AMELIA ISLAND, Fla. -- The Cadillac showcase at the 2013 Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance featured one of the finest displays ever assembled of recent and historic dream cars.
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I overheard several comments from those admiring the concepts. At least two people said that Cadillac should still build its Cien concept, a testament to how strong the design remains, even after a decade. Cadillac built the V-12 sports car to celebrate it's 100th anniversary back in 2002. Incorporating Caddy's "art and science" design philosophy, which remains in effect today, the Cien's chassis was made of a carbon fiber composite and featured scissor-style doors.
The next year Cadillac debuted the Cadillac Sixteen, which was conceptually related to the Cadillac V-16 of the 1930s. It also incorporated styling cues from the 1967 Eldorado while furthering today's "art and science" design. As the name implied, the Sixteen carried a 32-valve V-16 concept engine with a massive 1,000 horsepower rating. It was still capable of 18 mpg by shutting down twelve cylinders in light driving.
Reaching back further in time, the Cadillac Cyclone concept was about as futuristic as you could get in 1959. It was the last "dream car" created during Harley Earl's tenure as General Motors' vice president of design. Among its many advanced concepts was a pair of sliding electrically operated doors and a radar operated crash avoidance system.
One of Concours chairman and founder Bill Warner's favorite Cadillac concepts also made the trip to Amelia, a 1953 Le Mans. "When I was 14-years-old in Washington D.C. on a school boy patrol trip, I saw one of the Cadillac Le Mans running down one of the boulevards and I chased it on foot. I was 14-years-old! There were four of those built for the 1953 General Motors Motorama. They were very rare, fiberglass sports car like the Corvette, but they were Cadillacs," said Warner.
The one on display at Amelia was from the Playtime Auto Collection. The Le Mans features a 250 horsepower V8 coupled to a 4-speed gearbox. The fiberglass body also sported Cadillac's first wrap-around windshield.
We'll wrap up our tour with a custom Cadillac that Earl had built for his friend John Alexander, a Wisconsin industrialist, who was also a WWI Navy pilot. Earl's test engineer, Frank Burrell, took a 1953 Eldorado and installed a Roots-type supercharger and twin four-barrel carburetors. Earl wanted everyone to know this was a one-of-a-kind Eldorado. He had special un-muffled side exhaust pipes incorporated that could be opened via cut-out lever, or closed for more Cadillac-like quiet operation. The Eldorado also sports Borrani wire wheels riding on a 126-inch wheelbase.
Seeing so many stunning Cadillac concepts and best of breed production models in one place was a great reminder of how Cadillac earned its "Standard of the World" reputation.
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