Yesterday, Bill Hedge and I got a ten minute ride in the hills on the outside of La Porte, IN, in Lar's Kneller's 1941 Series 61 coupe. I haven't been in the front seat of a '41 (that is moving) for years, and it felt great. If you want to know why LaSalle is no more, go over this car carefully.
Packard was Cadillac's biggest competitor. "Ask the man who owns one." Yeah, ask about why the cheapest Packard is a six, with stamped grill parts. If you want an eight, you can pay a little more, but it still has materials of lesser quality that the 180.
Now enter the Series 61 Cadillac. It has the same grill as the Series 75. Same wheel covers. Same skirts, SAME engine. It is a CADILLAC, all the way through. And it was priced less than $1400. You couldn't even get in the door to see one. All of a sudden, those stylish LaSalles on the used car lot were, well, used cars.
For some reason, when I was growing up in the 40s, people did not realize that Harley Earl was genius enough, to style GM cars so they simply couldn't "see" that that "big" Pontiac or Olds 98 had the same doors as that Cadillac 61. That those myriads of Buick Specials and Centuries might look a little like that Cadillac from the left rear. Naww!!
He had built brand loyalty to the public so well that owners would swear on a stack of bibles that their car was unique all the way around. More room, more power, more everything. And to those loyal LaSalle owners, that couldn't get a new one now. "You'll have to be satisfied with a new Cadillac, I daresay they didn't take long to make the switch.
When they could buy a LaSalle, it WAS a great bargain. But that new '41 Cadillac was an even greater bargain.