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February 15, 2012 • Autos, Editorials

Cadillac Celebrates 100th Anniversary of Making Cars Less ‘Cranky’

Images: Cadillac

Talk about taking technology for granted, how about the electric starter?

Cadillac is celebrating the 100th anniversary of its debut of electric start technology that first appeared in its 1912 Cadillac Touring Edition.

Before this ground breaking innovation, cars were a bit “cranky.” Literally. Back then it took a hand crank and some muscle power to turn over the motor to be able to drive your vehicle.

“Hand cranking was the No. 1 injury risk in those early days of the automobile,” said Greg Wallace, director of the General Motors Heritage Center, referring to the kickback on a crank handle that could break an arm, or worse.

Back in those days, as cars grew larger so did their engines, and the effort required to start them.

Enter Cadillac founder Henry M. Leland. He had already pioneered electric lights and electric ignition for his cars, so in working electric starter-inventor Charles F. Kettering he incorporated the device into the early Cadillacs.

“It was one of the most significant innovations in the history of the automobile,” Wallace said. “It was a complete game changer. Within a few years, Cadillac featured women in their advertising showing them as drivers, instead of passengers or bystanders.”

A whole host of Cadillac innovations soon followed the electric starter. Component standardization, interchangeable part usage as well as the V-8 engine and a synchromesh transmission for easier gear shifts.

And Cadillac also led the way in offering a fully enclosed car body as standard equipment. Imagine a roof being considered a “luxury” item.

Later in its history came the first use of automatic climate control and heated seats.

And who could forget jet-inspired tail fins? Also a Cadillac first.

Thank you Mr. Leland and all the engineers at Cadillac over the years for these technologies and more.

And who knows what innovations the next 100 years may hold?

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