While plebes debate the merits of Ford vs. Chevy, more affluent automotive connoisseurs
ponder the Cadillac vs. Lincoln quandary. And what a quandary it is; Two uniquely separate
American luxury car brands, started by the same guy.
Back in 1902, Henry Leland convinced Henry Ford’s creditors to reopen his failed first attempt
at a car company. Having made a name for himself as a transmission supplier for Oldsmobile,
the bankers had no problem putting Leland in charge of the bankrupt car company. He promptly
changed the name to Cadillac in 1902, and began building cars with his own 10-hp engine.
It wasn’t long before Leland’s engineering prowess started to shine. Under his direction,
Cadillac introduced the first electric starter, the first electric headlights, and Cadillac’s were
the first cars to use interchangeable parts. He sold Cadillac to General Motors in 1909 for the
equivalent of $100 million bucks. But he stayed on to run the company until 1917. Before he left,
Leland oversaw the introduction of the world’s first V8 engine.
Now here’s where the whole Cadillac vs. Lincoln debate gets interesting. GM president Billy
Durant was a pacifist, so he declined the U.S. government’s request to have Cadillac build the
Liberty V-12 aircraft engine for the war effort. Henry Leland on the other hand, wasn’t a pacifist.
But since Durant was the boss, Leland was powerless to help America win World War I.
Now, Leland was still sitting on that $100 million (approx. $4.5 mil in 1909 money), plus he’d
been drawing a handsome salary as Cadillac’s chief executive. Needless to say, he didn’t need
his job at Cadillac. So he quit and started the Lincoln Motor Company (named for Abraham
Lincoln) in 1917, for the express purpose of building the Liberty aircraft engine.
Durant eventually caved, allowing Cadillac to produce the massive 27-liter Liberty engine.
Leland’s company was already producing the engines by this time, and both companies were
getting the cylinders for the V12 engine from Ford. Once the war was over, Leland retooled the
Lincoln plant to build cars. But early Lincoln cars were far less of an engineering achievement
than the Cadillac was, and Lincoln soon fell on hard times.
Henry Ford offered to buy the nearly bankrupt company in 1922 for $5 million dollars (the
equivalent of $68 million today), but the bankruptcy judge refused the offer. Ford eventually paid
$8 million dollars ($109 million) for Lincoln, and sent Leland and his son packing. Many believe
that Ford’s initial low-ball offer was retribution for Leland’s earlier acquisition of Ford’s bankrupt
Henry Ford Company (the company that became Cadillac).
Cadillac vs. Lincoln: Today
For the last 30 years, both Lincoln and Cadillac have languished at the bottom of the luxury car
market. Their cars had developed a reputation for shoddy quality, and a disconnected driving
experience. But that’s starting to change.
Cadillac’s resurgence was started by the uber-modern Cadillac CTS, and that car’s Art &
Science motif has since been carried throughout the Cadillac line. Lincoln’s resurgence has
been less successful, but the brand plans to launch 7 new models over the next 3 years. A
quick peek at the Cadillac vs. Lincoln sales numbers paints a clearer picture: 2012 Cadillac
sales to date were 90k units vs. 2012 Lincoln sales to date of 57k units. However, the newly
redesigned 2013 Lincoln MKZ should bolster Lincoln’s 2013 sales significantly.
Cadillac vs. Lincoln: Popular models
2013 Lincoln MKZ vs. 2013 Cadillac CTS – In the midsize luxury class, the Mercedes E-Class
reigns supreme. Further down the list lives the 2013 Cadillac CTS, followed by the 2013 Lincoln
MKZ. But Lincoln’s leather-lined midsizer is all new for 2013. So we’ll reserve comment on it for
a while. The 2013 Cadillac CTS on the other hand, is quite a compelling car. There’s plenty of
toys, and style. The build quality is amazing (for a Cadillac), and it’s actually good fun to drive.
Although the stiff ride might not appeal to everyone, the time-warping 556-hp 2013 Cadillac
CTS-V is sure to appeal to anyone with a pulse.
2013 Cadillac SRX vs. 2013 Lincoln MKX – Nowadays, the war for premium buyer’s money
has extended to the small crossover segment. It’s here that the Cadillac vs. Lincoln debate
really heats up. The midsize 2013 Cadillac SRX is a loud, proud luxury machine. The headlights
are huge, and they move with the steering wheel. The inside looks like a luxurious SoHo loft,
and the GM-family powerplants offer plenty of gumption.
The 2013 Lincoln MKX is just as nice, but in a more subtle way. The front is still festooned with
that toothy interpretation of the late 30’s Continental grill, but it comes off more restrained than
the Caddy. Between the two, smart-money says to go with the MKX. It’s a slow seller, so it’ll be
easier to get a discounted price. And it’s a really nice room to take a road trip in.
Cadillac vs. Lincoln: The Bottom Line
Once upon a time, these two car brands represented the best that this country could do.
Cadillac’s were brash and luxurious, while Lincolns were more restrained. But they were no less
loved though. In fact, the late North Korean crackpot Kim Jong-Il took his last ride atop a 1976
Lincoln Continental. As it turned out, the little bugger smuggled in an entire fleet of ‘76 Lincolns,
making his hatred for America seem a bit…insincere.
While neither brand sits at the top of the stack anymore, they’re both making quite a comeback.
The newly launched Cadillac ATS is actually considered to be a BMW 3-Series rival, and the
tire-shredding Cadillac CTS-V has already set several records on the Nurburgring (impressive
for a Cadillac). Lincoln’s fortunes haven’t been nearly as bright, but Ford’s never been one to let
a good thing die. It’ll be interesting to see how Ford reinvigorates its forgotten luxury division.