V16 Cadillac Models & History 1938

TheCadillac Series 90 for 1938 was essentially a Series 75 with a V-16 engine. Even though the wheelbase was 330mm shorter, the bodies were equal or larger in all dimensions than previous Cadillac V-16’s. This was accomplished by fitting the nearly flat engine low in the frame and partially behind the line of the firewall. V-16’s were distinguished from the counterpart V-8’s by a coarser pitch eggcrate grille, fender lamps, and streamlined louvers on the hood side panels and all fender skirts.

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1938 Cadillac Formal Sedan

The new V-16 engine was of L-head, short stroke square design, cast-en-bloc, with 135 degree Vee. With each block in running balance, the engine was basically a twin-eight. Dual accessories included carburetors, oil bath air cleaners, manifolds, distributors, coils, fuel pumps, and water pumps. The fuel pumps were interconnected so that either one could supply both carburetors if needed. Only the left hand distributor contained breaker arms; the two arms being electrically independent but operated by a single eight-lobe cam. The right hand unit acted only to distribute the high tension voltage to the spark plugs in the right bank. A cross pipe connected both exhaust manifolds and fed into a single down-pipe at the left. The generator was placed low in the Vee and was driven by an internal rubber ring in the fan hub acting on a driven wheel on the generator shaft. This arrangement allowed for fan speeds less than engine speed and generator speeds nearly twice engine speed – it lasted only one year.


  • Serial numbers were on frame side bar, just ahead of the steering gear.
  • Starting: Same as engine number.
  • Ending: Same as engine number.
  • Engine numbers were on upper rear left hand corner of left cylinder block, parallel with cylinder head.
  • Starting Engine Number: 5270001.
  • Ending: 5270315.


Fleetwood Series 39-96 141 in. Wheelbase
Style Number Style Seating Price Weight Production
38-9019 Sedan 5 $5135 2320 kg 43
38-9019-F Imperial Sedan 5 $5215 2348 kg 5
38-9023 Sedan 7 $5265 2357 kg 65
38-9029 Convertible Sedan 5 $6000 2432 kg 13
38-9033 Imperial Sedan 7 $5420 2430 kg 95
38-9033-F Formal Sedan 7 $6050 2430 kg 17
38-9039 Town Sedan 5 $5695 2336 kg 20
38-9053 Town Car 7 $7170 2461 kg 11
38-9057 Coupe 2 $5335 2234 kg 11
38-9057-B Coupe 5 $5440 2280 kg 8
38-9059 Formal Sedan 5 $6050 2320 kg 8
38-9067 Convertible Coupe 2 $5440 2230 kg 10
38-9006 Presidential, 161″ wheelbase 2
38-90 Chassis 3


Type 135 degree Vee
Valves L-Head
Cylinders Sixteen Cylinders
Block Cast iron block
Bore & Stroke 79.4mm x 79.4mm
Displacement 6.287 Liters (see note)
Compression Ratio 7:1
Brake Horsepower 185 hp @ 3600 rpm
Power 138 kW @ 3600 rpm
SAE/Taxable Horsepower 67.6
Main bearings Nine
Valve lifters Hydraulic
Carburetor Carter WDO 407s(L) – 408s(R)

Note: Most literature says the displacement is “431 cu. in.” (i.e., 7.062 Liters), but in calculating the bore and stroke for 16 cylinders results in 384 cu. in. (6.287 Liters)


Wheelbase 3588mm
Overall length 5096mm
Front Tread 1537mm
Rear Tread 1588mm
Tires 7.50 x 16


Transmission Selective synchro manual transmission.
Speeds 3 Forward, 1 Reverse
Controls Left Hand Drive; Gearshift on column; handbrake at left
Clutch Single disc clutch.
Drive Shaft drive, Hotchkiss.
Axle Semifloating rear axle.
Gears Hypoid gears.
Overall Ratio 4.31:1.
Brakes Hydraulic brakes on four wheels.
Wheels Disc wheels.
Wheel size 16 in.


Radio $95.00
Heater $26.50-42.50
Seat covers $7.50 per seat
Spotlight $18.50
Automatic battery filler $7.50
Flexible steering wheel $15.00
Fog lights $17.50 pair