In 1901 Henry Leland had built a single-cylinder engine at his company Leland and Faulconer. The new engine was based on the plans of Oldsmobile founder Ransom E. Olds. With a background in manufacturing fine tools, Leland had a passion for precision engineering. He improved the engine to produce an astonishing 10.3 horsepower instead of 3.7 hp. Olds had no use for this engine, because his cars were simply unable to cope with all the horsepower it generated. As a result, Henry M. Leland and partners founded Cadillac out of the ashes of the Henry Ford Company (formerly Detroit Automobile Company) on August 22, 1902.
Cadillac’s first car model was the Cadillac Runabout. With variable intake valves and rack-and-pinion steering, Leland’s Cadillac Runabout was a technological masterpiece at the time. The public responded to this advanced design, and the first production run sold out at the 1903 New York Automobile Show.
The 1903 Cadillac Runabout, also known as the Model A, had a single-cylinder, water-cooled engine with a capacity of 1609 cc (98.2 cid). The engine was rated at 6,5 horsepower. The cylinder was horizontal, pointing rearward. Bore and stroke were square at 5 in (127 mm). The valve train was ahead of its time. Whereas other manufacturers still employed blow valves, in Leland’s engine the camshaft in the block actuated the two overhead valves via long pushrods.
The engine was mounted on left-hand side, under the front seat. The driving controls were on the right. The driveline included a two-speed planetary transmission. Low speed was on the left foot pedal, high and reverse were on the controllor lever at the right. The chassis of the Cadillac incorporated an angle steel frame. Two half-elliptic springs were used front and rear. Car’s wheelbase was 72 in (1829 mm). Solid rubber tires were mounted on wood wheels.
The Cadillac Runabout was followed by a new and improved Model B in 1904. Technically the Model B was very similar to Model A. Its single-cylinder engine remained in the Cadillac range until 1908. In 1905, the Cadillac single-cylinder was the most-produced engine in the world, increasing unit sales to 14,000 in 1906.