(first posted 6/4/2015) Welcome to Part 3 of the series called “Too Big Even For America”, where we explore cars that went out of their way to demonstrate that bigger is not always better.
Although the 233.7″ long Cadillac Fleetwood Sixty Special Talisman was in fact not Cadillac’s biggest vehicle at the time (the Fleetwoood 75 limousine trumped it by being the longest production vehicle full stop.) it was their biggest sedan. And with its seating for only four passengers, it undoubtedly had the worst passenger-to-length ratio ever for a four door sedan.
The Talisman is a fitting symbol for a generation of GM cars that overshot the mark, and the marketplace. With its 130″ wheelbase, it topped the range of huge GM full-sized cars first introduced in 1971, all of which were just plain too big. These cars were the last gasp of the outdated “big is better” mantra. GM tried to outgun the competition with an arms race that had been building ever since it trimmed its big cars in 1961, and the Cadillac Sixty Special was Big Bertha. Or just the bomb. Unfortunately, it rather blew up in GM’s face, thanks to bad timing. And inevitability.
GM had gone down this road once before in the 1950s, which culminated in 1959. That was the year the Buick Electra earned the suffix “225” thanks to its length in inches. But by the late 50s Americans had let it be known that mere length alone was not the only or primary means of expressing satisfaction with their cars; the European imports had increasingly shown that size wasn’t everything. And GM got the message, for a while.
The 1961 Electra 225 now was a good half foot short of its number, and looked like it had spent a month at the fat farm toning up. But like so many dieters, GM’s cars started swelling again. In the early 1970’s America was still rolling in the tail-end of the boom that started during the post war. The word was prosperity and it was supposed to never end. And GM’s cars kept getting bigger and bigger, and the competition kept right up. Then in 1971 it all began to crumble.
It was a combination of factors. A new generation was coming into their car buying years, and very few were looking at full size cars anymore. They’d rather stuff themselves into a VW than a big American tank. The Big Three thought they got the message and decided to give them an even bigger challenge: small cars that were even more cramped than a Beetle: the Pinto, Vega and Gremlin. Or at least they seemed that way.
Economics were also a factor. America’s “Exceptional Period” was ending, along with the dollar being tied to the gold standard. The Bretton Woods system of fixed currency prices was crumbling, especially with America’s higher inflation. The United States needed the dollar to become a Fiat Currency (insert unreliability joke here). This, along with other factors, affected the global economy in such a way that in 1973 the stock market began a long and steep decline which combined with the 1973 oil crisis to cause what could be called, in layman’s terms, a screwed up economy.
So what did Cadillac released in this troubled time? Why, a new options pack that would turn your new Caddy into the most opulent non-limousine Cadillac ever available of course! The base $9,537 ($45,769.67 in today’s money, about the same price of the currrent XTS) Series Sixty Fleetwood Brougham was already extremely large and decadent.
Now take that and add $1800 ($8,638) to distinguish yourself from those commoners with the paltry $750 Brougham d’Elegance pack or worse, no pack at all, and presto! You have the Fleetwood Talisman. Not Brougham Talisman; Brougham is such a middle-class name. You can get a Ford Brougham, you can’t get a Ford Talisman.
Enough ‘70s snobbishness; what did the Talisman pack actually gave you? Less practicality for one. It wasn’t any longer than the ordinary model (thankfully) and the rear lost a seat and gained a huge center console, a Medici crushed velour interior and deep plush carpet on anything not covered by it, an illuminated vanity interior and a front console substantial enough that it could fit a writing pad. Outside, an elk-grain vinyl roof, a special hood crest and badging complimented the look.
I’m sure in the 1970s that interior must’ve looked just the business and being the last word in traditional American luxury for old-money. A cushy palace where everything, everyone and their problems disappeared into a fluffy velour cloud while the 8.2-liter V8 and the Turbo-Hydramatic got you where you wanted in absolute comfort. Unfortunately for me, who despite loving Broughams has nothing but contempt for the feel of velour, it looks more like a torture chamber.
A very cushy Medici crushed-velour torture chamber mind but a torture chamber nonetheless. The Sixty Special was never a petite car, starting at a stately 228.8 inches when released in 1971, but it grew slightly in 1972 and bumper regulations made it reach 233.7 inches in 1974, nearly 10 inches longer than a current Cadillac Escalade ESV. The Escalade is wider and, unsurprisingly, taller.
In late 1973 and 1974, images like the one you see above were becoming altogether more common by the day. Panic, gas shortages, and the slowing economy had people second-guessing if they really needed that full-sized sedan. General Motors was already hard at work planning and designing their new downsized lineup by this time, knowing full well that the unchecked growth of past years was quickly becoming unsustainable. But until that was done they’d have to make do with what they had on showrooms, unfit for the new rules of the game as it was. The economy also made people question if they really should splurge on a Cadillac, let alone a fully-equipped one, when a Buick or Oldsmobile would do for less money.
The Talisman survived, but with a very low take rate and not in the form it started out as. The 1975 version ditched the ridiculous two-only rear seating in favor of a fold-up arm rest that could accommodate three, four, or five in a pinch. It was a rather silly idea in the first place; you never know who (or how many) might want to jump in the back of a big Caddy, or what might want to transpire there. And by 1976, the Talisman was just an interior trim option.
A not insignificant percentage of Cadillac owners had been complaining about the excessive length of their cars since the 50s. The response was…to crudely shorten the rear end, resulting in “short deck” models sold in 1961-1963. It may have made a few owners of old and short garages happy, but it didn’t really solve the problem.
The 1976 Seville did. It may not have knocked out Mercedes but it finally broke the “bigger is better” mold at Cadillac, and showed the way forward; a trim new “international” size, and a preview of what just about every GM full and mid-sized car would look like for a very long time. The Seville was obviously started before the energy crisis, but its arrival in the spring of 1975 was welcome, even if the gas lines were already a thing of the past. The fact that the Seville was the most expensive Cadillac was obviously another repudiation of the Talisman.
The Talisman limped along until 1977, when GM’s downsized full-sizers arrived in the showrooms. Of course the new models weren’t any cheaper, but they were back to sizes and weights that you and I would consider reasonable (221″ length, or almost exactly the same as the 1961 Fleetwood).
Binge dieting can be as destructive as binge eating, and Cadillac was clearly afflicted with both symptoms. The second round of downsizing resulted in FWD deVilles that now seemed barely bigger than some really small cars. That didn’t work out so well.
To give the poorly-received FWD 1985 Cadillac a bit of badly needed gravitas, in 1987 the standard FWD C-Body DeVille got a five-inch wheelbase stretch and a revival of the Sixty Special name plate, presumably to try and get some of the traditional Cadillac Brougham buyers into the new C-Body. Naturally, it was considerably more expensive than a proper Fleetwood of the time at $34,850 ($72,583).
GM should have known better by the late sixties that change was in the wind, and blowing stronger than ever. But they plowed ahead and built the biggest cars ever, which once again were slapped down by a combination of changing values, the rise of imports, gas prices, the economy, and just the obvious realization that cars could only get so big. Never mind the public ridicule.
All of these factors—except for gas prices—had been very much a factor in the late 50s and the reason why the ’61s were downsized. But GM execs had a bad habit of forgetting its lessons, or were just too isolated on the 14th floor. And remarkably enough, they still didn’t get it again some years later, as we’ll see next time, where we’ll examine the poster child of big-car hate. Will it be the last?
They’d rather stuff themselves into a VW than a big American tank. The Big Three thought they got the message and decided to give them an even bigger challenge: small cars that were even more cramped than a Beetle: the Pinto, Vega and Gremlin.
Nothing says corporate arrogance like giving your customers a deliberately crappy small car out of resentment that they won’t buy the big cars you’re pushing. And it worked out so well for them.
Detroit as a sullen teenager.
I can see well-kept versions of this land-barge becoming classics. There will most likely never be anything like them made again.
I don’t recall the Detroit subcompact trio Pinto?/Vega/Gremlin? being much more cramped inside than the narrow Beetle?, nor do I think this mattered much to buyers; all were 2-doors. The Beetle’s appeal was its unconventional (for America) layout & high build quality; it became a sort of subculture by the time Detroit got into the game.
Apple? Computer was a later example of marketing to a “Think Different” crowd.
The Detroit subcompacts were undoubtedly wider inside than the Beetle, but I’m pretty sure that you sat more upright in the Beetle than you did in the Vega and Pinto (not sure about the Gremlin). That upright seating position made the car seem roomier than it really was, and eased entry and exit.
True, and the Golf/Rabbit continued in that vein. Ford’s FWD Escort was also noticeably tall, which, coupled with its roofline, might explain why it was sensitive to crosswinds. Body height increases passenger room on a short wheelbase.
My 8th-gen Civic sedan, OTOH, is low, but has a long wheelbase, hence good backseat legroom.
If I recall correctly, the old Beetle was notorious for its sensitivity to crosswinds.
The 8th generation Civic sedan is 56.5 inches high. A 1974 Cadillac Fleetwood 60 Special Brougham is 55.3 inches high. Part of the reason the Civic is so roomy is its brilliant styling that makes it look far sleeker than its dimensions reveal it to be.
Production numbers for ’74 Cadillacs are interesting. The big seller? It was the Coupe DeVille, in a landslide. Even when you add up all of the 4 door offerings, they don’t match the total for that one trim level of the 2 door. Personal luxury was king in the brougham era.
Yes, original Beetles were sensitive to crosswinds. I read once that the reason was the rear engine/trans weight with the center of the side surface area being well ahead of it, So if you think of it, the inertia of the car is centered toward the back and the force of wind on the side is further forward and pushes it away from a straight line. So of the next models a squareback should be less wind sensitive than a fastback, which should be less wind sensitive than the notchback. Swing axles and 1930’s suspension geometry probably don’t help.
A front wheel drive car has the opposite problem, but with the weight in the front and the rear being pushed sideways more the direction of the car doesn’t change nearly as much.
I realize these explanations are pretty crappy!
Having both a Beetle and a Vega in the family, I recall how much interior space was wasted in the Vega by it’s fat seats. I don’t know if the numbers back it up but the Beetle seemed more spacious than even the Vega hatchback (although for hauling stuff an open hatch with the rear seatback down clearly trumps a front trunk).
I never owned an air-cooled Beetle but I did own a Vega hatch, and the Vega was surprisingly roomy, in a useful way, unless you regularly drove around with 4 people. The front seats and forward vision were spacious and open-feeling, and with the rear seat down the hatch was quite long and usable. To me, riding in Beetles felt cramped due to the narrow cabin and close windshield, and cargo space was minimal.
I’ve owned both also (’71 Vega notch and ’64 Type I sedan). The Beetle was about as wide as the cockpit of the Cessna I used to fly – the Vega was definitely roomier in that respect. However, I could fit just about as much stuff in the Beetle as I could the Vega (back seat down). The high roof of the Beetle was such that I could wear a “real” hat (and I’m tall already). The notchback (and kammback) Vega also had a higher roofline than the Vega hatch, and I never felt cramped in either (my brother had a kammback).
I never felt the Beetle was bad in crosswinds, but I also ran radials (I’m old enough to remember – and shudder! – bias-ply tires) and wasn’t driving in areas with super-high winds.
Another Beetle appeal was its customizable chassis. Although many have been horribly mangled eyesores, a good one was a 1940 Ford-style hood which greatly improved useful volume up front.
The styling departments wanted to carry over big-car proportions and Marketing agreed. That dictated the long hood/short deck look that ruined Detroit’s space utilization after the original Mustang, and *low* overall height.
The Vega notchback and wagon and Pinto wagon were 52″ OAH, the Vega hatch and Pinto fastbacks an even 50″, just over four feet. I’m 95% sure that makes the trunked Pinto the lowest car ever marketed as a “sedan”.
The Beetle was only low for the ’30s car it was, 61″ OAH, just over 5 feet, although the step-in height isn’t what it would be in a modern car that tall since the heavily domed roof means the upper edge of the door openings are several inches lower.
The Brougham upon which all other Broughams will be measured.
That plushed-out velour interior is indeed a glorious sight.
I think part of the reason GM didn’t downsize the full-size cars sooner was that its intermediates covered the market for buyers who wanted something easier to park and drive, but still roomy enough to carry a family.
By the late 1960s, Oldsmobile was already grooming the Cutlass Supreme series to fill the roll of a “smaller” (for Detroit) car that wasn’t obviously designed for cheapskates or people who couldn’t afford something bigger. A buyer who walked into an Oldsmobile showroom and balked at the size of the 1971 Delta 88 would probably be happy with a Cutlass Supreme.
With Cadillac Division, the path was trickier, because Cadillac’s image at this time was heavily tied in offering the biggest and most opulent American car. Offering a Cadillac that was the same size as a Chevrolet Malibu must have seemed fraught with risk, until the first fuel crunch essentially forced GM’s hand.
Indeed, the reason for the Seville’s top-of-the-line pricing and the rejection of reviving the “LaSalle” nameplate was they felt it would poison the car to be seen as a “junior Cadillac”.
I believe the car on the top photo is a 1975-76 due to the square headlights, I always thought the square headlights looked better on the 1974-76 Caddies than the rounded headlights
Right you are! Fixed now.
That Caddy cannot descend those hills without scrapping its butt, how do you like them apples? Watching it trying to ascend those hills would be quite the amusement.
These cars cause me to have sudden case of apathy, but hey, whatever blows your hair back. Not going to lie, but I sometimes look for cheap vehicle to beat the snot of for a few weeks or months of fun and these are still on my radar despite being antiques. If only I had the money. The Detroit Four (AMC still counted?) mostly screwed the pooch when it came to styling from about 1968 to the late 1970s maybe even early 1980s.
If I’m correct that picture is of Powell Street in San Francisco. I ran up that hill on a morning run while I was visiting a few summers ago. Quite a workout. I don’t think I’d want to try to drive an 233-inch Cadillac up it.
Ever do Lombard Street? Movie chase scenes on Russian Hill are unrealistic; you need •very• quick steering (maybe Citroën?) to get above parking-lot speeds.
SF hill intersections are a good test of one’s parking-brake/clutch skills.
Trivia: “Lombard” Street is a popular name, usually for the districts where Italian bankers were located. Bank of America was originally Bank of Italy in SF, founded by Amadeo Giannini to serve immigrants unable to get loans elsewhere.
In fairness to the Talisman, it was no longer than the Fleetwood Brougham of that time. Also, for a great portion of the Fleetwood’s existence, it was built on a longer wheelbase than the lesser Cadillacs (the 62 series, the De Villes, and the rear-wheel drive Eldorados). Unfortunately, the 1971-76 Cadillacs simply shared the same condition afflicting every other GM full- and mid-sized cars of that period: bloat. I will grant, though, that the Talisman interior was a ghastly parody of luxury, with all that fluffy carpeting and that sea of crushed velour. The Talisman went past “sumptuous” and all the way to “tacky.”
The interior fit in with the trends of the time, for better or worse. “Tacky” and “overdone” didn’t just apply domestic luxury car interiors from that era. Home décor and even a lot of the fashions from that era are also over-the-top.
And look what people were doing with their customs, especially vans.
This is true but I just discovered the Talisman a few months ago and I’m originally from the Detroit area. I’ve never seen nor heard of one. Those seats are absolutely atrocious and cheap looking. It literally looks like somebody cut up an old couch and stuffed it in there. What’s worse is those center consoles look like something a teenager would have made in shop class. If they were trimmed out differently maybe with even some fake wood or metal I might be able to fathom this disaster. This was tacky even for a pimp which is probably why I never saw one in Detroit.
I must say, with the full knowledge that I will incur the full wrath from the anti-brougham brigade, the Talisman is my true definition of a Luxury interior. I would way rather be a passenger in that soft warm cushy back seat than in the same place on cold or hot and sticky MB-Tex jammed up against another back seat passenger… depending on the passenger. I just never found German car interiors of this period(or now) luxurious at all, even in Leather – which by the way, I do not consider a luxurious material. Leather looks better than velour, and it smells better than vinyl, that’s about it. Velour isn’t an interior material I’d want in a used car, but it’s a damn sight more comfy and supportive than any leather I’ve ever encountered new.
XR7Matt, my 1983 Peugeot 505 Grand Rallye had the most comfortable seats this side of a MK111 Jensen Interceptor.Superb comfort to recline and sleep on long journeys and they were woven wool,resisted stains and were remarkably warm.Ultimately I would like a car seat made of Alpaca wool,a fine fibre,lightweight,durable and with its cellular construction,retains heat.
I think that option, if offered, would be rather pricey. But I applaud your choice.
Although I like good leather seats quite a lot, I will agree with you on the velour. Before velour, luxury car cloth was more like the “panty cloth” or maybe some kind of woven brocade. The velour seemed quite luxurious, in an old-world kind of way, in the mid 70s and I remember it being hugely popular. The best velours had a kind of 1920s vibe to them, and best of all, they wore like iron (which distinguished them from most car cloth up to that time.) The dark colors and thick cloth could be kept good looking for years with a vacuum cleaner.
Good quality velour is very nice. In Europe (not England), velour was the standard high-end upholstery in luxury cars, not leather. That’s a fairly recent phenomena in Germany and such.
It’s a matter of taste, but the extremely poofy, ultra-soft, deeply-tufted style of the Talisman and some other broughams is just not my style, and that look was rather ruined by all the cheaply-done conversion vans that took that look and ran with it. And with cheap velour, too. Yuck.
I look at that Talisman interior, and all I see is a sedan-version of a conversion van, especially the rather cheaply-done fixed arm rests.
The Fleetwood Talisman – by Starcraft. 🙂 I will never again think of one of these without associating it with Elkhart, Indiana.
In Japan, the high-end luxury upholstery is also velour, rather than leather, too. The Toyota Century, which is the ride of choice for top corporate executives and high government ministers, is fitted with such fabric seats.
I fully agree with you Matt, the interior of a MB of that era seems cheap and spartan while this interior screams luxury.
Tastefully tacky or tastelessly tacky,it all depends on how you look at it. Being over the top is what the Talisman was all about,and Cadillac knew it.
The Talisman (especially the earlier ones that only sat four) are Brougham to the max, as in the, cushy “‘only four in a huge sedan because eff you I’m rich…’Murica” sort of way. I’d absolutely love to have one, you cannot help but be noticed in such a divine conveyance.
If you are the “anti-Brougham” type, you just won’t get it. 😉
Were sales of the Fleetwood Sixty Special bad? I remember having a dog-eared copy of a 1974 Consumer Reports car guide which mentioned that for many large, wealthy families it was becoming a popular vehicle of choice.
In it’s defense I doubt many sixty specials utilized the extra two seats much in reality either. Another potential efficiency factor.
I’m somewhat surprised they never offered an Eldorado Talisman. One thinks they would have sold a few!
And while it is indeed too big for its own good, that ’74 does look good in black!
Jack Baruth did a great write up on one of these a while back: http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/07/review-1976-cadillac-fleetwood-sixty-special-talisman/
Fleetwood America is obviously a step up from Fleetwood England.Not really my cup of tea, way to big and thirsty for me,I still like to read about cars like this though
That black one is an appealing car.Although that blue velour,a sea of velour,makes me wonder what the owners living/lounge rooms looked like.The dashboard is atrocious especially with gear/transmission lever looking like it was made out back in the blacksmiths/ironmongers shop.Regardless of all that,they are machines which never fail to excite interest.
Gerardo, I’m right there with you. I’ve never found velour appealing in any way, let alone as a “luxury” seating surface.
I have many memories of riding in the back of my grandfather’s Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight, encompassed in whorehouse red velour and non-tinted rear windows that only rolled halfway down. My Nana was always concerned with me being cold, so she used to dress me in turtlenecks and never used the A/C unless it was summer. The retina-searing velour didn’t help to make things any cooler.
I have vivid memories about grandparents’ worries about the little child being too cold any time even if it’s a warm day only unless steamy hot.
I am going to be the counterculture on this one. Unlike some of the previous examples, I don’t think this really was “too big for America.” The Talisman package sold poorly, primarily because even Cadillac buyers were reluctant to limit seating to 4 people. But the rest of the line sold quite well. And it’s not as though Lincoln and Chrysler (and Olds and Buick) were smaller in any real way.
These high end cars suffered in the recession of 1974-75, but came roaring back in 1976. Lincoln, Chrysler, and even the Mercury Marquis sold quite well in 77-78 after GM had downsized. There was still a decent number of buyers who were not ready to accept the size compromise that GM offered. The older coastal cities with narrower streets may have been ready for smaller cars, but loads of folks in the midwest and south were good with these as long as fuel was priced within reason.
It is my opinion that the only reason we never got back to this size (or something near it) in the 90s is because of CAFE, which made cars like this impossible to build without paying huge guzzler taxes. So we got Navigators and Escalades instead, that weighed every bit as much as these (even if they were a little shorter).
To add, Cadillac did have some sales records in late 70’s, so much so that they became too ‘common’.
I would agree that the 71-76 cars were ‘too big’, but in 1968, when being designed, Mr and Mrs Conservative or “Roger Sterling” were demanding ‘big cars’. At same time, it is amazing GM did downsize for ’77, too.
To quote my uncle who traded his top of the line Cadillac every two years, and who’s wife worked at the Cadillac-Old-GMC franchise. “I’ll buy a Lincoln before I buy one of those sawed off excuses for a Cadillac they are trying to pedal now”. He did buy a 1976 even though he had a 1975 when he found out they were downsizing for 1977 and made good on his promise and bought a 1979 Lincoln. So while on the one hand the downsized B/C sold a lot of cars for GM they also sold a lot of people on moving to a non-GM brand.
Yes, GM’s downsizing even allowed Chrysler to amortize their 1974 introduced full size cars.
Chrysler nearly went under in 1979 and needed Loan Guarantees. The failed sales of Plymouth and Dodge big cars was one of the main money drains for Mopar in the 70’s. Maybe they sold a few more New Yorkers, but the meant for high volume Gran Fury and Royal Monaco died off.
GM’s downsizing may have turned off a few ‘purist’ buyers, but they certainly sold a lot of new B and C bodies. And didn’t need to hire Lee Iacocca. The sales #’s for GM 77-79 show this, as posted in other CC’s.
Only after Roger Smit took over, then…
Yes, John Chancellor kept me abreast of this Nightly.
What I’m referring to is the surprising success of the 1976 – 1978 Chrysler New Yorker Brougham. A few tweaks of the Chrysler full size line-up along with some serendipity courtesy of the GM downsizing gave Chrysler a high margin car that sold in relatively good numbers for a Chrysler. 1977 may have been the best selling New Yorker ever. Margins on the New Yorker, Cordoba and even the Newport and LeBaron helped keep the lights on at Chrysler during 1976 – 1978.
You are the consummate gentleman.
I want to be on record saying I am annoyed by the title of these posts. The “Too big even for America…” series is nauseating to me. I don’t even drive a big vehicle. I drive a base Honda Civic stickshift 4door.
“They’d rather stuff themselves into a VW than a big American tank….”
Now, those same Boomers are buying up SUV’s by the boatload, literally. Also, these same buyers demanded bigger Accords, Carmys, Civics, etc. So, to say that Boomers completely rejected ‘big vehicles’ didn’t stay true in long run.
VW even touted the ‘bigness’ of the Pheaton when they tried to sell it here. That may be another subject of “Too Big for…”
Those seats actually made me laugh out loud.
I remember friends of my parents buying a brand new 1974 Fleetwood Brougham Talisman. Ed and Lorraine lived in the same new condominium building as my parents and they had paid a substantial extra amount for a private two-car garage (rather than the community underground parking). Imagine their dismay when they discovered that their Cadillac wouldn’t fit in the garage – even with the front bumper guards touching the rear wall, the electric garage door would bang down at the rear of the trunk lid. Since owning the garage precluded Ed and Lorraine from having a slot in the underground parking, the Fleetwood ended up having to sit outside in the main lot exposed to the elements. A year later, the Fleetwood was swapped for a much shorter Seville.
If that blue velour four place interior looks like a torture chamber, then chain me in! I believe that former president Richard Nixon had one. He wouldn`t exactly drive a Volvo,would he?
so the general attitude is that American big cars are too big and hence undesirable… but the historical lead-in states cars get bigger when times are good, and shrink when times are bad. isn’t good better than bad? amusing to consider…personally I feel the direction cars have taken is a giant shaft job. imagine real V8, rear drive, body on frame cars with fuel injection and modern rust protection qualities. it’s what we could have had instead of the universal minisedan we are heading for.
We have those. They’re called pickup trucks. And you can get them as luxurious or as basic as you want.
Yes, but they are under threat as well and will get progressively more expensive as government mandates force sales to be reduced.
EISA signed 12-19-2007 setting CAFE at 35 MPG by 2020. Already, GM’s 6.2 liter gas V-8 is largely the province of the Cadillac Escalade which starts at an eye watering $72,970.
For 2015 Ford cut the 5.4 out of the Expedition and the Navigator.
Fusion, Malibu, have lost their V-6 engines.
It is possible to carry this on for quite some time.
Until recently, your Ford/Lincoln/Mercury dealer had them.
Grand Marquis, anyone?
Mercedes ALWAYS had them … S-Class, anyone?
No? What about another, big, RWD sedan that’s been around almost as long… The BMW 7 series.
If you gents are talking American… The Dodge Charger and Chrysler 300, are the last homage to the big RWD sedans, of yore. They’ve haven’t wussed out, and lost power. They’ve gained.
That’s why I bought a 300. I parked next to an 80s Fleetwood today and it wasn’t a whole lot shorter.
But…lots of people seem to want SUVs or trucks rather than big sedans. I see other 300s and Chargers around, Tauruses and a few Impalas plus a very few XTS’s and MKS’s but by and large its big SUVs and trucks.
I really don’t think “bigger is better” ever went away, it just went for height on truck based wagons instead of classy sedans. I see plenty of stupidly big Escalade ESVs and Infiniti QX80s and Lexus LXs driving around. Mostly with single occupants (or two people and 1.5 kids) and nary so much as an trip down a gravel road to justify the 4wd.
Give me a sedan any day.
“They’d rather stuff themselves into a VW than a big American tank….”
The types of people that could drop Cadillac money on a car would not be sniffing a vw dealership.
Maybe its because I am too young to have been a car buyer back then so I never experienced the marketing or maybe its just because I prefer my cars to have ac and be able to get out of their own way. The appeal of the beetle is completely lost on me. I had a roommate back in the day that had a bus. And while it was kinda cool in that “omg I could sleep in this thing!” sort of way I would never own one. All of 40hp a barely functional heater 60 mph top speed no AC crazy amounts of wind noise …meh
With beetles you get most of the negative aspects of riding a motorcycle without ANY of the positive (performance) ones. Something tell me if the average European had access to or at least rode around in a contemporary American car back then the VAST majority of them would have preferred rolling around in a yank tank or w/e.
That being said the Caddy is way too big and that is coming from a 37 year old guy that daily drives a 68 Electra “sport” coupe.
Europeans and everyone but Americans had stopped buying Beetles by the 70s there were so many other better choices around VW only really made beetles for the US market by then.
I’d have to disagree that they only really made them for the US market. They were produced until 1996 in Brazil albeit with a gap in there and in Mexico until 2003 despite the fact that the sedan was last available as a 1978 model year and the convertible lasted until the 1980 model year.
The Beetle sold quite well in Europe until 1974.
I owned a Beetle in America. I enjoyed some of its advantages but the disadvantages were just too much for me.
It is not a practical car for the heat of the summer nor for the cold of the winter. If you live someplace where the temp never strays outside the range of 35degrees F to 75degrees F and you do not have to worry about rust, and you do not drive more than 30 minutes at a time, then the VW might work for you.
Count me in with those who never understood the KdF-Wagen’s appeal, and not just because I grew up in Israel where the car’s origin was never forgotten (although it did notseriously hurt its sales). I never owned one but passed my driving test in a Super Beetle and covered some miles in customers’ cars; a standard, 50 hp Beetle is not a pleasent car to travel in. I can see the atraction of a heavily modified one as a “sort of” 911, but even then I would not want to have it forever – there are better options, if modified cars turn one on…
First time I drove a Beetle (a ’75 1200) I had to have one, and I’ve owned two – a ’66 model and a ’72 Marathon.
The appeal to me was that I had always considered Beetles (and 2CVs) as silly cars driven by posh girls studying at St Andrews, but when I drove it I thought “this is a proper machine”. It felt like the 1930s design it is, but still worked fairly well in modern traffic and just made me smile when I drove it.
In the 70s there must have been less of a performance difference between the bug and modern competition (in some areas).
The Super Beetle had a longer wheelbase (added in front) plus a modern front suspension, and a curved more slanted windshield that got replaced that flat plane a few inches from your face. I’m sure they did better in a forward crash (if still not too well) as well as riding a lot better.
It was criminal for VW to keep building original style Beetles in Mexico instead of the Super style in the extended production period. Saved a few pesos per copy I suppose. I wonder if they even had the post late-60’s rear suspension instead of the old swing axles.
I’d have to disagree, my Uncle, though not the one mentioned elsewhere in these comments had a Beetle as his “work car”, while his babies were his Cadillacs.
Yeah, but that’s not quite what he said.
Re “yank tank” vs “eurobox”, I suspect if you gave those Europeans a choice between the Caddy or a BMW or Jag a lot of them would still buy European, but obviously a significant proportion of people (especially those with no interest in cars or driving) are going to plump for luxury, size, and status.
I live in Scotland, and when my American wife sent me to the auctions to buy a family car, her instructions were “4 doors, not too big”. I asked for a definition and she said “no bigger than a Focus”. I had to pay more for a dubious Mazda 2 than the gleaming (and tempting) Peugeot 607 which had gone through the hall just before it.
There are many situations here where a big car is just a pain in the arse, especially if your driving abilities are less than stellar. I saw a Dodge Ram 1500 taking up 4 spaces at the supermarket yesterday, and there are plenty of country roads where the Ram driver would be in danger of losing his mirror to a rental campervan.
“Something tell me if the average European had access to or at least rode around in a contemporary American car back then the VAST majority of them would have preferred rolling around in a yank tank or w/e.”
This is a little off-topic but I suspect lingering trauma and social changes after WWII. I don’t think any reasonable person would accept the odd little toys so many of them drove.
I love this car! It is the ultimate pre downsized Cadillac. With only four seats this was like a giant plush El Dorado, a personal coupe really. Two couples going out on the town or out to the lakehouse. Plenty of room for golf clubs and luggage. Of course it sold poorly, as a model. It didn’t fit many demographics. Maybe a high buck real estate agent or land developer taking his clients out to look at a future purchase. Maybe these were an alternative to the 75 series for some rich people. This would be great to be chauffer driven. Who would know how rich you really were? Just another big ol’ black Caddie, a great way to fly under the radar! Clever two percenters! Seriously that ad with the copper colored 77 Cad sedan is the bomb. I had a 77 and I loved it. I think it is the perfect size for a true luxury, owner driven car.
Not sure about a Medici torture chamber – isn’t this more Spanish Inquisition?
“Cardinal Biggles – poke her withe soft cushions. Fetch… the comfy chair!”
That was a hoot! Remember that the Medicis were also bankers & businessmen. Tommaso Portinari was their branch manager in Bruges during the 1400s. After screwing up with several defaulted loans, esp. unsecured ones to the Duke of Burgundy (contrary to company policy of never lending to aristocrats), what happened to him? Was he tortured horribly? No, he was just fired.
Italian bankers like the Medicis invented double-entry bookkeeping. Their financial records are well-preserved.
Ah, a Cadillac Medici – now that WOULD be a top-end car. And they’ve already got the hood ornament designed, for the driver with plenty of cojones…
Lorenzo the Magnificent would be pleased. BTW I love that name, it just rolls off the tongue.
I’d drive something with a Papal crest as a hood ornament.
The Spanish Inquisition didn’t have a strippo Mini 850, let alone a Cadillac. They had to run for the bus to make it across town before the credits ended!
While overall I’d rather have a “standard” Flleetwood Brougham, I like this version BECAUSE it’s over the top. The anti-Bimmer!
As pointed out in a previous post, the gear shift lever looks like a blacksmith made it. GM shifters always were bent and twisted which nowadays may look odd but ergonomically they always felt much better than Ford and Chrysler. They just fit the way your hand would naturally move.
What the four passenger seating configuration of the ’74 Fleetwood Talisman was reprising was the ultimate interiors found in pre-WWII coachbuilt Classics, such as the Duesenberg J Arlington sedan by Rollston et al. Even the Cord 810 Beverly has the four armchair interior. Unhappily, the execution in velour and even the leather of the time detracted badly from what should have been the ultimate in luxury car interiors.
Edit: The Duesenberg J Arlington sedan by Rollston is better known as “The Twenty Grand”. It was their show car at the 1933-34 Century of Progress in Chicago.
As far as “Too Big of America”, the sales number show the contrary to that thesis. Cadillac sailed through the 1970’s nearly unscathed, adjusted the size of their cars to the changing times far better than Lincoln…….and Imperial just died from lack of corporate vision.
The Talisman is tacky in its execution but very much in tune with its times, appreciate it on that basis. Four-place ultra-luxury sedans are very much still with us. As observed by the late Ken Purdy of the Classic Era motorcars: “All that chassis and all that horsepower to carry two (four) people in utter glory” that concept never loses its appeal.
Even better, to carry just one person.
I have a theory that this generation of American cars was the point where exports fell off a cliff as they became too large to suit other markets, but I can’t think of how I might be able to investigate whether this is true or not.
Certainly in Australia the sale of full-size US cars (Canadian-sourced) through their local operation dealerships ceased by the early-70’s as local alternatives were made available, but sales had been dropping for some time. There were still some 3rd-party importers and some dealerships would do special orders, but the era was over.
That’s my theory too. Certainly when Uncle Ted sold his ’65 Chevy, he replaced it with a Falcon wagon.
That and cost too- American cars were hit by heavy import duty due to ongoing balance of payment issues, so we mostly got expensive stripper models. I think it just got too much trouble and expense to re engineer for RHD.
Plus from the late sixties the whole Vietnam debacle tended to make a lot of Australians think twice about buying American, particularly if your son or his friends were casualties .
Too big for America? Cadillac should have known better in the late ’60s?
These cars had some quality failings, and the Talisman was a bit tacky – as Geeber points out, in a tacky era.
But, for the record, this generation Cadillac set progressive sales records, interrupted by OPEC I, and made a comeback before making some adjustments. Lincoln went on to set sales records with similarly sized cars through 1979.
Too big for America? By and large, it seemed rather spot on as introduced fall 1970.
Having owned one of this car’s platform mates for several years, I can assure you they had their virtues.
“Too Big For The Author”
The Talisman wasn’t meant to sell in Costco volume. It was an option for Old Money in the 70s.
Maybe someone should explain how Latin American Ideals are too big for their own atrophied economies.
That kind of talk has no place on this website. You should know better.
If that’s the car that made Cadillac Number One, they did it with a number two.
I love the Talisman. It is the ultimate Brougham!!!
To give you an idea of how huge and inefficient this car is, these days you can get a Class C RV (ie a moving house) that sleeps six — and is only around 4-5′ longer. And gets the same or better mileage.
Still dig that interior though….
I doubt very much the RV can pull 13-15 mpg highway, which this can if in proper tune and not driving in the mountains.
not so — the newest class c’s based on the ram promaster with the v6 have been pulling 15-17. depends on weight of course.
just shows you how far engine tech has come.
Sorry, I don’t think these were too big for 1974 America, but rather too big for the contemporary concern about gas crises and some attendant anti-big car sentiment that made these “un PC” to have. And even so, Ford kept on making them for a few more years with no ill effect. People obviously liked and wanted cars this big. The downsized models were appealing to some who’d wanted more internationally sized cars, no doubt, but I’m sure they were also accepted as what was perceived as an impressive way to make the necessary compromises for a changing energy economy at the time. You can hit 20 mpg on the highway, and still get good legroom and torque. Buy this smaller car! Anyone in their right mind in ’79 would have said “sign me up!”.
Torture chamber? I have a ’75 98 Regency (I think something like 125K 98s sold for ’75), powered by an Olds 455 and only 1.3 in shorter than this car. I’ve driven some comfortable cars in my life: ’87 and ’93 Cadillac Broughams. A friend’s ’88 Mercedes wagon. This is by far the most comfortable long distance cruiser I’ve sat in, I had not experienced the magic of velour before: not only does it not really wear, but oh so comfortable. I hit between 12-15 mpg on my recent roadtrip, and the visibility in the car is phenomenal. I have parallel parked it in Manhattan, because with one finger power steering and a totally unobstructed view over the rear tailfins it’s not that hard. My local garage doesn’t even balk at the thing. I don’t think that people couldn’t or didn’t want these, but more, given a number of factors by ’77 felt they “shouldn’t”.
What replaced this, once gas returned to cheap prices, were the Yukon, Escalade, and Excursion. They were also not deemed too big by consumers as such, but rather by again increasing gas prices and a similar anti-big sentiment that had been directed at their predecessors in spirit. The people that slapped “ask me about my carbon footprint” stickers on unwitting Sequoias and Expeditions are the spiritual descendants of those who ridiculed these and, soon enough, claimed their downsized successors were also “too big”.
I remain of the opinion that the only “too big” car we’ve seen so far was that dumptruck yellow thingy from last time.
All Caddys were great until the Deville went Fwd in 86 and the other cool Caddys got downsized. That car probably didnt sell well because you could still buy a home for a little more.
The De Ville was downsized and switched to FWD(ugh), in 1985 not 1986.
Cadillac basically wrote their swan song by that idiotic move.
In image #13(brown Caddy), anyone notice the weird
‘V’-shaped B-pillar? Was that the only way to accommodate
the rolling down of windows in the doors in that model?
Ladies and Gentlemen: I have read all of your comments and for the record, the following is offered for your consideration: When GM decided to enlarge their new models for 1971 thru 76, they did so prior to the Arab Oil Embargo (Nixon was in the White House. What a guy he was.). Before the Oil Embargo, Cadillac had considered bringing out a V-12 engine and that very long hood and larger body was part of that thought pattern. You must remember that it took many years of planning to bring a vehicle to production before the computer age arrived. At that time, the Federals required lower emission standards and to get these lower emissions, they had to de-tune these engines with lower compression ratios. What that did was allow the car companies to pass these EPA standards, but when they lowered the compression ratios, the horse power ratings were very low and the performance went bye bye. That was then and all of the negative feed back from many of you is part of what is wrong and negative with our USA these days.When we let in the Foreign Auto Mfgs., in hind-sight, we should have said: You are welcome to come in to our country, but this is a UNION Country and you will have to have unions and pay real wages, as the UAW Union received for all of these workers. All of you must understand that in the 1950 and 60, if a person was working at a good paying Union job in America, they could make enough $$ to have their wife stay home and take care of the kids and the Dad could buy a little house and have a nice life for their family. Today, it is Japanese cars and German Cars with American Flags Flying from their windows and bumpers and all of the really good paying jobs were eaten up by the Pacific Rim Foreigners and Multi-national corporations. Who is to blame? We all are. The real answer is that our Government really dropped the ball and continues to do so with the people in Washington that cannot get good legislation passed to help our country.
My point is that there is enough Blame and Mistakes that were made in the past by GM, Ford and Chrysler and others because they thought that nothing could touch them. We know now that this is not the case in 2016.
As for the 1974 Cadillac Talisman Fleetwood, I own one with 48,000 miles on it that I bought from the original family that bought the car in Cleveland Ohio from Central Cadillac. Although the car is underpowered like all of the mid-70s cars were, it is a great part of American Car History. As a “Car-Guy”, I am saddened when I read all of the negative stuff coming from many people about how bad and big and awful these cars are or were. All of you must remember that the when we speak about the 1970s for example, those times were not one of American’s Shining Moments in History. It was a very interesting time period to say the least. The Vietnam War was winding down and it was a time when many Corporations were considering moving off-shore to maximize their profits on the backs of the American Workers. The 1974 Cadillac Talisman is a symbol of this time in our history and it should be treasured and kept alive by people that want to restore and/or preserve these objects of that time. Let us all be Americans and look at these cars as icons of days gone bye when people wore Bell Bottoms, had long hair, Big Mutton Chop Side Burns and drove Big GM, Ford & Chryslers.
I like those land barges from the ’60s and ’70s. I owned one at a time. A ’67 Lincoln Continental with the suicide doors. I enjoyed driving it. I’d float along the open roads of rural Georgia where there are very few traffic lights in the Linc and have a swell time doing it. My regret at the time was not having more places to go with it. The more I drove it the better it operated.
I was never ashamed of owning a land yacht. And I wouldn’t be now if I had another. Big, gleaming gas-gulping beasties demand one’s attention. Critics of ’60s and ’70s land barges don’t have to drive them . . . so why should anyone care what they think? If you want a land yacht — get a land yacht! 😀
I don’t believe there’s any such thing as a car that’s ‘Too big for America’. Rubbish.
Conspicuous consumption is the Duhmerican Way!
I feel conspicuously consumptive today!
Except . . . I no longer have the ’67 Linc and the car I had before buying the Lincoln is the one I still have after it was sold and it’s conspicuously non-consumptive. No radio, no A/C, no shoulder belts, no hazard flashers, no padded dashboard, no clock, no turn signal arrows, automatic nothing — save for the 2-speed auto transmission.
Could bare-bones motoring also be The Duhmerican Way?
No, that was to distinguish it from the Sedan de Ville, whose B pillar had parallel sides and had no vinyl covering. The de Ville’s roof gutter was also continuous front to back instead of going around each door frame. The Fleetwood lost its special, longer wheelbase again in ’77.
Well the execution of it, at least, looks awful! It looks ‘cobbled’ together, like a Fleetwood was chopped n shortened ‘neath a tree with a tahr swang outsahd a Little Rawk 🤣🤣
I had a ’74 Talisman, I bought it in 1981 with 52,000 miles for $2,800. Gorgeous car, I absolutely loved it. I sold it in 1985 for $4,300 and have regretted it ever since. I’ve only seen 4 Talismans in the flesh, including mine and they were all ’74’s.
I bought a high-mileage base ’74 Fleetwood in ’81 when I was 20 for $1500. It needed some help and became unreliable in ’83, but it was great when running well. Butt sweat put me off leather seats until I got a ’04 Deville with cooled seats. I looked at a Talisman when shopping, but it had a faded black interior.
Gee, I don’t know if I’d call that Talisman interior a “torture chamber”.
I guess that interior is trying to recapture the opulence of the coachbuilt classics of the twenties and thirties. It certainly looks nice, much nicer than lesser interior treatments on offer, for sure – but I can’t get my head around a car of that huge bulk only seating four.
Sounds like buyers couldn’t, either.
Certainly the wrong car at the wrong time – but was there ever a right time for this?
Again, it’s the excess that makes this car un appealing. The prior post with the ’56 Buick Roadmaster, shows what a big car should be. Relatively demure, with lots of room, power, and flexibility. I had a ’56 Cadillac which I loved, but the Buick shows just enough restraint to pay a compliment to the owner.
I think the velour looks wonderful
Each to their own: the 1971 Talisman is in my view an appealing if specialised vehicle with a lot of charm. It´s not subtle -nothing with that much velour can be – but if I could afford one, I´d have one line a shot.
Turning the 80s deVille coupés. These are underrated. I´ve seen them in the metal (Germany mostly) and they seem quite happy in the city centre. The 88 mph maximum speed seems less relevant. I quite like these as well though you have to wonder what GM did with all the power from the V8. Did it really take 4-plus litres to drag that body around? Stil, it´s another likeable car of a type that doesn´t exist any more. I´d take one of these too, please.
I’d rather have the standard bordello interior in the ’75 Fleetwood. Also available in eye-popping red/yellow.