While my mind was on the subject of antique car fuel economy, I remembered this ad showing off how economical Cadillac’s single cylinder cars were on gas.

Back in 1908, Cadillac’s Model S was the most economically operated car in the world - it averaged 18mpg! Despite how proud Cadillac was of this economy, they discontinued the single cylinders car for the 1909 model year, and the issue of fuel economy wasn’t mentioned much by them after that.


This 1905 ad also brings up that Cadillac’s economy is part of why their cars are at the “front rank” of motor vehicles.

It is interesting to note that the first Cadillacs are remarkably similar to the first Fords. They were both largely designed by Henry Ford - but Ford wanted a two cylinder engine, can you imagine? Needless complexity. The Cadillac went ahead with one cylinder. Early Cadillacs might also have been so economical on account of them not having a throttle. The carburetor worked by dripping gasoline on a fine mesh screen through which the incoming charge was inhaled. The “throttle” such as it was, simply let more gasoline drip on the screen for some extra power. This device was somewhat akin to the poppet valve carburetors common on early outboard motors. In any event, Cadillac’s chief claim to fame during its early years was the economical, reliable, operation of their cars.


By 1980 Cadillac may have added windows and doors to their cars, but average fuel economy had only climbed up to 19mpg. Which might not sound like a big improvement, but it does mean that a 1980 Cadillac was more efficient than a 1908 Cadillac, which means it would have been the most economical car in the world in 1908. I wonder what Bernie Sanders would have to say about that.

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