Hershey | Lot 155
1931 Cadillac V-16 Sport Phaeton by Fleetwood
$350,000 - $450,000 USD
| Hershey, Pennsylvania
7 October 2021
- Formerly owned for over half a century by noted V-16 enthusiast Paul Schinnerer
- A genuine Sport Phaeton body, one of 85 built
- Fascinating known history back to 1935
- Ready for completion and enjoyment; stunning potential
- Classic Car Club of America (CCCA) Full Classic
According to the book Cadillac V-16s Lost and Found by noted historian Chris Cummings, this Sport Phaeton began as a genuine Hollywood V-16, shipped new to the Don Lee dealership in Los Angeles on 19 July 1930, finished in Black and Sable, striped Apple Green with Sable fenders and chassis, and dual sidemounted spares. The West Hollywood used car dealer who dealt it five years later told buyer G. Thatcher Darwin that it had belonged to Douglas Fairbanks, Sr., who had posed for publicity photographs with a similar but not precisely identical Sport Phaeton. A budding young Cadillac enthusiast, Mr. Darwin paid $150 for the Sport Phaeton, which served him faithfully as an everyday automobile for several years, including one memorable trip chauffeuring his mother and aunt up Mount Wilson on a sightseeing journey.
Sometime after World War II, Colonel George Van Deusen, Commanding Officer of the Air Force Base in Tucson, Arizona, learned of the V-16, and pursued its acquisition from Mr. Darwin for weeks—eventually literally handing him a blank check. “I realized this was an opportunity to get him off my back for good,” Mr. Darwin recalled. “I took the check and, after some quick calculation, thought of a figure, then doubled it and handed the check back. I was sure this would end his interest in the car. He just looked at it and said, ‘When can I pick up the pink slip?’”
Cummings' entry on the car further notes that Colonel Van Deusen used the car for a time before moving its body to a later flathead V-16 chassis—creating a most unusual-looking equipe—and converting the chassis into a trailer. Fortunately, early V-16 enthusiast Paul Schinnerer came along in 1968, buying the whole package, and began what he dubbed a “forty-year project” of restoring the car back to original condition. Cummings states that the body was remounted on a V-16 chassis, and a correct replacement engine, number 701495, and front axle were both fitted to complete the ongoing renovation. In this form the Sport Phaeton occasionally took part in Southern California events, and was even reunited with none other than G. Thatcher Darwin, who recognized his old car pre-restoration from modifications he had made to the windshield and suspension.
Mr. Schinnerer finally parted with the Sport Phaeton after over half a century. It is in very solid and intact overall condition, although its restoration is yet to be completed and work will still be required throughout, most significantly to the interior. A very well-known and respected example of its breed, it is sure to tempt a new owner who can complete the work or begin it anew—and will wind up with a V-16 Sport Phaeton worthy of glamorous Hollywood, and much in the tradition of the men who loved and enjoyed it over the last 91 years.