When General Motors introduced its LaSalle brand as a companion to Cadillac in 1927, it only made sense − sell a car that filled a certain price point left vacant between Buick and Cadillac. It also was the start of Harley Earl‘s reign at GM since he gave the LaSalle styling that previously was known only to expensive European jobs. But with the advent of the Great Depression towards the end of 1929, LaSalle was on life support for a few years.
More than just a cheaper alternative to Cadillac, LaSalle was the stylish, sporty brand of GM. The Spanish marque Hispano-Suiza originally was a major influence to LaSalle styling, and the LaSalle’s smaller size, combined with Cadillac’s V8, made for a quick and agile car for its time. Alas, with sales hovering under 3,500 by 1933, Cadillac was convinced LaSalle was not necessary in these lean time, especially considering both Viking (Oldsmobile) and Marquette (Buick) were discontinued in 1930, and Pontiac superseded Oakland a year later.
But in a bid to keep LaSalle alive, Earl presented GM executives a dramatically redesigned 1934 LaSalle that once again showed itself to be the American style leader. Loosely based on an Oldsmobile but with styling that once again resembled a sporty Cadillac, the 1934 LaSalle was a critical hit − a fashionable American car that would show GM to be a style leader into the 1970s. In fact, the 1934 LaSalle convertible was chosen as the pace car for the Indianapolis 500.
Cadillac sold over 7,000 LaSalles that year, eventually hitting over 32,000 a few years later. However, by 1940, Cadillac felt it was time to put the LaSalle to rest, especially considering Packard’s One-Twenty was a stronger seller (although never quite the looker in comparison).
This 1934 LaSalle 50 Fleetwood convertible was part of the American Classic Open Late class at the 2014 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.