Vintage Cars of ‘The Great Gatsby’ – Cadillac Type 59

What Cars Would Jay Gatsby Have Really Bought?

The eternal triangle - Jay Gatsby and Daisy and Tom Buchanan.

The eternal triangle – Jay Gatsby and Daisy and Tom Buchanan.

A 1919-1921 Shopping List by Igor Spajic

CADILLAC Type 59

Cadillac began with a modest series of single-cylinder models in the 1900s before graduating to a 30hp four, which established the marque as a quality car, if not in the luxury category.

That changed in 1915 when a V8 model boosted Cadillac into the luxury market. This was the first successful V8 engined car in the American market (or any market for that matter). An immediate success, the Cadillac – which had also introduced the modern type electric starter – was refined into 1922, when it featured a two-plane crankshaft, which smoothed out power impulses of the 90° V8 even further.

1919 Cadillac Type 57 7-passenger Touring

1919 Cadillac Type 57 7-passenger Touring. Good for Gatsby.

The Cadillac was the luxury flagship of General Motors. It went on to bigger engines and better things in the Twenties and Thirties, with an astonishing range of V8, V12 and V16 engined models. Having the might of General Motors behind it could not have hurt during the troubled Thirties, when many another fine car maker failed.

1922 Cadillac sedan from an ad.

1922 Cadillac sedan from an ad.

Gaining popularity during the Teens, by the time of the 1920 Cadillac Type 59, nearly 20,000 units were sold that year. With around 77 bhp and a range of factory body styles from $3,220 in 1919, the cars were keenly priced for the luxury market and proved popular with increasing numbers of buyers.

1919 Cadillac Type 57 Limousine. Good for Gatsby also.

1919 Cadillac Type 57 Limousine. Good for Gatsby also.

The Cadillac Type 59 would have been a safe though unremarkable choice for Gatsby’s needs.

V8 power for the masses - at least the well-to-do ones. 1920 Cadillac Type 59 tourer.

V8 power for the masses – at least the well-to-do ones. 1920 Cadillac Type 59 tourer.

Cadillac Motor Car Company

1919 prices – $3,220 – $4,510

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