1901, Leland was under contract by Olds Motor Works to produce
engines for the curved dash Oldsmobile. He developed a refined
version that developed 23 percent more horsepower. This new
engine, however, was rejected by the Olds people because retooling
for it would further delay production which had already been
delayed by the factory fire in March. Henry Leland's desire to get
into the automobile business was fulfilled a year later through
the courtesy of Henry Ford.
August 1902 William Murphy and Lemuel W. Bowen called in Leland as
a consultant. Murphy and Bowen were two of the financial backers
behind Ford's automotive venture. They were disappointed that Ford
seemed to produce little more than racing cars. So they called in
Leland as a consultant to appraise the automobile plant and
equipment so they could sell it and get out. Leland showed them
the engine rejected by Olds and suggested they stay in. Thus was
born the Cadillac Automobile Company, named for Le Sieur Antoine
de la Mothe Cadillac, the French explorer who had discovered
Detroit in early Eighteenth Century. The president of Cadillac was
C. A. Black.
first Cadillac was completed on Oct. 17, 1902 and was given its
maiden test drive by Alanson P. Brush, the twenty-four-year-old
Leland and Faulconer engineer who had contributed substantially to
the car's design and who would later build the Brush Runabout.
In January the Cadillac was
taken to the New York Automobile Show where company sales manager
William E. Metzger (formerly of Olds Motor Works, later the "M" of
E-M-F) took orders for an astounding 2286 cars before declaring
mid-week that the Cadillac was "sold out."
Cadillac did not use the "A"
designation in 1903; however, later Cadillac publications combined
references to the 1903 "Cadillac" and "1904 Model A" and used
"Model A" in reference to all single cylinder cars with two front
springs and angle steel frame.
What made the Model A
Cadillac such a best-seller, in addition to Metzger's
super-salesman technique, was its refinement. Though the 10
horsepower developed by its single-cylinder copper-jacketed engine
was exemplary, its two-speed planetary transmission and center
chain drive via Brown-Lipe differential was conventional. Still,
in a day when many automobile productions had a machine shop look
to them, the Cadillac, comparatively, looked like a jewel from
Tiffany's. And the price was just $750. The four passenger model
sold for $850. The cars gained a reputation for reliability, ease,
economy of maintenance, and remarkable pulling and climbing
capability. Publicity shots show Cadillacs pulling heavily loaded
wagons up slopes and climbing the steps of public buildings.
July, 1903, F. S. Bennett exported a Cadillac to England where it
was entered in the Sunrising Hill Climb which was reported to be
"the worst hill in England." It placed seventh in a field of 17
other cars, but it was the only one with one cylinder. The others
had two or four cylinders and up to four times the displacement.
Two months later, the same car was entered into the 1903 One
Thousand Mile Reliability Trial in England and finished fourth in
its price class on total points, but first in its price class on
deal made with the former Ford backers called for Leland and
Faulconer merely to supply engines, transmissions, and steering
gears for the Cadillac. That part of the operation moved with
Leland-like precision. But at the Cadillac factory on Cass Avenue,
chassis and body assembly lagged woefully behind. In October 1905,
the Cadillac and Leland and Faulconer operations were merged into
a new Cadillac Motor Car Company, with Henry Leland -- now in his
sixties -- as general manager, his son Wilfred as assistant
treasurer under Murphy.
The single-cylinder Cadillac
would be built until 1909, but its most significant historical
achievement happened in England in 1908. Read about it in the
history of the 1908 Cadillac.
The 1903 chassis had angle
steel frame with two half-elliptic springs front and rear with
straight, tubular front axle. The steering wheel was located on
the right-hand side with the controls to the right and using
adjustable rack and pinion steering gear. The single tube tires
were mounted on 22 inch (56 cm) wood wheels with 12 spokes (14 on
The engine was affectionately
called Leland & Faulconer's "Little Hercules." The horizontal
single cylinder was mounted to the left under the front seat. An
impeller pump circulated the water coolant through a slopped
finned tube radiator which was mounted in the front. The
detachable engine cylinder was made of a special alloy cast iron
with a copper water jacket. It also had a detachable
combustion/valve chamber. The valves were vertical, in-line, and
perpendicular to the cylinder bore. The exhaust valve was located
at the bottom and was operated by a rocker and push rod from the
cam on a gear driven by a half speed shaft in the crankcase. The
intake valve was at the top and was operated by a rocker which was
controlled by a sliding cam driven by an eccentric on the half
speed shaft. The fulcrum for the sliding cam was adjusted by the
movement of a lever on the steering column, giving variable lift
to the intake valve and thus throttle adjustment for the engine.
Fuel was gravity fed from a
tank under the driver's seat to an updraft mixer which
automatically delivered the amount of fuel demanded by the intake
valve opening. Internal lubrication was splashed from a
single-pipe, gravity feed oiler. External points, including the
two main bearings, were lubricated by grease and oil cups.
Cranking was made from the right or left side of the vehicle
through a jackshaft and chain to the crankshaft. The bore and
stroke were the same -- 5.00 inches (127 mm) -- giving a
displacement of 98.2 cubic inches (1.6 liters). It produced 6.5
horsepower. Alanson P. Brush held the patents on the copper water
jacket, variable lift intake valve, mixer, planetary transmission,
and adjustable rack and pinion steering. By 1906, the impact of
the Brush patents would start a drastic change in Cadillac design.
The driveline was a two speed
planetary transmission. Low speed was engaged by the left foot
pedal. High and reverse was engaged by a lever on the right. There
was a single chain to the spur gear differential.
A foot pedal operated the
mechanical brakes on inboard ends of rear half-axles. There were
no front brakes. The engine could be used for additional braking
by easing the control lever into reverse.
The two passenger runabout
convertible was expandable to four passenger by bolting on a rear
entrance tonneau. It had a sloping, curved dash like the
Oldsmobile. The body could be lifted from the chassis without
disconnecting any wiring, plumbing, or controls. An advertisement
in Horseless Age magazine said, "The vehicle is of the runabout
type, but it probably is somewhat heavier and stronger than the
average representative of this type."
Serial numbers were not used.
An engine number was stamped in two places on the crankcase: top
right edge of the cylinder flange near the water outlet and on the
right, front face just below the top cover. The blank spaces on
the patent plate were for additional patent dates, not the engine
number. Engine numbers 1 to 2500 included three prototypes built
The transmission had two
forward speeds (3:1 and 1:1) and one reverse with a disc clutch
and chain drive. The overall ratio was 3.1:1 to 5:1 depending on
the combination of the size of the sprockets. The drive sprocket
had 9 or 10 teeth and the driven sprocket had 31, 34, 38, 41, or
45 teeth. The lower ratios were used on the runabouts to be driven
on smooth, level roads; but the higher ratios were used on hilly
roads and for delivery vehicles. Owners were instructed how to
change the sprockets, but it involved the disassembly of the
transmission and rear axle -- hardly a job for the average