On This Day: Cadillac Is Founded In 1902 From The Ashes Of The Henry Ford Company

Here’s a fun thought: Cadillac’s origins come directly from Ford. When Henry Ford butted heads with his investors in early 1902 due to his time spent running the Ford 999 race car, he simply pulled up stakes and walked away with his name and $900 (roughly adjusted, about $25,000 in today’s money). Ford would start the Ford Motor Company in 1903, but the remainder of the Henry Ford Company was left in the hands of the investors, William Murphy and Lemuel Bowen. They hired Henry Leland to appraise the plant and equipment for sale, but Leland urged them to continue to produce cars. For whatever reason, Leland had the urge to take the fight directly to Ford and combined the early Model A frame with a single-cylinder engine developed by Oldsmobile. The name is rooted to the founder of Detroit, Antoine Laument de La Mothe Cadillac, a French explorer, trapper, trader and a brazenly self-titled “fake it until you make it” guy who created his title sometime around the moment when he married his wife, Marie-Thérèse (prior to, the man was simply Antoine Laumet).

From those humble beginnings arose a powerhouse. In the early days Cadillacs were touted on their reliability. Precision engineering and luxury were sales points from the start, even before 1909, when General Motors bought the brand. They were the first to incorporate an electrical system into an automobile, the first fully syncromeshed manual transmission, the first V-16 and many more firsts in the industry. By the early 1970s, Cadillac alone sold more cars than the entire Chrysler Corporation fleet in 1970. The 1970s and 1980s did their thing: power went down, size wound up being hacked in the later 1970s, and in the 1980s most of the cars went front-wheel-drive, with just the largest holdouts and commercial chassis cars hanging on.The 1990s was all about the Northstar engine, and in the early 2000s, the company adopted the Art & Science theme, which trimmed the fat of old luxury down and brought in rowdy performance in the form of the CTS-V series. If you missed the old ways, however, the Escalade SUV was more than able to take the role.

Over a century of innovation, of pride, of luxurious aspirations, and of torque-blasting engines that could hustle the weight around like none other. It all started with Henry Ford.

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