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The Last Of The Breed: 1976 Cadillac Reunion

A traditional Cadillac represents the ultimate expression of achievement. This iconic status symbol identified its owner as one who appreciates the finer things in life. The legend became a lifestyle. The bigger the bank account…the bigger the Cadillac motorcar. The Arab Oil Embargo of the Nineteen Seventies put a serious crimp in crude oil pricing. It forced Cadillac designers to re-think their offerings.

The “City-block long/Half city-block wide” luxury land yacht’s days were numbered. 1976 is the finale of the DeVille, Calais, and Fleetwood series as full-size motorcars. This was the final opportunity to buy a brand-new full-size Cadillac. NotoriousLuxury brings them back into the spotlight…in the continuing saga of “As the Standard of the World Turns.”

By the 1976 model year, DeVille, Calais, and Fleetwood (excluding Eldorado) had reached their largest overall dimensions. Cadillac stylists cleverly trimmed away the excess beginning the 1971 model year thru 1976 models; yet they remained true to form retaining traditional specifications with length, width, and wheelbase metrics. Cadillac stylists were grooming its clientele for the next generation of the luxury car which would debut in 1977. There was a total of 309,139 1976 Cadillac built.

The 1976 model year offered five distinctive wheelbases plus a commercial chassis. Cadillac had the luxury of choice with 10 models in four series. Once again…it was the illustrious DeVille series that outsold every model building a total of 182,159 units.

Model # 6D D47 Coupe deVille was base priced at $9,067, with a base weight of 5025 pounds and 114,482 were built. Model #6D D49 Sedan deVille had a base price of $9,265, with a base weight of 5127 lbs. and 67,677 were built.

1976 Cadillac Coupe deVille

1976 Cadillac Sedan deVille

1976 Fleetwood Talisman

Option #V4U Fleetwood Talisman added $1,813 to the base price.

The most luxurious owner-driven model is the Fleetwood Series Sixty-Special Brougham. Model # 6B B69 had a base price of $10,935, a base weight of 5,213 lbs. and only 24,500 were built. 

1976 Fleetwood Series Sixty-Special Brougham

The most luxurious chauffeur-driven models offered are the Fleetwood Series Seventy-Five. Model # 6D F23 Fleetwood Series Seventy-Five nine-passenger sedan had a base priced of $14,889, has a base weight of 5,746, and only 981 were built. 

Model # 6D F33 Fleetwood Series Seventy-Five limousine had a base price of $15,239 and only 834 were built. This model is the formal limousine with sliding glass division. There are 1,509 Model # 6D Z90 commercial chassis to accommodate ambulance and hearse coachbuilt conversions.

The chauffeur’s compartment in the formal limousine is upholstered in leather. The two compartments are divided with a power sliding glass division. The passenger compartment is large enough to create a rolling board room for the exec who must work as they travel.

Fleetwood Series Seventy-Five models are stately and dignified

The 1976 Cadillac Eldorado was offered in two body styles. Model #6E L47 Fleetwood Eldorado coupé had a base price of $10,586, a base weight of 5,085, and 35,184 were built. 

Model # 6E L67 Fleetwood Eldorado convertible had a base price of $11,049, a base weight of 5,153 lbs. and 14,000 were built. This was the last factory-built Eldorado convertible.

The entry-level Cadillac Calais was in its final year of production. Model # 6C C47 Calais coupé had a base price of $8,629, a base weight of 4,989 lbs. and 4,500 were built. Model # 6C C49 Calais hardtop sedan had a base price of $8,825, a base weight of 5,083 and 1,700 were built. This series didn’t sell in large numbers because the price was so close to the DeVille series. It just made more sense for the salesman to upgrade the client to the DeVille.

Another reason this model didn’t sell was the fact it appeared as a ‘bargain basement’ Cadillac. An expanded vinyl interior was anything but luxurious using the sew style from the 1973 Calais. The upper door and trim panels are from the 1973 DeVille. The exterior was stripped of lower stainless steel rocker moldings making this model immediately identified as the Calais series.

Cadillac’s 8.2 litre 500 CID V8 engine is standard on all models except Seville. On a sad note, this former performance behemoth is only tuned to achieve 190 hp @ 4,000 rpm with 488 Nm of peak torque @ 2,000 rpm. This is how it gets such excellent fuel economy for a car this size. The former 8.2 litre 500 CID V8 engine was tuned to crank 400 hp @ 4,400 rpm with 746 Nm of peak torque @ 3,000 rpm. Quite a difference huh?

But all of those horses didn’t come cheap – when this engine debuted in the 1970 Fleetwood Eldorado it used leaded premium gasoline…it doesn’t sip it guzzles! The old 7.7 litre 472 CID V8 engine wouldn’t cooperate on regular or unleaded gasoline. When it debuted for the 1968 model year it cranked 375 hp at 4,400 rpm with 712 Nm of peak torque @ 3,000 rpm.

These both are Cadillac’s largest V8 engines ever built to power production passenger vehicles. There would be three more V8s before the end of the line for a “Cadillac-built” V8 engine. Cadillac engineered a 7.0 litre 425 CID V8 engine for the 1977-1979 model years, a 6.0 litre 368 CID V8 for 1980, and the Northstar V8 engines used through the 2011 model year. I miss the inherent balance of those humongous V8s! They are silky smooth. If you’ve never driven a traditional Cadillac – you missed the thrill of a thoroughbred American luxury automobile.

Let us look at Cadillac evolution once again demonstrating the subtle down-sizing. The designers didn’t take anything away from the overall length, width, and wheelbase. They trimmed away the bodywork.

1970 marks the end of a traditional Cadillac build

Calais, DeVille, and Fleetwood models used fenders separate from the body shell all the way around. Notice how the fenders run ‘past’ the bodywork? This makes the car appear even larger than it is.

The 1971 model year is trimmed to make it more contemporary 

Notice how it is significantly lower. The 1969-1970 fenders are trimmed away for a contemporary new look. They also had a stronger front end structure since they were becoming slimmer. This actually improved handling by moving the front wheels further towards the front. Nobody saw GM down-sizing throughout their divisions. Cadillac, Buick Electra, and Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight were all using the same platform and bodyshells. 

1974 refreshed the look adding bumpers front and rear that would be used until the end of the 1976 model year production run. It introduced Cadillac’s modular headlamp/turn signal/cornering lamp assembly.

The 1975-1976 model years trimmed the nose clip a tad bit lower also neatly beveling the hood for a sneak peek at aerodynamics in the making. Rectangular headlamps augment the trimmer headlamp modular assembly.

1976 is the end of the full-size genre

The finale of the full-size Cadillac precluded an impressive era in luxury motoring. The 1971-1976 Cadillacs will always be remembered as the last of a vanishing breed. 1976 Cadillac DeVille, Calais, and Fleetwood models were in the largest form they would ever be. Despite their trimmer architecture, they are still larger than what would come next. The 1976 Cadillacs are one class act…in the continuing saga of “As the Standard of the World Turns.”

NotoriousLuxury © 2018 – 2020

9 thoughts on “The Last Of The Breed: 1976 Cadillac Reunion Leave a comment

  1. My joy of getting my new ’79 Coupe de Ville lasted about a week when the difference between it and the ’76 model I traded in really sank in. Not the same feel by any measure.

    • See! There’s NOTHING like a full-size traditional Cadillac! But…they get even worse as I will demonstrate. Make sure to see what’s coming next! More traditional Cadillacs to come. I kept my 1976 Fleetwood until 2006 when I sold it to make room in the garage. I bought the car brand new. I was so sorry I sold it. I had restored it to better than new – now I miss it! I am going to buy another when I find it.

  2. Nice read, thanks, so over coffee one morning before going to my store I ask my wife to go by Jerry Stoop’s car lot and pay him for a 75 Chevy Impala 2dr HT he had traded for, and later in the day my friend Jerry calls me and says your wife came by but you aren’t going to be happy because she saw a 75 Coupe DeVille I just got in and she bought it. I said a Cadillac, I can’t afford a Cadillac, and Jerry said with this oil embargo going on you can afford one. He told me also that once you drive a Caddy you’ll never go back, and he was right, thanks again, R Ladner

  3. In 1985 I was reluctant to buy my 76 Coupe de Ville. It was a wonderful car.
    I kept that car for over 10 years. I just made a deal on a well kept everything works low mileage 44 year old beauty, with a sun roof, and, factory fuel injection. I’m so excited…
    Also, I bought from an individual not a dealer. Respectfully a wise personal choice.


    • With the 1976 being the last of the full-size Cadillac you can name your price if you hold onto it. The main question people are going to ask is why the car was never registered. This may be the only drawback. A genuine collector will have the VIN researched to make sure it isn’t salvage. A Fleetwood Series Sixty-Special Brougham with the “d’Elegance” option will demand top dollar.

      I’d start with an asking price of $27,500 – that is, if it is impeccably maintained with NO CORROSION. The underside of the car and each lower quarter panel must be original with no work done. The paint has to be pristine especially where the stainless-steel moldings are attached to the body with those awful weld studs and plastic retainer clips.

      The roof has to be straight as an arrow with NO bubbles here and there mainly around the rear window. The padding holds water like a sponge. If it has been driven in the Rust-Belt there’s salt under the roof where the rear window and rear C-pillars will be the first things to go. That’s expensive to repair because the roof has to be removed and replaced.

      The body shop doing the work will not know until the padding is removed just how extensive the corrosion repair will be. I hope this car has been in a temperature-controlled environment? If any moisture has creeped into storage, the rusting process has already begun. These things start rusting from the inside out AND if it has been improperly rust-proofed by Zeibart, OMG, rust has started underneath the coatings such as inside the doors where the factory drain plugs have been clogged up by the rust-proofing material. The 1976 Cadillacs were built using improperly refined recycled metal imported. That’s why you don’t see more of them on the road because most of them were in the ‘crusher’ at scrap yards many years ago.

      Now, the most important aspect: how often has the car been started and allowed to get up to operating temperature? If it has only 6-miles on the odometer, there could be issues lurking! A car is like an athlete. It has to have a workout, driving and shifting gears. The brakes have to be operated. The parking brake should not be left in the ‘engaged’ position in storage. Chances are, as soon as this car is driven – major components could fail without warning. This is a chance we take being car collectors! I’m a little concerned with it having only 6-miles. How often was it driven to obtain those miles? If those 6-miles were from 1976 and the car hasn’t been driven, with fluids changed – it will be a ‘service-bay’ queen for a while.

      Has the oil and coolant been changed regularly? Just because it has low miles, it still has to have those fluids watched and changed. Think about it. If the oil and coolant have never been changed, these precious fluids are at least 46 years old! The engine could be seized, the transmission also.

      The radiator is aluminium and could be seriously corroded along with inner parts of the engine through which the coolant runs its course. Cars cannot ‘just sit’ because they will turn into junk – fast! The brake fluid alone is highly corrosive and may have started eating thru the brake lines and at the wheel cylinders. If the car has just been sitting, all kinds of corrosion could be inside the engine causing eventual catastrophic engine failure.

      These are all questions a potential buyer for Cadillacs from this genre will ask. Just because a car has low-miles on it doesn’t make it perfect. There was a1980 Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith II for sale on the internet for a few years now with only 24-miles on the odometer. It will not crank because the engine seized – therefore, time for a complete rebuild which will cost more than the car is worth. The body is gorgeous and the interior immaculate – but the car won’t run an inch. It’s practically worthless except being a donor or parts car.

      Have your car appraised by a professional. He or she will have the hands-on knowledge to tell you if it’s a gem or a junker in disguise! There’s many many many places where corrosion begins. There are many places inside the engine and tranny which require lubrication. All of the engine oil could be sitting varnished to the oil pan. The motor seals and gaskets could be dry rotted. May sound strange, but a 1976 Cadillac with 35,000-60,000 miles would be a better car than one that has been sitting for 46-years with a mere 6-miles on the odometer. So you see, claiming those low miles isn’t really a badge of honor. Look at an athlete in the body-building category – if he develops humongous muscle mass…and simply stops working out…those muscles turn into fatty, flabby, uselessness!

      Cadillacs from 1971-1976 should be approached with caution! This is when GM’s crown-jewel began its demise slipping into obscurity mainly because of quality-control issues. The absolute worse Cadillac year range is 1972 thru 1974. The trusty 472-CID V8 was designed to run on premium-grade fuel and just didn’t accept the smog controls combined with unleaded gasoline. The 500-CID V8 is a much better engine especially with the revisions it had beginning the 1975 model year when this engine became the standard for all Cadillac models for 1975 and 1976. The 1971-1976 Cadillacs went from the showroom to the junkyard in one svelte-swoop. The music stopped – completely – for Cadillac in the mid-1980s….

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