Cadillac Cars: History from Model 30 to Escalade

Cadillac was officially founded on August 22nd, 1902 out of the ashes of the Henry Ford Company. Cadillac quickly made a name for itself as a leader in quality, and by 1909 had become a luxury offshoot of General Motors. Cadillac then perfected the water-cooled V-8 engine, and eventually introduced the V-12 and V-16, as well as a number of other important auto innovations. The company remains a strong brand in the luxury car market, and continues to be the "standard of the world." In this video, takes a look at the history of Cadillac, from its beginnings with the Model 30, to its more recent successes with the de Ville, Eldorado and Escalade.

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The History of Cadillac

These U.S.-built cars are a symbol of the American dream. Learn more about the history of Cadillac.


The Cadillac Automobile Company was formed after Henry Ford left the Henry Ford Company to create the Ford Motor Company. Instead of shutting down, engineer Henry M. Leland suggested the company manufacture cars that ran on his single-cylinder engines. The Cadillac Automobile Company was then officially founded on August 22nd, 1902, and was named after the founder of Detroit.

A Premium Brand

Even in its early days, Cadillac was noted as one of the United States’ premium automakers. Most considered Cadillac cars to be better-made than their American counterparts.

Standard of the World

In 1908, the company advanced the auto industry by introducing its interchangeable parts. It was at this point Cadillac adopted the slogan “Standard of the World.”

Bought by GM

In 1909, Cadillac was purchased by General Motors and it became a luxury offshoot of that corporation. The Cadillac Model 30 was introduced at the end of that year, and this was the first model to feature an electric starter and a closed cab.

V8 Engine

1915 saw Cadillac release the first mass-produced car with a water-cooled V8 engine. Cadillac also produced GM’s more commercial vehicles, like limousines, ambulances and hearses, as well as cars for the U.S. Army later in the decade.

Harley Earl

In 1924, Cadillac began using lacquer paint and sold cars in a variety of colors, while their competitors only offered black. The company also hired a stylist rather than an engineer to create their next car.

The Depression

This luxury brand suffered through the Great Depression. In fact, the company was almost discontinued in 1932. This was after Cadillac introduced the first V-16 engine in a passenger car, which resulted in an extraordinarily quiet and smooth ride. It was also around this time that the Phillips-head screw and screwdriver were invented, and Cadillac was among the first to use this technology to speed their manufacturing.

World War II

In 1937, Cadillac wowed audiences at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway by shattering the existing stock car records. By 1940, the company was back on its feet following the Depression. During World War II, they allocated all resources to aiding the war effort, and this spawned the slogan “Famous in Peace – Distinguished in Battle!”

Famous Design Elements

After that, Earl introduced a number of staple design elements to the Cadillac brand, including the tailfin, extensive chrome detailing and the wraparound windshield. The Cadillac Fleetwood was introduced in 1947 and epitomized this design style. In 1949, the company produced its one millionth car, and introduced its popular de Ville series of automobiles.

More Design Firsts

Cadillac continued to grow in the ‘60s on the strength of its quality and design. One such innovation was the first climate controlled air conditioner and heater in 1964.

Cadillac Overtakes Chrysler

Cadillac sales soared. In 1967 the Eldorado was introduced, and this classic car helped Cadillac overtake Chrysler in sales by 1970.

Airbags and Other Innovations

New government regulations influenced Cadillac to introduce airbags to some vehicles in 1974. Later in the decade, Cadillac computerized the automobile, and continued innovating into the ‘80s.

Luxury and the Escalade

Cadillac maintained its reputation for luxury, opulence and design leading into the new millennium with the introduction of their Escalade in 1999.


With technological advances, beautiful design, and attention to detail, this company solidified its place as the Cadillac of automobiles.

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