Less than one week ago as of today, I returned from my annual Las Vegas trip with close, long-time friends. I was on my final full day there last Monday when my most recent essay for Curbside Classic hit the interwebs. Normally, I’m a bit more interactive than I was last week when it comes to responding to comments and feedback (which is a large part of my enjoyment of participation with the CC community), but time was “a-wastin'”, as they say, and Monday has traditionally been my day to branch off from the group with my camera and see what I could see. It was worth it.
It has been said that one can’t win if one doesn’t play, but in years past, I have had a tendency to be up a few bucks from my allotted gambling allowance, get cocky, and then (quite literally) go for broke. This year I didn’t do that, choosing instead to focus more on the social aspects of this trip. Regardless of all of that, I had felt I hit the jackpot when I stumbled (not literally, friends) upon this fine specimen of Cadillac’s second-most-expensive, non-limousine offering for 1978: the Fleetwood Brougham. I thought that gold was a very fitting color for a car like this in Las Vegas, as it made me think of the fortunes that people had both gained and lost there in Clark County. Also, I’m not sure where my cultural association came from, but I’ve often associated gold with excess. For example, I own no gold-toned jewelry, though it looks good on many folks.
I found it interesting to discover that the “downmarket” (how can any pre-1982 Cadillac really be “downmarket“?) 1977 – ’79 DeVille and Fleetwood Brougham shared the same 121.5″ wheelbase. This is unlike the previous generation, where the outgoing ’76 Fleetwood Brougham had a 3″ wheelbase stretch over the 130”-wheelbase DeVille. At a base price of $12,842 (over $50,000 in 2019), only the Seville had a (10%) more expensive starting price than the Fleetwood Brougham. Cadillac also sold a ton of the latter that year, registering sales of 36,800 – which is within roughly 8% of the 33,800 U.S. sales of the 2018 Escalade. What Cadillac may have slightly lost in prestige when the downsized ’77s made their debut, it certainly turned into sales gold with continued popularity of its full-sized cars.
This year, I had again abandoned any fantasies of striking it rich (woo-hoo.) in Las Vegas so I can pursue other interests, but there’s always next year. As twenty-year-plus veteran of the insurance industry, I think I’m pretty darned good at assessing risk and “rolling the dice” for the right opportunities, so to speak. Having just done the Slotzilla zipline over the Fremont Street Experience downtown for the first time (something I never would have done if not for the adrenaline of arriving), I just may not be as risk averse the next time. As for you, Fleetwood Brougham, you just keep on maintaining that dignity and shine on like a gold nugget.
Downtown Las Vegas, Nevada.
Monday, September 9, 2019.
A very nice specimen, indeed. I bought a new 1978 Sedan De Ville, and was pleased that it had been upgraded to almost Fleetwood Brougham specs on the exterior. Instead of the 1977’s non-padded rubbery-looking vinyl top with large rear window, the ’78 had a padded elk-grain vinyl top with recessed smaller backlight opening, identical to that on the Brougham. Even the Fleetwood 75 shared that rear window in 1978. In 1979, Cadillac corrected that slight on the Brougham and 75 by reducing the size of their backlights even further. I loved the car, and although it shared a lot of the greenhouse with a Chevy Impala (windshield, front door windows and B-pillars), it was an elegant machine worthy of the Cadillac name. One feature it retained that is lost today was the prow-like front bumper. To me, that was the essence of a Cadillac as it approached you on the road.
An aunt and uncle bought a new 78 Sedan DeVille. And I worked at a place that had a 77 Fleetwood that I got to drive occasionally – so I was familiar with both.
There were so many little changes from the 77 to the 78 that made the car so much nicer. The window and vinyl roof that you mention, plus the changes to the back bumper/taillights and even the wheel covers that got rid of the cheap looking black centers.
Fred, I agree that the prow-like front was definitely a distinctive, attractive, and easily recognizable styling feature of Cadillacs.
Based upon your career, Craps seems the best choice, best odds in Vegas.
Dave, what’s funny about this was that some of my friends love Craps. I was watching the Craps table to try to get a handle on what was going on. Fascinating game.
Craps IS the best game and the best part is that you always get very lucky the first and only the first time you play it. So Joseph, you need to play it just once and you will do very well and then never, ever return to the table.
Solid advice, Jim! Thanks, and I’ll remember this for next year.
It’s good to see a visitor’s perspective. One reason my writing has tailed off here is because I’ve stopped “seeing” cars like this. Not that they don’t exist, but seeing cars from this era is so commonplace that I’ve stopped noticing them.
Evan, I thought of you while I was there – and I also appreciate that you had put it out there that you would offer suggestions of places to try. I can imagine that living in Las Vegas would anesthetize even me to some of the interesting car spottings, as I saw quite a few in the three / four cumulative days I was there.
Would be great to read a new post from you.
I seem to remember one way to differentiate the Fleetwood from the DeVille was by the unique B-pillar…It is V-shaped flaring a bit at the top
It does seem like a seemingly expensive engineering feat to differentiate two very similar-looking models.
That looks a lot like the last car Ray Liotta drove before he was arrested in Goodfellas.
Now I have to research that car / movie on IMDB! I’m very curious if perhaps that was the connection as to why this car was parked there.
Las Vegas is the county seat of Clark County, Nevada. Henderson is a city in Clark County.
Yes, true. Clark county is a very large county, slightly smaller than the entire state of New Jersey. Although by Nevada standards, it’s not very large at all.
The largest county is Nye County, which is adjacent to Clark County. At 18,147 square miles, it’s 50% larger than the state of Maryland.
Wow… and Maryland has 23 counties. 24 if you include Baltimore City. 25 if you include the half diamond shaped notch cut out of our state that is better known as Washington D.C. We tossed that one out long ago. ;o)
Right you are – fixed, thanks.
The setting is appropriate for what became of Cadillac in the 1980s… a vacant storefront that looks nice and glitzy from a block away, but one only realizes upon getting closer that there’s just emptiness behind the veil.
Also, and I never thought I’d say this, the Vogue gold-stripe tires look good on this car.
Always enjoy learning of your Las Vegas adventure(s) Joseph. You must really look forward every year, as much for bonding again with your friends, as the excitement of the trip. Thanks for sharing!
These pics are awesome. The 60s/70s facade on the parking garages are a very nice backdrop. I was a big Cadillac fan in the late 70s, though I wasn’t yet old enough to drive. Between the first gen Seville, the downsized DeVille, Fleetwood, and Eldorado, this was peak Cadillac for me.
Daniel, thank you so much. Yes, this trip was very much about the bonding experience for me – even moreso than in prior years. It’s hard to believe at this writing that just one week ago, tonight, it would have been this year’s trip’s last night there.
I do agree that the early downsized Cadillacs really had presence and were quite attractive. The Coupe DeVilles shared the same wheelbase as the sedans, and I still think those are fantastic-looking cars of the era. Especially in that buttercup yellow.
Nice car from IMO the last great generation of Cadillac’s when it comes to power, style and durability, I always preferred the 1978-79 downsized Cadillac’s over the 1977’s because of the taillights looked better.
Darian, I agree that the 1978 / ’79 taillamps were a definite upgrade, though I don’t find the ’77 taillights objectionable.
My boss had a ’79 Sedan deville I drove frequently ’83-’87. Black with camel leather and Astro roof. It was sharp, ran great and had plenty of torque off the line. I’ve liked these ever since
I had one – the fuel consumption of a Seventies American car didn’t combine well with UK petrol prices in the 21st century
See, that’s a beautiful car!
I had a ‘77 Impala when it was new. Loved it. I have a ‘78 coupe deVille delegance now. Owned it for 12 years 425 is one of the best engines Cadillac ever built. . Not my daily driver, but runs well people love it. seats are couch like. It’s loaded and everything works. Same gas mileage as a new big suv ….terrable !
Joe, as always, a great find beautifully photographed! I’m glad you enjoyed your latest Vegas trip, and happy you were able to do some car spotting. I really love these old Cadillacs from the early downsized era. They still had impressive presence, coupled with a legitimate Cadillac engine that could properly propel the car. In so many ways, these were the last gasp for an American icon, when you could just overlook some of the cut corners and simply admire its glitzy gravitas in a more rational size–from back in the day when people still viewed GM as a leader and Cadillac as the King of the Hill.
GN, thank you so much. I had searched for your article on these to link to this post, and for some reason, I couldn’t find it. I agree with your take on these, as well. Well-articulated!
In the past I have owned a 1981 Fleetwood Brougham de Elegance with the much hated 4-6-8 engine. Never had any problems with it. Followed up with a 1974 Fleetwood and then a 1985 Fleetwood with the 4.1 V-8. Now that one was slow after I was spoiled with 472 cubic inches. My Dad had a 1974 Eldorado and a 1976 Seville before he switched camps for Lincolns.
An aunt and uncle bought a new 78 that was an excellent car for them. My uncle died young and Aunt Norma kept the Caddy for years, even after supplementing it with a new Cutlass Ciera (Brougham, I think) as a regular errand-runner.
I did not know that she was thinking of getting rid of it. She was obsessive about the way she cared for things and it would have made a great car, even at probably 15+ years old. But I had never mentioned an interest in it (I never thought she would let go of it, honestly) and I didn’t find out that she had sold it until after the fact.
I have owned a later one with the 307 and don’t really need to go there again. But one of these with the 425 and the old-school 3 speed THM400 is something I would go for. I would prefer to avoid the gold, but then I don’t live in Vegas. 🙂
JP, that really seems a shame that you weren’t able to buy your aunt’s and uncle’s Caddy. That’s just sometimes how things go. You would have had no reason to ask about it until it was already gone.
These were some of the nicest Cadillacs since the 1950’s. The styling was dignified, impressive, and restrained. The 425 V8 provided plenty of performance. After 1980, Cadillacs were saddled with anemic engines until the NorthStar. It provided outstanding performance though it did experience some teething pains. I had a ’77 Coupe De Ville and it was a pleasure to drive.
I currently own 3 Fleetwoods, one 79′ D’Elegance and two 78’s. My 78′ has the coveted astroroof, its huge glass area compared to the ones they put in cars today. The 78′ Fleetwoods have minor trim enhancements over the DeVille and do a great job making these cars look more distinctive. Features of the 78 Fleetwoods like the overstuffed double-height padding of the seat bottom cushions. This was the last such a thickly padded seat would be offered. They are actually so thick that at times the door release will make contact with the seat bottoms! Also the extra thick padding used on the upper portion of the door panels with the ornate wood tone pull handle. This feature is unique to the Fleetwood and DeVille D’Elegance. Cadillac even made the extra effort to wet sand and polish the hoods of these cars to provide a flawless finish and high gloss.
What’s better that driving a Fleetwood and seeing all those reflections on that long hood! So many little distinctive details combined with a rock solid drive train and real ROAD PRESENCE made these very special, even when new, something that Cadillacs today have lost.
All that glitters is not gold
Platinum glitters more than gold
Meh. These downsized C-Bodies have ZERO personality.
Does anyone know the story behind the tapered B pillar on the 77-79 Fleetwood Broughams? Obviously, it served to differentiate the Broughams — just a little — from the Sedan de Villes, but it’s an odd looking feature, and was abandoned with the 1980 mild refresh of the body.
The Fleetwood B pillar, which brought the vinyl roof covering down between the door windows, was meant to evoke the B pillar of the 1938 Sixty Special, the first year for that model. A similar B pillar was found on the 1942 Sixty Special, which was a re-body of the 1940-1941 Series 62 Torpedo body. If the downsized Fleetwood had had a longer wheelbase than the Sedan de Ville, with a concomitantly longer rear door window, it would have made more sense, in my opinion. Although the V-d B pillar was unique to the Fleetwood, it served to visually shorten the greenhouse, which is the inverse of what was most likely intended.
Fred, thank you so much for this. Not having known any of this history, I like the v’d B-pillar and would have assumed it was there to give the Fleetwood’s greenhouse more of a “limousine” appearance.
I’ve always thought the wedge-shaped B pillar was just weird.
My first car at 18 was a 1978 black coupe DeVille, got it in 1988, had it for 6 years, then in 93 when I was 23 bought a 77 Napoleon yellow sedan DeVille with matching leather, great casts!!!
I have chance to purchase ,a 1978 gold on gold cadillac Fleetwood , great condition I have no idea what to offer my client , I have a limo business in the west valley of phoenix Arizona, I’ve known the seller for 10 years , it belonged to her father, he bought it new , it’s been garaged here in arizona for it’s live , she drives it once a month the condition is Amazing in side and out , can you please give me a ball park cash offer price thanks Woody ,, ontimeaz.com