100 Years of Cadillac Progress
We thought it might be a bit of fun to compare the 1917 Cadillac Type 55 Convertible Phaeton to the very recently released Cadillac XT5.
First let’s consider its use and, of course, collectability. One hundred years ago the automobile was transporting city and country folk to places they just couldn’t go as a family. This was especially true when the family had small children.
The new 1917 Cadillac Type 55 Convertible was designed as a touring vehicle. Its convertible top could be put down for spectacular views on the road to anywhere. Or, the top would go up and manual side curtains snapped in place to escape the cold, rain or even snow.
In 1917 Cadillac wasn’t just ahead of the curve, they were delivering features that other cars wouldn’t have for as much as forty years. For example, the 1917 arrived with a V8 engine. No, it wasn’t their first. The first Cadillac V8 appeared in 1915. Even more basic, all other automobiles required a very dangerous hand crank to start the engine. In 1912 Cadillac introduced an electric self-starter. Design and innovation began early with Cadillac and continues today.
Here’s something to consider. After looking at the 1917, when and why did it become collectable? Was it the unique design (for the time) or was it because the car was simply old by the time the collector car hobby began? Perhaps we’ll never truly answer that question. Here’s another—will the new 2017 Cadillac XT5 become a collectable? Why?
In 1917 the average annual income was $687. In 2013 dollars that is equal to $16,063. The average income in 2013 (census report) climbed to $53,246. With a list price of $2,240, the 1917 Cadillac was out of reach except for the privileged few. It was after all, “The Standard of the World.”
Today, the base model of the XT5 is within financial reach of the average income earner. It also helps that today people can buy on credit. In 1917 one would have paid cash for any automobile purchase.
The 2017 XT5 is one of a kind, just like the 1917 Type 55.
Let’s first look at the background of the 1917. This fully restored 1917 Cadillac Type 55 Convertible Phaeton is owned by Colin and Carole Christie of Las Vegas, Nevada.
Here’s information on the car, its history and current condition:
The Phaeton body style was slightly smaller than the seven-passenger touring sedan and was considered the sportier model. With its folding convertible top it can be driven as a fully open car or with the top up and side curtains in place as a closed vehicle.
This 1917 has the original, numbers matching, 314 c. i. V8 engine. In 1913 Cadillac engineers concluded that the 90-degree V8 was the best possible engine configuration. This engine, introduced in 1915, was the first commercially produced V8 and set Cadillac on the path of using primarily V8 engines for many decades. With 77 hp, the engine is able to propel this 3925 lb. vehicle at well over 50 mph.
This vehicle was originally sold by Cadillac Co. of Grand Rapids for $2240 and was delivered on May 17, 1917. It spent the next 88 years near Flint, MI. The car went through a total restoration that was completed in 1963 and was registered as a Michigan Historical Vehicle. The vehicle had sat unused for 15 years before being purchased by Christie and moved to Las Vegas in 2006. Upon arrival in Las Vegas, a second restoration was undertaken and completed in 2007.
Many of the characteristics of this vehicle, especially the engine, are a testament to how technically advanced Cadillac was 100 years ago. In 1917 Cadillac produced about 500 of these Type 55 Phaetons. Less than a dozen have survived.
This 1917 Cadillac has won numerous awards in Arizona, Michigan, and Nevada including three recent Best of Show awards and a First Place at the 2009 Cadillac Grand National.
Christie is a member of the Las Vegas Region of the Cadillac and LaSalle Club and owns a total of five classic Cadillacs.
1917 Cadillac Type 55 Phaeton – Specifications & Features
For the 1917 model year Cadillac produced 18,002 vehicles across 14 different models ranging in price from $2,240 to $4,040.
The Phaeton was the smaller of the two open (touring) cars offered in 1917.
2017 Cadillac XT5 Crossover – Specifications & Features
This year, the new XT5 is offered in five models (see chart notes). While the outside physical appearance is nearly the same, the options continue to climb. All-wheel drive (AWD) is the biggest change and adds the most significant weight increase.