The GMC Motorhome: One of dozens (more like hundreds) of must-do CCs I just haven’t yet gotten to. Yes, I must do that one soon–and no, the Caddies are not on that list; we seem to be covering them just fine.
My kind of place! Too bad the two Cadillacs were not early 70s Olds Toronados or it would have been a tripartite with 455 FWD V8. White is the most popular Cadillac color in the state of Florida. For those that might care, the Cadillac on the left is a 1986 Fleetwood Sedan while the Cadillac on the right is a 1986 Sedan deVille.
Aside from the padded roof, they look identical to me. How did you tell them apart? Is the roof a Fleetwood-only feature? (I would be shocked if there was a mid-80’s Cadillac that was NOT available with a vinyl top!)
Can’t be 100% but they are 1986s because of the lower cladding on the doors, and assuming they are basically original, the one on the right has Sedan deVille script and a wreath and crest on the sail panel. While a vinyl top was available, by the 1985 redesign on that body style it was rarely ordered. Fleetwoods came with the electrofluorescent coach lamps on the sail panel instead of the wreath and crest and an emblem in the rear window. On the trunklid, the script would have read “Fleetwood” instead of Cadillac but the picture is too far out to tell. By the 1986 redesign of the Eldorado and Seville, very few Cadillacs had vinyl tops other than the old RWD Broughams, it just was a style progression. Same happened on the old B&C cars when they went FWD.
I learn something new every day… thanks!
Besides the padded vinyl roof and the coach lamps, the ’86 Fleetwoods had a “D’Elegance” tufted velour of leather interior and a few more bells and whistles.
Here is a picture of 85-86 FWD Fleetwoods which are basically identical. You can see where it differs slightly with the Sedan deVille on the right.
Interestingly, on a personal note, despite my obvious allegiance, I dislike these cars rather intensely. Not that they were bad cars technologically, but that, while they sold respectably at first, IMO, a lot of the Cadillac “mystique” vanished even more so when the E/Ks were downsized a year later. These were the years before the Japanese premium brands came on to the market, and before Chrysler upsized their EEK cars, so in reality, you only had Cadillac and Lincoln to choose from for traditional luxury. The D-body Fleetwoods showed a significant sales rise and persisted all the way through the 1996 model year primarily because of this. I think Cadillac deviated too much from their target audience and the downsized cars were too different and the brand got lost resulting in a slow decline that bottomed out by the mid 1990s. We talked about this a bit in a previous post with the 1991 SDV that the 89-93 models would have been an easier balance between retaining the traditional look with a modern update.
My Dad and I attended the 1986 S.F. Car Show at the Moscone Center in Nov of ’85. I remember looking at the ’86 Cadillac lineup and more importantly, hearing people’s reactions to the radically shrunken Caddies (albiet the shrunken DeVilles debuted in the late spring of ’84). Most aural scorn was towards the Eldorado . . . . “I can’t believe this thing’s a Cadillac” . . . . “This is an Eldorado?” . . . “It looks like a (expletive) Pontiac Grand Am!’ . . . . “What a shrunken POS” . . . . I must admit. In the summer of 1989 I was smitten with a butter yellow (with matching leather seats) ’86 Sedan de Ville at Woodard Olds-Cadillac in Fairfield, Cal.)
Well that therein lies the problem and what I believe did more damage to Cadillac from a buyer standpoint than the V864-diesel-HT4100 woes. People will forgive when they want something but they get ugly when they dont. GM believed 1970s that long term energy prices were on the rise and made a bet to downsize and switch to FWD in order to get ahead of a trend that they felt would was critical to the future. That was the subject of a conversation that I was involved in in August 2002 at Cadillac’s 100th anniversary activities in Detroit between John Grettenberger (Cadillac’s GM during alot of the 1980s) and Wayne Kady (Cadillac’s Chief Stylist during the same time).
Due to the enormous costs involved in retooling from RWD to FWD and everything involved from powertrain to body to interior it was necessary to minimize the variation in styling between the platform mates. That is the true reason behind ‘badge engineering’ that afflicted GM in the 1980s. Most car designs over time were more evolutionary than revolutionary especially at Cadillac, thus giving them the ability to be more creative with styling. Remember that the 1977 B&C cars were very similar across all lines but given sufficient attention to distinguish them. Also, the larger the vehicle in general size, the easier it is to distinguish them. The smaller a vehicle is, the less distinctive it is just on presence alone.
For the FWD C-body models, Cadillac was able to keep their intended unique V8, they utilized a viscous torque converter for the transmission, and a few other features but are basically of the same platform as the Buick and Olds.
Yes, the downsized cars were shockingly small and by the late 1980s fuel prices had stabilized and the cars were thought to be too small. Which is how we got the 88 tweaking of the Eldorado, the 87 tweaking of the C-bodies, and the ultimate redesign of the 89s.
What happened was is that a lot of Cadillac’s older customers, the traditional ones seniors and loyal customers continued to by the cars throughout but newer buyers that naturally progressed into Cadillac market territory did not take to those models and shifted their buying preferences elsewhere. That accelerated after the premium Japanese brands came out in 1990 and ultimately why Cadillacs sales bottomed out in the early 1990s.
Oddly, the ratio of male to female buyers of the downsized Eldorados and Seville shifted. The 79-85 models had a far higher ratio of males to females while the downsized models were more 50-50. The drop off in E/K sales came almost exlusively from male drivers.
Lastly, in the 1990s, the fulcrum for Cadillac purchasers shifted from the WWII generation to Baby Boomers who had different expectations. Also, in the 1980s, saw the rise of higher income middle aged buyers in the 40s and 50s range that were natural buyers of the premium Japanese cars. As those folks aged they did not want to buy the same car in their retirement as their parents. Thus Cadillac has now pivoted to a more performance luxury image car leaving the remaining traditional luxury duties to Buick.
The thing is, these aren’t really even badge engineered in the way a Reliant and an Aries are, which is the same car with a different name. But no exterior sheetmetal exchanges from an Electra to a deVille, the Cadillacs doors wrap into the roof, they dont on the Olds and Buick. The Buick has the clamshell opening hood, the other 2 dont, its even MORE expensive to make different cars that all look the same, thats what really hurt GM during this time.
Dick Ruzzin, who was in GM styling at the time said in an interview that they were also encouraged by the US government in the late 70’s to take the lead in downsizing, after all this was when GM had nearly half the market and many other manufacturers looked to GM to make their next move, so by encouraging GM to downsize they could make other carmakers downsize too. GM, of course, fearfull of EVEN MORE government involvement in their business, plus looking at all the doom and gloom forecasting of $4 gallon gas in 1986 and future embargos, decided to make the move.
I worked for a Cadillac dealership when these cars were new. The way I learned to differentiate between an ’85 and an ’86 is the bumper rub strips and corresponding moldings on the fenders and quarter panels. The ’85’s were black. The ’86’s were silver. CraiginNC is correct that the white ones are ’86’s. And the burgundy is an ’85.
There’s a small car dealer with a couple of really interesting motor homes for sale a few blocks from my house. It’s the same one that had the Monza and Fiero for sale last year. I’ll have to take a look and see what they have.
That is a rather subdued colour for the motorhome. I rather like the ones in the wild green and oranges.
+1 Palm Beach FTW.
Burgandy Elegazna II or go home!
The Coca-Cola ones are pretty wild too.
Wait til you see the interiors!
That’s a lotta lime!
Got one in bright orange?
Good to see the Curbside Classic Emergency Brougham response team is keeping up with maintinance.
“What is the nature of your emergency?”
Is it velour related?
I have a small roll of crushed Medici velour in dark blue if you need some…
Sans the motor home it looks like they just service HT4100 Cadillacs. I guess they have had to branch out since the HT4100s are disappearing ;).
I really like those “small” Cadillacs. I just wish the HT4100 wasn’t such a steaming pile.
If I win the lotto I am buying a GMC Motorhome and I’ll start writing for CC on the road, Hunter S. Thompson style Gonzo classic car journalism.
Paul, your bus pieces are always your best work! Look forward to seeing your a GMC motorhome history.
Carmine had me with “Curbside Classic Emergency Brougham Response Team.” Had I been enjoying a beverage while reading that, it would’ve surely merited a spit-take. The best I think I could ever come up with would be something along the lines of Brougham Roadside Assistance…hmmm, well, if I were out Broughaming around, I think that, were trouble to strike, it would be quite reassuring to see another Brougham pull up alongside me to offer assistance! 😛
The Brougham Mobile Kommand Unit is standing by……
Between the many repairs, our 86 triple burgundy Coupe deVille was a great car. A little sluggish, but every bit a Cadillac, albeit the small body. The ride was all Cadillac, it literally felt like a 20 foot car.
Too bad the engines were so bad. Ours disintegrated a week after we sold it. Still looked like new. I offered the guy his money back, but he refused to accept it.
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