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!
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).
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.
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.
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!
I had 2 1991 Seville’s. The 4.9 is a good long lasting engine. A Seville has a bit smaller body and a nicer interior. Very nice, inexpensive luxury.
I had an ’89 Seville about 10 years ago. It was a very nice driving car. Mine had the 4.5L. Very comfortable seats, extremely quiet, decent economy. The door windows were so thick! It felt like a bank vault. Great transmission too. It felt more substantial at 150,000 miles than the ’92 Sedan DeVille I test drove that had 70,000. Sold it because it was too expensive to maintain as a daily driver. Someone still drives it around the Gary area. I saw it last summer. I still have the gold keys I kept as a souvenir…
The car is in remarkably good shape for its age. Cadillacs of that era had galvanized bodies which made them reasonably rust resistant. The 4.9 is a durable engine, but the main failure point is probably the water pump. Stay away from the rebuilt ones, they don’t last long.
It is surprising to see a luxury car with cloth seats. Almost all modern luxury cars have leather seats. I prefer cloth because unlike leather, it does not need any treatment to prevent cracking and is generally easier to take care of.
Funny you mention water pump as a point of failure…the pump on this car went out about a month ago! $600 to repair it, but the car is back on the road.
My first reaction was ugh, I don’t like those, who would buy etc etc. But now I completely get it..YOU LIKE IT! And I get the details, like an old style sweep speedometer (my 84 Crown Vic with 90 GT motor had that). And the more I think about it, a funky chunky shrunky caddy with a V8 for a good deal? Hell yeah. Many happy torquey miles to ya!
That is a beautiful car. One of these with a bordello red cloth interior would be perfect, but this is very nice indeed as it is, not surprised you couldnt resist it
That should be an excellent winter ride, plenty of weight over the drive axle, sturdy and soft suspension to deal with crumbling roads after some inevitable freeze/thaw.
If I do some car swapping again, I really do want to try an older FWD GM for a change.
I drove my father-in-law’s 1992 for a while after he stopped driving and before he sold it. Great car, great fuel mileage considering its size and it encouraged a “relaxed” driving style which was good for my driving record.
Also, it was an excellent winter car and traction was exemplary. So much so that i kept the all-season tires on through our miserable Montreal winters and never had any problem whatsoever!
Those seats look very comfortable. I like the pic of the dashboard at night. To me, the ’91 doesn’t look like a 27-year-old car. It could pass for 21 or 22 easy.
With 2 1980’s Lincolns, one ’05 Town Car daily driver and a ’65 Corvair in my possession; I can’t knock you for your desire/obsession for this car!
That’s a good-looking car. It’s a small Cadillac that still manages to look like a Cadillac. (Love those period-correct whitewalls.) That 85 MPH speedometer looks a bit out of place, though. It ought to have one that goes up to 120, like the old, old days. If I recall correctly the 85 MPH speedo was federally-mandated?
Right about the speedometer. My 91 Caprice had an 80 MPH speedometer but the mandate was relaxed a few years late, my 93 Caprice speedometer went to 120.
In defense of the 85 mph speedometer, it’s marked in 10 mph increments and most of the guage face gets used. Today’s cars have 140 or 160 mph speedometers usually marked in 20 mph increments. Half of the guage face never gets used.
Very true. The 85-mph speedometers seemed a little silly back in the day, but so far as mandated equipment goes they were nowhere near as annoying as the automatic mouse belts.
Calling all Broughamites
Man, just look at that interior!
Very nice. Ditch the vinyl roof, replace the wires with the flat stainless wheelcovers and swap in a brown velour interior and you have the one that was my DD for 4 years in the late 90s- early 00s.
I’m absolutely infatuated with that interior. The chromed cast metal pieces on the seat, the puckered burgundy leather, I find that vastly more attractive than anything current GM interior (or most other manufacturers’ interiors). Lincoln is sort of bringing things back with their burgundy and blue options on upper trims of the Continental and Navigator, Nissan will sell you an excellent velour interior with diamond stitching and off-color piping in their base Armada.
It’s missing the trash bin in the passenger foot well. I think GM ditched that feature when they went to front wheel drive. I always liked that little thoughtful touch.
You’re right: that trash bin was a nice touch. As a kid I was also taken with those little wheels Cadillac used for climate-control temperature adjustment. Seemed classy.
gtemnykh, those seat trim pieces are actually stamped aluminum, but I will agree that it was a very nicely done interior. What wood trim there was looked like wood would actually look and was used in places where wood could actually be. I don’t think the leather was all that common in these, most of those Olds 98 seats I recall were in that sumptuously thick velour – like this one.
This car is the spitting image of one owned by an elderly neighbor when my family moved into our current home 25 years ago. Curley was about 96 years old and twice a day that Cadillac would head up the street as he and his wife went out for lunch or dinner.
He complained once that he had experienced more trouble with it than he had expected and that he had liked his 2 earlier Cadillacs better. It was, of course, his last car.
These have never done much for me, but this one has some appeal for all the reasons you mention. They have proved durable, this one is fairly restrained on the troublesome options and a 4.9L engine should make one of these scoot. A comparison piece on this and your Grand Marquis would be an interesting read after you have gotten to know this one well. Apple and orange.
I have a 1995 Deville in that same color. I like the 4.9l engine as it does have a lot of torque and allows the car to scoot quick enough.
The only issues with mine were the hall effect sensor in the distributor and the leaking oil filter lines. The hall effect sensor was a super pain in the butt to do as you to try to get a 4mm wrench in to remove its bolt while not breaking the brittle plastic off the connectors. The book says to remove the dist. and dissemble but I was not disturbing it so I had to align everything back up.
I simple took a cheap wrench and blow torched it and bent it to an L shape and I was able to complete the job.
The other issue was the O rings on the remote/external oil filter. That was a bit of a pain. The line O rings were easy but the o rings in the oil filter adapter to block were a pain.
Here is my 1995 along with a Lexus a few years ago.
Was that picture taken in Cockeysville? I used to live on Hogarth Circle off Cranbrook Road decades ago.
No it is in front of my house in Columbia
I hang out at a small dealership and I was told to drive this Lexus ES because i am anal about noises and things so If it gets my approval then the car must be in good shape.
I could not resist taking a pic of two luxury cars about decades apart
So…did it get your approval?
Last year I test drove a ’92. It was nice and a good deal, but I ended up getting something else. But I see the appeal. Happy motoring!
Blizzaks, Big Tom. Blizzaks.
A friend and co-worker drives his BMW Z4 up to Foster Plaza in all seasons and has never had an issue. (for non-Pittsburghers, it’s an office complex that’s atop a hill so it’s literally uphill both ways!)
Interesting that I’ve been seeing a light blue deVille of this era parked at my workplace every Sunday recently. No idea if they’re a co-worker but I assume they might; nothing else in our building is open at 4pm on Sunday.
My wife and I almost bought a ’94 deVille about ten years ago. I was quite Northstar ignorant at the time and intrigued by those engines; fortunately I’d learned that I was stepping into a probable money pit due to the early Northstars’ tendency to self-destruct around the 100k mark.
With the old 4.9, that won’t be an issue.
FWIW, it was a longtime friend of mine who morphed Pittsburgh’s Oldies FM, 3WS, from Mary Wells to Madonna, seventeen years ago. He’s also responsible for launching the all-Christmas music. Turned that station into an 800-lb gorilla before moving on in 2004.
Hope you enjoy your Caddy!
The lack of a Northstar is one of the best parts of this deVille – and it still hauls nicely on 279 and the Parkway (well, until I get near the tunnel). Loving the car so far.
Funny you mention 3WS…my friend here that keeps sending me classic cars for sale is their afternoon guy!
Ordering the Blizzaks today 🙂
Kinda rare cars here having not been sold here new but there are a few about, I saw a white bustle back Seville tonite fueling in Waipukerau on my outward trip and it was still cruising at 3am on my way home, somebodies new toy.
Really nice car! I agree that little things help make the car special, like chrome trimmed pedals, ample ash trays, fiber optic light monitors, etc. No vinyl top and velour seats make this one the one to have. You didn’t mention if it had any rust. Please make me feel better about this cream puff going on winter duty by saying it has a rusty undercarriage!
This generation of DeVille is growing on me, especially the later ones.
The 4.9 is an evolution of the HT4100, right? Did they fix all that engine’s shortcomings by then?
Yes, the 4.9 is the last evolution of the HT4100 – a very nicely sorted engine. Only downside is due to the higher compression ratio, I have to run 91+ octane. But worth it to keep the engine running right.
I mean, I’ve heard about retroreflective reindeer, but metallic antelopes?!! That has to be the most contrived euphemism I’ve ever seen for Mudpuddle Yellowish-Brown Metallic—and I say that as a veteran of at least one car painted thusly.
Drive it in good health.
Gee Daniel, I’m surprised you have never heard of this phenomenon – there is even a popular song about it:
Oh give me a home
in the metallic paints zone
Where the deer on the antelopes spray
You’re not sorry! You’d do it again!
Where seldom is seen
A matte-painted sheen
And the Caddys are sparkly all day!
Supposedly the metallic antelopes were hunted to extinction in order to make the paint for Cadillacs of this era. Only conventional non-metallic antelopes now survive
Except for the prevailing “GM half-way-down” mentality of the rear door glass, I liked everything about these Caddys. I thought they had the right proportions and size for the time, and I would have owned one in a heartbeat if I had the financial wherewithal back then.
Our real estate agent drove one of these, so we got a lot of seat time as she drove us around checking out houses when we were moving to the Cincinnati area in 1992. Of course, I rode in the back while she and Wifey yakked in front!
Incidentally, I never rolled the back glass down as the AC was always used, so GM’s sin didn’t matter at the time!
Nice cars all around.
Sorry I don’t comment very often anymore, but I don’t see very well at present. Hopefully my vision will improve by March.
We’ve missed you, Zackman. Best wishes for that improvement.
Love the exterior. When sedans were still sedans. Great condition, too. Good find and it is a lucky car to be owned by someone who appreciates it.
I’m really let down by that dashboard, though. Where’s the chrome? Where’s the wood? Where’s the bling? It’s a Cadillac, not an A-Body. I want some eye-candy when I look down to adjust my radio or open my glovebox!
Good luck with this Cadillac. The 1991 facelift was an improvement over the slightly awkward and goofy 1989-1990 front end.
After the excruciatingly disappointing initial 1985 version of the DeVille, this was a remarkable transformation. The longer wheelbase/rear doors and revised roofline worked wonders. I’m not sure I ever thought it was gorgeous, but there was something about it that I really liked, especially in the right color with the right wheels.
Enjoy your ride!
I like this DeVille a lot. It’s a perfect fusion of the new and old Cadillac: rational size, reasonable fuel economy, improved styling over the underdeveloped ’85, sorted powertrain, and the build quality reflects GM’s investment in manufacturing technology. All the touches that were Cadillac’s hallmark for decades are in place: horizontal sweep speedometer, stand up hood ornament, fiber optics, automatic parking brake release, Tampico carpeting, courtesy lights everywhere, 3 ashtrays/lighters, Twilight Sentinel, chrome trimmed pedals, rear fender mounted power antenna, power trunk pull down, etc. The full steel top, aluminum wheels, and timeless Light Antelope color are the frosting on the cake.
The puffy, decontented Voyage show car inspired “94 replacement was a real step down.
A NOS steering wheel, correct carpeted mats, and a proper interior steam and exterior detailing would bring this car a long way towards winning a trophy.
This DeVille is FAR too nice to press into winter beater duty. Please, please don’t do it!
Sadly it does have a few places of rust – nothing major, but it’s not pristine having lived its entire life in Western PA.
I’m reminded by one of the many thousand cuts that kills GM for me during this time period, and that’s their incessant need to emblazon the bodywork with things like “port fuel injection” or “ABS”. It’s a supposed to be the standard of the world, that should be a given by 1991.
Is that really any worse than Ford slapping this on 1980s Lincolns just because the autobox has four speeds?
I don’t like that either, but Ford seemed less egregious about it
The worst part about that AUTOMATIC OVERDRIVE badge is that it’s not really technically correct, which would’ve called for OVERDRIVE AUTOMATIC.
You’d probably be annoyed at some of the callouts to be found in Europe in the late ’80s to early ’90s: AIRBAG or TWIN AIRBAGS, CATALYSER or CATALYTIC, etc. BMW even had a backglass banner that read DIESER BMW FÄHRT MIT KATALYSATOR-TECHNIK
My favorite: “RIDE-ENGINEERED”
Oh, hellz yes! I mean no. I mean…wait, I’m confuzzed.
That’s a really nice car and a classic deal – a low mileage pristine Caddy previously owned by a senior who looked after it so well.
I’d by one of these, but I’m amused by the comment ” de Ville will be used to keep miles off of my Grand Marquis,”
I own 2 Cadillacs and 2 Grand Marquis. For me its the opposite, the GM is for driving and the Caddy is for preserving.
My grandmother had the last year of this body style it was dark cherry tan leather chrome rocker panels. She loved it . She bought it because it had chrome still. Mid 90s cars were too plastic .
I had a 91 in the early 2000’s & we got blasted with snow here in the northeast. That car is an absolute tank & never let me down. The 4.9 on a fwd platform = unstoppable in the snow 👍
What a surprise to see the picture of the Sedan Deville which in terms of the exterior is exactly the car I recently scored for free for helping a friend prepare her parents home for an Estate Sale! The Caddy belonged to her father and had been sitting idle for 7 years in the garage. The car has zero rust, looks essentially new and has a nice leather interior. The plan was for me to make the car road worthy for the drive from Erie PA to Minneapolis MN. My Deville has 67,000 actual miles, and required very little to get it ready for the 890 mile drive home. The very little involved replacing the Master Cylinder and the brake lines which thankfully failed on the driveway and not on the hill which led to a very busy street!!! Pedal to the floor baby!!! It runs beautifully and I had zero problems on the drive home. The brake repair, and left turn signal set me back a mere $490.00. Freeway mileage is amazing for such a large vehicle! I currently own a 2013 Mercedes E350 Convertible, and previously owned a 2008 Supercharged Jaguar XKR convert, so the Caddy feels pretty darn slow in comparison but since I intend it to be my Uber Eats delivery vehicle I guess it is acceptable. It’s in that no man’s land where it is not a classic, but kind of just an old car in remarkable shape. I also own a 1962 Lincoln Continental Convertible which gets non stop attention and questions which is quite a bit different than driving my 30 year old Caddy. Having said all this I have owned the car for 2 weeks and I actually like it! I am hoping the 4.9 is a durable as everyone says. I very much agree with the folks who say this era is dramatically more attractive than that first downsizing which to me didn’t even look like a real Cadillac. This one does!!