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Luxury Sleeper: 1940 LaSalle Series 50


The LaSelle brand is a bit of a curiosity, as it was simply a low priced Cadillac. It was built by Cadillac in their factory and sold through their dealer network, yet at a lower price point. Being built by Cadillac meant that it offered the high level of quality, so why would a prospective buyer pay extra when they could save a few bucks and buy a Cadillac with a different name? This could explain why GM decided to axe the brand in 1940 as their prestigious Cadillac marque’s sales were slipping and LaSelle was begining to do better than ever. This 1940 LaSalle Series 50 Sedan was one of the last to roll off the line and it has spent the past 20 years parked in a barn. It looks to be in great original shape, but what’s hiding under the hood is anything but original. Take a look at it for yourself here on eBay where bidding is at $4,550. LaSalle-455

The seller doesn’t state if this was the condition this LaSalle was in when they bought it back in ’88, but one thing is for sure, it isn’t stock. When new it came with a 130 horsepower 322 cui V8, but the original motor is long gone and has been replaced with something far more sinister. It is now powered by an Oldsmobile 455 V8 and if the air breather is correct to this motor, it is the Highway Patrol edition offered in the Apprehender Package. This Police edition motor put out almost 400 horsepower and about 500 pounds of torque. All this power was sent to the wheels through a heavy duty Turbo 400 transmission, which has also been installed. Whoever installed the motor went ahead and installed other more modern features as well, such as power steering, power brakes, cruise control, and a Positraction rear end.


Other than a few changes to the interior, the inside looks stock and in nice shape. Given the overall condition, it is almost sad to see the originality lost, but that V8 has to be a blast. Features like power steering also have to make it easier and more enjoyable to drive, if it was installed properly that is. We would want to get more information about who did the swap and when it was done. For all we know, the car never ran correctly after the project was finished or the car proved so terrifying to drive that they parked it to avoid dying. With any significant performance upgrade such as this one, it is important to get as much information as possible.


We aren’t sure if installing a 400 horsepower monster into a 70 year old sedan is the best idea, but it certainly makes for one unassuming sleeper. We do like the idea of having the added safety features from a newer vehicle, but we doubt a collapsible steering column would make much of a difference here anyway. So do you think the engine swap was a good choice or did someone ruin a perfectly good old car?


  1. braktrcr

    First off, as I am a die hard Chevy guy, I am glad it is NOT a sbc in there. I think the Olds drive train is a great choice. Who knows what or when the original engine was lost, but I think this thing is great

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    • scot

      ~ i fully agree!

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    • Ellwood

      the engine was a 322 V8 flathead (used in WWII tanks) with a 3spd manual trans.
      I know because I own that same car (without the ugly Caddy steering column)

      Like 1
    • geomechs geomechs Member

      I have to agree in that someone didn’t install an SBC but chose to use something else while still keeping it in the family. SBCs are adaptable so that makes them as common as belly buttons. While I slant toward the purist restoration types, sometimes engines/powertrains are replaced out of necessity so one shouldn’t be too critical about a newer engine being under the hood. I just say that they should be done properly; make it look like it came from the factory that way. Lord knows I’ve seen more than my fair share of butcher/hack jobs, and they absolutely destroy a car. On the other hand there are some that ABSOLUTELY should remain stock. Case in point: a ’31 Cadillac that had the V-16 pulled (and sold) and an SBC installed. That’s a million dollar car, now reduced to a fraction of its value because some bonehead wanted better driveability.

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  2. Dick

    Ruined a good car. There was nothing wrong with the original running gear in these cars, leave them stock .
    Sad to see modifications on a great LaSalle.

    Like 1
  3. Chris

    I’m torn. I like to keep them (mostly) original, but I love this.

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  4. larry

    It’s a survivor Resto Rod , what’s wrong with that ….? …. probably has a longer history as a Rod than an original car ……. the point here is that it has survived and it would make a great ride ….

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  5. George

    I would love to scare the wadding out of the local hot rodders. Power steering is a good idea with this swap, but did they leave the original suspension in place? Maybe I missed that in the description. Still it would be a fun car to drive to church on Sunday and park next to all the new iron!

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  6. paul

    I would never think to alter a Renoir.

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  7. KE100

    Looks like a really fun car. That would be really cool if that was actually a police motor.

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  8. Tim H

    Great front end but the back? I like this one. http://www.flickr.com/photos/jacksnell707/7414866854/in/photostream/

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  9. Connor

    Have to say that even though I’m a fan of originality, this car is a great sleeper. Just imagine the surprise on people’s faces as you rev the engine then take off down the street when the lights turn green. Hehe you could have some serious fun with this car.

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  10. Ric Parrish

    My first car was a forty Buick Sports Coup. My great aunt gave it to my brother and I with 20,000 miles on it, in about 1961. The straight eight was a smooth running marvel, not a lot of power though. I kind of hate to see the old stuff bastardized, but if it hadn’t been, it may have been scrapped long ago. I would think the original engine could have been a Cadillac flathead V8 or V12. Anybody know what the LaSalles had in them? Whatever it was, it would be worth more than the later engine now. The body is the same as the Buick, my Aunt and her husband had one of them also, he being a successful young lawyer. He died young and she kept the Roadmaster for quite awhile also, but then got rid of it and kept on driving the coup, up until 1961.

    Like 1
  11. craig

    Where did you get the info that it had a 322 v-8? That engine wasn’t built until the mid 5o’s.

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  12. Tom Cotrel

    It can go. Can it stop? Are the power brakes drum or disc? I would also put in seat and shoulder belts. And replace the Cadillac crest with a proper LaSalle badge on the steering wheel.

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  13. seth karpen

    everyone should remember that when this conversion was probably done this was a tired old car not worth much money. The donor drivetrain might have been sourced from a wrecked police car.

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  14. Gene

    AAARGH. It is disappointing when a great old car gets bitched. It loses its cachet and character when someone bitches it. As a Packard man, I find this particularly galling. I lost interest in the car as soon as I saw what was under the bonnet. Where was the Cadillac flathead V8? Now the car is junk.

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  15. Scott Jamison

    My dad had a 34 Ford 4 dr sedan that was modified in a similar way. If you have a car that can’t be restored, why not use modern technology to keep it on the road. Instead of crushing it for scrap? My Dad’s 34 had the Front and rear were replaced, mustang II front end and a ford 9″ rear, disk brakes up front. Looking at it, it was very hard to tell that anything had been done except the wire wheels were much deeper and it ran radials. Interior was stock, including the pedal position, which was not easy with the flat fire wall of the 34. It was a lot of fun to drive and it had plenty of power to cruise down the highway at 75 with plenty of power to get around that gocker who wasn’t paying attention. This car looks exactly like what was done to my dads 34 and I would keep it as my daily driver if I had it. New cars don’t have any style or class like these great old cars, but. I do love the newer power trains and make it stop equipment you can easily add to these great looking cars.

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  16. Jim-Bob

    While I generally am a fan of leaving a car original if it has made it this long, we don’t know how long ago the work was done. The car still has almost all of the style of the original but has a drivetrain that is somewhat easier to find parts for. So, while I wouldn’t pay the same sort of cash a good original goes for, I would not be dissuaded from owning it either. What truly terrifies me though is putting all that power through a 74 year old chassis and brakes. The world has moved on since then and I can’t imagine this thing having a 60-0 time that would be safe in modern traffic. Also, since it is already modified, I would be tempted to install a smaller, more modern drivetrain that could deliver better fuel economy.

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  17. Dolphin Member

    That first pic with the front of the car poking out of the garage and the light dusting of snow on the black paint is perfect for this LaSalle. And the correct-year 1940 plate tops it off. The seller gets my vote for one of the most interesting pics ever in an eBay ad.

    I can see both sides of the debate about the drivetrain swap, but assuming that the engine bay hasn’t been hacked up, the good thing about this car is that it looks stock both outside and inside, so it looks to me like a buyer with access to an original flathead V8 + transmission would have the option to bring it back without too much trouble.

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  18. Andy

    Ya it sucks that it isn’t original but spend a few bucks on a billet steering column with a resto style wheel and not a bad ride, better as it is than the junkyard!!!

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  19. Charles

    That’s a cool old car that you don’t see every day! I could live with it. Just because it will probably run like the wind does not mean one has to drive like an idiot.

    It would be better if it were 100% original, but as earlier posters said, it was probably just an old car at the time, and the original engine may have failed. The donor parts could have been what was available.

    It reminds me of some swaps that we did back in the late 60’s and early 70’s. Dropped a 409 Chevy with a Muncie close ratio four speed in a 68 GMC SWB stepside. The original 6 crapped out, and a perfect 409 was just sitting there in a very rusty 64. It made for a nice ride!

    We swapped a blown V-6 out of a 65 GMC 3/4 ton and installed a 389 Pontiac. Used a Poncho bell housing and the original four speed with the granny low first gear. That thing would pull like crazy.

    Yeah, I could live with a La Salle with an Oldsmobubble police engine and T-400 trans!

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  20. justin

    purists= museum cars, period, they are not safe to be on the road with the lastest technolgys . resto mods or repowered surviors like this is what the new hotrodding is all about. unless it is something exceeding rare, modify it to be safer, with chassis, drivetrain, and brake modifcations. you, your car and others around you are safer for it.

    Like 0
    • geomechs geomechs Member

      I might agree with you in some areas, Justin, but disagree with you on others. I drive my bone stock ’49 Chev, ’54 Ford and ’47 Ford pickup. While the Fords will cruise upwards of 65 mph, the Chev is screaming at 55. I’ve had to make panic stops with all (3) and had no troubles except for some shattered nerves. The modified cars are OK as long as the builder does EVERYTHING that needs to be done. Put a 300 hp engine into a car that’s made to run only 85 and you’ve got no end of troubles with the frame buckling, inferior brakes and steering; that’s what got a lot of early hotrodders killed. Put a high hp engine into even something like this LaSalle and you’ve got frame flexing, inferior brakes and steering. You’ve got to reinforce the frame and upgrade the suspension, steering and brakes to handle the extra power. A custom frame that is designed to handle all that isn’t all that far off moneywise to make it safer. Another problem is people installing Nova (or equivilant) front clips to ‘upgrade'(?) the front suspension. I’ve seen (2) vehicles buckle up because those weren’t installed properly.

      Like 0

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