When a car company has a century of history to draw upon for inspiration, a retro design must become perilously difficult to avoid. However, when devising a concept that could’ve (but didn’t) become Cadillac’s flagship model – the Sixteen – the company put its then-new ‘Art & Science’ design language to use instead.
They subsequently clothed a full 18.6 feet (5.67 metres) of super-limo in a clean, crisp and remarkably sleek body for something comparable to the Rolls-Royce Phantom VII (although an old-money Rolls fan would recoil at those enormous 24-inch wheels).
The retro element, however, was primarily mechanical, as they paid homage to their famous 1930s V-16 models with, as the name suggests, a gigantic sixteen-cylinder engine. It’s like a good ol’ American V8… twice!
Less retro was the inclusion of all GM’s latest engine technology, including “Displacement On Demand” active cylinder deactivation to save fuel – surely a necessity here.
The design detail that really sets it off, however, is the power-operated hood (as we should respectfully refer to it today). The only true ‘30s throwback employed by the Sixteen’s designers, the hood was suitably vast as it cut through the top of the LED headlight stacks and took in the entire fender before terminating at the front doors.
Such a set-up would typically require a ‘clamshell’ on a forward-opening hinge, like an E-Type, but in deference to the interwar cars they instead split it in half and hinged it along its chromed centreline.
Normally for a side-opening hood on a 21st century car, you’d have to look to the time-warp products of Morgan, but on a thoroughly modern exterior like the Cadillac’s it was much more of a surprise… and delight.