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  • Writer's pictureRich Honiball

Today in Brand History: Cadillac

In 1901, the Cadillac Motor Company was formed from the remnants of the Henry Ford Company by Henry Leland and Ford's former financial partners. It was named after French explorer Antoine Laumet de La Mothe, sieur de Cadillac, who founded Detroit in 1701.

After a dispute between Henry Ford and his investors, Ford left his namesake company, the Henry Ford Company. His investors reached out to engineer Henry M. Leland of Leland & Faulconer Manufacturing Company to appraise the plant and equipment so that they could liquidate its remaining assets. Instead, Leland convinced them to continue manufacturing automobiles using Leland's proven single-cylinder engine.

Cadillac's first two cars, the Runabout and Tonneau were nearly identical to the 1903 Ford Model A. Cadillac's biggest selling point was precision manufacturing, and therefore, reliability; a Cadillac was simply a better-made vehicle than its competitors. The company soon merged with the Leland & Falconer Manufacturing company.

Cadillac had the first U.S. car to win the Royal Automobile Club of the United Kingdom's Dewar Trophy by successfully demonstrating the interchangeability of its component parts during a reliability test in 1908. From this was born the company's slogan "Standard of the World". Probably why in 1909, Cadillac was purchased by the General Motors (GM) conglomerate, becoming General Motors' prestige division.

By the way, Leland went on to start the Lincoln Motor Company in 1917 with a $10,000,000 wartime contract to build the V12 Liberty aircraft engine. After the war, the company was reorganized, and the Lincoln Motor Company Plant was retooled to build luxury automobiles. The V8 engine used in the first Lincoln automobiles is believed to have been influenced by the Liberty engine's design.

In a twist of fate, in 1922, Lincoln became insolvent and was bought out by Henry Ford's new company, the Ford Motor Company. Ford's bid of $8 million was the only bid at a receivers sale; he had first offered $5 million, but the judge would not accept it for a company whose assets were conservatively estimated at $16 million. Ford deliberately low-balled his offer as revenge against Leland's role in the creation of Cadillac. Leland continued to work for Lincoln Motor Company until later that year when one of Ford's executives arrived and demanded that he resign or be fired.

There was a "Lincoln Motor Car Works" prior to Leland founding his company in 1917. It was an automobile company in Chicago, Illinois. producing cars for Sears Roebuck from 1908 until 1912. Yes, they sold their cars through their catalog.

Of course. (Ever since I posted about the launch of Encyclopedia Britannica, and they responded with "love, but a correction" because I had the wrong date, I've tried to dig deeper and not only learned more, but tried to check my facts. That said, I still can't say that everything I've written is if you find something you don't think is right, let me know. Encyclopedia Britannica was kind enough to!)


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