|Classic Used Oil Generators: 1929 Cadillac Dual Cowl Sport Phaeton|
By Vern Parker
Byron Alsop had no intention of buying an antique car when he and his wife, Alida, took a winter trip to Atlantic City, N.J. However, he did take along a cashiers check, just in case.
Among the glitz and glamor of the many casinos, theaters and restaurants the couple came across an antique automobile auction. They admired several of the cars on display before the auction began and agreed that a Duesenberg was the star of the show.
When the engine in that car was started in order to drive onto the auction block a copious amount of smoke billowed from the tail pipe. Alsop's wife encouraged him to look for a car that was not in need of repair, perhaps a car like the beautifully restored brown and beige 1929 Cadillac Sport Phaeton that was on display. A panel on each rear door was embossed in a cane application.
Alsop concurred with her assessment of the Cadillac and patiently waited for bidding to begin for the car. Two other men engaged in a bidding war for the car and as their bids appeared to be slowing Alsop made his one and only bid. It was successful and in February 2010 he became the owner of the 1929 Cadillac. The car arrived at his Oak Hill, Va., home in a truck at the end of March.
The balky updraft carburetor kept the 341-cubic-inch V-8 engine from starting so with the assistance of his wife and the truck driver the elegant car was pushed into the garage.
Happily, all that the engine needed was to be tuned up and cleaned in order for it to deliver smooth Cadillac power.
Where the car has been for 82 years is a mystery. The only time and place that Alsop is certain of is that it was sent to a dealer in Los Angeles in March 1929, six months before the stock market crashed.
At that time the handsome Cadillac was rolling on 6.75x32-inch tires supporting the car on a lengthy 140-inch wheelbase. The wire wheels are now painted orange. Inside the dual-cowl phaeton is the second windshield for the benefit of the rear seat passengers. The cowl supporting the rear windshield did, indeed, protect the passengers in the brown leather upholstered rear seats.
Driving the 1929 Cadillac is a chore. The driver must wrestle a shoulder-wide four-spoke steering wheel. At the hub of the wheel is the horn button and on the parameter of the hub are levers to control the throttle and the lights.
Cadillac was offered with two "firsts” in 1929, an ignition lock and a synchromesh three-speed manual transmission.
A rotating cylinder on the dashboard keeps track of the speed of the car. The highest number on the cylinder is 80. "I wouldn't dare to go that fast,” Alsop says.
At the front of the car, in front of the massive radiator through which six gallons of coolant flows are a pair of pilot ray driving lights that turn in the direction of the front wheels.
The other end of the car sports a luggage rack between a three-lens taillight on each rear fender.
Not only does each side-mounted spare tire have a mirror strapped on but each running board has a stancion supporting a large spotlight.
Alsop says the side curtains to protect occupants from inclement weather are stored in the trunk at the rear of the car.
As befitting a luxury car of 1929 the Cadillac has a tool box hidden in a compartment above the left running board. A similar compartment on the other side of the car above the right running board houses the battery.
One flaw that Alsop did discover was the retractor that is supposed to rewind the tether on the cigarette lighter into the dashboard didn't work. A new reel was soon found which solved the tether dilemma.
Alsop says that changing the oil on the big engine consumes two gallons of lubricant. He reports that the fuel tank has a capacity of 20 gallons of gasoline.
He enjoys slow speed cruising in his neighborhood or on rural back roads. "When it gets above 45 it's a real flivver,” he says.