Auctions and Brokerage
Coachwork by Fleetwood
Formerly the Property of the Block Family and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum
This 1932 Cadillac V-16 Madame X, model 5155, is one of only four such examples built. It was reportedly on special display at the 1933 Chicago Auto Show and was purchased from the stand by Mr. Rudolf C. Block, son of William H. Block who was the founder of the famous Block department store in Indianapolis. Rudolf Block then gave the car to his mother Amelia as a gift. According to documents that accompany the car at sale, this Madame X featured a special-order painted radiator shell, which still graces the car today. It is said to have been delivered with double-sided green-wall tires and, in a letter from John Schaller III, a close friend of the Block family, he wrote that the car was “a daily sight” on the streets of Indianapolis, as Amelia Block’s chauffeur drove her around the city and parked outside the family store for her to complete her shopping.
The car was kept polished and waxed every day, and Mr. Schaller recalls being granted a special ride around the block in the magnificent green Madame X as a five-year-old boy. In the 1940s, the Cadillac was put into storage at the Block family mansion and, although John Schaller III made it known to his friend that he would like to purchase the car, its rarity and significance led the Block family to gift it to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum instead. It is believed that the automobile was renewed to factory condition by Block’s grandson prior to the Cadillac being displayed in the museum, where it remained until it was acquired by its current owner in 2011.
In 2002, this gorgeous Madame X was invited to the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance for display, for its first public outing in decades. Attendees were amazed by its as-delivered presentation, including gold-plated handles and fittings in the rear compartment; German silver pinstriping inlays; the smoker’s companion roof vent, which draws cigar smoke out of the passenger compartment while the car is in motion; and its striking green paint and copious chrome trim. The Madame X is also fitted with vacuum assisted brakes, whitewall tires, dual metal side mounts with rearview mirrors, and a Cadillac radio and clock fitted in the rear compartment.
This extremely rare V-16 is a star indeed, and can still be seen in photographs in many restaurants and bars in Indianapolis to this day. A marvelous artifact of Cadillac heritage and the embodiment of style, prestige, exclusivity, and power of a bygone era, this remarkable automobile has not been available for public sale since 1933 and is sure to excite any collector with a true appreciation of the heights of American automotive history.
The V-16 Cadillac
Offered in more than 70 different body styles, Cadillac’s V-16 became the symbol of status and prestige, described as a “mechanical and artistic masterpiece.” The engine was specifically designed and calibrated to produce minimal vibration and noise, with the 45 ̊ angle between its cylinder banks enabling the monstrous engine to slide neatly under the hood.
In all, just 4,076 Cadillac V-16s were produced over a period of 11 years, with more than 3,000 built in 1931. Production dropped off dramatically after that year with only 300 built in 1932, making the 1932 V-16 an extremely rare and sought-after model. One of the most exclusive and expensive versions was the “Madame X,” a four-door, five-passenger divided sedan, named by Cadillac master designer Harley Earl after a 1929 movie by the same name starring Academy Award-nominated actress Ruth Chatterton. The Madame X V-16s cost well over $7,000 when new–$1,000 premium over the standard 16-cylinder Cadillacs–and was a special body style by Fleetwood featuring very slender and elegant door and windshield pillars, chrome window-edge moldings, and a raked one-piece windshield.