February 29, 1908 marked the start of a change in the way of thinking within the automotive world. European Cadillac distributor Frederick Bennett had convinced the Royal Automobile Club to oversee a challenge that would showcase the benefits of precision manufacturing techniques being introduced by Cadillac.
This challenge started with three 1907 Cadillac Model Ks doing ten laps around a track to show their reliability. The cars were then completely disassembled, down to the last bolt, and all of the parts were mixed so nobody could tell which car the parts had come from. They even pulled out 89 parts and replaced them with off-the-shelf replacement parts. All three of the cars were successfully reassembled and driven around the track again.
Today, we take it for granted that you can take parts from one car and use them as replacements in another car. In 1908, taking parts from one car would most likely require a machinists efforts to make the part fit correctly. Cadillac’s display of technical accomplishment won them the Dewar Trophy, previously held by the Stanley Steamer for its amazing speed.
Cadillac then took one of the three reassembled cars and entered it in the Scottish Automobile Trial. This was a gruelling test of a car’s reliability and ability to perform with 2,200 miles of driving over a 15 day period. Cadillac could not have performed any better, finishing at the top of its class and securing the United States as a world leader in automotive manufacturing.
Cadillac built 2,884 Model Ks in 1907, and they can be seen coming to auction every few years, fetching anywhere from $50,00 to $120,000. For people looking to invest in a piece of history, these are excellent cars and I believe their values will only continue to climb.
For diecast collectors, these cars are almost as rare as the real thing. Tootsietoy made one in the 1960s and Signature makes a 1907 Model M Cadillac, but finding the “Tulip” seated Model K is a quest for true die-hards.