Sixty years ago, General Motors was nothing like the company you know and (maybe) love today. In the 1960s, the firm was well-stocked with the industry’s smartest designers, engineers, sales experts, and division managers. No technical hurdle was too high, no engineering feat too far-fetched, for the colossus that bestrode more than 50 percent of the market and had no Asian competitors to fear. So when someone raised a hand and suggested that a nice, fresh V-12 engine would add luster to Cadillac’s prestige, there was broad consensus and no fiscal concern.
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I own a Jaguar XJS V12. Most of what is said here applies to that engine also. No real power advantage over other engine designs, but a noticeable fuel mileage penalty. But the V12 is very smooth, more so than any V8 I have driven, and has a unique sound. Perhaps those are reasons enough.
Correction noted. The 472 was more than a poked & stroked 429, but I would not refer to it as a complete redesign. Many maintenance items were improved and it was slightly smaller in exterior dimensions. However, it also weighed around 80 pounds more than the 429.
The 1964-67 429 was a plenty stout performer. I've owned five low-mile Caddys: '61 CdV, '64 Eldo, '64 SdV, '67 Fleetwood, and a '70 Eldo. They were all under 30,000 mile original cars, with the '64 SdV being a 14,000 mile one-previous-owner gem.
I owned these cars at the same time, so it was easy to make real-world comparisons. The 1967's had the switch-pitch torque converter with the Turbo 400 that made rubber-peeling starts an easy feat.
The 472 and 500 were torquier than the 429, for certain, but my '67 Eldo was very close in performance to the '70. Both cars were completely stock, and properly tuned. The '70 would smoke the tires a bit further, though!
I actually preferred driving the '67 Eldo, mostly because its interior was nicer. The dashboard and door panels were considerably cheapened in 1969-70.
I grew up with Cadillacs of the '60s and '70s, and have logged a lot of miles in them.
For my money, my favorite years of Cadillac are 1964, '67 and '68.
Cadillac engine history:
The Cadillac 331 engine that debuted in 1949 was eventually enlarged to 365 and 390 cid, and continued through 1962.
In '63, Cadillac redesigned the engine to be lighter weight, but kept the 390 cid displacement.
In '64, they enlarged the engine to 429 cid.
That engine became the 472 in '68, the 500 in '70, and the 425 in '77.
There was a place called M & R Salvage on Davison Ave. in Detroit that purchased leftovers and scrap from the Big 4 OEMs. About 1970, while looking for parts for my hot rod 32 Plymouth roadster. We saw an aluminum cylinder head that looked pretty cool. I was using a 1949 Cad engine with 57 heads and the clerk told us that this was a Cadillac cylinder head. That's when we noticed that there was 6 plugs in it and he said it was for a new V-12 Cadillac engine. He didn't have the block or any other parts and wanted what seemed like a lot of money at the time for something you couldn't do anything with. It was many years later in a magazine article and later at the GM Heritage Center that I could actually see the real deal. This was an interesting dead end, but not at all surprising, given GM's market share and success at the time.
My '73 Caribou (Coupe de ville) has a "501" 472 engine. "501" is the engine SERIES, not the cubic inch measurement! Many uninformed think they have a "rare" 501 cu. inch engine in their Cadillac because the emissions sticker lists it as a "501" but, again, that only refers to the engine "series". The late '70s Cadillac 425 is also a "501".
Some other of today's auto uninformed think that Cadillac was using a Chevrolet engine back then (as we find today) and believe it is a 502 Chevy engine --- not so.
Sorry to see a Hagerty writer perpetuate the 501 myth.
Because GM doesn't do ANYTHING cool or innovative today... Not Ultium batteries... Not muscle cars that run with sports cars... Not a Hummer SUV with removable body panels... Not a $200K, hand-built Cadillac halo... Not highly desirable supercharged and turbocharged Cadillac sedans... Not highly desirable trucks and SUVs... Not automated driving, or one of the world's first automated pods... Not bringing a mid-engine sports car to the masses.... The first affordable EV... But hey! They used to be innovative, because V12 prototypes! (insert eye roll here)
The displacement of the FWD Eldorado (1967) was 429 cid. That's 7.0 liters. Not 8.2 liters (which equals 500 cid.)
The 429 in the '67 Eldo was the standard 340 hp engine (except for the EPP special parts) that the rest of the Cadillac line used.
In 1968, Cadillac's V8 was enlarged to 472 cid (7.7 liters) and produced 375 hp. The Eldo shared it (minus the EPP components) with the rest of the line.
In 1970, it was enlarged again to 500 cid (8.2 liters) and 400 hp. (It was an Eldorado-only engine, that year.)
The rest of the division continued to use the 472 until 1975, when the 500 cid was installed in all Cadillac models. Compression ratios were lowered across-the-board in 1971, leaving the 1970 Eldorado with a one-year-only high output of 400 hp.
Interesting engine, last fall while visiting the Heritage center I was able to see 2 examples of this engine, one restored cosmetically, and the other looked like it was just unbolted from a dyno or test mule. No one working at the time could tell me anything about it other than what was printed on the restored engines Placard.
Thanks for posting it. I wonder if the cam followers were the same as used in the Pontiac OHC6 or maybe the Vega 2.3?
While added smoothness, (debateable) and bragging rights may have justifed a V-12, there is little reason to add more weight and complexity to gain similar performance. Anyone who's ever driven both the six and twelve cylinder Jaguar XKE, immediately realizes that the six is both faster and better-handling. The extra 10 hp, being more than offset by the lighter car.
A friend of mine, back in the early 60's, drove a GMC V12 powered semi truck. It was supercharged too. One night on main street in Shortsville, NY, he pulled out in the middle of the street (cab only) & proceeded to lay four streaks of smokin' rubber until nearly out of sight. Our jaws dropped & everyone said, "what's he got in that thing?".
Doug, Acurad was the name of the process GM created to improve the castings. Reynolds 390 was the aluminum used in the process. I was a student at GMI at the time and recall watching a movie GM made about the process. Acurad stood for accurate + rapid + dense and IIR what it basically did was injected the aluminum at a much higher pressure than typical at the time.
I believe the Acurad process was finally put into a production engine for the 1971 Chevrolet Vega. While I recall that there were some cylinder wear reliability issues initially they did ultimately get it figured out. I had an early model Vega and when I blew a head gasket at almost 50,000 miles I was impressed that there was no ridge at the top of the cylinder at all.
Don, Was the Acurad different from the Reynolds 390? As a CAN AM engine builder (Shadow) in the early 70's, we worked with Reynolds through GM. Alloy questions were always directed to Reynolds, not GM. But that work and subsequent work (Vega) came to the consumer via GM. I guess I'm asking... Are Acurad and Reynolds 390 the same thing?
I suppose you could also consider as precedent the tens of thousands of V-1710 Allison V-12s built before and during World War II by GM's Allison Division, though of course they were in an entirely different displacement and horsepower class.