The open secret behind the rise and rise of General Motors – to the point where it swatted Ford off the top of the heap – was CEO Alfred P Sloan’s clever policy of having a different brand for every segment of the car market, as opposed to Ford’s single model with lots of options.
Thus it came to pass that GM’s entry-level marque was Chevrolet, with prices and prestige ascending through Oakland, Oldsmobile and Buick to Cadillac.
Then Sloan really got ambitious. Gaps appearing in the range of GM brands as each developed a more specific character were swiftly plugged with companion models. Pontiac was slipped between Chevy and Oakland, Viking and Marquette filled a widening gap between Olds and Buick … whilst LaSalle sailed in towards the top between Buick and Cadillac.
The superb LaSalle made its debut in 1927. Built by Cadillac and styled by Harley Earl as the first step on a 30-year journey as GM’s style guru, it set new design standards others would be forced to emulate. Better still, Earl filled that market gap by creating an elegant alternative to the larger Cadillacs. For – despite an enticing echo of luxury marques like Hispano Suiza and Isotta Fraschini – his LaSalle was unlike any other car then in production. A range of bodies was offered, including a splashy two-tone roadster.
But Sloan’s plan started unravelling with a little help from the Great Depression. Marquette and Viking soon folded, while canny buyers started trading down from Cadillac to LaSalle. The latter was swiftly revamped by Earl’s team, becoming more Oldsmobile than Cadillac, but still played an important part in the success of GM’s luxury division until 1940, after which LaSalle was quietly dropped with the ‘affordable’ Cadillac 61 successfully filling the junior luxury car slot.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
1927 (until 1940)
5.0 I (303 cid) V8
Top speed around 95 mph (153 km/h)
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
One innovative feature of the later LaSalles was a sunshine roof, imaginatively promoted to the waiting world as a ‘Sunshine Turret Top’.