[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
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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 ]