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Which Would You Pick? Two 1938 LaSalle Project Cars

This is a tale of two 1938 LaSalles – both are tips from T.J., and they arrived in our “assignments pile” nearly simultaneously. I’ve decided to cover both cars in one article – and you can help us out with this story. You have $20k to spend – do you strike a deal on the convertible and throw in more cash to fix it, or take the sedan and pocket the change? The first is a 1938 La Salle five-passenger, four-door sedan barn car – and I mean a real barn, it’s got hay and everything – here on craigslist and shown above. This seller is asking $12,000. This LaSalle was parked in its current resting spot in Puyallup, Washington ten years ago and hasn’t been touched since. The upholstery is original, and the seller promises no rust.

The LaSalle was essentially a Cadillac nameplate, commencing production in 1927 as a “junior” luxury car. Designed by Harley Earl, who was infusing European influences into his work by the late 1920s, the cars were smaller and more nimble than a Cadillac. They also cost considerably less. The powerplant in these two LaSalles is identical. This is the Puyallup car again, showing off its “ran when parked” 322 cu. in. flathead V8 with a factory horsepower rating of 125. These motors were shared with the prior year’s Cadillac Series 60, but to keep a distance between LaSalle and Cadillac, the fancier nameplate received a 346 cu. in. engine by 1938. The transmission is a three-speed all-synchromesh manual.

Over on eBay is our second LaSalle, located just down the coast in La Verne, California. This one will set you back $21,900, but obviously, it’s a drop-top – technically a “convertible coupe”, of which only 855 were built this year. History is scant, but we’re told the car spent decades locked up in a warehouse. No word on whether the engine turns, but like the first car, it’s missing its air cleaner assembly. What are the chances! Both cars sport the “torpedo” hood ornament. That heavy-duty item is actually the latch to release the hood, which opens alligator-style. This car does have some rust, which is described as “repairable”.

The convertible’s steering wheel is warped, and the radio plate is missing. The seller notes that the front bumper is missing though the car comes with an extra rear bumper. By 1938. LaSalle was struggling, and though Cadillac changed tactics a couple of times to boost its popularity, in the end, competition from Lincoln’s Zephyr and Packard’s One-Twenty – along with a recession – were too much to bear. There was no LaSalle for 1941. Prices are hard to nail down, but it looks like sedans sell in the $20k area, while convertible coupes are well more than twice that. This example sold for $55k. And now it’s time to say – which one would you take?


  1. Howard A Member

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

    Like 10
  2. David R.

    I’ve never seen a steering wheel look quite like that unless it’s after impaling someone in a crash. Any theories on how it ended up in that condition?

    Like 0
    • Michelle Rand Staff

      Heat warp? It was locked in a California warehouse.

      Like 2
      • Nevadahalfrack Nevadahalfrack Member

        Maybe someone literally just layin’ on the horn..LOL

        Like 1
      • JACKinNWPA JACKinNWPA Member

        I’ll go with heat warp as the steel reinforcement ring is still round.

        Like 1
  3. Yblocker

    The steering wheel and dash in the convertible are toast, I’d rather have the sedan, or better yet, the 56 Ford parked in front of the sedan. Apparently the convertible sold.

    Like 2
  4. Kenneth Carney

    The sedan is more my speed. With my tribe, I need a large car to carry
    everyone. Shouldn’t be that hard to get the old gal running and driving again and enjoy it as intended. Who
    knows, I might wanna use it for Door Dash!

    Like 2
  5. Nevadahalfrack Nevadahalfrack Member

    As fewer and fewer people know the history IMHO the convertible is a rarity that most car folks would appreciate; however personally I can’t see it’s worth the money and time spent to buy it at that price then bring it back to standards, vs the sedan that would less risky fiscally to drive and thus more enjoyable.
    That the drop top is less common will work in its favor-for the right buyer and seller..

    Like 1
  6. TheOldRanger

    Wish they had included a few more pictures of the sedan, but c’est la vie

    Like 1

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