Note: This article is reprinted from the August 2016 issue of Collectible Automobile
By Jack Stewart
The Cadillac V-12 will forever stand in the shadow of the marque’s landmark V-16. The latter stunned the automotive world when introduced and continues to be favored over the V-12 with collectors. In its day, though, the Series 370 Twelve quickly outsold its more august brother by a considerable margin.
Cadillac’s flagship V-16 made its debut on December 27, 1929. The V-12 followed in October 1930. With the 370, Cadillac had thorough coverage of the luxury-car market from its companion-car LaSalle starting at $2195 on up to Series 452 V-16s that could cost as much as $15,000 with custom coachwork. Twelves began at $3795 and tended to run about $2000 less than comparable Sixteens.
The V-12 engine was basically the V-16 minus four cylinders. The V-16 had overhead valves and introduced the first hydraulic valve lifters to ensure quiet operation of the valve gear. Each bank of cylinders had its own fuel and ignition systems. The V-12 inherited these features. Just as the V-16 operated as two straight eights on a single crankshaft, the V-12 was a pair of inline sixes. The V-12 had a displacement of 368 cubic inches, and developed 135 hp with 284 pound-feet of torque. Of course, it was less powerful than the larger V-16, but was nearly as smooth and was said to rev better at high rpm—perhaps helped by the shorter crankshaft. A lightweight V-12 roadster like the one that paced the 1931 Indianapolis 500 was good for around 85 mph, and even cars with heavier bodies could cruise at 60 to 70 mph. (Seven-passenger 1930-31 models were mounted on a 143-inch wheelbase that was three inches longer than that of other Series 370 cars.)
The V-16 and V-12 engines were not only well engineered, but were also aesthetic triumphs. Raising the hood revealed a neatly laid out motor that was finished in black enamel, polished aluminum, and chrome.
In 1931, the coupe shown here was the least expensive Series 370A model. (Cadillac considered virtually identical cars produced during 1930 to be the Series 370.) The 5035-pound vehicle was listed as a two-passenger car, but included a roomy rumble seat for another two riders. Says owner Steven Muccillo of Laguna Beach, California, it is one of only four ’31 coupes known to remain from a total production of 302.
Muccillo bought the car in Yakima, Washington, from the son of the original owner. The son intended to restore the Twelve, but was unable because of his advanced age. He wanted the car to go to a good home. Muccillo, who has been restoring cars since he was 14, did all the restoration work except for the engine, which was sent out.
Although complete, the Twelve needed a full restoration including the wood framing of the Fisher body. (There were Fleetwood-bodied 370s, too.) The body also received extensive sound insulation. Panels had to be absolutely flawless or the black paint would show imperfections. The hardest part of the restoration was tuning the engine’s dual distributors and carburetors. Each bank had to be tuned independently, and then the banks had to be synchronized. When the restoration was finished, Muccillo sent a video to the former owner, whom, he says, was so delighted to see his father’s car restored to its former glory that he cried.
The Twelve is a regular award winner at concours events in California. Muccillo says the coupe “drives just like a Cadillac.” He drives on the canyon roads near Laguna Beach at 60 or 70 mph. He can take his hands off the wheel. “The car is really smooth,” he reports.