(First published Jan 9, 2014) Brougham.
Such a seemingly simple word certainly incites strong feelings around here. After a recent piece on a ’72 Mercury Marquis Brougham (CC here), it seemed appropriate to further investigate the history of the word, its associations and why it provokes either euphoria or nausea.
The use of the word “brougham” in regards to transportation hails back to the early to mid-1800’s when Lord Henry Peter Brougham of England commissioned the design of a carriage with a front mounted window.
Whether the incorporation of a window was his idea or simply a design element he made fashionable is unknown. Lord Brougham would later become Lord Chancellor of Great Britain.
Upon the creation of the automobile, use of the word was transferred to automobiles having an enclosed passenger compartment and an open driver station. Automobiles of this type were generally expensive and chauffeur driven – presumably, those who could afford such a car did not want to ride with the hired help in the same compartment.
image source: www.gmheritagecenter.com
General Motors can be credited (or blamed) for transitioning the term “Brougham” to a specific automobile, rather than a type of automobile. In 1916, Cadillac had their first Brougham; it is interesting Cadillac also offered the $3,600 six passenger “Berlin” that year, while the rest of the world was mired in the Great War.
So what is the definition of “Brougham” as it applies to automobiles produced since, say 1965? Webster’s doesn’t give an automotive related definition, nor is there a definitive definition found online (although Urban Dictionary has a few definitions that thoroughly mangle and butcher the English language). In the interest of facilitating fairness and promoting clarity, and for the purpose of this article, “Brougham” is being defined as:
Any automobile clearly identified as such by its manufacturer via badges or name in addition to being documented as such.
To look at it another way, any car (two- or four-door) laden with a vinyl roof, wire wheel covers, and falsely luxurious pretenses does not automatically constitute it as being a Brougham unless it is so stated by the manufacturer. Thinking in analogies, you can put red lights and a siren on a four-door sedan but it is not a true police car unless the manufacturer certifies it as being such.
While we all know the Ford LTD of 1965 was the first hatchling of the Great Brougham Epoch, the name Brougham did not officially appear on a LTD until 1970. There were a plethora of cars with Brougham on the brain throughout the 1970’s and even 1980’s (Chrysler Cordoba, anyone?), but the reasoning for the admittedly strict approach outlined above will soon be evident.
One might be inclined to believe that The Great Brougham Epoch was the exclusive domain of the North American market. That, like many other stereotypes, can be easily disproved.
For instance, typing “Brougham” into the Google search tool at the top of this page yields this Australian market Holden Brougham, no version of which was never sold in the United States. With Australia having been ensnared in the tentacles of the Brougham, who else may have joined the party?
A wikipedia search for “Brougham” gives us this Daewoo. Similarly, it was never available in the United States. Arguably the United States has had a higher Brougham populace, with products ranging from the
Cadillac Eldorado Brougham of 1957 to
the unlikely Valiant Brougham of 1975, to
the 1996 Cadillac Brougham.
The Great Brougham Epoch started with the 1965 Ford LTD (CC here). Its appeal was predicated upon offering as standard what would ultimately come to be the definitive elements of Broughamantic posturing – nicer trim, a few chrome embellishments, and a jazzier sounding name – all on a car with humble origins. And it worked. For 1965, Ford sold 105,729 examples of the new LTD, a car that was nothing more than a Galaxie wearing slightly nicer garments and fancier cologne. The flood gates were opened with Chevrolet following suit with its 1966 Caprice and Plymouth, with the 1967 Fury VIP.
As the years unfolded, nearly all the other United States car manufacturers jumped aboard the Brougham express, giving the car buying public something a little nicer and a little more pretentious, if not always classier.
In an effort to better understand the jubilation and repulsion of Broughamification, the popularity of Brougham consumption was analyzed, as seen below. Using 50 Years of American Automobiles, 1939 to 1989 by the Editors of Consumer Guide, Brougham sales by brand were tabulated for the years from 1965 to 1988. In an effort to create as objective a review as possible, only those cars having the word “Brougham” in either name or trim level as found in the book were counted.
As such, there is no official Brougham for Ford in years one would typically expect, nor are there any entries for Lincoln or Buick. Perhaps Buick did slap a Brougham tag on some of their cars, but nothing was documented as such. The same applies to Imperial.
There were a handful of instances (with Ford, Mercury, Plymouth, and Oldsmobile) where the base model production totals were clumped together with the upscale Brougham trim. In such cases, the production was assumed to have a 50/50 split between the two trim levels.
As this book only covers cars produced by AMC, Ford Motor Company, Chrysler Corporation, and General Motors, the examination is limited to them only. However, as these makers were the prime purveyors (or perpetrators) of Brougham, that is sufficient.
Let’s start with Ford.
The peak of Ford’s Brougham affair occurred in 1973. Oddly, the duration of Mercury’s illicit Brougham dalliance lasted twice as long as Ford’s.
The spike in Mercury Brougham sales in the 1980s stems from the Fox bodied Marquis. The culprit of Brougham sales prior to 1980 was primarily the full-sized Marquis line, although there was a Cougar Brougham and as well as a Montego predecessor.
The first Brougham from Mercury was the 1967 Mercury Park Lane Brougham.
For 1979, the LTD II was the last standing Brougham at Ford as no Panther bodied LTD or LTD Crown Victoria was christened as a Brougham.
With Chrysler’s acquisition of AMC in 1987, the attempt at an Ambassador Brougham is being clumped in with Chrysler. Yes, there were very broughamy AMC’s, but they just weren’t officially Broughams.
Dodge and Plymouth both dipped their toes into the Brougham pond for 1971 with the Dodge Coronet and Plymouth Satellite, but the water must have been too cold.
With the restyled full-sizers for 1974, Plymouth and Dodge came charging back, to join brother Chrysler in the Brougham escapade. This time Dodge and Plymouth shared the Broughamance between the mid-sized and full-sized offerings, such as this Gran Fury.
During the 1980’s, Oldsmobile was rightfully blasted for their shamelessness in using the Cutlass nameplate on just about everything. Yet when it comes to Brougham, Oldsmobile was like the boy who doesn’t hit puberty until age 15 and then grows into a giant. Not starting to use the Brougham moniker until 1975, Oldsmobile would soon be completely intoxicated by the name,
even going so far as using it on the Chevrolet Nova based Oldsmobile Omega
and its front-drive replacement. Oldsmobile was brazen enough to use the words “Cutlass” and “Brougham” on both its Supreme line and the Ciera. In 1984 and 1985, Oldsmobile was out-broughaming the rest of General Motors combined, by a factor of five.
By the definition given above, Chevrolet didn’t officially join the Brougham Brotherhood until 1986 with the Caprice Classic Brougham (CC here). Ah, both “Classic” and “Brougham”.
The anti-Brougham contingent is absolutely correct in saying the Brougham is crass, tacky, and shameful. Just look at the examples this name was attached to, some of which can be seen in this article.
If the intention of Brougham was to create an air of prestige in an ordinary car, as was the case with the 1965 LTD, how was this credibly achieved this with an X-body Omega or A-body Ciera? Was the Ciera a good car? Yes. Was it able to create a convincing aura of luxury swirled with a whiff of condescension? Absolutely not. It came across as well as Hamburger Helper at a steak house.
Most of the various ads seen above are uncropped to allow full intake of marketing propaganda. Doing so allows one to understand the sheer audacity being bandied about at the time. Several of the ads even seem to admit some degree of defeat.
A Valiant styled like European cars? What European cars? The Valiant was a great car, but it was about as European as a bowl of grits. The Omega touts itself as being roomier and less expensive than a Volvo 244. While that is a valid observation, did anyone actually cross-shop the two? Neither is being sold on their own unique merits and both appear to be painfully tarted up to gain an audience,
much like the aging entertainer who keeps having plastic surgery in a vain attempt to retain his youthful appearance.
Broughams were the epitome of all that was wrong in Detroit at the time: vinyl tops that promoted rust; wire wheel covers on bottom rung cars; interiors as tasteful as a Las Vegas bordello and in general, promoting luxury on cars woefully short of substance, hardly competitive with European or Asian competitors.
Churning out product like this for so long, it’s no wonder The Big Three eventually lost market share.
Those who are so vehemently against Brougham simply don’t get the point. The intention of a Brougham is to provide the buyer with something a little nicer, a bit more comfortable, and with a touch more class. Going Brougham yielded the buyer a car that was tangibly different yet cost little extra to acquire. To the never ceasing credit of every manufacturer, they did a terrific job of giving buyers what they wanted. Face it, if the market doesn’t want it, it won’t be purchased – just ask Ford about their efforts in selling safety in 1956. For the years from 1965 to the late 1980’s, the Brougham was always in charge.
A distinct and generally overlooked factor of The Great Brougham Epoch is the general demographic for Brougham purchasers. It was a often aimed at children of The Great Depression, a populace whose childhood and early adult years were vastly different from what many of us experienced. These people appreciated the benefits of a little extra luxury for a minimal entry fee; they also had a different definition of luxury than did their children.
There is nothing anymore offensive about the Brougham than there is in the blandness and sterility of a higher end, non-Brougham car. A Brougham caters to what its buyer wants, be it a few more conveniences, a more upscale appearance, or a more sophisticated demeanor. So what if the special talents of a Brougham are applied to smaller cars? A good business knows its clientele and gives them what they desire – or makes them desire something not previously considered. So why should a person who by choice or circumstance is seeking a smaller car not be given the latitude to fulfill their desires? The Brougham was market driven, just as Oldsmobile sales reflect.
Perhaps the Gran Fury ad best encapsulates the Brougham philosophy; it is trying to comfort you in a manner similar to what you have in your home. Why should a person spend a significant amount on a car simply to be uncomfortable whenever they spend time inside it? Let’s be honest; a Brougham is purchased because its owner liked it, found it appealing, and truly did not care what people think. Others could buy whatever penalty box they wanted – Brougham intenders wanted something that appealed to their fundamental desire for comfort.
Broughams were the embodiment of everything that Detroit knew the market was yearning for and they delivered it in abundance.
Style and taste are very fluid; you may have worn clothes or sported a hairstyle ten, twenty, or more years ago which seemed fashionable at the time but which isn’t any longer. The same happens with cars. In twenty years, that silver jellybean in your driveway with its 20″ wheels and obtrusive console will either be embraced as a wonderful creation or will be the source of profound derision. It’s the Brougham of the future.
I may be one of the few who is indifferent to the allures or allergy inductions of Broughams. For me, a Brougham is just another form of automotive expression, like a lifted 4×4, a CUV, or a motorcycle. Think about a Brougham in terms of family – appreciate it for what it is and be aware of its faults; spend time with it accordingly.
Well said, Sir! 🙂
I agree, very well said, with flair.
This article should be incorporated into common law.
You appear to have been distracted by the photo of the goddess of Justice having a SEVERE wardrobe malfunction. 😉
Sir! What do you take me for? I would much rather wait till Mr. Gran Fury Brougham 2-Door Formal Hardtop takes a break between shots and move in …
By the “open driver compartment” definition here is one of the few true broughams of the era. 😛
Or a true “coupé de ville” from the French point of view.
Complete with abusive Orangutan driver in a suit? I’ll take it!
As in “Martin’s goon, Luca”….”What’s a goonluka” ?
Ha! That JC Penney catalog pic is absolutely hilarious! “Apache ties” were already years out of favor by then… I had one in 1970. I’ll say no more about my brief dive into “mod”…
You can thank marketers for trying to legitimize hippie “style” of the late 60’s into something appealing. Alas, it did work for a brief time, but eventually it turned into a very bad cartoonish look that is as ridiculous as piercing and tattooing today.
As far as broughams go, I hated it back in the day, and hate it now. There was a time when I found the vinyl roof treatment given to hardtops in the mid- to late-60s attractive, but I now just prefer paint.
Put me in the Brougham camp — even without the label. My grandfather had a ’78 Chrysler New Yorker 2 door that leaked brougham everywhere: tufted leather seating in bordello red, slotted wheels, chronometer, faux wood trim all around, power everything, and pull straps for the rear seat passengers that reminded you of something you’d see in a carriage. I absolutely loved it and wish I could find a nice example.
I owned a “broughamed” charger, a ’73 Charger SE with wire wheel covers. Not quite the “out there” look of the NYer, but it did have the fake vents on the rear quarter windows.
Mark E–RE: Charger SE: It is fascinating that during the onset of the “personal luxury car” era, Dodge was willing to kill the Musclecar brand equity from “Charger” to chase the PLC dollars. I can only assume that as the current horsepower wars wind down, we will again see emasculated Chargers and Mustang IIs with wire wheel covers—complete with four pots and diluted character.
We kind of had Broughams in the UK.A Vauxhall Viscount or a Ford Zodiac Executive were our equivalent.They were also the nearest thing to an American car without actually buying one.I’d have one today if I could
I remember the Euro-Fords “Ghia”. From Fiesta to Granada, the Ghia model was the most luxurious of the range.
Like this Ford Taunus Ghia, with a vinyl top of course.
And a lot of them were very successful for similar reasons.
As a matter a fact, our Royal Family drove the big Euro-Fords Ghia for many years in a row. Two generations of Granadas and the later Scorpios. Dark blue metallic, all of them.
No big Euro-Fords available anymore, they switched to Volvo.
Definitely a Brougham. Every luxury Euro Ford is sort of Brougham: trashy look-like luxury without the cash. Ford entirely pulled out of the wannabe luxury segment. Wondering if there are any other examples of Euro-Brougham culture.
How about Renault’s “Baccara” models ? This is the interior of a Renault Safrane Bi-Turbo Baccara. (The Safrane was the successor of the 25)
Luxurious, and in this case, fast: 3.0 liter V6 Bi-Turbo engine, 268 hp and AWD.
True true, those Renault Baccara or later Initiale interiors. I must say, I do like them. There used to be an ultra luxury Twingo and Clio with that same spec as well. Yet, from the outside they were quite decent. Not the cheap US-style bordello luxury. Quite the opposite really: luxury for tight Euro inner cities.
The same Renault Safrane:
And another one, the Citroën CX Pallas.
There was Vanden Plas though I’m sure they or their drivers would not want to be associated with Broughams or those common English Fords and Vauxhalls.My social climbing snob of a headmaster drove a 3 litre Vanden Plas(really an Austin Westminster with a leather and wood interior and fancy grille).His wife had a Vanden Plas Allegro(BL’s attempt at polishing a turd)When he died she traded the Vanden Plas in for a Ford Capri went blonde,lost weight and hooked up with a guy 8 years younger
Wow! Sounds like my kind of girl. Superficial and kinda trashy.
English are very Broughamy deep inside, Look at the fake wood that used be part of even the cheapest Rover interiors, no matter how bad the cars were. Deep woolen carpets in even the smallest counsel estate houses (including the bath rooms!). The comparison between a CX and a Broughamised Austin really doesn’t work, as these were two different kinds of cars. After the Americans, the English are most susceptible to Broughamitis, and still would be suffering of it if their car industry had not gone bankrupt. Or maybe they went bankrupt because of their Brougham disorder.
Ford may have pulled out of that segment, but they’re rushing back in. Out with the “Ghia,” in with the “Vignale.”
“Ford Vignale isn’t just a label. It’s much more than that. Vignale is an experience: one that fuses exceptional contemporary design and meticulous craftsmanship with exclusive specification and state-of-the-art technology.”
Not a chance, at least in Europe. Europeans are snobs. Ford is not perceived as a luxury brand, nor are über-CItroens or Peugeot these days (unfortunately). Apart from the Germans, no brands were succesfull in establishing luxury models, be those Citroen C6, Peugeot 607, Ford Scorpio Toyota Camry or the highest spec of their respective mid-sized models. These were no brougham modells by the way but sold to compete with the likes of of German prestige cars.
Sales numbers executive sedans in Europe: Audi, BMW, Mercedes (in random order, it took Audi at least 25 years to get there)….a lot of silence….then Jaguar, Volvo and Maserati (watch Maserati !)…..and then…well, nothing I guess. The end.
Ah yes Falcon Ghias rusted out faster because the vinyl top went onto bare metal and sweated same with Aussie Valiants and Holdens so fitted, Vinyl topped cars are best avoided because the top usually hides rollover or hail damage and lots of filler.
So say we all!
Zackman – you are onto something.
Broughams are being subjected to ridicule by guys covered in tattoos and piercings, yet in both cases we are seeing public adornment. Brougham, on a car – tattoos, on a body.
Being pragmatic, I considered it in marketing terms. Buyers bought them, so my libertarian values say, OK – that’s it, argument closed.
Not for me, but for thee, thy Brougham rolls.
But what happened here is still happening today. The generational shift from Depression kid to Boomer kid saw more conformity and formality in public attire shift to jeans and t-shirts. We also see this reflected in automobiles. Broughams represent hats and suits, dresses and furs for Depression kids, but pimp wear for Boomers. “Bordello” is what the non-Depression kids called the Brougham interiors who didn’t recognize the style vocabulary. Boomers always rejected what they were given and then ranted about getting something better then they were given – a spoiled rotten generation of selfishness. So Broughams didn’t have a chance. What about Boomers buying Broughams? Well, it seems that once they discovered themselves wearing adult clothes in Cutlasses they felt that they looked like David Byrne in a giant white suit and traded it in for foreign duds. Then insulted everyone who didn’t do the same as they.
It is unfair to put the man who kept the muscle car alive during the Brougham epoch by using Firebirds in his popular blockbuster movies as an example of something unbecoming in automobiles he obviously didn’t promote. No, Burt hasn’t aged well, but lets see what you look like at age 80, OK?
Broughams were fake, but they brought home the bacon. What Detroit did with that bacon was eat it and poop out more Broughams. They didn’t have to. Instead they could have reinvested in modern facilities to churn out modern and competitive global automobiles, but they didn’t. It wasn’t the Valiant Brougham’s fault it found itself dressed up in powder blue velour. If you wanted your hourly date to kiss you too, you had to pay more and buy the Mercedes or BMW. It wasn’t the Omega Brougham’s fault.
As for me, I am too young for the Brougham epoch. I grew up surrounded by pillowed tufted velour luxury under padded opera roofs. These cars look Victorian to me. But sometimes seeing an old Brougham rolling down a block looking showroom new reminds me of what it was that made these cars attractive to Depression kids. They probably believed they were Orphan Annie riding in Daddy Warbuck’s Duesenberg.
Reynolds is 77. Why chose him? While it was a somewhat arbitrary choice, it cleared reflected when the before and after picture was taken.
I started out with Tina Louise (Ginger from Gilligan’s Island) but found this instead.
The upside is that it looks like the point of my analogy was made! 🙂
The defense of the brougham really comes down to one statement (listed here in the complete, rather than the usual paraphrasing):
“No one in this world, so far as I know — and I have searched the records for years, and employed agents to help me — has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people. Nor has anyone ever lost public office thereby.”
H.L. Mencken, (1926)
The brougham is a car for the tasteless, those stupid enough to want to show off what they consider class or wealth (although possessing neither, nor having any understand of the definition of either), usually coupled with a fat, ill-handling, poorly built, gas hogging automobile.
And those are the kindest words I can think of regarding the genre.
And a very well written article, by the way.
Things always look clearer in hindsight. The dudes who bought those nice J.C. Penny threads found the narrow ties and lapels of the 50s just as laughable as you find their bell bottoms and pimp hats.
Today people pay extra for ridiculous 20″ wheels that add unsprung weight and harm ride quality, 35 series tires that cost as much as a mortgage payment to replace and bust out a sidewall when they just smell a nearby pothole, horrible HID headlights that blind oncoming drivers, “leather trimmed” seating in which the leather is so hard & rubbery that you can’t tell what’s leather and what’s vinyl, tiny greenhouses and correspondingly huge blind spots — and that’s just on the cars, not the overly-tall, overly-heavy, overly-thirsty SUVs and “crossovers.”
Every generation has its sins. Let’s hope our progeny forgives us for ours.
Oh, and to quote Gus Haynes on The Wire, “Fuck Henry Mencken.”
LED daytime running lights are the Coach Lamps of the present.
LOL – so true!
Unfortunately, they are. I do have to say, though, that they really help visibility – not that they help you see, but that they help you BE seen. I just wish the styling was more creative.
On a side note, what is with Ford’s reluctance to put DRLs on ANY of their cars in the US?
I hate DRL’s…more often than not they are designed to hit you in the eyes. I disconnected mine as soon as I brought my car home from the dealer!
Speaking of things that I hate as bad as broughams . . . . .
Only this time it comes from a motorcyclist’s safety point of view. Back when motorcycles were the only ones running headlights in the daytime, a major part of the “but officer, I didn’t see him” excuse was negated. Now that the bike’s headlight is lost in a flood of car running lights, it’s back to the old days when motorcycle headlights were manually switchable.
Syke, you deserve some credit for this article. Your ability to skewer anything Brougham helped fuel my indictment of them.
Yes, yes we know Syke. You’ve only mentioned it approximately 300 times in the last year.
In other news today, snow is cold, water is wet and the sky is blue. Let’s move on, mmmkay?
H.L Menken, the Sage of Baltimore. Always loved the guy.
I’d rather have Brougham interiors than the depressing cubicles we have now. Why not do like VW did my old Beetle and simply paint the interior metal surfaces the same color as the body instead of trying to cover it up with chernobyl gray plastic?
I think that allowing window sills and the like on the interior to be painted body color were declared illegal some time ago by the fanzines. Much of the interior of my ’78 Rabbit was the same color as the exterior, yet I was able to sleep at night without problem and didn’t have to worry about the UV degradation of crappy-assed interior plastics, only crappy-assed Bosch electrics. Where was the Prince of Darkness when I needed him?
I would argue that BMW and Mercedes-Benz are currently making the modern day equivalent of Brougham with their “Luxury” lines, complete with extra helpings of chrome, brown wood trim, and brownscale interior color schemes. The Benzes even have a stand up hood ornament. Brougham is alive and well!
“Brougham is alive and well!”
Maybe ‘alive’ in some new sort of way…. but, not ‘well’ until we see some Talisman pillowed seats back inside those cabins 🙂
All Hail ye King of Brougham…
For $85 bucks, you’d even get a Factory Cadillac matching velour robe and pillow.
I think I am going to faint. So much velvet!
Be still my heart!
Holy cow, what a fantastic write up. You know, I really don’t understand the Bro-mance that grips these pages at times but then I’m brought back to reality when I consider my own fondness for those mid to late seventies Tape Stripe Muscle Cars and Colonnades!
The Tape Stripers have much in common with the Broughams of the 70’s…..they “kind” of insinuate they are something they are not. Opera Windows, Landau Tops, Half Vinyl Tops, Crushed Velour Interiors, Fine Corinthian Leather, Little Lamps around the Opera Window that light up when the door is opened. My Mom and Dad and their neighbors never went to an Opera, but by golly, should they ever had gone up to New York, they’d have arrived in style with one of these chariots!
The Broughams, Limited Editions, Bill Blass Editions and Cartier Editions gave my middle class parents and neighbors the notion that they had moved up in the social stratosphere in America. In the end, Ricardo Montalban and what he sold was nothing but cheese and parody. Meanwhile, our Japanese competition were heeding the advice of Mr Deming and applied the lessons of quality control to their cars and over in Germany, those white coated engineers were learning about suspension rates and turbochargers. Here it was nothing but suggested glitz and glamor, backed up by poor rust control techniques, Lean Burn Engines, 12 miles per gallon and an American Auto Industry that today is still trying to recover from the excesses and failures of the 1970’s and 80’s.
Thanks Jason, this is great stuff. There is not a single major US car magazine that looks at these issues like Curbside Classic does. Each day, with articles like this, I’m reminded of what a treasure Curbside is! 🙂
Eh, that’s a pretty narrow view, the majority of Japanese cars in the 70’s looked like baby American cars, right down to the whitewalls, velour, woodgrain dashes and vinyl tops, ever seen a Toyota Corona? And none of them were what you would call “rust impervious”, the Germans may have been learning about turbochargers, when they weren’t still making an air cooled car from 1939, cough…the Beetle, but GM was already SELLING turbocharged cars in 1962, and returned to turbocharging again in 1978, with the new turbo Regal and LeSabre. While Lean Burn engines were struggling to make 12MPG, the “engine of the future”…the Rotary Mazda, was blowing seals like Debbie from Dallas was blowing something else.
Even though Brougham hung around until into the 90’s, the Cadillac Fleetwood being an example, by the end of the 70’s you started to see the growth of TURBO: Son of Brougham
After the mechanic told the penguin that it looked like he had blown a seal, the penguin said – “no, it’s just a little ice cream”. One of the greatest jokes evah!
This was a fun read. I was aware that the name was derived from a type of carriage, but had no idea that there was an actual Lord Brougham! It’s an unusual name, and it gets pronounced so many ways: “broom” or “bro-ham” or “brome” being the most common that I’ve heard over the years. I’d argue that Ford’s “better idea” of the LTD was actually a clever copy of GM, who’d already been dabbling in Brougham territory (literally, with the Eldorado) and also with high-trim-level cars such as the 225 version of the Electra. Pontiac also jumped in with the Brougham name for a trim package on the 1964 Bonneville, though it wasn’t a separate model. I always thought it odd that Pontiac purveyed Broughams, as they seem out-of-touch with its sportier aspirations. That said, for the time the concept was perfectly on-target for creating a luxury package, and taking advantage of a then-stylish trend. I am actually a fan of the great Brougham epoch for this very reason: it was the embodiment of an era and represented a fashionable way to lure consumers upmarket (with lucrative results for the manufacturers). It’s fun to trace the history of the Brougham concept from its “high style” origins to its overuse and decline when it jumps the shark (thank you Oldsmobile). As you point out, top-of-the-line marketing of a product is nothing new, only the expressions change. Some makes will ride the wave just right, others will join late or stay on too long, and no matter what, tastes will change.
The chart lists Pontiac Broughams for 1971-72 (i.e., the Catalina Brougham, which replaced the Executive in the model hierarchy). But yes, the 1964-70 Bonneville Brougham ought to be recognized here even if separate numbers weren’t available. This trim level began as a 4-door hardtop only, but expanded to coupe and convertible availability starting in ’66. Probably very few Bonneville Broughams were ever sold; I’ve never seen one except in brochures of the era, even though I was extremely Bonneville-aware at the time (a family friend was a Pontiac dealer and we had two ’65 Bonnevilles simultaneously – wagon and convertible – and my grandparents had a ’67 coupe). So in Pontiac’s case “Brougham” was more of an aspirational thing, to be included in brochures rather than actually serve as the focus of any sales effort.
Jason, what a great job on this. One of the most enjoyable posts to read ever and a definite bookmark keeper. Nice work.
Although I have owned and am a fan of many muscle and performance cars… Without reservation, I will always be a life-time Member of the Brougham camp, thank you very much. And I pledge to keep them alive.
BTW… that 1970 Ford LTD Brougham is a real looker. Sooo nice.
I’m neither for or against Broughams though I’d sooner have one than a go faster striped muscle car like the Volare Roadrunner I saw in my brothers holiday photos.Maybe we could have a feature on the fake muscle cars? Surely someone de smogged one and made it burn rubber?
Definitely. There were hot rod magazine articles back in the 70’s and 80’s about taking the tape-stripe-specials and making them run like a 69.
Thanks,I never got into the hot rod go faster scene.A boyfriend let me have a drive of his 71 Camaro with a 350 4 barrel and it was plenty fast enough for me!
Actually, there were only two things wrong with the late 70’s muscle-car-wannabes: 1. (The major problem) Smog killed drivetrains. 2. (The minor problem) In an effort to partially override #1 by going to lighter weight bodies, venerable old names were being grafted on cars that wouldn’t have been considered a few years earlier.
The Ventura GTO was probably the most wailed over, with the Volare Road Runner not too far behind. There was nothing wrong with either car that a return of the top of the line engine to 1969 specs wouldn’t cure. Plus, the revised car would have handled better than the original.
While on a case in Mexico in 1979, at a major Ford plant north of Mexico City (Tlanepantla?), I espied a Mustang II Cobra, which was a major case of decal performance marketing. I looked at our tour guide, a Ford de Mexico engineer, and he began to apologize for the excrescence. You couldn’t fool Mexicans any more than you could Yankees. Ever drive a mid-’70s Corvette? What a piece of dung.
Excellent article. Nice legal theme, by the way.
It seems to me that Broughamification of American cars was just a style thing that followed buyers’ lifestyles. In the 50s when the Depression/WWII generation were young adults, it was all about space age. As the 50s turned into the 60s, the emphasis turned to sport and performance as that group hit their midlife crises. As those buyers transformed into comfortable middle age, the Brougham was natural.
The interesting thing nobody has mentioned is that by the 60s, the carmakers were no longer faced with the choice of appealing to a wider demographic with a single line of cars. By the mid 60s, they could offer sports and performance cars that appealed to the early baby boom buyers while offering livingroom luxury for Mom and Dad.
That younger buyers never warmed to these was expected – they were never aimed at baby boomers. Instead, we got the transition from performance to “euro” in the 80s and 90s, while our parents and grandparents stuck with Buicks and Grand Marquis’.
I find it interesting that we boomers now seem stuck in some kind of Euro-aesthetic that has not really changed in quite awhile (unless you count minivans and SUVs). It is now too late for us (I am in my mid 50s) to adapt to new trends, so the big question is what is the next great aesthetic trend that will appeal to the next generation.
Haven’t you heard? It’s “no car.” Spend you money on smart phones and video game systems instead.
Or self-driving cars 😉
Actually it is a car they can afford. Neither of my kids has been pestering me for a smart phone or a game console but my 11 year old daughter wants a PT cruiser and her 15 year old brother reads my car magazines and flips between E30 BMWs and Series Land Rovers. The “kids don’t want cars” meme is a product of lazy insular “journalists” talking to a small subset of urban hipsters and slackers.
The interesting thought is that just as generational definitions of luxury shifted from Brougham to Euro, they could shift back. Imagine a Nissan Versa sedan with opera lights, a half vinyl roof and pillowy velour seats.
Imagine a Nissan Versa sedan with opera lights, a half vinyl roof and pillowy velour seats.
I’d rather not.
Buy a new Nissan Versa and bring it over to West Coast Customs (or another car decorator). It will go WAY beyond your wildest Brougham-dreams !
@ slow_joe_crow THANK YOU! The now-tired meme of “kids don’t want cars” needs to be killed with fire, to paraphrase another aged “meme”. The younger generations contain plenty of car enthusiasts; just go to VWVortex or any “import show”. Heck, I’m not trying to pigeonhole them: plenty are into trucks, muscle cars, and anything you can think of. They are just as diverse as any other generation, not some flock of sheep that some uncreative TMZ-reject “journalist” trying to stay relevant wants them to be.
On the contrary, it’s not as if older generations were all “car enthusiasts”. Otherwise, the beige Camry (or earlier, Celebrity, or Fairmont, etc.) would have never become popular.
And the only self-driving car I would want would come with a nice red “OFF” switch, clutch, and shifter, so I could blast around winding roads on a nice fall day.
“The “kids don’t want cars” meme is …a small subset of urban hipsters and slackers”
I think there’s also a BIG difference between “not wanting to need a car and sit in bumper-to-bumper traffic for an hour to get anywhere every single time you leave home” and “not wanting a car, period” that the lazier journalists gloss over.
There probably won’t be “one”. Society is too fragmented for any one aesthetic to totally dominate. The “greens” have had Priii and hybrids, and now EVs. CUVs seem to straddle the two somewhat. Another large segment of the population loves their big trucks. Older folks are happy with Camcords, or a step up with Avalons/Lexii and such. In some parts of the country, like here in the PNW, Subarus are dominant.
Of course there are overriding aesthetic trends that inform all of these segments, which I wouldn’t call “Euro” anymore. It’s global, influenced heavily by the the ascending countries/societies, like China, other parts of Asia, and places like the Dubai and such.
A perfect example is the Tesla Model S: an amalgam of Silicon Valley, Italy, China, Japan; just not Detroit. The Great Brougham Era was an American fabrication, and except for the big truck thing (unique to America, mostly), it represents the last time Detroit was able to exert such a dominant aesthetic sensibility (bad word, in this context) on the automotive market. Which does help explain the relative decline of American cars’ influence on the global market.
The Brougham was essentially a provincial affair (with some exception), and the more enduring design aesthetics being cultured in Europe at the time rolled right over it. And that’s now a global design aesthetic, mostly.
Tail Fins, vinyl roofs, dual antenna, and opera lamps. I would combine the best of both excesses of automotive design.
I’d like to comment on “… promoting luxury on cars woefully short of substance, hardly competitive with European or Asian competitors….”
I’ve often seen this type of comparison between American and European cars, with European cars being (directly or indirectly) portrayed as the better ones.
Well, I always have to laugh. I think most Americans hawe a somewhat skewered vision of European cars, as they mostly know only offerings by Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Volvo and the like.
But in reality, few Europeans could afford such cars (particularly in Southern and Eastern Europe and particularly from 1950s unitil 1980s-1990s).
If you want to know what kind of cars average Europeans drove back then, it was not BMWs and Audis – think more like something between a Yugo* and a VW Golf. Small cars, weak engines usually from 1.0 liter to 1.6 liter which rarely lasted more than 60.000 miles (100.000 km) without a major overhaul, but by then most cars were so rusted out and shot with various other mechanical problems that often they had to be scrapped anyway. Power steering, power brakes, car stereo, power windows, airbags, ABS, air conditioning? You must be joking. As recently as 20 years ago, it was not unusual for entry level cars to come from factory without ANY of those amenities, even though today almost all of them are practically standard.
*If you ask me, Yugo was indeed a crappy car, but I’m saying this today. Back in the 1980s, however, it was actually not a particularly bad car, compared to what altenatives were available (and affordable) to the average person in Europe (particularly in the less developed regions of the continent)
This very thing was on my mind when writing this. The U.S. does not see the full spectrum of European cars and I would wager the inverse is true, also.
Firstly, great article (forgot to mention that in my first response, sorry) and my response was not meant as critique to your excellent piece, just something I’ve been thinking about for some time now.
And you’re right, Europeans really do not see the full spectrum of American cars – most Europeans, that is. But it’s somewhat different on our side of the pond: most people (wrongly) think all American cars are inferior to European cars (at least for the last decade or two) and anyway are just not interested in them. And when American cars are mentioned to an average European, the first things that come to their minds are 60s Mustangs, 20-foot long Cadillacs and ‘gas guzzling’.
Those few Europeans who are interested in Detroit steel, however, mostly own older US cars (20 years or more), and not just muscle cars or 1950s classics, but often go for cars like 80s Chevy Caprices, and absolutely love them. Because what average Americans drove back then is in a completely another league, compared to what average Europeans had, which was basically crap.
Totally agree. Personally I think “broughams” stopped to be viewed as tacky and disgusting cars for being viewed simply as period pieces in the same way those once so crappy ’80s syndrums have been reabsorbed by today music listeners…plus many of them are endlessly cool, like the Imperial/Chrysler New Yorker or all of the Lincolns from the ’70s. Buying small, expensive harsh riding european sedans in a country where you have ultra-strict police and speed limits, a gentle curve every 100 miles of huge roads and generally longer distances to cover up can be as stupid as orange shag carpetings and opera windows, to me it’s really like different strokes for different folks…at least back then you had em’, now it’s all the same homogenized shit everywhere…
P.S. great piece !!
Mentioning eastern european motorisation of that period of time is quite an apples/oranges affair. Remember the Iron Curtain? it wasn’t quite about supply and demand behind it. In the eastern block countries with their centrally planned economies, armament and military has always been top priority, binding bulk of budget and research capacities. Consumer products, especially the “luxurious” ones, like cars (public transportation was fairly developed, even in the rural areas) weren’t considered very important. To somehow satisfy the demand without having to deal with (or even support) the Class Enemy, craptastic yugos, ladas and wartburgs were built, and desired, because that was all the comrade could get.
In the Rotten West things looked different (I’m talking about Germany in a timeframe from the early seventies to late eighties). Sure, Opel Kadett and Volkswagen Golf have always been the two on top of the sales list but a Mercedes also remained steadily in the Top 5 (two Mercs, after the introduction of the 190), larger Volkswagen, BMW and Audi just nearby. The plebeian Fords and Opels populated the lower half of the Top 10.
In other countries things didn’t look much different, adjusted by domestic offerings.
Talking about durability: Yes, until the 80s literally everything rusted like hell, but please tell me more about the percentage of Fords and Chevys surviving 40-50 years in states with excessive road salt usage.
Also, 60k miles might have been hard to reach in the 50s, but by the 70s even Fiat figured out, how to easily double that without great overhauling.
I also want to point out that there is maybe a tiny difference between a daily 80 mile commute at 65 mph (or a daily 2 hour idle, for the urban citizens) and a 5-25 km flatout und full stop run on twisty roads, a european is more likely to perform on his way to work.
And so on:
Airbags – originally developed for those, unwilling to wear seatbelts
AC – not really necessary if you hardly get 30 days per year substancially above 70°F
Power steering – light cars, refined suspension geometry, narrow tires
Power brakes, car stereo – optional only in poverty spec models, comes as standard in all others.
So long, have a nice autobahn shot from early 80s
Good points, but what really grabs me is that picture. What is the car in the very front whose grille looks rather unfamiliar? It looks like a Toyota Mark II, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen one with that odd center section.
i hadn’t any idea til now, but you’re right, a picture search for “1976 toyota mark 2” delivers that: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_8Cd1zRStnw0/S6yOmhgGa2I/AAAAAAAAAOY/y4vAlManf7U/s1600/img_show.php.jpeg
Thanks; I have never seen that before. The US-bound Mark IIs never used that very peculiar center section. It looks rather improvised, to say the least.
@Herman Goldt: keep in mind that situation was not quite the same across various countries on the eastern side of the Iron Curtain. And also in the West, economic development was wildly different – I don’t think you can compare 1970s-80s Germany with places like Spain, Greece, (southern) Italy, much of France etc.
I live in Slovenia which back then was part of Yugoslavia – the most developed and the most (relatively) free part of the Communist world, which of course isn’t saying much, and back then things were worse than in even the poor Western European contries, but at least we were allowed to travel abroad (mostly to neighbouring Italy and Austria) and we could see that average people’s cars were not that much different from ours.
Naturally, more Western people had cars than us, and what were ‘ poor people’s cars’ for them were ‘middle class people’s cars’ for us. We drove old Western designs, license-built domestically (Renault 4, Fiat 128, VW Beetle and Golf, the latter being considered an ‘upscale car’, suggesting a status that in Germany would correspond to owning a BMW or VW Passat).
What I’m trying to say is that while car situation was different in various parts od Europe, still those differences are smaller than differences between US and Europe as a whole. In terms of car size, engine size (and horsepower) and amenities, what an average Joe in the US could easily afford in 1970s-80s was beyond the reach of most Europeans.
You sure got a point, but apart from the whole financial aspect: why do you want a -way over- 5 meter long and 2 meter wide car in Europe ?
Especially in the urbanised northwestern part. I mean as a daily driver, to hop from city to city in an eyeblink. In that case size and handling (especially braking and steering) are crucial.
Different parts of the world, different needs. Things evolve in a certain direction, look at the zillion diesel engines in cars: a European affair.
A modern midsize sedan with a 6 cylinder diesel is a powersedan in my book, in other parts of the world it’s called either a tractor or a truck.
“why do you want a -way over- 5 meter long and 2 meter wide car in Europe ?
Especially in the urbanised northwestern part. I mean as a daily driver, to hop from city to city in an eyeblink. In that case size and handling (especially braking and steering) are crucial.”
The problem is only in our heads. While my first car (a first-generation Opel Vectra) was of course under 5 meters, I did not notice any particular benefits of the smaller size of my next car (Renault Clio). And all this hype about ‘handling’ is overvalued, IMO. Handling is important if you want to drive fast on a winding mountain road. But ‘hopping from city to city’ involves, for the most part, driving on a freeway or stop-go city traffic, or both. No need for superior handling here.
“Different parts of the world, different needs. Things evolve in a certain direction, look at the zillion diesel engines in cars: a European affair.”
Yes, this is the sad truth, Europeans love diesels (even I used to have one, a Golf TDI). But the reason is not some intrinsical natural circumstance in Europe, it’s simply because most European governments impose horrific taxes on fuel (and at the same time, artificially keep prices of diesel lower than prices of gasoline), and also various taxes that effectively prohibit most people from buying big-displacement, big-power engines (these will cost you dearly in taxes when you buy a new vehicle and in additional yearly taxes levied at yearly registrations).
I don’t think Europeans really hate big cars with V8 engines – I think most of them would actually love them, but their greedy tax-hungry governments are, in effect, prohibiting them for doing so. That’s why an average European today is practically limited to 1.6-liter turbodiesels amd 1.2-1.4 turbocharged gasoline engines. A new VW Golf with such an engine and some options can easily cost about 18-20 thousand Euros (24-27k USD). For this money, an American buyer can be looking at entry-level Camaros and Mustangs, or a Chevy Malibu…
You will agree though that at least IN and AROUND cities a small and nimble car is a better choice….Don’t get me wrong, I like big(ger) cars with a 6 or 8 cylinder engine too, I’ve got a 1969 Mopar V8 as a hobby car, although at 4.90 meter it’s relatively short….And a short-wheelbase 2002 Land Cruiser diesel as my daily driver. Two cars fit all.
One thing I’ve learned in the past 25 years: I never judge a man or woman by his or her car choice. I know several people who are LOADED with money on their bank accounts. And yet they drive old dented and scratched Peugeots or Toyotas. You know why ? Because they don’t give a damn about driving a “nice set of wheels”.
About the diesels. Would you mind driving a BMW M550d ? An Audi A8 4.2 TDI ? A Mercedes E-class 350 CDI ? I’m not, certainly not.
@AWEboss: I highly diasapprove your choice of words, but here is the wrong ressource to go into that further. Just saying, please keep your political views to yourself.
Also it’s not the “poor europeans lusting after big V8s but forced into clattering diesel penalty boxes by their horrible government”.
Like Mr Dutch stated, it’s all about the needs and preferences shaped mostly by geography. My taste in cars is also pointing towards the big limo (in european measures): I used to own a Saab 9000, Volvo 740 and BMW bavaria among others, and now its the beloved Audi 100. All of them close to 5m in length and about 1,80 in width.
Though I’d love to travel the american continent in a Panther or a B-Body (make mine with cloth or velours interior. thanks a lot!^^), I would never consider anything USDM over here, no matter how cheap fuel or taxes may be.
It has nothing to do with the “tacky styling”, “crappy interior plastics”, “low building quality” or other usual stereotypes, it’s all the things one might need to enjoy a straight-on 400 mile ride on rough and bumpy pavement rather than endure it, but are a pain in the fundament in fast highway curves and narrow and twisty back roads. In fact, I got rid of the Volvo quite fast because of the wallowy ride and hated my ex’ W124 because of its overly supportive and indifferent power steering. I also rode a bathtub-Caprice in and around Nuremberg once and the sound of the 5.0 gave me goosebumps, still it was much more of a hoot to flog a diesel VW bus over surface streets afterwards.
I had the fortunate experience to spend 5500 miles (8800 km) behind the wheel of a 1989 VW Golf in Spain. I can’t recall the exact model designation, but it was probably Spain centric. It had Recaro-like bolstered front seats but was still easy to enter and exit. It had a fairly gutless 1600 cc engine, but the 5-speed box had perfectly chosen ratios. No power steering (but it was perfect), A/C, ps, pb, or any of that crap. I looked under the hood and there was a ton of room as it was carbureted. It was my job to get us from photo shoot-to-photo shoot in a timely fashion every day, starting at 5:30 am and ending after sunset in some of Spain’s most mountainous areas. Those 5500 miles were amassed in a period of three weeks. Went through a tank of gas a day-at that time about $40. No abuse, just steady, hard driving. I haven’t driven my Subaru in a similar environment, but I think I would still prefer the VW. One of the best cars I have ever driven.
Great write up.
I had always thought a Brougham was simply a car that had plush seats and a vinyl roof which was loaded with luxury amenities(such as power windows etc) until I got my first Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme in 2004. It was a 1987 Olds Cutlass Supreme Brougham with no vinyl roof but Brougham badging all about it and manual windows.(I knew the original owners who bought it new so there was no badging adding)
Here is a pic of it back when I was on Oldspower.com(before the place turned into being run by douchebags that thought the 350 was God.
We had a ’79 Cutlass Salon Brougham equipped like your car: No vinyl roof, no power windows.
In Olds’s case, at least, by the late ’70s, Brougham was just a label used for the top trim level, even if the car lacked any extra gingerbread (which probably explains why the Olds models outnumber all the others in the tables above). Today, depending on the manufacturer, the same thing is labeled Titanium, XLE, LTZ, etc.
That probably explains the end of the Brougham era more than any change of tastes. It had become so overused as to become meaningless.
That Plymouth Valiant has to be the most incongruous Brougham of the lot. Valiants were the embodiment of dour thrifty transport (after the demise of the Studebaker Scotsman) and sticking vinyl and velour on one is like dressing a nun in a Bob Mackie gown.
The only thing wackier would be the Allegro Vanden Plas or one of those weird Mitsuoka things.
Have a look at the Aussie Valiant lineup from the mid 70s plain jane to broham all in the same bodyshell but at least they used a fuselage body and didn’t just keep making the 68 forever.
“…and sticking vinyl and velour on one is like dressing a nun in a Bob Mackie gown”
Haha, spot on. Thanks for the memories. I went to Catholic Private school, with the nuns, and… am from the era that remembers what Mackie regularly did with Carol Burnett & Cher.
You just painted the perfect picture in my head by putting those 2 things together.
My dilemma with these goes something like this:
My visceral response to this kind of car is a lot like Syke’s. I don’t have any pleasant memories of the seventies and so soggy, oversize barges with color and material choices that were probably pretty tacky at the time, much less in retrospect, don’t exactly elicit a nostalgic glow. I’m also eternally baffled by the appeal of the padded vinyl roof.
That said, I grasp the audience at which these cars were aimed: people who at the end of a hard day in the office or on the job want nothing more than a peaceful, stress-free commute home over relatively smooth freeways and streets, followed by a beer or a martini, depending on socioeconomic position, and who would no more try to hustle down a deserted curvy back road than they would haul sod with a Corvette.
I also respect that some people either never liked or are thoroughly sick of the now-omnipresent Euro sport sedan cockpit theme with its coal-bin color palette and hard leather seats. It does get oppressive when that theme is so universal that blink-and-you’ll-miss-’em variations in center console design are hailed as great design innovations, and I don’t understand the current magazine hack obsession with the squashiness of plastics.
On the other hand, my feelings about the Broughams are further soured by the fact that their popularity coincided with a new era of relentless Detroit penny-pinching. So, you have all these lavish luxury cues, but they’re all (sometimes literally) paper thin: plastic chrome, glued-on woodgrain appliqués, clip-on wire wheel covers, and acres of cheap, color-keyed plastic. It’s not the aesthetic that makes it tacky; it’s the execution.
I can respect a skillful example of a style or aesthetic I don’t particularly like, but too often the Broughams of the world seem like the sort of like what would happen if fast food chains started offering prime rib or lobster tail along with the hamburgers and chicken nuggets.
I think I agree with this summation of the “brougham” issue most of all. The name itself seems to have come back by way of the Eldorado Brougham of the 1950s, then the 60 Special seems to have become the Fleetwood Brougham about 1966-7. And just about then, the muddle was coming: cars with vinyl roofs and power windows available from every brand, and the race was on to see who could capture market share by offering this stuff at a price point. So the stuff kept getting flimsier, while the cars didn’t change much (other than GM’s gradual diffusion of Camaro suspension learning through other lines of cars). Then, with the change to FWD, the cars were pretty much mini-broughams, except the French Horizon and (at last!) the Taurus/Sable.
I think brougham-without-innovation was a disaster for the US automakers, as it contributed to several episodes of unmet needs or desires being filled by others. It’s like broughams were the SUVs that made SUVs necessary to save the companies that were then ruined by SUVs so they might be saved by CUVs and/or crazy lease deals.
Excellent article Mr. Shafer; however I must point out that you omitted another equally
horrid styling trend from the 70’s: The leisure suit. Thank God that abomination is no longer around. And anybody contemplating plastic surgery should have to look at that
before and after photo of Mr. Reynolds.
The best Broughams didn’t have to say Brougham they just were.
Jason, well-written piece. And 86’er, I agree. So a ’66 Caprice or a ’74 Monte Carlo never said “Brougham”…those two filled the role to a T IMHO.
Or a 79 Conty…
I enjoyed your article, but the methodology is too strict.
“Any automobile clearly identified as such by its manufacturer via badges or name in addition to being documented as such.
“To look at it another way, any car (two- or four-door) laden with a vinyl roof, wire wheel covers, and falsely luxurious pretenses does not automatically constitute it as being a Brougham unless it is so stated by the manufacturer.
In an effort to create as objective a review as possible, only those cars having the word “Brougham” in either name or trim level as found in the book were counted.”
Then your chart says there weren’t any Fords Broughams prior to 1970, that’s just WRONG!
Ummmm seems to there were Brougham LTDs and Thunderbirds in 1968!
I looked at this “Brougham” script, under the glove box, for years in dad’s 68 LTD. (same color and interior, but not a 428/4spd!)
They may not have been serial numbered as such with a body code, but Broughams they were. Much like the Falcon Sprint had a body code in 1963/64, it was an option in 1965 (no body code). Certainly the data place TRIM information would indicate what color and level of trim was installed.
Perhaps this paragraph from above will help shed more light on it:
“While we all know the Ford LTD of 1965 was the first hatchling of the Great Brougham Epoch, the name Brougham did not officially appear on a LTD until 1970. There were a plethora of cars with Brougham on the brain throughout the 1970′s and even 1980′s (Chrysler Cordoba, anyone?), but the reasoning for the admittedly strict approach outlined above will soon be evident.”
Loosening my methodology would have resulted in a loss of objectivity, eroding my neutral position.
Yes, in an effort to make statistics meaningful and measurable by different manufacturers. I do see the benefits of limiting the scope.
As we advance in our scientific research of the Great Brougham Era, we will have to use more exacting standards by using Marti reports and other internal documents. Eventually I think we will see Brougham packages become more valuable. Eclipsing “R” code Mustangs and ZL-1 Corvettes, build sheets of Broughams will be framed and prized for their rarity. Base models will be used as donor and parts cars to preserve the more valuable Broughams. Instead of being driven they will take their rightful position……as a living room centerpieces. True aficionados will decorate said spaces by trim code. Appliances will be in Firemist and Moondust colors. Panty cloth, special brocades and velours fabrics will be used for upholstered side seating and drapes. Of course rich Corinthian leather will be prized by the Mopar clan. Ersatz wood will be copied for flooring, dining room tables and trim. Deep pile carpeting and shag will be reproduced for area rugs. Huge 200 inch LCD TVs will be used to make the ultimate in-house drive-in experience. Special Editions Boxed Collector sets of Cannon (with film cells, scripts, and ltd edition Twinkies) will be especially popular. Sominex will become the drug of choice. …………..:-)
And Quadraphonic sound systems will make a huge comeback!
Very well-written article Jason!
As you were describing the reason for Broughams, particularly “The intention of a Brougham is to provide the buyer with something a little nicer, a bit more comfortable, and with a touch more class”, what came across my mind as the present-day Broughams are the sport appearance models of many of todays cars that are all show, and no performance enhancements.
Take the Corolla S or Camry SE for example. These “sport models” add a bodykit, spoiler, larger wheels to the exterior, and a few “sporty” interior touches all for a few grand more. They don’t add any more performance, just a bit more presence to otherwise unexciting common cars. In my mind these are the present-day Broughams.
Good to see the old Holden Brougham get a mention – the Premier with a longer trunk! When they first came out, nobody knew how to pronounce the word, and it variously got called Broggam and Bruggam, before prospects said “Bugger ’em!” and went to the Ford dealer for a Fairlane instead.
When Holden replaced it at the next major model change, the name was dumped for Statesman – and the styling was made a lot more distinct from the cheaper Premier model.
Good article, but I’ll submit that this site has been comfortable labeling anything starting in the ’60s as “Brougham” when the maker added a decidedly luxury theme to an already top line car, regardless of whether the package was labeled “Brougham.” This trend replaced the tendency to market “sporty” versions of standard cars as top line models – the Original Skylark at Buick, the early Eldorado at Cadillac, the Impala and later the Impala SS at Chevy, the XL at Ford.
I think JPC has a pretty good theory posted above on why this trend happened, and how the addition of smaller platforms was an early enabler of the trend.
I’ll submit the 1963 Oldsmobile Nighty-Eight “Luxury Sedan” as the first Brougham. Ford was first in the “low price field” with the LTD.
The tendency for Broughaminess to move to smaller cars was simply an acknowledgement that an ever growing segment of the market didn’t need or want their luxury attached to a mega-sized gas guzzler. CAFE laws accelerated this. The existence of the 1980 Buick Skylark Limited with vinyl top and wire wheel covers may also been a trend to give us luxury to make up for rather gutless drivetrains with torque steer.
Many “Broughams” were quite tasteful and comfortable places to spend several hours on a long trip. There is nothing crass about arguably many of them.
Yes, some did eventually go over the top, and become crass. I’d submit the 1974 Cadillac Talisman as potentially the first. They shoveled in seat stuffing and mouse fur upholstery into one of the weaker luxury interiors of the time. The result was pornographic. What they should have done was bring back the “Sixty-Special” nameplate to the exterior of the Fleetwood and add some real wood and metal trim to the inside to bring real quality to the interior. Maybe even a decent gage package and some kind of nod to engineering and handling.
The late box Caprice LS “Brougham” was another crass attachment of “luxury” cues to enhance a very old design and hopefully stop the loss of Delta 88 and LeSabre buyers to Panthers. It didn’t work very well and made the GM line up weirder, crasser, more dated, and anti Sloan ladder. Plenty more examples exist; ’84-’85 Toronado Caliente anyone? Another slathering of decorations to make up for a lack of real updating.
So the defense is that some really nice and comfortable cars were sold to a lot of WWII vets and the indictment is that a number of “Broughams” lived past their prime and resorted to sometimes grievous plastic surgery that repelled people that already had little interest in these cars.
I’ll posit another possibility as to the moving of broughams from full size cars down to front and rear drive compacts: The style was what the 60 year-old-farts running the big three were comfortable with, and understood. It was probably the only way that a top-floor executive of one of the big three would be caught dead in one of their small cars.
So, of course, if that’s what they liked, that what they figured the rest of the country liked. And Lee Iococca was far from the only bigwig who believed in those cars.
I’d be willing to guess that the concept of the ‘brougham’ was probably the easiest sell to the suits on the top floor of any idea that somebody came up with for a car line in the post WWII days.
Indeed, I also think the Broughamification of smaller cars was market-led to some extent as the Depression generation became empty nesters and no longer needed a big family car.
Same reason for the overwhelming popularity of coupes in the ’70s – the Greatest Generation’s kids were no longer being driven in their folks’ car, the Boomers themselves were still mostly childless and they were the two largest generations alive.
It’s been fascinating reading all of the comments to this point. While I grew up during the Great Brougham Epoch, since these cars were always around me, I never thought of them as being unusual. I personally liked the sportier versions (of anything), but there were a few Broughams that I have a soft spot for.
Whether you like them or not, they existed and made some people very happy. Far be it from to me to dictate my personal tastes to someone else, but that’s what makes the world go around…
This is my personal favorite Brougham.
How many cougars are there in this picture?
At almost 60, I can bear witness to the Brougham era. At the time I did not find it pretty. Today, I find it quaint. Thank you Mr. Shafer for your exposition of the phenomenon.
Oh give me a Brougham, where the buffalo Brougham, and the opera windows and the landau roofs play!
Where seldom is heard, any Toyota words, and the Regency’s comfy all day!
Brougham, Brougham on the range, where the Comfortron and the Cruise Control play!
Where seldom is heard, any Toyota words, and the Caddy is comfy all day!
This is the best thing I’ve heard today. You know, you should really consider writing in your spare time. You’re a poet, and you didn’t even know it!
LOL! Nicely done and a picture of one of my favorite Broughams to go with it! (Not necessarily the color, but definitely the car).
Brougham…Brougham on the range……..
Lol, excellent Tom!
Fantastic job, Jason. I never knew a Lord Henry Peter Brougham ever existed. And on closer inspection of his photograph, he appears to have the very first “Brougham Top”. I agree with Ate Up With Motors own how the early Broughams (My Dad’s 67 Continental Silver with black vinyl roof looked classy and tasteful), but as quality fell and cheap plastics appeared, tacky is an understatement on how many of the later 70’s models looked. Speaking of Cougars, I learned when older women proudly proclaim themselves “Cougars”, if you are younger you should not say you enjoy hanging out with old bags. Ask me how I know!
One could argue the 1963 New Yorker Salon beat the LTD. It was advertised as the world’s most complete car, more than a Rolls.
The Salon also cost more than all but one Imperial model and had one of the first vinyl tops:
The standard features makes the LTD look like a stripper but the Salon’s elegant design is perhaps too refined to be a true Brougham.
There is Virgil Exner and there is brougham. There is no overlap between the two.
Never heard of it! But it’s too pretty to be a real Brougham perhaps.?
Whew, that was a lot of comments to get through to get to this point!
As many of you know, I run a little up and coming site called The Brougham Society over on Facebook.
For us, we define as Brougham as a car that has a stately, elegant appearance and a luxurious, almost over-the-top interior. Cars there, while not necessarily Brougham in name, can be Brougham in spirit.
As a child of the 1980’s, I observed that people that drove Brougham-type cars were generally looked upon as being a little more classy than those that didn’t.
Case in point-back in 1987 my parents bought a one-year-old Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme Brougham Coupe, in black with dark claret (cranberry) leather seats, landau roof and chrome wheels. EVERYWHERE we went people paid attention to that car!
I was in middle school then, and I was far from popular, more like nerdy before that was cool. Whenever I would be dropped off in front of the school in that car, even the snobbiest of kids would nod approvingly in my direction at the sight of that car.
People also assumed that we were more upper crust, though we weren’t. It was a magical time for me.
So that’s what a Brougham means to me…class, and respect.
Come join us!
I love a Brougham, for much the same reasons I love the old fin-mobiles of the 1950s. So amazing that these were the cars nice, sensible people once bought, for rational reasons!
As a fellow civil engineer, what do you think about the idea that these vehicles were the natural result of the creation of the Interstate highway system?
For the first time, a man could take his family 600, 700, 800 miles away to see family, go to the beach, the mountains, etc. in a single day’s drive. Back then, men did all of the driving. My grandmother’s, born in 1914 and 1917, never learned to drive. It’s not easy to knock out 600-800 miles by yourself with wife and family in tow. A brougham takes the edge off of that.
You know from personal experience, there is no substitute for a large and comfortable vehicle for long hauls.
Thanks for another great contribution.
You have a very good point about the interstate system and large cars.
Thinking aloud, it does indeed seem like there is a correlation between the two – the interstate system started in ’56 and continued to grow through the 1970’s. This does coincide with the growth of automobiles, so there is undoubtedly some influence there.
Perhaps you have given me an idea for a future article…
My mom and aunts, who grew up during the Depression, loved their Broughams…that they made them happy is reason enough for their existence. Quieter, plusher and more comfortable for a few dollars more. Not my ideal, but then they wouldn’t like my dream cars either.
Wow..another great article. The broughams were just a sign of the times. My dad, a successful businessman, drove, for example, a 1973 Chrysler New Yorker Brougham. It had a plush gold (!) leather and brocade interior. With its 440 engine it was like driving a not-so-small locomotive. Thanks for all the great comments as well.
Ok, I’m really puzzled now (Saturday morning in NZ). This article simply wasn’t on Curbside Classic for me yesterday! (Friday) Immediately above Keith’s CC Kids Grand Prix article on the front page was Tom’s Panther Outtake. The two topless Swedes weren’t there yesterday either! So anyways, I got all excited about the Brougham QOTD without knowing that this article existed – I wondered what Richard was referring to when he mentioned Jason’s earlier Brougham article.
Anyway, puzzlement aside, I’ve now read the above, it’s a great piece, thank you Jason! 🙂
We switched to 15 posts per page (from 10) a couple of weeks ago. A few folks have noticed the same thing. You need to clear out something in your PC. Try powering down and rebooting. If that doesn’t work, there must be something else you can do…ask google?
THought I’d contribute this ad I found for the 1976 Pontiac Bonneville, which describes all the “Broughamness” of their Brougham option. We had a (non-Brougham) ’76 Bonneville two-door with the padded white “Opera Roof” like this ad, but ours was a deep burgundy/maroon, with matching velour interior…400 V8. I thought it was just the swankiest car we ever had. The folks kept it garaged its whole life. Truly the last “Big Pontiac”…when they downsized them in ’77, it was all over as far as I was concerned…they just didn’t have the presence of that last big-body incarnation.
The maroon beast got handed down to me after my parents got another car, and I kept it nice, under a cover, for several years until some dingus in a pickup rear-ended me at a stoplight in 1993. He was going fast enough to bend the entire trunk section down about six inches. It was still immaculate, but the insurance company “totaled” it. I still keep a photo of that Bonneville on my desk.
As a comment to all of you americans that thinks an average European driver drives a BMW, Mercedes or an Audi…..
Well, in east, south and parts of the western Europa too, the people
still drives small lunchboxes with wheels on them. The cars are small, expensive and some times overengineered.
I’ve driven an american fullsize Cadillac, Buick or Lincoln for the past 10 years. Not just in the summer, but as a daily driver. They have very often been from the last part of the 70s. Thirsty, you bet, other than that? Rock solid. You can’f tind any European car that can match the long time durability, reliability and solidity of an conservative build american car. Most of the cars have passed 200-250.000 miles. Even an 1980 X-body I had passed the 200.000 miles mark, but it was kind of rusty I remember.
Even in the 90s the average american car was superior in many ways compared to the average European car. I remember when we bought the first car with power steering here in Norway, It was a big thing on our 1988 Peugeot 505……….. Or power windows, the Volvo 240 we had (company car) before did even have a carburated engine i 1987….
I remember the first car we bought in our family with a factory manual AC. It was an 1998 Opel Astra……
And remember, I live in one of the richest country in Europe, Norway. My family is , in american ways, a upper middle class. If we had lived in the US in the 70s I think we would have been “Oldsmobile or Buick -people” 🙂
Here is another odd example: the 1992-1994 Nissan Maxima “Brougham”. I could not find an image of the trim-package Script on the trunk lid, but it looks like it came off a Buick. I am unsure is this “Brougham” version was only sold in Canada, where I am from.
I’m unfamiliar with a Brougham version of the Maxima. This particular car looks to be a GXE model. Back when this body style was made, it came in more luxury-themed GXE and sportier SE models, at least here in the States…
I believe in the States only the SE came with the trunk spoiler, not the GXE. I had a ’91 SE with a manual; loved it!
There are plenty of A32 shape Maximae driving around NZ with Brougham badges on them. But to clarify, they’re the JDM Cefiro-badged A32, so they’re a ‘Cefiro Brougham’ rather than a Maxima as such. The Gloria and Cedric were also available in badged as Brougham for a number of years.
Stop posting pics like the JC Penney one from 1975.
I need my retinas to earn a living!!
Here are another couple interesting “Broughamification” efforts: the 1976 Chevrolet Vega Cabriolet, and the 1977 Pontiac Sunbird with option full vinyl roof. Aren’t they darling? I do like the honest effort to add a hint of extra “class” to these economy cars.
This is an absolutely fascinating article! I LOVE the history of the beginnings of automotive nomenclature. Wikipedia has a huge article on Lord Peter Henry Brougham and Vaux. As well as the style or type of automobile body he preferred, he is also famous for something else in a social and human rights context. He eventually became Lord High Chancellor and played a prominent role in passing the 1832 Reform Act (The Representation of the People Act), and 1833 Slavery Abolition Act , which abolished slavery throughout the British Empire. He was quite a Humanitarian! Now I would love to see an article on the history of the Landau regarding automobiles.
Thanks Jason, I probably missed this, or skipped it the first time around, but several years of CC reading have made more open to Broughams. At least a tiny bit. And I love your coining the word “Broughmance”. Just one bit of historic information was absent: what was Lord Brougham’s title as a peer? Was he a Marquis, or (Le) Baron? Or perhaps a (Iron) Duke … that seems lowly but was good enough for Olds.
And in the five years, 11 months since this article originally came out:
I STILL HATE BROUGHAMS!!!!!
If anything, as I verge into my seventies and truly start to take an attitude of “get off of my lawn”, my dislike of broughams has only increased.
It was fun reading the responses in their entirety. That was one hell of a discussion.
As a kid, “Brougham” just seemed stupid to me. As an adult, it also seems stupid. It never seemed to really be about luxury, but about the projection of it, as if the shadow mattered more than the actuality. In the 70s and 80s, when America desperately needed some new thinking about cars, Brougham was such an out-of-date sensibility. And yet so many fell for it, in a way they perhaps would not have fallen if the same car had been labeled “Deluxe.” Why why why? I think there was something special about that breathy collection of letters in the middle…anyone who started to pronounce “Brougham” out loud and came out the other side of it without spraying spittle down his Members Only jacket must have felt like true royalty.
The term “Roadster” might also make an interesting article.
When I see a tank of a car with a “Roadster” badge on it I just shake my head.
I like Broughams and always have, being a child of the seventies they have the same soothing allure as an avocado fridge or a macrame owl wall hanging. In addition to nostalgia, a comfortable, living room type of automotive environment is much closer to what most people actually want in a vehicle. How many drivers use even a tiny fraction of the performance abilities of their “sporting” or even “touring” cars? The commuters road of todayas of yore, is generally a pretty unpleasant and annoying place to spend time, why not sit back on some garish sofa like upholstery and relax?
The problem with the brougham aesthetic was how FAKE it all was. It was [obviously] plastic wood slathered everywhere, some of it with “carving”; “leather-grained” vinyl tops [imitation convertible] with landau bars that didn’t retract; imitation wire wheels that were just wheelcovers; and chintzy metals and plastics colored to look like silver, brass, or even cut crystal!
Why did Mercedes and Jaguar gave us real wood, while American luxury brands gave us cheesy plastic and vinyl with fake “stitching”? As Scott Adams puts it, mass-market corporations eventually discovered that their customers “don’t know the difference between diamonds and monkey crap.” (Alternatively rendered as “…Italian silk and Bounty paper towels.”)
I see a connection between broughamy cars and the grotesquely florid “Spanish Colonial” and “Louis XVI” hand-rubbed plastic and cheap wood furniture design of the ’70s which took over everything from TV sets to dining room buffets.
How many brougham haters on this site live in houses with “wood-grain” vinyl siding and “tacked-on” fake window shutters? Because on tract houses, a bare window just looks too PLAIN!
I think you’re on to something here. A lot of folks (myself included) would have looked much more kindly at the Broughamy 70’s and 80’s if the quality had been better and the materials real.
And it wasn’t just the Brougham issue. The entire US auto industry apparently decided en masse to pull as much profit out of each car as they could, and damn the consequences; e.g., GM eliminating division-specific engines.
Was it because the emission regulations destroyed the performance angle, and the industry, not having yet figured out the next big thing, had to soak the customers?
Come to think of it, it may have been even something bigger than just the US auto industry. A number of well known US brands – Harley Davidson and Fender guitars – almost nearly destroyed themselves with shoddy products during this era. Did some new greedy and/or mypic corporate ethos infect the entire country during this time?
I will always be in defense of the Brougham, and nobody did Brougham as good as Ford Motor Company, the Home of the Brougham. Even the lowly Mustang II got the Brougham treatment in the form of the Ghia version. Got to admire their guts just to conceive of something so ridiculous as that. But the true Broughams in the Ford Camp, the LTD, the Marquis, the Torino, the Montego, and later Cougar; were all legit contenders in the Battles of the Brougham.
GM had some good contenders, too. But I’m a Ford man at heart. Besides, Ford used much better materials in their interiors. They were also better with the fake wood.