In-Motion Classic: 1987 Cadillac Brougham – Vintage Things

Last fall, I was on the hunt for a coffee table to replace one I had owned since my college years roughly twenty years ago.  Eventually, one comes to the realization that as one of the grown folks, one needs grown-up things.  My old, pressed-fiberboard table found at the Wagon Wheel flea market for ten dollars around the turn of the millennium, though it still (wobbily) stood on its own, held things and didn’t have any cigarette burns or other major flaws, needed replacement.  It was on this mission that I had spotted our featured car in traffic a few blocks from my house.

One of the things I love about living in the Edgewater neighborhood of Chicago is being close to Loyola University’s North Shore campus, with all of its contagious, youthful energy and optimism permeating these blocks.  The college students who live here add some welcome, extra spice to the stew of diversity in this area.  In the ten-plus years that I’ve been a resident here, I’ve been witness to a constant, revolving-door cast of Curbside Classics as varied as the people who call these parts home.  It’s always a joy to witness a car that I consider to be a classic being enjoyed by a member of a generation younger than my own.

As this stately D-Body passed the Broadway Antique Market, I wondered to myself what is it about classic cars and vintage coffee tables that seems to provide me with a sense of calm and contentment.  These are just things, but maybe I find them soothing because they provide a sense of continuity with a familiar, comfortable past.  In the case of both old cars and furniture, their surfaces, textures, sounds, and fonts can help us recall a time in our own, personal histories that made us smile.

I don’t think what I’m describing is necessarily the same thing as “living in the past”.  I’m talking about mentally referencing and bringing into one’s present consciousness old touchstones that bring you joy just with the feelings they elicit inside you.  Judging by the attire of the classy, young lady piloting this car, she clearly owns that she is traveling in style, in what would appear to be a non-ironic way.  Maybe it was a gift from her grandparents.  Best of all, it’s a Cadillac.  My hat is off to her.  And just think about it – if the driver was in your circle of college friends headed out for the day (or night), would you prefer to ride in another friend’s beater Corolla or in this Cadillac?  The added cost of chipping in for gas be darned, you wouldn’t have to ask me twice.

Buyers of new Cadillacs liked these chariots in ’87, with the Brougham being outsold in the Cadillac line by only the smaller, FWD Sedan DeVille, by about 2:1 (65,500 vs. 129,000 units).  By ’87, the standard engine in these cars was a 140-horse Olds 307, having replaced the 135-hp Cadillac HT-4100 V8 a couple of years prior.  With a starting weight of almost exactly two tons, this Cadsmobile would do 0-60 in just around 13 seconds.  Prices started at about $22,600, which equates to about $48,000 in present day, thirty years later.

Though I’m sure Cadillac was aware that this car’s popularity skewed toward the mature end of the spectrum, I also think the brand would have been thrilled with a more youthful image that buyers the age of this car’s driver would have helped project.  However, I realize that a youthful image was probably the least-important consideration of this model’s buying demographic.  This car was all about riding in a Dark Chestnut Metallic cloud on button-tufted, leather sumptuousness.

As with any vintage style, different people rock things their own way – which is the beautiful thing about freedom of choice.  For me, the factory-stock look of this luxury sedan enabled me to pretend, for about thirteen seconds, that it actually was 1987 (or even 1980), and that the driver was a thirty-something, well-to-do resident of Wilmette, Evanston, or another one of the wealthy North Shore communities off Lake Michigan.  As with people and Cadillacs, it takes all kinds to make a world – and in ours of today, there is absolutely nothing wrong with a show of a little extra class.

Edgewater, Chicago, Illinois.
Saturday, October 8, 2016.

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