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1912 Cadillac Model 30 Touring

By Jeremy Wilson

Imagine the prestige felt by a Cadillac owner in 1912! While your neighbors are risking broken arms from cranking a Model T, you hop into your Cadillac, engage the Delco electric starter, and accelerate away without the slightest hint of exertion.

Today, Ken Krolikoski enjoys that same prestige but for different reasons. Owning a 1912 Cadillac places him above the masses in more ways than one.

“It’s so high,” says Ken, “that with its 35-inch wheels I’m at the same level as a city bus driver.”

The tall wheels make for easy steering, but sitting so high (in a right-hand-drive car) has its drawbacks.

“When I’m going down the road, I can’t see anything behind me because I’m on the right and the back of the car is six feet high,” says Ken. “And when you put the top up, the car is probably eight feet high. I can’t get it in my garage with the top up--and raising it is a two-man job--so typically it stays down.”

Ken lives in the Portland, Oregon metropolitan area where, coincidentally, the Cadillac was originally purchased in 1911.

“The previous owner was the president of the Horseless Carriage Club in the San Francisco Bay area,” says Ken. “He invested a lot of money in the Cadillac, making mechanical improvements, and then traded it in on a 1936 Packard. Interestingly, he sent me documents showing the Cadillac originally shipped to a dealer in Portland. It’s been around and then returned home.”

One of the things Ken likes best about the Cadillac is its uniqueness.

“I’m into cars that there’s not many of. When I’m at a car show, I don’t want another car showing up just like mine. I’ve never seen a 1932 Packard Deluxe Eight or a 1912 Cadillac at a show. In fact, I’ve never seen another 1912 Cadillac.”

Along with the Cadillac’s uniqueness comes a rather difficult personality--one that is missing a few modern-day refinements.

“I’ve never had so many things vibrate off a car before,” says Ken. “I thought my Packard was rough, because it has a straight axle, but after driving the Cadillac, the Packard feels like an air ride.

“It has a 286 cubic-inch, four-cylinder engine and each cylinder is individually cast. They are beautiful engines because they have copper water jackets. The valve train is exposed, so when you run the engine, you can see the valves going up and down. The one-pass lubrication system uses oil one time and then it leaks out of the engine or gets burnt in the combustion chamber. And the funny thing is, some guy on the Internet said, ‘How do I stop this motor from leaking?’ Someone else said, ‘You don’t want it to stop from leaking!’ The original owner’s manual says you adjust the oil injection to equal the amount that it burns and leaks.”

Driving the Cadillac can be challenging, even for an experienced driver. Top end cruising speed is about 40 miles per hour and although it turns easily, it’s turning radius is like a 30’ RV. Shifting, braking, and even entry and exit require extra effort.

“There’s no door on the driver’s side,” says Ken. “The car is right-hand drive and the driver’s door is on the left. The shifter for the three-speed, top-shifter transmission is right between your knee and the body of the car. Shifting is not the easiest thing to do when you’ve got your leg right there.

“The transmission does not have synchromesh so you have to double clutch it both ways, shifting up and shifting down. I’m pretty good at shifting up, but shifting down is different. Sometimes I can do it and other times, I grind the gears, but you really can’t destroy the gears if you just use normal pressure.

“And the mechanical brakes, which are just the rear wheels, are bands that constrict the outside the wheel drums, but the emergency brake activates a drum brake inside the hub. I live on a hill with pretty steep roads so a 4000 pound car with only rear mechanical brakes presents an interesting challenge. When I’m going down the hill, I feather the emergency brake and the foot brakes so I don’t get them overheated until I reach the bottom. And that’s going down in first gear.”

Although Ken may restore the Cadillac some day, his current plan is just to enjoy it.

“As far as condition, I would say it’s about a 2 minus,” says Ken. “But the nice thing is I can park at the grocery store and not worry about it. If it gets scratched, it gets scratched. There are enough scratches on it already. So, I tend to just enjoy it, though I’m trying to refrain from thinking about new paint. And as it is, it’s won some trophies. It actually won “Best in Show,” at a small car show.

“A humorous moment occurred when I took a customer to a restaurant and I said ‘The reason I’m taking you in the Cadillac is just in case it breaks down, you’re a car guy and you appreciate cars and will understand.’ He drives a Mercedes AMG Coupe that is a land based rocket. After we had lunch and were leaving, the whole wait staff came to look at the car. I hope the other restaurant patrons were forgiving of me for disrupting service with my car!”

Click on any item below for more details at Amazon.com

John Gunnell
Standard Catalog Of Cadillac 1903-2005, 3RD EDITION
Krause Publications, Paperback, 2005-03-05
This book is the ultimate package for any Cadillac owner or enthusiast. Following the highly regarded tradition of the Standard series, Standard Catalog of Cadillac offers complete coverage of every model ever produced by Cadillac, making it the most comprehensive reference available - and now, it’s in full color.

Featuring a year-by-year breakdown of models, with specifications, production figures, options, and historical footnotes documenting the evolution of the classic luxury vehicles, Cadillac enthusiasts get the most comprehensive coverage available. It contains more than 500 brilliant color photos displaying the best of Cadillac through the years.

Angelo Van Bogart
Cadillac: 100 Years of Innovation
Krause Publications, Hardcover, 2003-11-06

For anyone who has ever loved the Cadillac, this nostalgic picture book will bring back great memories, detailing the unmistakable style and sophistication captured in fins, chrome, interior and exterior design, advertising, and even the dealerships from which they were sold. Cadillac is the leader in innovation with the first standardization of engine parts, electronics, suspension, brakes, and more. Celebrate the success of the most luxurious automobile on the highway.

Also included are a light history capturing the important names and dates in Cadillac genealogy, 200 color photographs depicting the unmistakable style of America’s luxury vehicle.

Henry M. Leland, Ottilie M. Leland, Minnie Dubbs Millbrook
Master of Precision: Henry M. Leland
Wayne State University Press, Paperback, 1996-09
Henry Martyn Leland (1843-1932) is an outstanding figure in automotive history, best known for developing the Cadillac and the Lincoln. This is an account of his life and work during the early days of the automobile industry.
“The text tells the story of this great leader and in doing so, also reveals the ups and downs of the automotive industry, the history and drama of the city of Detroit, and the adventure of a developing industrial age. Henry Leland was a charismatic leader devoted to quality, his biography is highly recommended reading for automotive fans, history buffs, regional scholars, and anyone who appreciates the literary art of the biography.”
-- Midwest Book Review

William Pelfrey
Billy, Alfred, and General Motors: The Story of Two Unique Men, A Legendary Company, and a Remarkable Time in American History
AMACOM/American Management Association, Kindle Edition, 2006-02-27
General Motors has had more impact on life in America than any other before or since. Here is the story of two men and one company at the start of it all.

You couldn’t find two more different men. Billy Durant was the consummate salesman, a brilliant wheeler-dealer with grand plans, unflappable energy, and a fondness for the high life. Alfred Sloan was the intellectual, an expert in business strategy and management, master of all things organizational. Together, this odd couple built perhaps the most successful enterprise in U.S. history, General Motors, and with it an industry that has come to define modern life throughout the world. Their story is full of timeless lessons, cautionary tales, and inspiration for business leaders and history buffs alike.

Billy, Alfred, and General Motors is the tale not just of the two extraordinary men of its title but also of the formative decades of twentieth-century America, through two world wars and sea changes in business, industry, politics, and culture. The book includes vivid, warts-and-all portraits of the legends of the golden age of the automobile, from “Crazy” Henry Ford, Ransom Olds, and Charles Nash to the brilliant but uncredited David Dunbar Buick and Cadillac founder Henry Leland.

History and Production Notes

In 2008 General Motors celebrated its 100th anniversary. To promote the event, GM released a list of their “Top Ten Production Vehicles,” ranging from the 1910 Cadillac Model 30 to the 1996 GM EV1. Number two on this chronological list is the 1912 Cadillac, distinguished for its self starter.

Nicknamed “The car that has no crank,” the 1912 Cadillac created a revolution in the automotive industry, making motor travel more accessible to women and men who did not want to risk injury from crank-starting their engines.

In 1913, Cadillac was awarded the prestigious Dewar trophy, given by Great Britain’s Royal Automobile Club to motor cars significantly contributing to the advancement of the auto industry. This was Cadillac’s second Dewar, the first was in 1908 for precision manufacturing of interchangeable parts. At that time most manufacturers hand fit parts, filing and otherwise shaping them to accommodate assembly. According to the Standard Catalog of American Cars 1805-1942, the 1913 award was for

[Cadillac’s] “improved” starting-lighting-ignition system and its new two-speed rear axle.

Unfortunately, regarding the latter, the Austin Automobile Company sued for patent infringement in late 1914 and won in January 1915. Needless to say, Cadillac dropped the mention of the two-speed axle as concomitant to its second winning of the Dewar.

Although dozens of engineers had attempted to design self starters, it took a combination of personal tragedy and know-how to successfully produce them. The book Master of Precision: Henry M. Leland describes how the Cadillac founder made the electric self starter a priority for his company. When a Detroit woman’s Cadillac stalled, a passing motorist attempted to crank-start it for her. Not realizing the spark had not been retarded, he turned the crank and the motor backfired, breaking his arm and smashing his face and jaw. The man was taken to the hospital but he never recovered, dying a few weeks later of pneumonia.

When the engineer reported the accident to Leland, H.M. was disturbed. “I’m sorry I ever built an automobile,” he burst out. “Those vicious cranks! I won’t have Cadillacs hurting people that way!”

Compressed air starters had been available on Winton automobiles for several years, add-on self-starters were available, and several foreign manufacturers had offered electric starters for years. But it was Charles Kettering’s genius and Henry M. Leland’s motivation that resulted in the large-scale adoption of the electrical self starter. Kettering, who founded Delco and was head of research for General Motors for nearly three decades, gained experience and notoriety while at NCR where he developed the first motor-driven, electric cash register. Ultimately Kettering would design Cadillac’s entire electrical system, including the starter (which was also a generator), an electric ignition to replace the magneto, and electric lights to replace gas lamps fueled by an acetylene tank on the running board.

PRODUCTIONNOTES Production Notes...

According to the Standard Catalog of American Cars 1805-1942, model year production for the 1912 Cadillac was 13995 cars.

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