Lot 134

Arizona 2018

1933 Cadillac V-16 Seven-Passenger Town Cabriolet by Fleetwood

Offered from a Private Collection


$362,500 USD | Sold

United States Flag | Phoenix, Arizona



Engine No.
Body No.
  • Offered from a private collection
  • Delivered new to Hollywood legend Joan Crawford
  • Formerly of the Hillcrest Motor Company and Otis Chandler collections
  • The subject of numerous articles and basis for several collector models
  • One of the most famous and iconic Cadillac V-16s

I never go outside unless I look like Joan Crawford the movie star. If you want to see the girl next door, go next door.

- Joan Crawford

In early spring of 1933, a tremendous machine arrived at Don Lee Cadillac of Los Angeles. It was a V-16 seven-passenger town cabriolet, the very first of three made that year, and its build sheet notes that it was finished in all-over black – a line of “BLACK,” right down the left side of the page – except for the wire wheels and their disc covers.

As is common with V-16s of this era, the second page of the build sheet has not survived, and so additional special requests for the car have been lost. Thus we may never know if the original owner, Joan Crawford, really did have all of the interior hardware plated in satin-finished pewter, so that a photographer could not catch her distorted reflection in celluloid. Nonetheless, it is the kind of legend the lady enjoyed spinning around herself.

After Crawford’s use of the car, it was purchased by John Quarty, an innovator in modern resort hotels, and continued its use chauffeuring celebrities, now at his San Marcos Resort near Chandler, Arizona. Finally retired, it made its way to Ohio, and there was acquired, via Tom Barrett, by the Hillcrest Motor Company in the early 1970s.

Located on Wilshire Boulevard in Hollywood, the Hillcrest Motor Company was the successor to Don Lee, the famed dealership that had sold the car to Ms. Crawford. Recognizing the opportunity to buy back the most famous car they ever sold, the dealership took it, and their employees restored it to original condition. Afterward it was placed in the small museum on the second floor of the Hillcrest Motor Company, and began its new life as a famous showpiece, featured in the September 1974 issue of Motor Trend, in Roy Schneider’s Sixteen-Cylinder Motorcars, and as the basis for several die-cast collector’s models, as well as in advertisements for The Broadway.

After the death of owner Willet H. Brown in 1993, the Hillcrest dealership was closed, and its company collection sold by Sotheby’s at the Petersen Automotive Museum in 1994. There the Crawford V-16 was acquired by Dr. Joseph Murphy of Pennsylvania. Dr. Murphy, in turn, sold the car to Otis Chandler, in whose famous Vintage Museum it was exhibited until joining the current owner’s stable in 2003.

The car is accompanied by a comprehensive history file, including copies of its various articles, a copy of the build sheet, and, importantly, numerous pieces of correspondence with Hillcrest employees, in which they confirm Crawford’s ownership and detail the restoration completed by some of the men who worked on the V-16 for her in 1933.

Cadillac V-16s of 1933 are rare in any form, with fewer than 30 known to exist; only two are seven-passenger town cabriolets, and only one of those is the iconic ex-Joan Crawford/Hillcrest Motor Company/Otis Chandler car – an automobile with decades of Hollywood heritage, documented, recorded, and known to enthusiasts far and wide. It could make even the girl next door look like a movie star.

Joan would approve.