Parked In ’59! 1938 LaSalle Touring Sedan

I doubt that we’ll ever see an era like it again. When the 1930s dawned, the General Motors “Companion Make Program” was in full swing, allowing the company to produce distinct brands to fill every perceive niche in the motoring market. The high-point of this program was the 1930 model year when GM found itself taking a total of nine separate brands to the US domestic market. A mere three of those original nine brands survive today, and one of those that have disappeared into the annals of history is LaSalle. This 1938 LaSalle 4-Door Touring Sedan rolled off the production line during the twilight years of the brand and has been owned by the same family since 1959. During all of those years, it has remained parked in a warehouse. It has survived the experience remarkably well, but it appears the family has decided that if they haven’t managed to restore the car after six decades, then it probably isn’t ever going to happen! With that in mind, they have chosen to part with it. The LaSalle is located in Warner Robins, Georgia, and has been listed for sale here on eBay. The owner has set a BIN of $10,000 for this GM classic, but the option is available to make an offer. I have to really thank Barn Finder Ikey H for referring this GM classic to us because the LaSalle is not a car that you will see pop up for sale every day of the week.

Envisaged to fill a gap between the Buick and Cadillac brands, LaSalle vehicles were assembled by Caddillac with all of their usual care and attention to detail. GM ensured that buyers were left in no doubt as to the origins of their purchase, with Cadillac identification on the VIN plate, and in several other locations around the vehicle. The frame for the 1938 Sedan was common to the Buick and Cadillac range but featured panels that were unique to the LaSalle. Vehicle styling is quite interesting, with a fairly narrow grille imparting an aerodynamic air to the car. The body flows nicely, and many of the unique chrome trim pieces provide a tasteful Art Deco feel to the vehicle. For this particular LaSalle, 60-years in a warehouse hasn’t wrought havoc upon its steel. The owner does state that the body is good, with only surface corrosion in places. The panels look quite straight, while it appears that all of the chrome and trim is present, with the exception of two hubcaps, along with one rear bumper guard. There are a number of chrome pieces that will require a trip to the plater, but that shouldn’t prove to be a particularly expensive exercise. One aspect of this restoration that could potentially cause some heartburn is the issues that are apparent with some of the glass. There are a couple of pieces that sport cracks, while several pieces are also quite cloudy. Sourcing replacement glass could potentially be a challenge, but I have been able to locate at least one company that claims to have the correct templates and can create replacement glass on a made-to-order basis. They don’t indicate what this sort of service will cost, but at least any potential restorer knows that it is available.

Purchasing a LaSalle in 1938 meant having the choice of a 322ci V8 flathead engine, or…actually, that was it. The 322 produced 125hp, which found its way to the rear wheels via a 3-speed manual transmission. At 3,830lbs, the 4-Door Touring Sedan was not a light car, but the V8 engine produced smooth power and torque, ensuring a comfortable and quiet ride for vehicle occupants. It should be no surprise to learn that the 322 doesn’t currently run, although it did when it was parked. The owner doesn’t indicate whether the engine turns freely, but if it does, it might take surprisingly little work to get the V8 ticking over once again. Of course, getting the car to a roadworthy state will entail a bit more work, but one can always live in hope. It is worth remembering that in 1938, a LaSalle 4-Door Touring Sedan cost its buyer the princely sum of $1,385. That doesn’t sound too bad until you realize that the average American home in the same year cost $3,900. With real estate prices as they currently stand, that means that a new LaSalle in 2020 would cost its buyer somewhere in the vicinity of $100,000.

The interior is going to require a complete restoration, but even though this isn’t likely to be a cheap undertaking, it may not be as bad as the relative rarity of the vehicle might suggest. One of its strong points is that the interior does appear to be complete. Interior trim kits are not something that people are likely to find readily, but a good upholsterer should be able to use the existing upholstery as a template to create new trim from scratch. As I said, it isn’t going to be a cheap process, but when you consider that a full interior retrim represents a once-in-50-year investment, it really shouldn’t be viewed as a huge negative. One of the great strengths of the LaSalle is the sheer quantity of interior space. I mean, look at that rear legroom. There’s enough room in the back to hold a reasonable-sized family gathering!

By the 1938 model year, the LaSalle was priced significantly below any offering from Cadillac, but well above anything from the Buick line. This meant that it was achieving all that GM had set out to do, which was to fill that perceived gap. Unfortunately, that gap didn’t yield the sales volumes that GM had envisaged when they embarked upon this journey. For the 1938 model year, the entire LaSalle range accounted for 15,509 cars, of which, 10,065 were the 4-Door Touring Sedan. The writing was on the wall for LaSalle, with GM battling to justify maintaining a marque that produced such low sales results. Sales failed to improve during 1939, and by the end of 1940, LaSalle was but a memory. Some memories are worth reviving, and I hope that someone takes the time and effort to revive this old classic, because it sure seems worth it.

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  1. Howard A Member

    “Gee our old LaSalle ran great, those were the days”,,,

    • Garygsr Member

      Knew that was coming just didn’t expect it so quick

  2. bobhess bobhess Member

    Got close to LaSalle by using one of their transmissions in one of our Olds powered ’53 Studebaker coupes. We needed something that would take the 380 hp were getting out of the engines. I do believe that we could have put 800 hp in front of that transmission and it wouldn’t have missed a beat. Looked like it came out of a very large truck but it was smooth as glass. Speaking of smooth, that flat head V8 was in the old 48 hearse we had in college and even being that old it ran like a whole herd of sewing machines. This car is more sculpture than transportation.

    • On and On On and On Member

      I had a 1939 LaSalle coupe that was rusted out pretty bad. Was all original. When I sold it on ebay I had several calls from folks that wanted the trans only. I guess they were sought after by resto-mod folks and vintage racing guys. It was a cool car, ended up selling it to a dude who needed it for a parts car for $1500.

  3. IkeyHeyman Member

    Nice write-up, Adam. I’ve only seen a small number of LaSalles in my lifetime, mostly in junkyards. I hope somebody restores this car, for posterity’s sake.

  4. Dutch 1960

    The late ’30s LaSalle transmission was the one to get for any sort of hot rod that was putting out some power. This one missed the curse of the part swappers, fortunately.

    • ken tillyUK

      So far!

  5. schmuck281 Member

    When I was a kid we had a 1940 LaSalle. But somewhere in the 50’s the rear end went out and there was some difficulty getting parts for it. I don’t know, I was 6 or 7 at the time. My Dad still wanted to fix it but my Mom and my Grandmother went to work on him (Grandma was a force of nature) and he took it down to the closest used car lot and came back in an (irrc) a OD Green 1946 Chevy Carryall with black fenders. That is a tale in itself.

  6. pat

    $1,385 in 1938 is equivalent to about $24,000- $25,000 today.

  7. Ken Cwrney

    Thanks guys for more subjects for my auto art business. Nowhere else can I
    find such variety when it comes to all the
    odd and unique cars you post here.
    With this one, I’ll add some sidemounts,
    some driving lights, and maybe a spotlight or two. Haven’t seen one in years, but they’re still a beautiful design
    today. When I get things organized, I might advertise here. Great site, great
    people, Thanks for the work you do.
    Stay safe guys.

  8. 408 interceptor

    It must weigh more than 3,830 lbs. My new mustang GT weighs 3,700 lbs and it’s half plastic and aluminum. I’ll say this tank weighs at least 4,800 lbs.

    • canadainmarkseh Member

      You might be surprised. My 1951 dodge 2 hard top ways 200 lbs less than a a dodge caravan. We’re putting weight back into cars with all the electric gadgets, safety devices and emissions parts. These old car look heavy but they are quite hollow compared to new cars. When you start digging into a restoration you soon see what I mean. Just look under the dash on this car than go look at your new car.

  9. Bultaco

    Much like the one abandoned in the driveway in “Grey Gardens”, except I think that one was a ‘37.

    • Little_Cars Little_Cars Member

      @ Bultaco–Where in Grey Gardens was the LaSalle shown? Are you speaking of the Mailles-directed biopic or the feature length movie made about it? I don’t recall any mention of a car. There wasn’t much footage of the two ladies property outside to include a shot of the driveway.

      • Little_Cars Little_Cars Member

        Found this photo…but I still don’t remember it from the documentary shot when the woman were still alive. Now that I’m sheltering in place I guess I’ll rent the Jessica Lange Hollywood production.

  10. Barry Traylor

    The interior looks pretty rough.

  11. Johnmloghry Johnmloghry Member

    Restore this car, put it in a time capsule for a couple hundred years. People of that future generation will be completely blown away. I’m completely blown away right now with this beauty.
    God bless America

  12. Stuart

    Do hope some one
    Who buys the car doz resort the car its cool .you don’t get cars like that in the uk

  13. charlie Member

    In MY opinion, the bustle backs, of the second half of the 30’s, were the least attractive of all the series of cars from when styling took over in the mid 20’s to now. Maybe, my opinion is a result of our ’37 or ’38 Studebaker Commander which my father bought for $50 in 1945 after WWII, which was frequently broken down. And the similar aged cars on the street, in the early 50’s, were these and most were pretty tired. Now my uncle’s ’40 Ford was much prettier, as was the ’38 Cadillac 60 Special shown yesterday on this page to my thinking. And there are ’34’s and some ’35’s with a slope back, not so much room for stuff, but much prettier.

  14. BobMck Member

    Nice old LaSalle, but 10 large for a non running car with no interior seems like a lot of money. When it is restored, it is still not going to be worth a lot. So this will be a labor of love. Hopefully the seller will find that one person willing to give her a loving home.

  15. John E. Ropelewski

    I was under the impression that 1938 was the first year for the column shifter in the LaSalle. The photos clearly show a floor shifter.

  16. Danny from oz

    Beautiful lines but It’s a pity that from the A pillar back it shared the same body as it’s cheaper brothers.


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