Cadillac is celebrating an important milestone in 2014 after it became the first manufacturer to mass produce V8-powered automobiles exactly 100 years ago in 1914. Cadillac’s first V8, the 314 CI ‘L-Head’ engine, found its way under the hood of all Cadillac models for the 1915 model year and sparked America’s long-standing love affair with the V8 engine.
The first V8 Cadillac was the Type 51, which thanks to the 90 degree L-Head V8, made a robust 70 horsepower in 1915. The engine was designed by Scottish-born engineer D. McCall White, who was hired by Cadillac founder Henry Leland due to his vast experience at German automotive brand Daimler and British automobile and aircraft engine manufacturer Napier. The public responded to the engine positively, which saw a 38.5-percent sales increase during its second year on the market.
By the time 1916 rolled around, Cadillac had increased the power on the L-Head V8 by 10 percent. It had now greatly surpassed the power of the six-cylidner Packard Model 38, which cost nearly twice as much as the Type 51 at the time. By 1917, the United States had entered World War I, and Cadillac seven-passenger vehicles powered by the L-Head V8 were chosen by the U.S. Army and the Marine Corps as the standard officers’ car.
Cadillac may no longer have its very own brand-specific V8, but it still relies heavily on V8 power to move its vehicles. Its current flagship, the 2015 Escalade SUV, continues the legacy of the V8-powered seven-seater Cadillacs which served in the war almost 100 years ago thanks to its 420 horsepower 6.2-liter V8. It is also working on a version of the 650 horsepower LT4 V8 from the 2015 Corvette Z06 to stuff under the hood of the next-generation CTS-V performance sedan. If only L-Head engineer D. McCall White could see what his hard work transpired into over the last 100 years.