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Car of the Month - 1928 LaSalle

A photo of Lorne Scott's '28 LaSalle and a 1929 Bi-plane.  There is a complete write-up on the LaSalle Automobile on their web site and a link to the LaSalle history here.  Lorne's LaSalle is written up in the photo gallery.  

This LaSalle is one of two Victoria Coupes from 1927-28 that are left as far as I can find through the Cadillac LaSalle Club.  The other one is in Sydney, Australia and is a right hand drive on a Fleetwood Chassis with a rumble seat.  They seem to be two very unique registered classics.  See the biography of Lady Victoria by Lorne below.

'28 LaSalle and a 1929 Bi-plane
Engine Picture

A WikiMoment

The LaSalle was an automobile product of General Motors Corporation, and sold as a companion marque of Cadillac from 1927 to 1940. The two were linked by similarly-themed names, both being named for explorers—Antoine Laumet de La Mothe, sieur de Cadillac and René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, respectively.

A Biography of “LADY VICTORIA” by Lorne Scott

It all began in the early 1920s’ when G.M.  found a price gap between Cadillacs and Buicks that was sending mid priced luxury car buyers elsewhere.  Alfred P. Sloan wanted this niche filled and by doing this , G.M. would regain the sales lead in the luxury car market. 

We now jump ahead to the mid 1920s – Wages were higher, affluence abounded, and the automobile was becoming higher on peoples priority list..  The Fisher brothers had heard about a California designer - Harley Earl who was designing and customizing Cadillacs for the Hollywood stars.  With their encouragement, G.M. executives commissioned Earl to design and build this new mid market vehicle, the LaSalle.  The end result was so astounding that he was hired on to establish and run the new “Art, Color and Design Department for General Motors.

The LaSalle was first introduced in March of 1927 to the delight of the public and G.M..  The Victoria 4 passenger coupe sold for approximately $2,550.00 in the U.S. and $3,380.00 in Canada at that time.  Finally G.M. had a full slate and would once again dominate the luxury car field.

The birth of my “Lady Victoria” would have been sometime in late Nov. or early Dec. in that she was shipped from Detroit to Oshawa Ontario Canada on December 21st 1927.   She arrived at Begg Motors in Victoria B.C. Canada early in January 1928 and would remain in the area for the next 78 years and through six caring owners to this point.

The original owner, Mr. A.T. Goward picked up his new pride and joy and drove it the eight miles to his home in the country.  At this time roads were scarce and rough.  The new Victoria four passenger coupe would transport he and his wife on their everyday missions as well as being the taxi for their roadhouse (B&B) and the transport for the area Doctor for the next twenty-one  years.  The B&B, Goward House, is still standing, in use and is a Heritage Building proudly displaying a portrait of the LaSalle in the front foyer.

Lady Victoria was then sold into hard labor.  She was sold to a gentleman who operated a chainsaw business about thirty miles to the west of Victoria where the commute in 1949 was still over logging roads and mountainous terrain.  She held up well physically but the carburation and fuel systems became unreliable.  A more modern and up to date carburetor and electric fuel pump was installed and still operates comfortably with this equipment in place.   The original equipment  sits in a box and awaits restoration.   I met this second owner at a car show one day when I almost ran  him  down with her.  He was so excited about seeing her again that he tripped behind her while I was backing into position.  We have become good friends, even if he does drive a Masseretti onto the show field. 

After going through a lady owners hands for a short while, (too much car for her to handle) Lady Victoria was sold to another attentive owner who unfortunately, on a Saturday night foray broke the center dash plate and tore the upholstery in a couple of places.  This gentleman died before I could contact him but his wife says she still has some unopened boxes in the basement so who knows what treasures they may hold. 

This brings us to the fifth owner who was a very dear friend of mine.  He attended to Victoria’s needs from 1971 until 1997 when heart disease took him down the final road.  During her life with him, I was privileged to be his chauffeur when she was shown and attended parades and other events.  She spent some years in the local museum while Stan restored a model A and a 35 Chrysler RS coupe.  The museum closed, Lady Victoria came back home to her garage and rarely came out due to his poor health and lack of strength.  Upon Stan’s demise, I was left with first option on the LaSalle, for which I thank him every time I take her out or work with her.

Lady Victoria has been my responsibility since 1997and has won many awards at shows but they pale in comparison to the comments she receives when on display.  As far as I know, she is original except for the fuel system, which allows her to idle beautifully at what seems to be about 300RPM.  Her material top was replaced in 1972 and it is still in superb condition.  I don’t drive her over 45 MPH with high hopes of never damaging anything mechanical.  I have been told that she may be the last survivor out of 405 1928 LaSalle Victoria Coupes and with that in mind she gets royal treatment.

Over the past few years I have been able to locate different items and information pertaining to her history and well being.  This was added to recently when I received the “Build Sheet” from Cadillac Motor Car Division.  The build information in 1927-1928 consisted of a hand written line across a double-paged Leather bound ledger.  This has been photographed onto microfilm and I received a photocopy of this film with Her serial number standing proud in the first column.  Most of the rest was unreadable but with the help of magnification and the latest reference book “LaSalle, Cadillac’s Companion Car” I was able to decipher most of the numbers and little black specks on the photocopy.  I consider this one of her most important pieces of documentation, giving verification of part numbers, colors, sizes and most of the stats necessary for a future restoration.  If the “Old Lady” keeps going the way she is at present, the restoration may be a long way down the road.

Some of the special interest items on her are shown in the accompanying photos and one of the most interesting to a lot of people is the Cadillac LaSalle Club decal in the back window.  It shows the dates 1902 to 1942 then says the club was formed in 1958.  Apparently, the 1902 to 1942 dates designate the years of Cadillac/LaSalle that were recognized by the CLC when it was first formed in 1958.  The remaining portion of this story would make a good historical article that may be written by some well-informed historian of the CLC in the future.

Another is the disk wheels.  Victoria B.C. has great weather for most of the year but the winter rains are intense.  The reason that this no cost option was chosen was to illiminate any possibility of dry rot in wooden spokes.  These wheels are of the split rim variety with a snap ring on the outside to hold the tire. 

The running board luggage rack was added for transporting luggage due to the small trunk.  It also was a great place to hold the doctor’s bag when the area doctor borrowed the car.  Apparently he left the bag with the car and it has remained ever since.

In the rear seat behind the driver is a compartment for storage of whatever.  I can only assume that it had a very practical use in days of prohibition.  The jump seat still allows for gracious entry to the rear seat and the original blinds still close when privacy is required.

Since this article was published in the Self-Starter in 2001, a few changes have been made.  She now sports new upholstery and another luggage rack with vintage luggage.  After this was published, I heard from a gentleman in Australia who is now in the process of restoring a ’28 Victoria that is mounted on a Fleetwood Chassis and is also  right hand drive.  That one seems to be the only other one that has shown up as yet.

There are many things that I still have to learn about her and would be very interested to know if anyone knows the whereabouts of any other 1928 LaSalle Victoria Coupes. It would be my pleasure to communicate with anyone who may have any of this information.  My e-mail address is seabreze@telus.net for anyone interested in sharing information either way.

Many thanks to Richard Stanley, Matt Larson, Richard Sills and Gregg Wallace for the assistance, information and encouragement they have given over the past short while.  With people such as these it is no wonder the Cadillac LaSalle Club, The LaSalle Appreciation Society and the LaSalle Information Line are so successful.

Lorne Scott

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