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The Last Of The Breed: 1977 Cadillac – The Next Generation of the Luxury Car

The all-new 1977 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham

1977 launched “The Next Generation of the Luxury Car.” The first major down-sizing began with the DeVille and Fleetwood models. Their radical re-design is based upon the successful attributes from the 1976 Cadillac Seville. It’s an amazing feat for an automaker to completely re-engineer their offerings drastically while managing to set new sales records – for three consecutive years. Cadillac re-invented the luxury car. Shorter, narrower, and lighter is the theme that instigated “the plastic wars” eventually affecting every contemporary automobile and truck.

Cadillac thinned out its model roster eliminating the Fleetwood Series Sixty-Special and the aging Calais series. Convertibles and 4-door hardtop sedans were also discontinued. The totally new DeVille and Fleetwood models looked so awkward in Cadillac showrooms beside the full-size Eldorado. Little did we know – this was the beginning of the end of Cadillac as we knew them. NotoriousLuxury compares the new breed to the traditional Cadillacs…in the continuing saga of “As the Standard of the World Turns.”

The new precision-size included only a 2-door coupé and 4-door sedan. The Fleetwood Brougham and Sedan deVille became the same car with only a padded vinyl roof treatment and chrome rocker moldings on the exterior to differentiate them. It takes an eagle-eye to tell them apart from a distance.

The re-vamped full-size range for 1977 includes the Coupe deVille, Sedan deVille, Fleetwood Brougham, and a factory limousine. Cadillac engineers designed the Fleetwood limousine and Fleetwood formal limousine fusing the Coupe deVille and Sedan deVille. The new breed retained body on frame construction and rear-wheel drive. Seville DNA is evident throughout.

1977 Cadillac Coupe deVille

1977 Cadillac Sedan deVille

1977 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham

30 Years of Cadillac superlatives – 1956, 1966, and 1976 Fleetwoods

Cadillac at one time offered 11 models in three series – now, the brand was becoming considerably less exclusive. General Motors got caught sharing parts between divisions without disclosure. (Chevrolet engines powering Oldsmobiles was the biggie at the time) Cadillac was vastly becoming a hodge-podge of GM parts.

The 1977 DeVille and Fleetwood range shared platforms with Buick and Oldsmobile. GM was using the mid-1970s mid-sized chassis specifications installing full-size overstated architecture to make their ‘big’ cars. (If you can conceive the idea using a 4-door Cutlass Supreme platform with a luxurious Cadillac body shell)

1965 Cadillac hardtop Sedan deVille

1966 Cadillac hardtop Sedan deVille

DomesticDame – “This one’s for you…kid -“

The 1977 down-sized models are 8 to 12 inches shorter and around 950 pounds lighter than the 1976 cars they replaced. The 1976 Fleetwood Series Sixty-Special Brougham has the luxury length of 233.7”, the 1977 counterpart was snipped down to 221.2” a difference of 12.5”. The 1976 Brougham is 79.8” wide; 1977 is trimmed to 76.4” in width that’s a reduction of 3.4”.

The mighty 1976 Brougham rides upon a long 133” wheelbase whereas the 1977 model is trimmed down to 121.5” a whopping 11.5” difference. Cadillac had the greatest sales year in the history of the brand building 304,485 units for the 1976 model year.

The 1977 Cadillacs broke this record selling 335,785 units. The 1978 Cadillacs broke the 1977 record building 350,813 units. For the 1979 model year production exceeded the previous year building 383,138 units. Cadillac approval was at an all-time high. 1977-1979 Cadillacs are equipped with the last big block V8 built by Cadillac. The 1980 models are powered by the Cadillac-built 6.0 litre 368 CID V8. 1981 to the mid-1990s are lackluster years for Cadillac.

1976 Cadillac Seville

1977 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham

Cadillac Seville (upper) predicted the 1977 Cadillac cabin (lower)

Just as the exterior is reduced – so is the interior. GM tried to convince patrons the newer precision size retained the same head and leg room – which it clearly is not. They simply scaled everything inside down using larger windows to make one think they were in a big car. The seats are no longer ‘deep-seated’ as their predecessors.

Foam contours the seating areas instead of traditional springs. Plastic graces areas which were at one-time wood trim and chrome plated elegance. Even the carpet is exchanged out for a lighter weight molded into one-piece velour-like ‘fuzz’. Cadillac patrons noticed after one year their plush ‘deluxe Tangier carpet’ began to wear in key areas. As previously stated, – this is the beginning of the end…

1978 Cadillac DeVille Coupe d’Elegance

There was hardly any difference between the 1977, 1978, and 1979 DeVille and Fleetwood models. This all-new form and serious reduction to all specifications made them resemble caricatures when parked beside the 1976 traditional Cadillac. The powers that be dared not cut the size too quickly for fear of reprisal from die-hard “Cadillacaholics.” The ugliest part of these beautiful plastic cars is their sheet metal…or the lack thereof. Rust is the nemesis that ate these cars relentlessly.

During the mid to late 1970s, GM acquired improperly refined sheet metal. Add to that, certain design flaws. Those pesky weld studs used for attaching chrome trim and the most detrimental – attaching the vinyl roof to the car – both, accelerating corrosion in key areas. The aging vinyl not only absorbs water like a sponge but also rots out at the bottoms of the rear “C” pillars where the trim is applied. Certain areas of the body shell deteriorate in vital areas rendering the car worthless. If you are in the market for one from this genre – you’d be better off if it has NO vinyl roof and it should come from California or Florida.

DeVille Coupe d’Elegance pillow-style seating

Coachbuilt 1978 Fleetwood Brougham Sedan d’Elegance by Maloney

1973, 1976, and 1979 Cadillacs

1971 Cadillac Coupe deVille

1979 Cadillac Coupe deVille

1974 Coupe deVille (upper) 1978 DeVille Sedan d’Elegance (lower)

1979 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham

The Cadillac-built 7.0 litre 425 CID V8 engine powered the new breed prodigiously. These engines are dynamos! Despite the 75-cube difference from that of the 1976 8.2 litre 500 CID – it still performed like a Cadillac. So well in fact – the 7.0 litre V8 outlives the rest of the car! This naturally aspirated V8 engine cranks 180 hp @ 4,000 rpm with a respectable 434 Nm of peak torque @ 2,000 rpm.

The Fleetwood Brougham offered both cloth and leather selections

Fleetwood Brougham Sedan d’Elegance with optional leather

1979 Fleetwood formal limousine (upper) 1976 Fleetwood Series Seventy-Five nine-passenger sedan (lower) are both Cadillac factory limousines. The 1977-1979 Coupe and Sedan deVille components magically come together cutting production costs. Fleetwood Series Seventy-Five models were built at a highly restricted pace and each one is collectible. 1976 is the largest chauffeur-driven model…and the last of the really big guns.

1971 Cadillac Fleetwood Series Sixty-Special Brougham

1959 Fleetwood Series Seventy-Five limousine formal limousine

1976 Cadillac Sedan deVille

DomesticDame likes Cadillac motorcars with presence…

The last traditional Cadillac

1977 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham

1979 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham

The next generation of the luxury car’s narratives includes GM’s classification of this new breed as highly-efficient, world-class precision motorcars. This is a glimpse into the future that highlights smaller, lighter, luxury vehicles emphasizing fuel economy. DeVille and Fleetwood models were the first on the chopping block to receive the massive down-sizing. They are powered by one of the last Cadillac-built V8 engines…that was any good.

Cadillacaholics never thought they would see the day when a powerful Cadillac-built V8 engine wasn’t available. What’s ironic – is the fact that the 7.0 litre 425 CID V8 would outlast the entire car! As nice as these plastic cars are, they’re still remiss in the epochal “Cadillac Style.” And to carry it further…Cadillac would get progressively worse in the coming decade. This new breed luxury car leaves its indelible impression…in the continuing saga of “As the Standard of the World Turns.”

NotoriousLuxury © 2018 – 2020

11 thoughts on “The Last Of The Breed: 1977 Cadillac – The Next Generation of the Luxury Car Leave a comment

  1. Situation is such I designed the 1975 Seville and the downsized full-size rear wheel drive Cadillacs, Oldsmobiles, Buicks, Pontiacs and Chevrolets.
    The list also includes the 79 Eldorado, Tornado and Riviera.
    Bill Mitchell got the credit for a steal!

    • Bill was quite the dynamo wasn’t he? He quickly removed all traces of Harley Earl after his retirement in 1959. He did take credit for many GM products. It’s an honor to have you viewing my website! Cadillac USED to be my favorite make UNTIL – the music stopped for Cadillac in the mid-1980s. It’s now a mere caricature of what the “Standard of the World” was…have you noticed you don’t see any new Cadillac’s on this site?

  2. At one time, I’d have taken this article as a wrongful dismissing of the downsizing effort. But Cadillacs have shrunk enough over the years that to younger video journalists, even the downsized RWD Cadillacs now seem quite impressive in size. I’ve watched one absolutely gush over a car you’ve just written off as somewhat pathetic. Hand him a ’76 Eldorado, as has already happened, and he finds the proportions strange, and no more knows what to do with it than he would with a full service setting as done on the Titanic!

    As all this shrinking has gone on, American have responded, in a way, by buying pickup trucks and SUVs that, in full-size form, at least, still offer the expansive sort of room that is unavailable in any car these days. What you’re describing is something that goes beyond Cadillac. It could be that we’d have been better served by using technology and aerodynamics to solve the gas guzzling problem rather than just shrinking the cars. It wouldn’t have taken new technology in some cases. Overdrive had been available in some form for years, but it took until sometime in the ’80s for it to be common. But that’s just one example.

    Incidentally, the wood in Cadillac interiors stopped being real (for a long time) around 1970. The full-line 1970 brochure cagily refers to “the look of Oriental Tamo wood” in its description of the Fleetwood Brougham interior. If pressed, they could easily say that they never said it was actually wood.

  3. “the wood in Cadillac interiors stopped being real (for a long time) around 1970”
    My dad bought a ’68 Buick Electra, and the dash felt solid and the switches were metal. Grandma bought a ’70 Cadillac whose dash felt hollow and cheap in comparison. But at least it wasn’t slathered in plastic chrome like the later 70’s and 80’s interiors. My ’04 Deville had a tiny amount of chrome inside and out, at a time when the Germans had gone flashy.

    The cars in the photos certainly held up well. The ’74 Fleetwood I had in the 80’s sure didn’t, but people moved out of my way on the interstate.

  4. 1977 was nowhere near the start of Cadillac sharing a platform with Buick. The standard full size Caddy has shared it’s body (the “C”) with the senior Buick since the 1930s. (I left out Oldsmobile because for who knows what reason the 98 wasn’t always a “C” body). Buick also used the “D” body on the 1940s “Limited” limousines.

    • They all swapped production dies. Ford, GM, and Chrysler had basic platforms they built upon using modified dies from division to division to be cost efficient. Just like the Continental MK III from 1969-1971 was built on the aging Thunderbird platform.

      GM’s Cadillac Seville was built upon a modified Chevy Nova platform. I could go on and on and on regarding badge-engineering, model spin-offs and the likes. No, platform sharing is not a new fad. What in my article led you to believe I said this was the first time platform swapping ever happened?

      Look at Ford’s Panther Platform. The Lincoln Town Car, Mercury Grand Marquis, and the Ford Crown Victoria all shared it. They share the same underpinnings making production cost efficient.

      Look at Ford’s Lincoln MARK VIII, Mercury Cougar, and Ford Thunderbird which all shared the same platforms! The Lincoln MARK VIII is considered a “Pre-Cobra” being equipped with Ford’s 4.6 litre modular V8 engine with 32-valves and a quad cams! Mustang came along later offering the same engine.

      GM used to share the Olds 98 and Buick Electra platform which was modified with a longer wheelbase to accomodate the Cadillac DeVille/Calais Series. The Buick LeSabre, and Olds Eighty-Eight Series shared the same platform. Pontiac and Chevrolet did the same thing swapping with each other. So once again, no, this theory is not at all a new thing.

      It’s so radical for the 1977 model year for a Cadillac Fleetwood and Cadillac Deville would share the same bodyshell and platform. The Fleetwood no longer had its individually longer wheelbase. Now, Olds, Buick, and Cadillac shared the same body structure for ’77. With rising costs of the factory burden, all auto engineers had to swap chassis and components in order to make a profit. Lee Iacocca was brilliant when he worked for Ford telling his engineers to “put a Rolls-Royce grille on a T-Bird” and like magic along came the stunning MK III. Look at the profit Ford made for this car! They took an aging platform already in production, installed upscale luxurious sheet metal to differentiate it and an interior all its own. Ford loved this man for this concept!

      Once again, swapping is nothing new, it’s been going on ever since the cars became sophisticated in design and engineering.

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