1931 Cadillac 355-A Town Sedan - $59,900
     
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On this 1931 Cadillac 355-A Town Sedan, the quality is tangible in every single component and thanks to a high-quality restoration in the 2000s, it remains “the standard of the world.”

Rolling into the 1930s, the economy was still in shambles but the ultra-luxury car makers continued to create some of the most spectacular cars ever built. More power, more sophistication, and more car all made the machines of the 1930s very special. And while there are plenty of great manufacturers, few can stand taller than Cadillac. They were part of the biggest company in the world, a company that was still profitable in 1931, and Cadillac’s engineers were given one edict: build the best cars in the world. On this 1931 Cadillac 355-A Town Sedan, the quality is tangible in every single component and thanks to a high-quality restoration in the 2000s, it remains “the standard of the world.” Please don’t be fooled into thinking that only a V12 or a V16 will do, because Cadillac’s V8s remained the foundation of the company and today they are reliable, powerful, smooth, and virtually indestructible. If you want an outstanding Full Classic tour car, this handsome Cadillac delivers in every way that matters.

We have the original build sheet for this lovely Town Sedan and Monsoon Gray is indeed the original color. In fact, it is fully restored exactly the way it was when it was new, complete with black trim and scarlet red pinstripes and wheels. Quality is impressive, even after several years. The paint has a deep shine, the masking between the colors is crisp, and the pinstripes are sharp, all befitting a Cadillac of this stature. Town Sedan was Cadillac’s name for the more familiar “club sedan” which is a close-coupled 4-door that’s a bit more intimate and sporting than the standard 4-door. It gives up a little leg room in the back but gains a very handsome built-in trunk and near-ideal proportions that make it one of the best-looking 4-doors of the era. We also like the rear-mounted spare tire, which visually lengthens the Town Sedan (although on a 134-inch wheelbase, it doesn’t really need help in that regard) and makes the hood and fenders especially graceful. There’s simply not an angle from which this car doesn’t look good. And as a Cadillac, the doors close with genuine authority, a pleasing kerchunk that feels permanent and secure. Individual doors on the hood can be opened to cool the engine with an additional door on each side of the cowl to cool the interior.

Of course, there’s plenty of chrome and it remains in first-rate shape throughout. The 1931 Cadillac headlights are rumored to be the largest ever fitted to an American car, and with a set of Guide driving lights, the head-on view is imposing indeed. The build sheet specifies dual V12 horns, which are still on the car, as well as the goddess hood ornament. It also carries an accessory grille guard that seems quite appropriate. A few other sprinklings of chrome such as around the cowl, the door handles, and the delicate taillights, which are almost spherical. The split rear bumper seems to cradle the rear-mounted spare and gives it a very polished look. It appears that the spare tire is older than the rest, so consider that something that you might want to upgrade if you plan to tour extensively.

The lovely gray Bedford cord interior is expertly tailored and looks very correct for 1931. The fabrics and stitching, complete with wide piping around the cushions, is how it was originally done and there’s fresh stuffing underneath so it feels firm and comfortable behind the wheel. Plush carpets feel upscale and help control noise and heat and the simple door panels are trimmed with refinished wood garnish moldings. Original door hardware is nickel plated and has a soft satin shine that looks right and the big 4-spoke steering wheel is a bit more detailed than those from earlier years. Looking closely you’ll see that the lever for the headlight control on the hub of the wheel has broken off, a very common problem, as your shirt sleeve tends to snag on it (I know I’ve almost broken mine several times just getting out of the car). The handsome instrument panel is more upscale-looking than in previous years where the gauges were just scattered across an expanse of painted steel, and the ornate background is in good original condition. Factory gauges have slender pointers and Art-Deco numbering and they all work save for the temperature gauge (and possibly the clock, which appears to be a hand-wound unit that we haven’t tested). Controls for the instrument lights and unique sliding windshield wipers are to the left of the steering column and the burled walnut trim at the base of the windshield is in great shape. Rear seat passengers have plenty of room despite the close-coupled body style and there are small ashtrays and lighters in nooks by the armrests. A larger center arm rest folds down and there is a silk shade for the rear window. Somebody spent a lot of money here.

In previous years, the model designation would indicate the engine’s size, but in 1931, the engine displaced 353 cubic inches, not 355 as the nomenclature would suggest. The extra 12 inches come from a slightly larger bore on the already proven and reliable Cadillac V8. With 5.5:1 compression (the ‘HC’ seen on the heads stands for ‘high compression’) and a full roller camshaft, it makes about 100 horsepower and perhaps 250 pounds of torque. Thanks to clever gearing, however, it never feels lethargic and you’ll love the way it effortlessly idles in high gear and accelerates cleanly from about 7 MPH. Experts will note that there’s a LaSalle intake manifold cover, a common replacement when originals crack, but otherwise it’s quite correct. The bakelite distributor cap and sheetmetal spark plug covers designed to emulate the OHV V12 and V16 engines are intact and it uses correct hoses and clamps for the cooling system. The original vacuum tank is on the firewall, but it has been bypassed in favor of an electric fuel pump hidden down on the frame rail and as such, the engine seems immune to vapor lock, even with today’s fuels. It has a correct bypass oil filter, generator, and water pump, as well as a giant aluminum fan that moves a surprising amount of air through the giant radiator. The exhaust manifolds have been treated with a high-temperature coating that is surely more durable than the original porcelain, although it is not correct. It starts quickly and easily with a little choke and there’s a robust V8 burble from the exhaust pipe out back that sounds great but might be a little more aggressive than original.

Cadillac invented synchromesh transmissions and introduced it in 1929, so the three-speed manual gearbox in this 1931 is as easy to use as your modern daily driver. Clutch take-up is light and progressive and the shifter moves through the gates with no grinding or clashing, although you should still take your time to spare the hardware. There’s still enough torque on tap that most shifting is superfluous, and I’ve always loved the way these cars are content to motor around in high gear without complaint thanks to 4.91 gears (as specified on the build sheet). The chassis is clean but not as highly detailed as the rest of the car—it has been toured and driven, after all. Brakes are still mechanical but driven within its limits, they have no problem keeping things under control. Steering is, of course, heavy at low speeds but lightens up as speeds increase and it tracks well even over broken pavement. The ride is luxury car smooth thanks to that massive wheelbase, although the tires are a little stiff and replacements might be a good idea if you plan to drive it extensively. The current 6.70-18 Firestone wide whites look appropriate and the beautiful Scarlet Red wheels are in excellent condition.

This is a fantastic opportunity to own a high-quality Full Classic Cadillac in a rare, desirable body style. It is well documented and someone clearly invested a great deal of money in the restoration. Due to long storage, it may need a few upgrades (tires, in particular) but we have serviced the car and it does run and drive quite well. This car defines what the Classic Era was all about and it never fails to draw a crowd wherever it goes. Call today!

Vehicle: 1931 Cadillac 355-A Town Sedan
Price: $59,900
Stock Number: 114056
Mileage: 78,930
VIN: 807943
Engine: 353 cubic inch V8
Transmission: 3-speed manual
Gear Ratio: 4.91
Wheelbase: 134 inches
Wheels: 18-inch wire wheels
Tires: 6.70-18 Firestone wide whitewall
Exterior Color: Monsoon Gray
Interior Color: Gray broadcloth

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