Fresh Metal: 1972 Cadillac Calais
The Cadillac Calais was an unusual model
…in the continuing saga of “As the Standard of the World Turns”
Cadillac was not only celebrating their 70th Anniversary…they were 70 years as the number one choice in luxury automobiles…and for the first time, sales were in excess of more than a quarter million vehicles in a single model year.
The 1972 Cadillacs impressively reaffirmed the tradition of leadership that made Cadillac the “Standard of the World.” Cadillac owner loyalty was the highest in the world. Cadillac had a model to suit the luxury car buyer’s good taste. 1902-1972 represented 70 years of excellence. The 1972 Cadillac Calais coupe was an unusual investment in luxury motoring.
They were marketed as “The easiest step up to the pride and pleasure of Cadillac ownership.” The Cadillac Calais Series was the entry-level model in the hierarchy. It looked like a Cadillac…drove like a Cadillac…and shared the same dimensions with the Cadillac DeVilles.
The Calais Series was built from 1965 when it replaced the Series Sixty-two until the 1976 model year. The 1972 Calais coupe was every inch a Cadillac. After 70 years, the “Standard of the World” still stood alone. The Cadillac Calais for 1972 presents an encore performance…in the continuing saga of “As the Standard of the World Turns.”
The Cadillac Calais Series was the most modest in price. It was available as a hardtop coupe and hardtop sedan. The Calais was virtually the same as the DeVille Series with the difference being showroom trim level and interior styling.
It was the lack of showroom trim, the lower stainless steel rocker moldings to be specific that actually made the Calais series amazing survivors. GM used a crudely devised method of attaching trim and moldings using weld studs and plastic clips.
These were corrosion accelerators for Cadillacs from this genre. The Calais was not available with a vinyl roof which was another corrosion deterrent. The lack of the fancy trim made the Calais austere in appearance but it was an added plus to its survival.
The Calais interior was available in Mayfair cloth with vinyl bolsters in six colors or expanded vinyl upholstery in Black or Antique Saddle. A notchback front seat with folding center armrest was standard. Also standard were: power windows, Variable Ratio Power Steering, power brakes, Flow-Thru ventilation system, cornering lamps, three-speed wiper/washers, courtesy lighting, and electric clock.
The Calais Series was a no frills version of the DeVille
Cadillac set a new model year sales record of 267,827 automobiles built for the 1972 model year. Style code #682/C C47-G Calais hardtop coupe was base priced at $5,771 and only 3,900 were built. Style code #682/C C49-N Calais hardtop sedan was base priced at $5,938 and only 3,875 were built. With a total production total of 7,775 combined for the Calais Series makes it highly collectible as compared with 194,811 DeVilles built for the 1972 model year.
The main reason for the lack of interest in the 1972 Calais Series was the fact that once certain popular options were added, the modest price had ballooned. And add to this issue with the facts that style code #683/D D49-B Sedan deVille was base priced at $6,390 and style code #683/D D47-J Coupe deVille was base priced at $6,168.
Most Calais buyers were upgraded to the comprehensively equipped DeVille Series. Cadillac buyers weren’t interested in a luxury car stripped of flashy Cadillac showroom trim with a ‘plastic’ interior. The Calais Series is an odd-ball that created collector interest due to its nature and intent in the luxury car arena.
The Calais shared Cadillac’s new 1972 bumper system. The front bumper was moved forward away from the sheet metal ¾” to increase the yield strength, that is the distance the bumper yields to impact and returns. In fact, overall styling was virtually unchanged from the 1971 model year re-styling.
The front end ensemble was mildly refreshed moving the parking lamps from the bumper and set them in between the headlamps. The rear end received new tail lamp lenses. There were no major styling revisions for the 1972 model year. The Calais was identical to the DeVille in appearance and dimensions.
The 1972 Calais was powered by the Cadillac 7.7 litre 472 CID 16-valve OHV V8 engine. It had a cast iron block and cylinder heads, with five main bearings and hydraulic valve lifters.
The engine was equipped with a Rochester 4MV 4-bbl downdraft Quadrajet with equalized manifold, mechanical fuel pump, dry-type air filter, and an improved automatic choke. The engine was mated to GM’s Turbo Hydra-Matic THM-400 3-speed automatic transmission.
The 472 CID V8 produced 220 hp @ 3,800 rpm with 495 Nm of peak torque @ 2,400 rpm. Performance was rated as 0-60 mph in 10.1 seconds, 0-100 mph in 31.3 seconds with a top speed of 119 mph. It did the ¼ mile @ 81 mph in 17.4 seconds.
The 1972 Calais coupe was built as body on frame construction using Cadillac’s rugged fully boxed perimeter frame with new front members for added protection. It rode upon a long 130” wheelbase, had the luxury length of 227.4”, and was an impressive 79.8” in width. It was an extremely large front engine rear drive vehicle.
The front suspension used upper and lower control arms. It had an integral steering knuckle for greater dependability and longevity. It was fitted with independent helical coil springs and direct-acting shock absorbers. Rubber mounted strut rods and rubber bushings absorbed road impact and isolated road noise. The 1972 model year received a new spindle with integral hub and rotor.
The rear suspension was Cadillac’s proven four-link drive. It had two upper control arms angle-mounted high on the rear axle to reduce sideways motion, roll on curves, acceleration squat, and deceleration dive. The two lower control arms connected the rear axle and frame for optimum wheel alignment and ride stability under any driving condition.
The rear was fitted with direct-acting shock absorbers. Thick rubber insulation at control arm-to-frame mountings and at top and bottom of springs absorbed and isolated road noise. The rear suspension geometry provided a flatter, softer ride with improved maneuverability.
The 1972 Calais came standard with Cadillac’s Triple Braking System. It incorporated a larger master cylinder and larger wheel cylinders to increase braking capacity. The independent front and rear hydraulic braking system used separate fluid reservoirs, pistons, and hydraulic brake lines for each system.
The power brake booster used engine vacuum to reduce braking effort. The parking brake was a true auxiliary brake. It had a vacuum release that would not lock with the engine running and car in gear.
The Brake system was fitted with ventilated discs with self-adjusting feature to the front axle. The discs had center openings that allowed air to flow for rapid heat dissipation. A splash shield was in place to protect the inboard disc and pads from water.
The rear axle was fitted with finned cast iron duo-servo drums that automatically adjusted each time the car was driven in reverse and the brakes applied.
The Cadillac Calais for 1972 had the big Cadillac engine, the long wheelbase, and many features that were standard on all Cadillacs. It was the easiest step up to the pride and pleasure of Cadillac ownership. There was no stinting on styling, comfort, nor convenience. It had everything that made a Cadillac a Cadillac.
The downside to the Calais was its “bargain-basement” enigma…a Cadillac buyer wanted flash not dollar store appeal. The Calais Series was built in such low numbers that it inspired collector interest. The oddity of its intent in the marketplace makes it strangely unique…The 1972 Cadillac Calais coupe makes a cameo appearance…in the continuing saga of “As the Standard of the World Turns.”
The 1972 Cadillac Calais coupe
The Calais was absolutely available with a vinyl roof. A minor goof (either assembly line or during a repaint or accident repair), Calais models of ’71 and ’72 said “Cadillac” on the front fenders (like this one), but “Calais” on the decklid.
Yes, one could order a vinyl roof for the Calais series BUT, the salesman would upgrade the customer to a DeVille. After adding optional at extra cost accessories, the price would swell into DeVille territory. That’s what this car was. It was advertised as a loss leader, once you got to the Cadillac showroom and compared prices, the customer usually went with a Coupe or Sedan DeVille which was more cost efficient than adding all of those accessories to an entry level Cadillac. The Calais replaced the old Series 62 for the 1965 model year.
You could get almost every option that was available on other Cadillac models. It just was not a prudent purchase, spending that much on a Calais when the DeVille was a more attractive value. The salesman would even discount the upgrade from Calais to DeVille. The Calais was for the owner who wanted the Cadillac look at an entry level price. Calais Series models were rarely ordered by a customer, the dealer would order them for their inventory. Sometimes the dealer would add a vinyl roof once the car was in stock as a customer request.
The Calais also had less stainless steel moldings which actually made them outlast the DeVilles. Those weld studs and plastic clips that held the trim on the car accelerated the car’s corrosion especially the lower rocker panels. Those same Calais models command high prices on the auction block today because they are true survivors of a grand motoring era in Cadillac’s luxurious history.
Coupe deVilles came standard without vinyl tops, also.
Personally, I like the Calais, as they are far, far-rarer than the commonplace deVilles.
I have a friend whose father bought Series 62, then Calais, models until 1970 I think. I can see why. An Electra or Ninety-Eight is nice, but you can see LeSabre and Delta 88 in some of their sheetmetal, instrument panel, and engines. Cadillacs were exclusive in all those things, and the division wasn’t watered down (yet) with compacts and mid-sizes.
Olds 98/88 and Buick LeSabre/Electra 225 had a ‘standard’ theme, styling continuity between models to make them look like they all belong in the same family. It wasn’t until the late 1990s when the Electra and LeSabre…Series 98/88 cut the ties between the signature flagship between the two makes. They had ‘run out’ of ideas by then. They became so nondescript they were all discontinued.
For example, in 1959 The Buick Electra 225 was born. It was a spin-off of the Invicta only with a longer wheelbase and a total overall length of ‘225’ inches – this is when the styling continuity and two-wheelbases made their entry. Olds followed suit with the 98 having a longer wheelbase then the 88s.
Each of GM’s divisions had a flagship sedan with the longer wheelbase AND a standard family version with the same resemblance which began in the 1960s. The Chevrolet Caprice/Impala, Olds Ninety-Eight/Eighty-Eight, Buick Electra 225/LeSabre, Pontiac Bonneville//Star Chief/Catalina, and of course Cadillac Fleetwood/DeVille/Calais. back in the good old days it was all about imagery – they almighty styling continuity to keep their divisions unique with a faint resemblance.
The vinyl roof treatment was optional at extra cost for all Cadillacs except the Fleetwood Series Sixty-Special Brougham. The elegant Brougham package augmented the Series Sixty-Special adding a padded vinyl roof treatment, carpeted footrests in the rear, and a 60/40 front seat.
Further, I like the lack of obviously fake woodgrain inside, and the expanded vinyl option looked like leather but honestly held up better.
Hello Bill! Ironically – the Calais series has upstaged the other Cadillac models in value. The Calais had less chrome attached to the body which makes them last even longer. Those weld studs and plastic clips were the demise of the full-sized land yachts.
You mentioned the expanded vinyl inside, yes, the interior lasted longer than the leather trimmed versions. Usually, when someone ordered a Calais, the salesman just upgraded the sale to the DeVille series because the more options one ordered for Calais just bumped up the price.
We used to turn our nose up at the Calais series and in the contemporary world where they have out-lived the other Cadillac models makes us do a double-take to see if it is indeed a Calais or DeVille. If Cadillac only made a real Cadillac today!