Over many years Cadillac has created numerous highly innovative concept vehicles that have dramatically influenced automotive design trends and technology by showcasing bold, break- through designs and "state of the art" technologies. Concepts such as the 1933 V16 Aerodynamic Coupe, 1953 Le Mans and the 1999 Evoq have gained worldwide recognition by ushering in entirely new generations of Cadillacs. Following is a look at the most significant Cadillac concepts that show the division's course during its first 100 years, and a glimpse at the future.
Specially built so Cadillac founder Henry M. Leland could test the feasibility of a closed body car, the single-cylinder 1905 "Osceola" was a precursor to the modern idea of a concept car. Cadillac began offering closed body cars as an option in 1906, and was the first to offer closed body cars as standard in 1910. Leland used Osceola, named in honour of a famous Seminole Native American chief, as his personal car for many years.
1918 Victoria Coupe.
Cadillac had earned a reputation for dependability and engineering leadership by the time the 1918 Type 57 Victoria Coupe was introduced. The Type 57 included the Delco electrical self-starter, ignition and lighting systems pioneered by Cadillac in 1912, and the world's first mass production V8 engine introduced in 1915, a 70 horsepower, 314 cubic-inch (5.1 litre) L-head design with thermostatic control of cooling-water circulation. The Type 57 introduced tilt ray headlights - a mechanical system to "dim" the single filament headlight bulb by tilting the reflector behind the lens downward.
Harley Earl designed the 1927 LaSalle, a sporty "companion" car to the Cadillac line, which filled the price gap between the highest priced Buick and lowest priced Cadillac. It was the first car designed by a stylist to achieve mass appeal as a production car.
1933 Aerodynamic Coupe.
Built for the 1933 World's Fair in Chicago, the "Aerodynamic Coupe" was the first in a line of Cadillac show cars. The 154-inch (392 cm) wheelbase car featured a sloping tail section that suggested speed, power and smoothness, and presaged the "fastback" styling of the 1940s. The spare was concealed in the trunk, unlike nearly all the other cars of its time. Styled exhaust pipes represented an innovative design touch, and were engineered to deliver a pleasing exhaust note. The show car was powered by the world's first V16 engine for passenger car use, introduced by Cadillac in 1930.
1949 Coupe de Ville.
The 1949 Coupe de Ville introduced the pillarless "hardtop" body design, an immediate styling sensation. Another Cadillac styling element widely imitated was the tail fin, inspired by the Lockheed P-38 fighter of World War II and first introduced by Cadillac in 1948. A landmark engine, the 331 cubic-inch (5.4 litre), short-stroke, high compression overhead valve V8, also debuted on Cadillac models in 1949. Weighing 91kg lighter than its predecessor, it set a new industry standard with its combination of speed, quietness, fuel efficiency and reliability.
The 1953 Le Mans concept car was one of the stars of Motorama, General Motors' travelling show of dream cars. Compared to a standard convertible, the Le Mans was nearly eight inches (20 cm) lower and its fibreglass body and 115-inch (292 cm) wheelbase made it 182kg lighter. The sporty styling closely resembled the 1954 Eldorado limited production convertible. Other Le Mans styling elements showed up on production Cadillacs, including the tail fin treatment and the rear bumpers, which were vertical strips of steel that appeared to be part of the body.
1954 El Camino.
The two seater 1954 El Camino show car included a fibreglass body with a hand-brushed aluminium top. Its bubble type aircraft canopy and curved tinted glass enhanced the car's crisp lines. The interior featured two aircraft type seats, high backed and built into headrests, which flowed back to the rear window. The El Camino was powered by the Cadillac 331 cubic-inch (5.4 litre), 230 horsepower overhead valve V8 engine.
1955 Eldorado Brougham.
Conceived as a modern tech-nological showcase, the Eldorado Brougham debuted in 1955. Its features included air suspension, air conditioning, automatic "favourite position" seat (a concept now known as a "memory" seat), a self-opening and closing trunk, quad headlights, a brushed stainless steel roof and a pillarless four-door design. Enthusiastic public reaction resulted in production of the Eldorado Brougham beginning in 1957.
The Cyclone, a 1959 show car with an aircraft-inspired design, explored futuristic technology. An early version of a crash avoidance system was the Cyclone's radar-sensing technology that provided the driver with information on an object ahead, including distance to the object and stopping distance, both measured in feet. When a sensor in the console detected rain, it automatically put up the one-piece bubble top. The Cyclone featured a front-mounted engine with rear mounted transmission and transaxle, and also came equipped with automatic climate control.
A personal luxury car combining elegance and sportiness, the 1967 Eldorado was the first Cadillac with front wheel drive. Its distinctive styling was marked by fine lines, a formal roof, angular corners, creased sides, large wheel openings, a long hood and short rear deck. It was the first Cadillac to offer concealed headlamps. Powered by the 429 cubic-inch (7.0 litre) V8, the Eldorado offered automatic level control and variable ratio power steering.
The sleek 1988 Voyage concept car was a "rolling laboratory" of technology. Its computer controlled drivetrain automatically switched from rear-wheel drive to four-wheel drive when sensors determined slippage in the rear wheels, providing a 50/50 torque split from front to rear. Voyage was equipped with four-wheel disc brakes with electronic anti-lock braking, four-wheel independent suspension and electronically controlled four-speed automatic transmission. Its orthopedically designed seats included more than 20 pneumatic and mechanical adjustments, three memory positions, plus back and cushion heaters with cushion massage.
Evoq proved that when form follows function, it could do so with boldness and distinction. When Cadillac introduced the Evoq luxury roadster concept, it gave tangible form to its art and science philosophy. Evoq was a rear wheel drive two-seater with a retractable hardtop and crisply tailored lines. It boasted a supercharged version of the next generation Northstar V8 engine with an intercooler and continuously variable valve timing. Evoq also showcased technologies such as Night Vision, Forewarn Back-Up Aid rear obstacle detection system, rear vision cameras instead of outside rear view mirrors, and Communiport, a mobile multi-media information system with voice activated navigation, electronic mail and entertainment capabilities.
Evoq was the first illustration of Cadillac's vision for the global luxury market: to create vehicles that blend elements of art and science for the benefit and pleasure of its drivers and passengers. With its combination of individual style and driver focused technology, Evoq served as a forerunner of future Cadillac design. Evoq captured the emotion of great Cadillacs in the past, but in a forward looking way.
The Imaj was an upscale four-passenger concept vehicle that blends the luxury of traditional coach builders with 21st century technology. Considered the high end flagship of Cadillac concept cars, the all-wheel drive Imaj pushed the limits of performance, comfort and communications technology. It also featured Cadillac's distinctive sharply delineated lines and crisp intersections, providing a faceted, diamond-like quality. Under the hood, a supercharged Northstar V8 provided 425 horsepower. The car could switch from rear wheel drive to all-wheel drive through a paddle shift. An aluminium space frame construction and aluminium suspension components helped lighten the load and provide a safe, rigid chassis. A state-of-the-art infotainment system featured LCD screens for all passengers, DVD, Bose audio, Internet access and GM's OnStar system. Rear view video cameras replaced the mirrors, and Night Vision and radar parking obstacle alert systems provide added safety and security. Imaj also featured active suspension with the next generation StabiliTrak system, Goodyear EMT run-flat tyres, Brembo brakes, and card key access. Cadillac teamed with Italian jeweller Bulgari, which provided accompanying aluminium luggage, an exclusive fine clock and distinctive instrumentation for the concept.
The Vizón unites the best qualities of several kinds of vehicles. It combines the functionality of a utility vehicle with the aesthetics, performance and comfort of a world class sedan or wagon. It's a powerful, sure footed vehicle that surrounds the driver in modern luxury, style and connectivity. Like the Cien, it has clean, sheer and sharp surfaces that pay homage to Cadillac's tradition of break through designs and technologies. The interior offers a calm, clean, pure environment, with DVD entertainment, leather seating and an instrument panel inspired by Bulgari jewellers. An electronically operated lift gate rises to expose a practical rear storage area. The load floor in the rear also lifts to form a shelf or to reveal additional storage. The Vizón also features a 4.3-litre V8 Northstar engine, Night Vision, OnStar Virtual Advisor, adaptive cruise control and StabiliTrak traction control.
Drawing on 100 years of rich heritage, Cadillac's newest concept, the Cien, honours its tradition of bringing innovative technology and trend setting design to the luxury segment. The aerodynamic Cien - Spanish for 100 - melds design and technology in a mid-engine, two-seat sports car, combining V12 power and elegant proportions in a striking design that is unmistakably Cadillac. The bold, high tech design incorporates sharp, sheer forms and crisp edges to create a low, sleek appearance inspired by modern day Stealth aircraft. The body and chassis are made of a lightweight, stiff carbon fibre composite. Cien is equipped with scissor style doors that pivot at the base of the A-pillars upon opening. Cien's rear view recalls Cadillac's distinctive design heritage with fin-like, vertical tail lights. Nestled between the engine and the 19-inch front and 21-inch rear wheels is a computer influenced driver's cockpit featuring telematics including Night Vision, OnStar, StabiliTrak, Ultrasonic Rear Parking Assist and Communiport, which integrates the car's audio, computing, navigation and wireless communication through hands free voice activation. The Cien's 7.5-litre, V12 powerplant, which is visible through the car's rear window, is a new GM concept engine called the Northstar XV12. The all aluminium, double overhead cam (DOHC) four-valve V12 engine generates 750 horse-power and 450 lb-ft of torque, yet it meets the packaging requirements and fuel economy standards of a V8.