing the prestige that came with a greater number of pistons. The V-8s, like the 1930 sedan owned by Toronto car enthusiast Gord Boyd, included all the latest features of automotive luxury, including being prewired for the latest (and only) electronic device available - an optional $175 radio.

Styling was still firmly in the upright and stately school of the 1920s, with seven body styles offered by Fisher and another dozen by Fleetwood, Cadillac's in-house body builders.

Options included spare tire covers ($6.50) for the "sidemounts" carried in the front fenders, a $26 spotlight, $25 wind wings, a heater for $42, rear-mounted trunks for $80, and $25 for a radiator ornament. You also had a choice of wire, wooden-spoked or metal disc wheels.

The body is attached to a steel chassis, with solid front and ¾-floating rear axles hung on leaf springs. Brakes are mechanically actuated drums. The weighty sedan is propelled by an L-head (side-valve), 90-degree V-8 engine, displacing 353 cubic inches (5.8 litres) with a compression ratio of 5:1 (about half that of a modern engine). It was rated at 95 horsepower at about 3,000 rpm, delivered to the rear wheels with a three-speed manual transmission.

Boyd, now 62, grew up in Enniskillen, Ont., near Bowmanville, where his parents operated a Western Tire Store. A keen model-car builder as a youngster, his automotive epiphany was realizing the models he was making were replicas of the real cars being repaired in his parents' service bays.

He bought his first car, a 1934 Chev, at age 14 for $165; he fixed it up and sold it a year later for $350. "I couldn't drive it, of course, as I had no licence."

Boyd recalls getting into his profession as a funeral director somewhat by chance. A local firm needed someone to make a pickup in London and "they offered me $50, back in 1966, to put on a suit with a shirt and tie, and drive to London. I thought, 'Hey, this is pretty neat.' And it just went from there." He currently works for the Turner-Porter funeral home in Toronto.

Despite spending his teen years in the muscle-car 1960s, Boyd's automotive interests were focused on an era noted for its "side-mounts, wide whitewalls and chrome" rather than big engines and rorty exhausts.

"With the older cars, too, you have to know how to drive them, rather than just put it into gear and aim it. I've never owned a [collector]car newer than 1932."

He's also been a member of the Antique Automobile Club of America since 1963.

He did much of the restoration work himself on the '32 Chev, '32 Pontiac, '26 Ford Coupe and various Model T Ford touring cars he's owned, but always wanted a 1930-model "something" as he considers this a watershed year.

The Fisher custom-bodied 1930 Cadillac he found in 1972 had been purchased by two Montreal brothers in 1945 and driven out west, where it remained until coming to Ontario in 1960. Its owner "procrastinated for the next eight years" before selling it to him, in May, 1980.

"It was a true basket case. Anything that could be torn apart was," he says, "And I've worked on it from that day. What's that, about 29 years?"

And it's still "a work in progress." There's still some chrome and upholstery to be done and the side mounts have to be fitted.

"I've tried to make it as close to how it left the factory as I can," he says. The car is now back on the road, though, and running well. "It cruises nicely at 40 mph, 45 mph if you push it." And it recently completed a 500-mile tour with no problems.

Boyd's 1930 Cadillac will be one of some 90 classics competing in the Antique and Classic Car Club of Canada's 46th Concours d'Elegance at the Port Hope, Ont., fairgrounds (an hour east of Toronto) this Saturday. The club will also host the third annual Pre-War Car Tour, and a quiz tour for pre-1989 machines, starting at 10 a.m. on Sunday. For information, go to http://www.acccc.ca.

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