Cadillac race car coupes

Just what do the 2014 Los Angeles Auto Show and Revs Institute’s Collier Collection have in common? Cadillac racing coupes.

1950 Cadillac Series 61 race car02

Reasonably rare birds. Cadillac has been racing its CTS-V coupe in the SCCA’s Pirelli World Challenge since 2011, taking the last three manufacturer’s titles. In Los Angeles, the automaker will launch the V Series of its new, smaller ATS Coupe along side a competition version, the ATS-V.R, aimed at the 2015 World Challenge series.

Cadillac ATS-V Coupe Racecar

Granddaddy of the ATS-V.R is in the Collier Collection, a 1950 Series 61 Club Coupe that was raced in that year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans, where it finished 10th ahead of Ferraris, Bentleys and Jaguar XK-120s.  Briggs Cunningham entered the big Caddy along with his “Le Monstre” special, which is also in the collection. These were the first American cars entered in the French classic since a Duesenberg was raced there in 1935. Brothers Miles and Sam Collier drove the Series 61 coupe.

1950 Cadillac Series 61 race car03

1950 Cadillac Series 61 race car04

Needless to say, 65 years have made quite a difference. Frick-Tappett Motors on Long Island modified the 1950 331-cubic-inch V-8, its horsepower listed as the stock 160 at 3800 rpm. The transmission is a 3-speed manual, other specifications being what you’d expect, like drum brakes and a live rear axle on semi-elliptic springs. Relatively stock, the Series 61 weighs in at 3897 pounds.

1950 Cadillac Series 61 race car05

1950 Cadillac Series 61 race car01

Other than retaining some of the stock profile of the production ATS-V coupe, the competition version is a ground-up race car built by Pratt & Miller. Buffed up to enclose fat 18-inch race tires, the ATS-V.R sits squat on the road, detailed for optimum aero and downforce. The aluminum 3.6-liter V-6 has such alterations as bigger turbochargers and intercoolers, plus modified engine management to boost horsepower to 600 at 7400 rpm and torque to 520 lb-ft. All that spins through a 6-speed sequential transaxle and has paddle shifters. The brakes are Brembos, six pots at the front and four in back, with independent suspension fore and aft using Penske adjustable shocks. The ATS-V.R hits the scales at 2900 pounds split 49 percent front/51 percent rear.

Cadillac ATS-V Coupe Racecar

What’s important about the specs to which the racing Caddy coupe was built is that it meets the FIA’s GT3 rules. That opens up some 30 racing series to the ATS-V.R where it would compete against Audis, Bentleys, Mercedes-Benz, Porsches, McLarens, BMWs, Ferraris and Aston Martins. Heady company.

Cadillac ATS-V Coupe Racecar

Up to now, Cadillac has kept V racing in the U.S., but could this change? The Detroit luxury car maker has been building ever-better production cars that can compete with the European competition, even to matching the V-Series against the likes of Mercedes-Benz’ AMG and BMW’s M models. Still, Cadillac could use a boost and its new boss, Johan de Nysschen, has plans to do that. He’s beginning by moving Caddy headquarters out of Detroit to New York City. With a background that includes leading Audi in the U.S. and Infiniti for the world, de Nysschen has a broad view of how and where to sell his products.

Cadillac ATS-V Coupe Racecar

Normally, Cadillac and Chevrolet don’t race in the same series. So an event like the 24 Hours of Le Mans would be on the Corvette team’s calendar, but not Cadillac’s. Could that now change? Might the 2015 CTS-V.4 follow in the footsteps–rather, the tire tracks–of Briggs Cunningham’s 1950 Series 61?

Cadillac ATS-V Coupe Racecar