Car Show Classic: 1970 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham – The Last True Cadillac?

1970 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham Front View

The story of the fall of Cadillac from the Standard of the World to a slightly fancier Chevrolet is one of the defining arcs of 20th-century automotive history. As such, It has proven to be one of the favorite topics of Curbside Classic contributors and commenters alike over the years.

One of the enduring appeals of this tale is that it is impossible to pinpoint when the last “True Cadillac” was: The thousand cuts that slowly boiled the frog of Cadillac spanned decades, giving critics (and writers) countless toeholds to argue when precisely Cadillac jumped the shark. But ultimately this exercise is like trying to argue where exactly red turns to orange on a rainbow.

Still, I’m going to enter these muddy waters and lay down a marker using my own personal (and highly subjective) criteria – To me, the last true Cadillac would be the last year of Cadillac I personally find desirable and would be interested in owning. For me, that year would be 1970, the final year of the 1965-1970 generation. That would also be the model year of this Fleetwood Brougham I found at a car show this past summer. It was parked about 50 feet away from the 1970 Imperial that I wrote up a few days ago, and makes for an interesting contrast.


1961 Lincoln Continental

Thanks to the groundbreaking 1961 Lincoln Continental, luxury cars for much of the 1960s sported clean, crisp lines that belied their growing dimensions: Picture Lebron James wearing a well-tailored suit. The first break in the dam came from Lincoln (ironically the company that had started the styling revolution in 1961) in 1968 with the 1969 Continental Mark III.

By 1970, Lincoln (and to a lesser extent Imperial) were both going for baroque. However, we can still feel the last remaining vestiges of influence of the 1961 Continental in the sharp, creased lines and bladed fenders (both front and rear) of the featured 1970 Fleetwood. Yes, it was a large car (especially in Fleetwood form as shown here), but a finely tailored suit can visually slim down even the largest man.


1972 Cadillac Coupe deVille

As we all now know, many of these creases (especially on the front) would be sanded down on the rounded, more bloated 1971 Cadillac lineup. Gone were the chiseled lines and bladed front fenders of the 1970 model. In its place were bulbous curves which only served to emphasize the car’s girth. The finely tailored suit had given way to sweatpants.

But we’ve come here to praise the 1970 Cadillac, not to bury its successor.


First, a quick refresher to understand the Fleetwood Brougham’s place in the 1970 Cadillac Lineup, as the naming can be a bit confusing. The Fleetwood Brougham (and the virtually identical Series 60 Special) gave you an extra 3” or so of both length and wheelbase over the DeVille and Calais, all of it going to the back seat area. You also got a more formal roofline to ease entry and exit through those longer rear doors.


1970 Cadillac Fleetwood 75

1970 Cadillac Fleetwood 75

Don’t confuse this Fleetwood Brougham with the similarly named Fleetwood 75: The Series 75 was the factory limousine, stretching out at a garage-busting 245.5” and riding on a massive 149.8” wheelbase. With a length of 228.5” and a wheelbase of 133”, the Fleetwood Brougham was still massive, but it could still plausibly be owner-driven, unlike the Fleetwood 75.

Yes, by 1970 plastics were already starting to creep into Cadillac’s interiors, but much of this was dictated as much by crash safety regulations as by cost-cutting. But in 1970, the worst of GM’s tupperware interiors were still comfortably far in the future. The condition of this example (inside and out) belies the indicated 71,760 miles, testifying to the overall quality that GM was still imbuing Cadillac with while cementing my claim to 1970 being the last true Cadillac.


Even by today’s standards, the back seat of this Fleetwood Brougham is a genuinely magnificent place to be. Compare this with the back seat of the 1970 Imperial LeBaron I wrote about a few days ago. While I didn’t check the body data plate, the interior fabric appears to be Medium Gold Dunbarton Cloth and Leather, a very 1970 color. The trademark Fleetwood fold-down carpeted rear footrests are of course present and accounted for.


1970 Cadillac Sedan deVille – Other than the roof line, can you spot the difference?

Those three extra inches of rear legroom in the Fleetwood Brougham came at a steep price, especially considering that except for a few badges, the Fleetwood was minimally differentiated from the rest of the Cadillac lineup.


While a 1970 Sedan deVille started out at $6,118 (about $50,000 in 2023), the Fleetwood Brougham 4-door sedan began at $7,284 ($59,000 adj.), an almost 20% premium over the SdV. By the time you threw in “options that should have been standard” like A/C, power seat, power door locks, tinted glass, and even an AM/FM radio,  you were realistically looking at over $8,000 ($65,000 adj.). Despite that hefty premium, 16,913 Fleetwood Broughams (plus 1,738 Sixty Specials) found buyers in 1970, which I remind you was still 50% more than the total sales of the entire Imperial brand that year.


One of my gripes with the 1970 Imperial was its generic, uninspired back end. No such problem with Cadillac that year: There is an exactly 0% chance of mistaking the rear end of this Cadillac for anything but a Cadillac. Yes, the fender blades are fussy, but in 1970 they hadn’t quite become kitsch yet, although they would be soon.

Related Reading

Tom Klockau concurs that 1970 is the last true Cadillac

Jim Klein also has a soft spot for 1970 Cadillacs

Paul’s take on the 1971 Cadillac