When inspiration hits, one better go with it. Having just wasted too much time figuring an angle for a base model Ford Probe, a car I am convinced ties somehow into the practice of social distancing, I opted to look at the Cohort.
VOILA! Screw that Probe, we are going Cadillac-ing. It feels like I’ve lately developed a weird preoccupation with GM’s premium brand and with Jerome Solberg having found the biggest, most delightfully obnoxious Coupe DeVille of them all, it was too good to pass up. The Coupe DeVille simply ties into too many experiences.
There is a lot that can be said about a two-door car having a 130 inch wheelbase and weighing just over 5,000 pounds. It has presence, many call it ponderous, it’s 8.2 liter engine has a burning passion for gasoline, and it was the first car of a high school classmate, Owen.
Owen was quite comfortable in his own skin, a trait sorely missing in many high-schoolers and even adults both then and now. While I didn’t know Owen overly well, I knew him well enough to know he didn’t like being constrained. A small car can do that to a person which is likely why Owen bought his pampered yet twelve or so year-old Coupe DeVille.
While it didn’t seem so at first, Owen was much shrewder than most gave him credit for; perhaps being underestimated is part of being shrewd. Owen knew his Cadillac was a binge drinker, so he sold rides to and from school making his Cadillac a quasi-taxi. He also provided an entertainment factor of sorts as he was a fearless and maniacal driver.
The last half of the route from my school to home was on two-lane Illinois Route 3, a road having an alignment that sucked so bad the entire road was relocated in the early 1990s. There was one section possessing a passing lane but it was up a short hill that briefly leveled off before going up a second hill and over the crest down a long hill. The sight distance was likely on the low end of acceptable but rational thought vetoed any entertainment of the idea to actually pass anyone.
That didn’t faze Owen. Many days driving home from school (I drove as much as I could for reasons outlined here) in my father’s 1984 Ford F-150, I’d see a familiar Coupe DeVille rapidly approaching from behind, laying low, crammed full of people, and blasting around me on that uphill section like I was sitting still.
Owen had long ago figured out to get around me or lose time. Why? That F-150 had a 300 straight-six, that crowning achievement of Ford’s light truck division, an engine that cranked out an astounding 117 ground-pounding horsepower from a mere 4.9 liters of displacement. It’s truly the eighth wonder of the world.
One day Owen’s timing was a little bit off. His approach was familiar, as he never even slowed before overtaking me. As he was committed to passing by being about a half-car length in front of me, an 18-wheeler popped over the hill, heading toward him. Space was getting precious with the 18-wheeler approaching at around 55 miles per hour. I stood on the brakes, lowering my velocity from my own 55 mph or so.
Owen acted like it was no big deal. He simply kept his foot plastered to the Cadillac’s firewall, the torque of the 500 cubic inch V8 thrusting it ever forward while the sound emanating from it’s long hood verified the secondaries on the Coupe DeVille’s four-barrel carburetor were helping pour the fuel to that cast-iron monster.
When Owen was two car lengths ahead of me, he veered back into his lane, narrowly missing a nasty catastrophe for the eight or so he had onboard.
As I attempted to regain some speed (remember, I’m driving uphill in an ’84 F-150 with a 300 six-cylinder, so “acceleration” is a blatant fabrication) I finally got to the top of the second hill. Owen was long gone.
People claim these Cadillacs were poor handlers. I would counter they don’t know how to drive like Owen did.
Seeing this old Coupe DeVille was a sight for sore eyes. May this one be driven much more gently than Owen’s was, but if it’s anything like his Coupe DeVille, if it were it would remain as unaffected as what Owen was while facing down an 80,000 pound truck.
Not many cars are that capable.
A reminder of how totally free of anything resembling “styling” these things had. A semi-glassed turret on top of a brick.
You are blind, these cars were the definition of STYLE not like today’s all look alike ugly jellybeans.
very smooth ride.
best A/C of all times.
largest V8 of all times.
best V8 sound of all times.
Eventually hot rod guys who liked to do “junkyard” projects would start to seek out these giant Cadillac engines because they realized that the engines had potential with the advances made between the 70s and the 90s (and beyond.)
Cadillacs of that time had the presence ,and power that they lack today.
Distinguished, modern, yet classic.
They had sweep and style.
They led the Industry, and where the choice of professionals, sports figures, stars .
+1, Schurkey. They may have looked okay in ’71, but successive facelifts, buttlifts, and other stylistic fiddles did these no favours at all. They got progressively more gauche and crass in appearance.
Are you looking at the Cadillac? Or a Volkswagen Jetta
I am 180 degrees from Schurkey – I don’t think anyone did a better looking big 2 door during the “opera window era” than Cadillac from 1974-76. Not that Lincoln or Chrysler made an ugly one, but there is a certain sleekness to these that is missing on those others.
I had some wheel time in a 76 Fleetwood Brougham and that was a good handling car for its size, much better than a comparable Lincoln. A Chrysler may have been up there with it, but was nowhere near as isolated and quiet. These were nice driving cars if you could get past the slightly juddery structure.
My mother dated a guy for awhile in the 70s who owned a paint and drywall business. He had always wanted a Cadillac and finally bought a new rust-colored 74 with a white vinyl roof. The next year he was at the dealer for some service and fell in love with a baby blue 75 with a white top, and traded his 74 for it. He was a little sheepish about the extravagance, but really loved that baby blue Coupe deVille.
And I am going to vote 1976 for two reasons. I think that the 75 lacked the “chrome” trim around the taillight openings and I also think that this color is Amberlight Firemist, which was a 76-78 color.
Dean Edwards will surely be the guy to let us know for certain.
I do believe that you’re on point with the year and the colour (unless it is a re-paint). I was going to call it Covid Orange, but will probably get into trouble for that guess!
’75’s had V and crest on the hood, ’76 was hood ornament, this looks like ’76 grille and wheel covers, has had chrome added above the grille, I had ’75 maroon w/white top/int, two ’76’s, both triple white, 1 w/spoke caps 1 w/painted w/c’s, also had a dozen ’74-’75 Imperial’s and ’76-’77-’78 New Yorker Brougham’s Both makes were silent inside, materials comparable, Mopars had the edge in handling, although with proper tire pressure the Cad’s were capable, but more bounding on uneven roads. seat’s in Mopar’s better, have a bad back, could cover more distance. My white ’74 Imperial coupe was the two door hardtop (not opera wind) with 4 windows, this beautiful coupe looked as good as the CdV to me. When the Cad’s were cheap, unfortunately, many were destroyed in ‘CHIP’S’ episode’s. Had one in college, 40 miles away, had friends chip in gas. Also a two lane road with fun passing.
The 76’s had the two horizontal lines running the length of the turn signal/side marker lamps that the 75’s did not.
The ‘76 also had wider egg crate grille openings
I’ve always been challenged by the “opera window era” GM B-C range coupes.
The calculus at GM seemed to be that the ’73 A range Colonnade coupes were a hit, so that could be expanded upon in the B-C cars to:
*Update on the cheap what would be at that time a very long running basic body.
*Rationalize GM styling across body ranges to maintain a continuity.
*Take cost advantage from dropping working rear window mechanisms.
The look worked on the A cars as it was baked into the basic design, and not tacked onto true hardtop greenhouses with styling that dated to some 1962 GM designs.
I realize you are not necessarily writing fan letters for this style, but for my money, the cleanest and best of what could be very, very bad in that era (especially at Chrysler), was the Chevrolet Caprice.
Probably because the window filled the sail panel with a shape the mimicked the overall sail panel, it looked fairly natural.
The little square window on the Cadillac is a very forced design, the accompanying opera light almost arbitrarily tacked on.
As much as I gravitate toward the earlier true hardtop coupes, I have have a soft spot for the “opera era” Chevy. Likely because well liked elderly neighbors kept the ’75 version of this car, same color as the pictured ’76, in their garage for special occasions.
I hated the opera windows being adapted to the largest GM cars. The stying of the Chevy was destroyed. The early cars are beautiful in their way. The later cars were just ugly.
You raise an interesting point and made me think about it. I think what I like about the Cadillac version is that the “thick” C pillar behind the opera window adds some weight to the design. The Chevrolet version is light rather than heavy. I can see why you like it, but there is something about it that doesn’t really work 100% for me. But then I ask why I like those light, airy hardtop roof treatments of the late 50s. I have no answers. Maybe it is that with all of the “heavy” brougham details on the lower body, the car needs an equally heavy roof. That’s the best I’ve got. 🙂
My cousin from Ohio had one of these. He visited us one summer & he wanted to go to Boston & drive around there. It was quite an experience driving around the North End in that car. It was like being on a moving living room couch.
What a story! Thanks. Youth takes chances, or at least some of our youth when we are young. As for the tank, it is a cruiser.
Love it or hate it you have to admire this as perhaps the biggest 2 door car in history. All 5,000 pounds, 231 inches in length and 130” of wheelbase of it. Little wonder it needed 500 cubic inches of Cadillac V-8 to push it around. A brash car for those who always wanted the biggest.
Close, look at the ’58 Lincoln/Continental: Length 229″, wheelbase 131″, weight (with air), >5,100 lbs. Plus, this is without 5 mph bumpers! I’ve owned both the Caddy and the Lincoln…size wise it’s a dead heat on a merry go round!
The ’73 Imperial coupe (235.3″) is longer than both of them; the longest regular (non extended) passenger car made in the US.
According to automobile-catalog.com, the 1973 Imperial coupe (with bumper protrusions) was 235.3 inches long. Even the 1972 (without the protrusions) was 229.5 inches.
My old long-gone 1966 Bonneville convertible was 222 inches but weighed a lot less than any of these monsters.
Kinda makes you wonder why Buick bothered to promote the length of the 225.
Man I thought I was a “jack-a$$” for catching air at the top of a hill in 82 Chevy Celebrity with my foot glued to the floor.
A question arises… Just a small concern But those big 5mph impact pumpers are made to give, then rebound, right. So with enough impact force, they are sent directrly into the front tire/wheel assembly. disabling the car with a shredded tire, at least, and possibly shearing off the entire assembly. Sort of defeated the whole “No damage” edict of the times. Just an observation. The 73 Lincoln had the same issue with the original bumpers just beefed up.
I am quite sure that the outboard edges of the bumper were far outside of the area occupied by a tire. If that bumper gets pushed back far enough to hit the tires, the car is going to have a lot bigger problems than this to worry about.
I’m not a huge fan of these huge 2-doors because when they went to a post coupe with fixed opera windows they lost me, especially since this generation Sedan de Ville was a hardtop to the end. The ultimate expression of GM’s last four-door hardtop. It’s kind of sad that while they were ballyhooing the “Last Convertible” (Ron Howard voiceover: It wasn’t) they let the 4-door hardtop go out with a whimper never to return.
And yes, I know Chrysler made ’em through ’78 but the point still stands.
I’ll take the green one.
These cars were the Mother of All Sleds. My uncle had a 1973 Sedan DeVille four door hard top. I drove it many times and it was was supremely comfortable and smooth. What was not extremely good was the handling. While prodigious weight keep the car from pogoing-up and down, the understeer as the worst I can remember a and the brakes sucked..
The 1977 was a huge improvement over the 1976. It actually handled well for the time and the 425 makes like 330 ft,lbs of torque at 2000 (!) RPM. At 70 mph, the engine is turning 2000 RPM. I have a lot of street time with these cars and in all honesty, it really ins’t a whole lot of difference in a modern car, except the brakes.
With a Wildwood brake upgrade, a 1977 would make a great daily driver if you can get past the 12 mpg (if you are lucky!) fuel economy.
I’ve got a 76 Calais coupe it’s a low option car , it’s low and long last of the big boys. I had a 76 Fleetwood talisman Brougham in the 80s it was lush I believe it had 6 cigarette lighters. Both cars ride incredible .
Thanks, Jason! That is a neat story. I wonder whether Owen’s peculiar combination of daredevil land-yacht navigation skills and entrepreneurship led him to any particular vocation? Perhaps he became owner of one of those fly-by-night express bus lines.
Did you see those photos in the Cohort I took of the blue Cadillac convertible of the same vintage? i think it looks so much nicer and less ponderous without the opera windows;
I did see the blue Cadillac. First thought: Boss Hogg. While that’s wrong for all sorts of reasons, it didn’t speak to me as heavily as this one.
Thanks for taking these pictures. They dredged up something that was otherwise lost to time.
These are certainly extraordinarily large for a coupe!. I like the imposing nature, but the styling is a bit heavy-handed – the ’71-3 CDV styling has a lighter touch and lovely subtle detailing on the rear quarters. But that aside, love the story Jason!
I am a Cadillac Diva. Fell in love with them in 1958 when my aunt and uncle next door had a baby blue 1956 Coupe de Ville. I’ve owned many Cadillacs, but I’m stuck on the mid ’70s. I’ve had a ’74 Coupe de Ville, a ’75 Fleetwood Brougham, a ’75 Eldorado convertible, and a ’76 Coupe de Ville. The late ’60s and early ’70s Cadillacs were great, also, but fell in love with the mid ’70d styling. By 1977, when GM downsized everything, including the Cadillac, they simply ruined them. Short, narrow and boxy. Ugly ass cars.
I’ve never been a fan of Cadillac, it could be because my first exposure with the brand was as a kid in the ‘70s riding in an older cousin’s ‘65 Sedan de Ville. She was embarrassed that this was her first (hand-me-down) car.
GM was wise to bring out a fixed Opera Window style on the top-drawer Eldorado in ‘71 as it’s easier to sell the public a cost savings measure when the design starts at the top. I’m rather cynical 😐
Love everyone’s comments.Im 55 now and my first car was a 1974 cad eldorado,in 1981. I bought it for 1600.0 dollars.Nobody wanted them as for the single digit or no digit gas mileage.I loved it.Firemist red metallic with red leather and a sunroof,somewhat rare for 1974.That car had the most incredible takeoff feel to it.You hit the gas,the backend drops,the front end rises up and gives a jet like excelleration because of the front wheel drive.Big,powerful,fast ,past up cameros,mustangs,but not the gas pumps.At 55mph on the flat,it got 12.3 mpg.AT 114mph,well who cares.Since then I’ve owned 4 1978 eldos 1980 coupes,1981 Eldo no problems with V8-6-4 and a 1983 coupe with 4.1 Litre engine.My favorite is the1974.The 83 coupe got 24mpg and had acceptable performance for a large RWD car.Keep the caddy stories common,I love em.Robert.