The oldest car in the Museum collection is this 1904 Cadillac Model B, which came from J. A. Adams of Bagot, Manitoba.
Cadillac came into being in 1902, when William Murphy and Lemuel Bowen who had backed an early Henry Ford auto-making venture decided they had had enough of the auto business and decided to get out. They called in an appraiser, Henry Leland, to value the manufacturing plant they owned. Leland, who was a manufacturer of gears and engines, showed the two an engine he had designed for the Olds Motor Works. The engine was not used by Olds as it would have required a major redesign of the car that Olds had in production. Murphy and Bowen liked the engine and took Leland’s advice to stay in the auto business.
Leland, Murphy and Bowen formed the Cadillac Car Company. The name Cadillac comes from one of Leland’s ancestor: Antoine Laumet de la Mothe, Sieur de Cadillac, a French explorer who had founded Detroit in 1701. With Leland’s influence, Cadillac concentrated upon precision engineering from the start as well as stylish, well-finished auto bodies. This resulted in better built, more reliable automobiles than what the competition offered at the time. Success in sales was almost immediate.
The first Cadillac rolled off the assembly line in the fall of 1902. The Model B featured a chassis with a pressed steel frame and axles. It also featured a front axle bridged with a girder and single transverse half-elliptic front spring. While the engine had to be cranked by hand to start, a decompression device was provided to facilitate cranking. A safety device was introduced to prevent the crank from being inserted when the spark control lever was in the advanced position. The single cylinder engine used was of the Leland design but horsepower rating increased to 8.25. This was more an issue of confidence in the engine rather than any design changes.