COAL: 1991 Cadillac Sedan de Ville – I Can’t Help Myself

My Pap always used to tell me that money had a way of burning a hole in my pocket, especially whenever he would slip me my allowance. Shortly thereafter I would pester him to take me to Radio Shack to buy some electronic gadget that caught my eye. Now that I’m an adult (at least according to my age), I have bigger toys that occupy my time and my wallet – usually the four wheeled variety.

I got a bonus at work, and after doing the smart thing and paying bills and some debt with it, I set aside some to be used as fun money. Fortunately a friend of mine here in Pittsburgh helps feed my car addiction by always sending me online listings for older Lincolns, Cadillacs, and Chryslers. I had been sans The Standard of The World for a year after getting rid of my 96 Fleetwood Brougham, and I had the itch to get another canoe. One of those listings is today’s subject car, my latest acquisition. Here we have a ’91 Sedan de Ville in “Light Antelope Metallic”, powered by a nice torquey 4.9 with 71k on the analog odometer – and no padded vinyl roof to besmirch that lovey roofline!


Four doors, three ashtrays – the Cadillac way!

Trying to be responsible, I made a pact that if it wasn’t in good shape or needed severe repairs I would hop into my Grand Marquis and say no. Of course the second I slid behind the wheel and had a whiff of that classic 80’s/early 90’s GM interior, that went out the window. Much like The Four Tops sang, “I can’t help myself…I want you and nobody else!” My first thought after that was “this is kinda Spartan for a Caddy!” – manual recliners, no power passenger seat, no locking fuel filler door, analog dash, and no power trunk pulldown! But it did have the Delco Bose Gold Series audio upgrade (but the standard Symphony Sound radio – odd).

Clever cubby hole in the backseat

After taking it for a test drive, I made an offer – not what they were asking, as there was a dent (not in the pictures) and the brake master cylinder was shot. But they accepted, having not had any luck unloading it over the past three months. The sister of the previous owner was selling it as part of an estate sale – her brother, a body shop tech, had passed away after a short battle with cancer. He was an auto body repair tech, and purchased this car after selling his ’49 Caddy to go back and forth between treatments.  She was impressed that I knew my way around the car, and wanted it to be in good hands – even including some custom Cadillac t-shirts her brother had purchased before his passing.

Love that velour interior

1991 was a big year for Cadillac – the 4.5 was punched out to 4.9, giving levels of performance not seen since the 70’s – not to mention the THM transmission gaining electronic controls for even more superb levels of shift smoothness. Antilock brakes were also made standard on the de Ville, and “Computer Command Ride” was available if you wanted your Caddy to take the curves at more than a crawl – the ride computer took into account speed when selecting what firmness the three position orifice shocks would have, giving at least a semblance of handling ability.

Despite all that, sales fell for Cadillac in ’91 (down ~17% from 1990) – between the Lexus LS400, restyled Lincoln Town Car, and the amazing new Buick Park Avenue, the luxury market was tough. I mean, with all those choices who would want a 3 year old exterior design, with an interior untouched since 1985? Irv Rybicki has been discussed elsewhere extensively here on CC, but of all the styling sins the ’85 de Ville/Fleetwood has to be his most egregious. In an interview he discusses the downsizing program, trying to continue Cadillac design cues, as well as preserve the personality of the vehicle, and not change things too much to prop up the resale value of the older vehicles. And attempt to court new customers – which like trying to love two, as the song goes, sure ain’t easy to do.

Standard air bag & ABS fo 1991 – Blackberry not included

Time keeps marching on, and consumers are a moving target – that’s the reason your local oldies station is now playing Madonna instead of Mary Wells. Despite my love for Cadillac as a whole, I have a hard time warming up to the ’85 to ’88 cars – even Pap held out to get a ’96 de Ville after he gave up on trying to find a 5.7 powered Brougham. The elongating, power dome hood, and tail fins courtesy of Chuck Jordan work wonders and actually have me liking the 89-93 models.

The interior received few tweaks over the years – mostly seating pattern changes, along with the addition of an armrest with cupholders and built in rear air vents (shared with Oldsmobile & Buick luxomobiles – my Park Avenue Ultra had the same armrest). There is a cool backseat storage cubby in front of the CHMSL – but aside from that the dash looks as it did in ’85. I was not a fan of the digital gauges – and as odd as it is, I like the soft glow of the sweep speedometer at night. It is one of the few things in the car, aside from the smell, that reminds me of my ’84 Sedan de Ville. The other touch is the chrome trim on the brake and gas pedal  – not even my ’96 de Ville had those cool classy luxoboat cues.

So begins another automotive chapter in my life – the de Ville will be used to keep miles off of my Grand Marquis, as well as for winter duty. The other factor in play in my buying decision was that I had to junk my Mountaineer – it needs too much work to pass inspection, and as Chas108 pointed out, good snow tires should be enough along with FWD to get me around this winter. I think between this de Ville and the Grand Marquis, my auto ADD should be satisfied for a while. Best of all…it’s a Cadillac!