Cadillac Sixty Special First Generation
|1938 to 1941|
|Assembly||Detroit, Michigan, USA|
|Body and chassis|
|Body style||4-door sedan|
|Engine||346 cu in (5.7 L) Monobloc V8|
|Transmission||3-speed selective synchromesh manual 4-speed Hydra-Matic automatic|
|Wheelbase||1938–40: 127.0 in (3,226 mm) 1941: 126.0 in (3,200 mm)|
|Length||1938: 207.6 in (5,273 mm) 1939: 214.3 in (5,443 mm) 1940: 216.9 in (5,509 mm)1941: 217.2 in (5,517 mm)|
|Width||1938–40: 75.6 in (1,920 mm) 1941: 80.0 in (2,032 mm)|
|Height||64.5 in (1,638 mm)|
|Curb weight||4,000–4,500 lb (1,800–2,000 kg)|
For 1938, the Harley Earl-Bill Mitchell designed Sixty Special was added between Cadillac's lowest-priced line of cars, the "Series 60", and the "Senior" large-bodied Cadillacs. Although all first-generation 60 Specials were built at the Fleetwood Plant, the 60 Special was marketed as a Fisher Body car in 1938 and 1939.. The new four-door sedan, designed to look like a convertible sedan, showcased trend-setting features including a completely integrated, coupe-like trunk (which launched "three-box" sedan styling); no running boards (which all makes soon followed); two-piece, convertible-style doors (Bill Mitchell called the '38 60 Special "the first hardtop"); a "four-window" canopy with more glass area than any Cadillac before; a steeply-raked windshield and four front-hinged doors. It was built on a 127.0-inch (3,230 mm) wheelbase - 3-inch (76 mm) longer than the standard Series 60 cars. The new Sixty Special utilized a unique "X" frame underneath, which allowed the 4,170 lb (1,890 kg). car to sit within its frame. This not only gave the new Cadillac the stiffest chassis on the market, but it was also 3 inches lower than other Cadillacs - with no sacrifice in headroom. The disappearance of running boards along the side and its lack of belt-line trim made the sleek car appear even lower. More important, it allowed shoulder and hip room to increase by over 5 inches without an increase in overall width. When combined with the brand-new column-mounted shift lever, the cars offered true six passenger comfort. The Sixty Special was powered by Cadillac's standard 130 hp (97 kW), 346 cu in (5.67 L) V8 engine. In its debut year, 3,703 Sixty Specials were delivered, at a base cost of $2,090 each - it was a success in every measure. The new Sixty Special outsold every other Cadillac model in its first year accounting for 39% of all Cadillacs sold. In 1938, aside from the standard 4-door sedan, two prototype models were built on the Sixty Special body - two very dashing four-door convertibles (one owned by GM executive, Larry Fisher, which was demolished by Harley Earl in a traffic accident and one sent to Europe, which was later recalled and consumed by GM Engineering in structural tests in preparation for the 1940 "Torpedo" bodies), plus one Sixty-Special coupe (driven personally for two years by GM President, Bill Knudsen).
A not well-received new front end, which was patterned on the Lincoln Zephyr and lacked the visual punch expected by Cadillac buyers, a modest change in trim level, and some new options appeared for Sixty Special in 1939. First among the new options was a retractable metal panel above the front seat called a "Sunshine Turret Top Roof," a predecessor to the moon roof. The sliding roof, patented by GM's Ternstedt Hardware division, was operated by a hand crank. Second was an optional retractable division glass in between the front and rear seats. This partition did not have a header in the roof, only channels between the door posts for the retractable glass to travel. The 1938 price of $2,090 remained for 1939 as well. More than 5,500 Sixty Specials were built for 1939, accounting for 40% of all Cadillacs sold, but only 280 of them were equipped with the sun roof option (of those 280 sun roof optioned cars, 55 of them were also equipped with the retractable glass partition).
Starting in 1940, and for the remainder of its existence, the Sixty Special would be Fleetwood marketed, enjoying higher-priced molding, trim and upholstery like the Series 75 and 90. Thus it took over the Series 70's place, which was dropped for the 1938 model year, as Cadillac's most luxurious owner-driven large model, a role it would fill through 1976. For 1940, the price (for the third year in a row) and general styling remained the same, with only modest trim changes. Of special note is that 1940 was the last year that side-mounted spare tires (optional on all Cadillacs, including Sixty Special) were offered. The Sixty Special line expanded to four models this year: Touring Sedan (the base model), Imperial sedan (priced at $2,230, it featured a retractable glass partition between the front and rear seats), and two open-front Town Car models (one style with a painted roof, the other with a leather-covered roof). These two very formal cars had a removable roof section over the front seat and a glass division window. Of the Sixty Specials built in 1940, 4,242 of them were the Touring model. There were 113 Imperials (including 3 that were also equipped with the sun roof), and lastly, only 15 Town Car models. Of the 15, 9 had the painted metal roof (priced at $3,465), and 6 were the formal leather-covered roof version (priced at $3,820).
1941 was the last year of Harley Earl and Bill Mitchell's original Sixty Special design, as an all-new 1942 model was in the works. Many consider the 1941 to the most beautiful of this series, though Mitchell himself favored the clean lines of the original 1938 model. For the first time, Cadillac had its own front end design—the "tombstone" grille with a high center section flanked by lower side sections—that would identify Cadillacs for years to come. The new "face" blended well with the original body, and the rear fenders now held full skirts. For 1941, the wheelbase was reduced by 1 inch (25 mm), down to 126 in (3,200 mm). Sixty Specials showed a $105 price increase (for the first time) to $2,195. Power was still supplied by the same 346 cu in (5.67 L) Cadillac engine as before, but was now rated at 150 hp (110 kW). Production totals include 3,878 Touring sedans (including 185 with the sun roof option), and 220 Imperial sedans (now priced at $2,345). Only 1 Sixty Special Town Car was made this year and used on the auto show circuit before being purchased by film director, C.B. DeMille. Featuring the leather-covered roof, it was the last one to come from Cadillac-Fleetwood.
There were nearly 17,900 Sixty Specials made from 1938 to 1941, including about a dozen custom bodied versions.
1941 Cadillac Fleetwood 60 Special in the Road to Rio, film from 1947