Roddie’s Classic 1931 V-12 Cadillacs: One Phaeton, One Roadster
NOTE: This article was first published in the December 7, 2022 issue of the Highlands News-Sun’s Lake Placid Section. Congratulations to owners Dick & Marilyn Roddie for the completion of the restoration of their two 1931 V-12 Cadillacs! The two 82-year-old classic luxury cars will be the feature cars at the December 10. 2022 Lake Country Cruisers Car & Bike Show, held at the Lake Placid Historical Society Museum Depot from 10 am to 2 pm.
It will be a nostalgic day in Lake Placid on Saturday, December 10, 2022. Not only will the U.S. Sugar Express “Santa Train” 1920 steam locomotive be coming into town, but at the Historical Society Depot, the Lake Country Cruisers Car & Bike Show will have two special feature cars from the same era.
The Lake Country Cruisers Car & Bike Show’s “Feature Cars” will be Placid Lake residents Dick and Marilyn Roddie’s two 1931 V-12 Cadillacs. The Roddies have resided in Lake Placid for over twenty years and still have a working farm in Ohio. Dick is a “farm boy” at heart, having grown up in rural Ohio where farm machines are a part of everyday life. Along the way, Dick developed a deep appreciation for classic cars. Dick and Marilyn also own a black 1958 Corvette.
Both Cadillacs have recently been fully restored by Dick, with help from local friends and specialty shops. Restorations are a labor of love and can take years to complete. Dick acquired the 1931 Cadillac Phaeton in 2011 and the 1931 Cadillac Roadster in 2015. The restoration to the point of being roadworthy took around six years.
The two Cadillacs are essentially the same, the Phaeton is a four-door and is number 81-of-120 Phaetons built in 1931. The Roadster, with a rumble seat in the back and no roll-up side windows, is number 27-of-81 such models built in 1931. The Phaeton and the Roadster both ride on the same 140-inch wheelbase chassis.
Cadillac, the Standard of Luxury
The Cadillac Automobile Company was started in 1902 and was bought by General Motors in 1909. Always a high-end luxury car, Cadillac brought out their V-16 452 cubic-inch, 175-horsepower engine in 1930 and their 368 cubic-inch V-12 engine with 135-horsepower in 1931. The V-12 engine is an overhead-valve design, has two carburetors, two ignition coils, one ignition distributor, and a vacuum fuel tank. Cadillac V-16, V-12, and V-8 engines made the Cadillac brand the “Standard of the World”.
Back in the day, luxury car makers typically built and designed the chassis, engine, and running gear, then coachbuilders built custom bodies. The Roadster body was build by the Fleetwood Company, in Fleetwood, Pennsylvania. Later, General Motors bought out the company and moved Fleetwood to Detroit. The Phaeton was built in Detroit. The 1931 Roadster was made famous for being the Pace Car at the 1931 Indy 500.
When Dick and Marilyn bought the cars, the cars were worn out and tired, but neither car had any serious rust or damage. The original paint was in bad condition and the engines did not run. The restoration of both cars took place in Dick and Marilyn’s Cadillac service garage-style home garage.
The cars were completely disassembled, parts were cleaned, refurbished, repainted, or replaced. Dick took the V-12 engines apart and had everything refreshed, machined, and reassembled the engine himself with new aluminum pistons, and all-new exhaust systems. Dick even has a spare V-12 engine, just for fun. All of the upholstery and tops were replaced, all of the dash gauges were restored and repaired, as well as factory-original wooden parts were refurbished or replaced.
Dick even repainted the cars himself in their garage. All of the car’s chrome parts were cleaned up and re-chromed. The original wire wheels were painted when new, but Dick had them chrome plated for some extra sparkle. Dick commented that the restoration project was a lot of work, he learned a lot and would do it again. This wasn’t Dick’s first restoration project, he has also restored a 1929 Cadillac LaSalle.
The 1931 Cadillac Roadster and Phaeton cost around $4,000 new ($75,000 today’s dollars), but were not the most expensive Cadillacs of the day. That honor goes to the $5,800 ($108,700 today’s dollars) 370A Fleetwood Four-Door Cab Sedan. Regardless, it is a wonderful thing when someone brings back to life machines from our earlier days, be it a 1920 American Locomotive Company 4-6-2 Light Pacific class 141 Steam Locomotive, or a 1931 Cadillac V-12 Phaeton and Roadster.
You can see and enjoy the steam engine train and the Roddie’s classic V-12 Cadillacs at the Lake Placid Historical Society Depot this Saturday, December 10. The Lake Country Cruisers Car & Bike Show will take place from 10 am to 2 pm and the train will depart from Lake Placid around 12 noon. Later that evening, the Lake Placid Annual Christmas Parade will start at 7:00 pm.