For those who find a twelve-cylinder engine is simply not enough, the antique car world has the next logical next step. With perfect mechanical balance negating the need for counterweights or balance shafts, and short duration between power strokes, the V16 was a very smooth operator.
Over the years, examples of the sixteen cylinder layout have enjoyed motor sport successes with manufacturers such as Auto Union, Alfa Romeo and BRM. The diesel configuration has also found widespread industrial uses. The V16’s automotive heyday however, was during the Great Depression of the 1930s.
Prestige automobile manufacturers Marmon and Cadillac produced V16 models for the elite, who were wealthy enough to be unaffected by the economic downturn. Given the target market and the economic austerity of the time, it was not surprising that neither enjoyed great success.
The two manufacturers can also be accredited with the world’s largest and smallest production automotive V16s. The smallest production V16 of 7062cc, was installed in the 1938 Cadillac Series 90. Cadillac’s second V16 of the 1930s, it was more advanced than its predecessor, but slightly smaller. Despite the significant bulk of the engine, the series 90 earned many records. While smaller autos might out accelerate it from a standing start, once rolling the series 90 was accredited as being the fastest accelerating production car of the 30s.
The world’s largest production V16, 8046cc, was found in the 1931 Marmon Sixteen. While Marmon had pioneered the automotive V16, production problems resulted in lower production than Cadillac. The few Marmon Sixteen survivors are massive luxurious automobiles. They were exactly what the public didn’t want during the worst two years of the Great Depression.