If it was a first, it might very well have come from Cadillac
List of innovations includes the self-starter, V-8, V-16, sunroof; and on and on and on ...
Before that watershed event, motoring was a marginal hobby available only to those willing to stand cuff-deep on a muddy street and risk a broken arm from a balky, tempermental hand crank.
Suddenly, starting a car was just a matter of pushing a button — and motoring became part of the American mainstream.
It's no coincidence that the self-starter was a Cadillac innovation. From the beginning, the brand forged a solid reputation for getting to important automotive engineering milestones first.
The first Cadillac sold in 1902 had an overhead-valve engine, rack-and-pinion steering and split-core fasteners that required no lock washers. With that seminal Model A, founder Henry Leland established the spirit of innovation that has sustained Cadillac for more than a century.
During his 16 years as Cadillac's president and general manager, Leland encouraged his staff to pursue any technology or refinement that might enhance the brand's leadership status.
Close cooperation with Charles "Boss" Kettering made the Leland-era Cadillacs more reliable, more powerful and more suitable for daily use. The electric starter perfected by that team in 1912 stands as one of the most significant auto milestones.
When other makers began moving from four- to six-cylinder engines, Leland's son Wilfred conceived the first mass-produced V-8. Again, Kettering and the senior Leland brought that brainstorm to fruition.Here are some of Cadillac's major technological achievements.
1907-08: Use of Johansson gauges (Jo-blocks) from Sweden enabled Leland to manufacture Cadillac components with unprecedented precision. In 1908, under the auspices of Britain's Royal Automobile Club, three randomly selected Model M Cadillacs were disassembled at the Brooklands race circuit. More than 2,000 parts were scrambled, and the cars were reassembled using only hand tools — with no filing, fitting or scraping allowed.
Two of the 10-hp Cadillac engines started on the first pull of their cranks; the third car needed two pulls. All three were then driven flat-out around the track for 500 miles. They averaged just under 30 mpg, and the only repair needed was one flat tire.
For that demonstration of component-part interchangeability, the Royal Automobile Club awarded Cadillac its Dewar Trophy, the original "car of the year" tribute. Cadillac celebrated the achievement with its enduring "Standard of the World" slogan.
1910: Cadillac introduced the first enclosed body — called a limousine — as a standard offering. Previously, closed bodies were available only by custom order. A Delco coil and breaker-point ignition system was a vast improvement over the magneto ignition used by other makers.
1912-13: Cadillac's breakthrough Delco electrical system integrated self-starting, ignition and lighting. After a demonstration consisting of 1,000 consecutive starts and stops, the Royal Automobile Club awarded Cadillac its second Dewar trophy for engineering excellence.
1915: Cadillac introduced the first regular-production V-8 engine. The 70-hp side-valve design featured an aluminum alloy crankcase and two thermostats to regulate cooling.
1922: The addition of thermostatic mixture control relieved Cadillac drivers of all carburetor adjustments except for cold-start choking.
1924: Replacing the V-8's flat-plane crankshaft with a fully counterweighted two-plane crank gave Cadillacs a major advantage in smoothness over competitive engines.
1926: Crankcase ventilation and an oil filter were incorporated in Cadillac's second-generation V-8.
1929: A new Synchro-Mesh Silent-Shift transmission took the clash out of gear changing.
1930: The world's first passenger-car V-16 engine was introduced by Cadillac, with overhead valves, hydraulic lash adjustment, twin carburetors and dual exhausts. The smooth-running 452-cubic-inch engine produced 160 hp at 3,400 rpm and provided a top speed of 100 mph.
1933: Aero Dynamic V-16 coupes featured the first fastback rear design.
1938: The first U.S. sunroof was offered, and a column-mounted gearshift lever made it possible for three people to sit in the front seat.
1949: Cadillac's Coupe DeVille earned Motor Trend's first Car of the Year award.
1954: Cadillac added a glare-proof padded cover on top of the instrument panel, one-touch windshield washing and wiping, and an automatic headlamp dimmer.
1957: The Eldorado Brougham introduced a power seat with memory, automatic door locks, low-profile tires, forged-aluminum wheels, air suspension and an automatic parking-brake release.
1964: Cadillac's Comfort Control was the industry's first thermostatically regulated heating, ventilation and air conditioning system.
1965: Delco Superlift rear shocks provided automatic load leveling.
1966: Electric seat warmers and a stereo AM-FM radio became options.
1969: When momentary engine overheating occurred, a coolant-recovery system captured boiled coolant for return to the radiator.
1973: Cadillac's new theft-deterrent system honked the horn and flashed the headlamps.
1975: The electrolyte of the Cadillac Seville's Delco Freedom battery never needed replenishment. The battery had a built-in charge indicator.
1980: Digital electronics managed Cadillac's fuel injection, ignition and vehicle diagnostics.
1996: Cadillac was the first to use a global positioning system (OnStar) and cellular phone technology for customer assistance.
2000: The world's first night vision system for automotive use was introduced on the 2000 Cadillac DeVille. Raytheon partnered with Cadillac to develop this infrared-light-based driving aid.
2002: MagneRide variable shock absorbers supplied by Delphi improved the Seville's ride and handling.
2006: Cadillac's DTS offered a heated windshield washing system called HotShot.
2008: Lane-departure warning and blind-spot detection technologies were introduced for the DTS.