[last update: 08.28.2002]

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The Cadillac V16

Tragedy in a V-16


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For Cadillac, launching a new, super-car sometimes came at the cost of a human life.

Chris Noyer is the great-grandson of Gus Bell who was a test driver for Cadillac at the Milford Proving Ground, Michigan, in the late twenties.  Chris wrote:

My great-grandfather, Gus Bell, was a professional test driver for General Motors. He was killed at the GM proving ground in Milford, Michigan on July 15, 1930, while driving a Cadillac V-16 Roadster prototype. The vehicle was traveling at 112 MPH when the crash occurred. The cause of the crash was never determined.

Bell (33) in company with Glenn McCallum (22), a research student engineer assigned to the GM Institute of Technology at Flint, MI,  crashed through a fence and over a 4 ft. embankment. The two men were catapulted from the car to their death on what is known as the "concrete saucer" at Milford. Bell was decapitated; his head was found 40 feet from his body. Wreckage of the V-16 was strewn over 100 yards. The estimated speed of the car at time of accident was 112 mph. It was the first serious accident ever to happen on the proving grounds.

On the track were signs that the driver had lost control, presumably as a result of a blow-out, although Cadillac investigators were not fully convinced or satisfied with that explanation.

In earlier tests that same car had been timed at 98 and 100 mph. A press cutting of the time referred to the accident as the price of progress, that is achieved through the daring of men such as Bell and McCallum. 

It is sad and regrettable that Chris' great grandfather should have been among those who had to pay that price.

All photos on this page were provided kindly by Chris. You may also visit his own Web page devoted to the sad story of his great-grandfather's fatal crash by clicking here.


The Tragedy in Pictures


V6kill00.jpg (19111 bytes)
Gus Bell at the controls of the fateful car, a V-16 roadster prototype;
also killed in he accident was a young engineering student
[tell-tale sign that the car is a "sixteen": the five hood vents
are mounted on a raised panel on the sides of thye hood]




v6kilr12.jpg (8459 bytes)     V6kill2b.jpg (4416 bytes)      V6kill2c.jpg (3977 bytes)
This is what the Cadillac V-16 roadster looked like before it was stripped for the speed tests; the top and
windshield were removed as were other items; note the "V-8" grille badge to afford the required secrecy
during the tests; the body is mounted on a regular 1930 V-8 chassis; it features the V-8 sill and cowl vents



v6kilr14.jpg (4026 bytes)     v6killr3.jpg (4007 bytes)      v6kilr11.jpg (6826 bytes)
Left and right: two portraits of  the late Gus Bell in his working uniform;
Center: the V-16 was tested on the concrete oval before being stripped down




v6killr6.jpg (9794 bytes)     V6kill6b.jpg (8462 bytes)
Bird's eye view of the wrecked car (with close-up, right);
amazingly, the steering wheel withstood the impact of the crash

   v6killr5.jpg (8077 bytes)     v6kilr18.jpg (7527 bytes)
Here are the front and RH side of the V-16 after the fatal crash that killed
Gus Bell and his young mechanic and co-pilot, Glenn McCallum




v6killr8.jpg (9350 bytes)     v6killr0.jpg (10587 bytes)
The left side of the car during inspection by General Motors officials; in the RH photo
may be seen  (slightly blurred) the remains of the hood panels and the seat (foreground)



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© 2002, Yann Saunders and the Cadillac-LaSalle Club, Inc.
[ Background image: filigree image of test driver, Gus Bell, wearing his racing helmet and goggles ]

[ image © 2002, courtesy Chris Royer ]