Skip to content

The Last Of The Breed: The Exit of the Traditional Cadillac

1969 Cadillac DeVille convertible

Once upon a time…a Cadillac motorcar was the quintessential luxury automobile and the universal dream car. Each is a masterpiece from the master craftsmen. A traditional Cadillac was an absolute…a superlative in its class; and it disappeared right before our very eyes. Every mile driven was a black-tie event.

Remember the look of a leader? Remember the formidable Cadillac-built V8 engine? Remember the admiration and envy as you viewed the world from behind the wheel of a traditional Cadillac? Then came that nasty count down to “The Next Generation of the Luxury Car” …in the continuing saga of “As the Standard of the World Turns.”

1970 Cadillac DeVille convertible

The countdown begins…as the architecture dwindles

1969-1970 Body

1971-1973 Body

1974-1976 Body

The initial down-sizing began as mentioned, in 1971. Cadillac completely re-designed all of their models trimming them significantly. The ‘big-car’ attributes such as wheelbase, width, and overall length were not disturbed. The body on frame design was lowered into the frame of the car. The traditional build of the 1970 models places the bodyshell atop rocker panels hiding the frame.

General Motors used a common platform for Cadillac, Oldsmobile, and Buick during 1971-1976 production runs. Production dies were modified between divisions for their signature identity. The 1971 and 1972 models used basically the same cosmetics. Cadillac got a ‘Beauty Treatment’ for the 1973 model year refreshing the 1971 version updating both front and rear styling while retaining the same body shell.

1972 Cadillac Sedan deVille

1973 Cadillac Coupe deVille

Cosmetic changes were minor 1971 through 1973

1974 Cadillac Coupe deVille

The 1974 Calais, DeVille, and Fleetwood received another Cadillac Beauty Treatment. Cadillac’s signature headlamp/turn signal/cornering lamp modular assembly was introduced. The rear end ensemble would be used until the end of the 1976 production run. The 7.7 litre 472 CID V8 powered 1968-1974 Calais, DeVille, and Fleetwood models. The 8.2 litre 500 CID V8 engine became standard for all models for the 1975-1976 model years.

Silver bumper impact strips were added to the 1973 front bumper design. This bumper would be used through the 1976 model year with modification to the guards. Coupe deVille and Calais coupé received a new roofline incorporating distinctive new fixed quarter windows. The rear sail panel is flush with the side windows assisting aerodynamics.

The ultra-rare ultra-luxurious 1974 Fleetwood Talisman

Elegant crushed velour trim is lavishly tailored throughout 

The 1974 Fleetwood Talisman is a ‘four-seat’ ultra-luxury sedan

The sunroof option was gaining momentum

1976 Cadillac Fleetwood Series Sixty-Special Brougham

The 1975-1976 Calais, DeVille, and Fleetwood were in their final revision making them the last full-size models. The nose clip was once again lowered with a beveled hood. Rectangular headlamps highlight the new modular lamp assembly. This makes the car look completely different. This is it – the finale – the end of a tradition in luxury motoring…

1976 Cadillac Coupe deVille

What started the dance? After the Arab Oil Embargo sent crude prices to ridiculously exorbitant new heights Cadillac engineers designed and created an entirely new class of luxury car. They took the basic platform from the Chevrolet Nova, installing uniquely regal architecture – and equipped it with more standard features than any other Cadillac. The power source is the Oldsmobile electronically fuel injected 5.7 litre 350 CID V8.

It was priced between the Fleetwood Brougham and the Fleetwood Series Seventy-Five. The result is an international-size precision luxury car. Initially, this new luxury car was going to be badge-engineered using the Opel Diplomat imported from Germany. Instead, enter Cadillac Seville. It was so popular its dramatic design inspired every car GM built during this genre. This also escalated the car’s eventual demise. Cadillac Seville owners didn’t like the idea of an Oldsmobile Cutlass resembling their $13,000+ luxury car!

And to think some die-hard Cadillac clientele actually turned their noses up at the Seville (me included) at the time this car was built…which is now bigger than anything Cadillac makes currently. The Cadillac Seville was popular with the ladies because of its impeccable road manners. It is sleek and easy to maneuver in all driving situations. It still fits into our contemporary world. Had GM not over-worked this design diluting its exclusivity it may still be in production. The Cadillac Seville died a tragic death – 

There were a number of contributing factors influencing the eventual down-sizing of every contemporary automobile. The main culprit is the mid-1970s Arab Oil Embargo. The EPA demanding cleaner air with higher MPG averages – and the new at the time CAFE standards reinforced the smaller vehicle mission. With electric intelligent drive and autonomy just around the corner, the internal combustion engine and the car’s steering wheel will be rendered redundant – shocking!

Isn’t it ironic the Cadillac Seville was one of the last traditional models? This exclusive car was built with extensive hand-finishing designed to be among the finest automobiles in the world. It predicts “The next generation of the luxury car.” The traditional Cadillacs promenade…in the continuing saga of “As the Standard of the World Turns.”

NotoriousLuxury © 2018 – 2020

9 thoughts on “The Last Of The Breed: The Exit of the Traditional Cadillac Leave a comment

  1. Love these Cadillacs!
    New ones, half the size you see in this post, are cute and fast, but they have NO PRESENCE, nor did they have the BEAUTY and GRACE like the classic Cadillac did.

  2. Love the article, most especially the very beginning, well said.
    But, The story doesn’t end in 1978
    Northstar, Allante, and the ’94-’96 Fleetwood Brougham ???

    It all ended really when Cadillac intro’ed SUVs into its product line
    and really even before then when we said goodbye to Eldorado which was the dream car of dream cars from 1953-

    • Hello Lou! You are correct – the story won’t stop there. Part III is in the works and will be published in the next few days. Keep an eye out for future stories. It is the Calais/DeVille/Fleetwood chopping first. Then Eldorado will have its own versions. I am going to take my readers straight thru to the mid 1980s when the music STOPPED for Cadillac!

  3. Hello DomesticDame! Once again I thought of you as I put this story together! Keep watching, there will be more classic Cadillac motorcars. You and others keep me busy writing about the old Cadillacs and I love that! I see what you all like! Isn’t it a shame Cadillac doesn’t make cars anymore with ‘presence’ and that Cadillac POISED DIGNITY that was the hallmark of every traditional Cadillac. You will love it when I contrast the new Cadillacs to the old traditional versions so stay tuned!

  4. I have owned many of the Cadillacs featured on this site. My ’59 Persian Sand Biarritz made a “statement” no other production convertible can challenge, but my ’64 Eldorado drove like a modern car given it’s new TH transmission. They drive like a modern car. I would vote the ’66-67 Broughams as the most opulent postwar Cadillacs, exceeded only by the ’57-58 Broughams. They are a whole ‘nother league from any other Cadillac. The decline really started ~ 1968 which followed with the disastrous “LBJ-brokered” UAW contract and ’67 Detroit riots. The City of Detroit and Cadillac never recovered from either.

  5. Cadillac did NOT end in 1976. The 94 Concours is an awesome car (Northstar leak notwithstanding)
    The LT-1 rear-drive 1996 Fleetwood is hard to beat. I know. I own them both.


  6. Hello Franz! You are quite correct! Cadillac did NOT end in 1976 – Cadillac ended in 1970! That was the last of the traditional build for a Cadillac. From 1971-1976 was a requiem for the brand as the lights went totally out in the mid-1980s and the music STOPPED. I have owned them all. I didn’t particularly like the 1994 Cadillac because of the way it looked especially with all the plastic it has. The 1993-1996 Fleetwoods were nice but they were NOT Cadillac! The HORRID 4.1 litre V8 Cadillac pretended to build was awful! They switched to 5.0-litre Olds engines in the Brougham and ultimately the Olds 5.7-litre V8 engine.

    GM used a generic “D” platform placing the 1993-1996 Fleetwood, Chevy Caprice, Buick Roadmaster, and Olds Custom Cruiser upon it. Cadillac had been sharing platforms for a while. They haven’t been independent stand-alone platforms in General Motors since the 1960s.

    Cadillac didn’t even make a V8 engine for a while after the NorthStar fiasco. Cadillac used Oldsmobile engines for a while. The Cadillac Seville first generation used a modified Olds 5.7 litre V8. The 1994-1996 Fleetwood used a Chevy Corvette engine 1994-1996. So basically, 1993-1996 Cadillac Fleetwoods weren’t really Cadillacs. Cadillac put their name on a generic platform. (shocking gasp I know) The “Blackwing V8” was the first V8 engine that was truly Cadillac-built.

    If you study a 1969-1970 Cadillac…then place them beside the 1971-1976 you will see how Cadillac was slipping into obscurity using various GM components. Cadillac used to be exclusive, they are trying – but they keep riding the coattails of BMW and Mercedes-Benz. The 1976 DeVille and Fleetwood are the last big ones and 1978 is the last big Eldorado.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: