Henry Leland, on Aug. 22, 1902, forms Cadillac Automobile Co. with a group of investors who had previously tried but failed to start a carmaker with Henry Ford.
Cadillac was founded out of the remnants of Ford's second failed company -- his third attempt, the Ford Motor Co., finally succeeded.
Shareholders of the defunct Henry Ford Co. recruited Leland, a Detroit machinist, to assess the company's assets for a planned sale. Leland persuaded them to stay in business, and he proposed combining Ford's latest chassis and frame with a single-cylinder engine developed by Oldsmobile, another early automaker.
The Model A quickly gained a reputation for superb quality. It was equipped with a one-cylinder, overhead-valve engine, rack-and-pinion steering and split-core fasteners that required no lock washers. With the seminal Model A, Leland established a spirit of innovation that propelled Cadillac for more than a century.
The Model A was followed by a car with a four-cylinder engine.
Cadillac was named for the French explorer, Antoine Laumet de La Mothe Cadillac, who founded Detroit in 1701.
In its first year of production, Cadillac cranked out nearly 2,500 cars, a huge tally at the time. Leland, motivated by a rivalry with Henry Ford, assumed full leadership of Cadillac in 1904, and along with his son, Wilfred, established the brand's reputation for fine craftsmanship.
On July 29, 1909, General Motors Corp., newly formed by Billy Durant, acquired Cadillac, then the country's leading luxury automaker, for $4.5 million. Leland and his son were retained to keep steering Cadillac. And when GM stumbled in 1910, Cadillac kept the company afloat.
During his 16 years as Cadillac's president and general manager, Leland encouraged employees and engineers to pursue technology or refinement to enhance the brand's leadership status. One big breakthrough came in 1912 with Cadillac's introduction of the electric-self-starter, invented by Charles Kettering. It replaced the bulky hand crank and made motoring more civilized and less dangerous.
Cadillac's pioneering V-8 engine was installed in models starting in 1915, propelling cars to 70 mph, and Cadillac was well on its way to racking up an all-star list of industry firsts.
The Lelands stayed at GM until 1917, when Cadillac refused to build a Liberty aircraft engine, which the company later produced.
Henry and Wilfred Leland formed Lincoln Motor Co. in 1917 and received a contract to produce 6,000 Liberty engines. Lincoln switched to cars after World War I, and its first model went on sale in September 1920.
The Lelands sold Lincoln to Henry and Edsel Ford for $8 million in February 1922 and departed the company four months later.