Some automotive 'Did you knows'

The Plymouth, Mich., Concours d’Elegance of America car show in July featured a lineup of magnificent 1930s-era V-16 Cadillacs, shown here. It turns out some of the Cadillacs may turn up at auction in January in Phoenix. Owner John D. Groendyke of Oklahoma is offering at auction seven of his 17 Cadillac V-16s at no reserve. RM Sotheby’s auction house estimates that one of the Cadillacs may fetch more than $1 million, while the others will sell in the hundreds of thousands each.

112 cylinders of classic Cadillacs

If your ship came in recently and you are afloat with extra cash AND you love classic cars from the 1930s, I want to acquaint you with an upcoming auction being held in Arizona in January. You may just be able to pick up for your vintage car collection up to seven magnificent rare Cadillac V-16s. If you buy all seven Cadillacs, you’ll be adding 112 cylinders of pre-war luxury in one swell swoop. The auction will be held under the auspices of RM Sotheby’s at the Biltmore in Phoenix on Jan. 16-17.

Noted Cadillac collector John D. Groendyke of Enid, Okla., has built up a large collection of fine Cadillacs V-16 body styles and model years in the past 10 years and presently has a grand total of 17. All are in top-notch condition and many have earned awards at high-end concours events including Pebble Beach, Amelia Island and Concours of America in Plymouth, Mich. Notably, all seven of John’s V-16s will be sold at no reserve. “Mr. Groendyke is a gentleman collector known for his well-maintained cars,” RM wrote in a news release. “He has collected the best available examples and spares no expense to ensure they function the way they’re meant to.” The auction house goes on to comment, “He has thoroughly enjoyed his collection of Cadillac V-16s and is now ready to pass along a portion of it to other enthusiastic collectors.”

Cadillac’s V-16 was its most exotic engine ever built and was considered an engineering tour de force at the time. Cadillac introduced the V-16 in 1930 just as the Great Depression was closing in – not an ideal introduction time – to create competition for luxury car Packard’s Twin Six V-12. Cadillac took two engines sharing a crankcase and crankshaft to create the huge 16-cylinder power plant. It displaced 7.4 liters and put out 165 horsepower. It was acclaimed not only for its masterful technology, but also for its sleek, uncluttered visual appeal. The Cadillac V-16s were mounted during their decade-long lifespan on first a 148-inch, then a 154-inch wheelbase and an endless list of 54 body styles were available. Following in chronological order are the seven V-16s, all with bodies by Fleetwood, offered with estimated RM Sotheby’s estimated auction price in parenthesis: 1930 Cadillac V-16 Sport Phaeton ($900,000-$1.2 million), 1931 V-16 Seven-Passenger Imperial Sedan ($100,000-$150,000), 1932 V-16 Five-Passenger Sedan ($175,000-$225,000), 1933 V-16 All-Weather Phaeton, ($300,000-$350,000), 1935 V-16 Imperial Convertible Sedan ($600,000-$750,000), 1936 V-16 Town Sedan ($250,000-$300,000) and 1939 V-16 Convertible Coupe ($225,000-275,000.)

I haven’t read yet if this particular auction will be televised live. It is the same period of time when other nationally known auction houses like Barrett-Jackson, Mecum and Goodings hold their spectacles in Phoenix area and many are broadcast on TV or live-streamed. I fervently hope a reader of this column does purchase one of these beauties and will let me know. I’d love to write about the adventure and I’m sure readers will enjoy hearing the story as well. It need not be written that I’m sure Mr. Groendyke is hoping that there is active bidding and all has masterpieces bring top dollar. I’ll be watching for sure.

Rise of luxury glass in new cars, trucks

Do readers recall the 1954 Ford Skyliner and Mercury Sun Valley? They were top-of-the-line sporty two-door hardtops featuring a roof opening over the driver and front passenger that was covered with tinted glass. This was before sunroofs were common and it seemed like a good idea. It gave the owner a sunlit interior without the buffeting wind and vandalism troubles of a convertible. On a cool afternoon with temps in the 70s, it was a great idea. On summer days with 90 degree temps, it was not such a good idea, even when a provided snap-in cover was installed to shut out the sun rays. It still got hot inside. It is doubtful even that if the owners had the very rare air conditioning, it would have helped much.

Over the decades that followed, the desire by motorists to have that open-air feeling without owning a convertible grew and automakers did their best to accommodate them with options like T-tops, manual and electric sunroofs and so on. Today it is rare to find a car or truck on the dealer’s lot that doesn’t have some form of opening (or two opening in some cases) in the vehicle’s roof, be it a conventional sunroof made of either painted metal or glass of some kind or just a covering of fixed glass that covers almost the entire roof, front and back. What’s making it possible to use a lot of glass on vehicle roofs nowadays is the introduction of a new glass film given the name Suspended Particle Device. SPC is the name of film that turns a vehicle sunroof or other glass from transparent to opaque, blocking the infrared and ultraviolet light that superheat interiors and also do great damage to leather and other interior materials. SPC was invented by Research Frontiers, a Woodbury, N.Y. nanotechnology research firm.

Here’s how SPC works. Like magic, microscopic particles line up when a small electric current runs through the film and creates a window shade that blocks up to 99.5 percent of light. Also magical, when you turn your vehicle off, the sunroof turns black and blocks light rays. If SPC is used on all of your vehicles’ windows – and a possibility as prices fall – then valuables can be left on the seats because no one can see inside. This unique feature will become very appealing to automakers as the switch to electric vehicles picks up speed. Why appealing? With a reduction of heat in the car as it sits in the sun, it will enable automakers to reduce the size of air conditioning compressors by up to 40 percent, which will cut costs and weight. Also, cooler cars and trucks will use less energy and, accordingly, battery life will be extended. Presently only the New York company produces SPC, but an Israeli company is building two factories to produce the product. As SPC becomes less costly its application will shift from just high-end super cars to all cars. Already 25 upcoming vehicles, mostly electric-driven, have signed up to use glass with the film. This new development to block sun rays could give automotive designers all kinds of new styling options using glass with SPC-applied film on vehicle surfaces. I can see the day when the entire roof surface of a vehicle greenhouse will be glass. The “hard” metal rollover protection will be installed totally out of sight beneath the glass. I’m thinking an all-glass roof look isn’t that far off.

Vehicles Of The Year nominees for 2020

Are readers good at guessing winners? Here’s your chance to shine. It’s time for the annual selection of the car, utility and truck “of the year” awards given annually by a non-profit organization of the same name. Several dozen vehicle candidates have been reviewed by a panel of auto columnists and industry observers (about 60 individuals from U.S. and Canada) and the final three runner-up picks for each award have been selected. The three winners will be announced in January. Car candidates are Corvette, Toyota Supra and Hyundai Sonata; utility candidates are Hyundai Palisade, Kia Telluride and Lincoln Aviator, and truck candidates are Ram HD, Ford Ranger and Jeep Gladiator. Can you guess the final winners? I’m going with Corvette, Lincoln Aviator and Jeep Gladiator.

• Trivia answer: The unique Skyliner and Sun Valley were sold in 1954, 1955 and 1956. Ford’s Skyliner was offered on the Crestline Skyliner in 1954, then as the more stylish Crown Victoria Skyliner in 1955 and 1956.

Dar Davis founded the Lake Bluff Concours and chaired the event for many years. He has been writing this column since 1999. He can be reached at