Taking the kids snowboarding at Snowy Range Ski Resort in Wyoming a while back, we ran across this Cadillac in the town of Centennial, WY at the foot of the mountain. It’s been here for several years, I’ve taken pictures of it before but this time decided to do something with them…
I’m not one of the many Cadillac experts on this site, but know enough to figure out that this appears to be a 1976 model. I’m amazed that it is almost 40 years old, for some reason I always just assume that big old Cadillacs are around half their age. Maybe it’s just me getting older. Even in its somewhat decrepit state, this model still displays a certain confidence in its character, a stubbornness in the way it sits that strikes me.
Multiple theories have crossed my mind as to what the idea behind the ersatz-police livery was meant for – perhaps it’s to try to slow people down that are coming down the steep hill into town? Maybe a local kid fancied himself Wyoming’s version of Alex Roy and his “Polizei” BMW M5 and wanted to cross the country (or maybe just the county) in record time? A Blues Brothers re-enactment? Who knows…
1976 was the last year for this series, sporting a 500 cu.in. V8 engine that delivered only 190hp but a powerful 360 lb-ft of torque. I’m assuming the word “waftable”” would be applicable here. Of course weight was somewhere over 5000 pounds, so maybe the word “stately” would also be applicable. At 10mpg, until relatively recently, I completely understand why someone might not want to drive it (and fill it up with gas) anymore.
Still, it looks supremely comfortable. I can imagine reclining myself on that once-magnificent burgundy seat, one hand on the wheel, the other draped over the seatback (or maybe my Honey), something appropriate (Hank Williams?) playing on the radio and cruising through the Marlboro Man countryside that is Wyoming, in no particular rush to get to where I’m going with not a care in the world. Well, except for the gas gauge I suppose.
In any case, this is the kind of car that made America great and made people want to cross the big pond to get here. Nobody is coming here to drive a CTS. I totally dig it, even with (or maybe even due to) its current decor. A total class act even in its clown suit.
Tomica made a tiny die cast 1976 Cadillac police car. I still have mine but I removed the light bar, filled in the holes, and painted it black.
I do not know in what part of the country these were huge sellers, but I hardly ever see 1970s Cadillacs on the road even in all my travels. This car looks good for sitting a while and the interior looks ok for being exposed to the elements, but I bet the undercarriage has rust issues. I doubt this was ever a police car, but if you look up Centennial Wyoming Police this car and a Ford Fairlane show up.
Chicago was historically Cadillac’s biggest market, and it certainly was during this period of mid seventies.
For those who have never had the privilege of riding in one I would say for all their wretched excess no vehicle I can think of ever rode as smoothly or was as comfortable to be ridden on in, oh the sandwiched masses.
I had two of this generation of Cadillac… A 1976 Coupe de Ville(that was totaled by an 18 wheeler semi) and a 1975 Sedan de Ville, similar to this car.
Well, back in 1988… Me and my youngest brother were coming home from visiting a buddy on New Years Eve, when we saw a Plymouth Roadrunner pass us in the high speed lane.
I was a stupid teen, and boasted to my lil bro, that ” We have a 500 V8, we can smoke him.” I stomped the gas pedal and flew past the red Mopar.
As we started distancing ourselves from the muscle car, I noticed white smoke and anti-freeze coming from the giant Caddy’s long hood. Yep, I blew this mint, pristine luxo-barge’s engine.
As we were sitting there, dumbfounded, in all that smoke, all I remember is seeing a red Roadrunner with white stripe fly thru the smoke, like a phantom, and give us it’s signature, “Beep Beep”.
Talk about embarrassing. His big block was made for performance, while the Cadillac’s was only made to move that gargantuan body. Lesson learned. 🙁
I have tried to make this point before, that the 472 Cadillac engine (and it’s successors, the 500 and then 425) simply were not designed for any kind of performance output. The 1949 engine (331 to 429 cubic inches) was designed for performance. The Northstar engine (more the RWD version) were performance oriented. Where Cadillac’s may have been speed boats in the early to mid sixty’s, by the end of the sixties they were more like a barge.
The 472 and 500 cid engines were about providing enough power to run the numerous accessories and move the car as quietly and smoothly as possible. They were also designed the first Cadillac V-8s designed with the new emissions standards in mind, if I recall correctly.
I understand that GM in general, and Cadillac in particular were going to larger engines with more torque and then running them slower by making the axle ratios lower numerically (or a higher gear). What GM should have done is developed an overdrive automatic transmission keeping the overdrive gear connected to the engine so the torque converter would run at driveshaft speed for better efficiency. Unfortunately GM got into the Simpson gear set design late so redesigning the turbohydramatic was not cost effective.
Umm, no, if you know what you are doing you can have a lot of fun with a 472 or 500:
You website seems to be black. However, I do understand that there are custom parts for the 500 engine that can transform it into a performance engine. My point was that the stock engine is not designed to work very hard and must be treated gently.
In stock form the cadillac 472/500 was a very curious engine. Some parts of it were massively over-engineered, and some parts are just laughable. It is true that it was developed to provide torque and not so much power. for example in stock form the engine tended to develop a nasty valve float at above 4200rpm. Yet the advertised hp figures were at rpms the engine just couldn’t reach due to this issue. Turning a 472/500 from a boat anchor into a performance engine is just about changing the laughable parts out for not so laughable parts and getting rid of all the emissions BS. this would net 500hp/600tq on pump gas with a 5krpm limit.
One of my dream-builds.
I worked in a shop where a kid had his eldo towed in for a massive oil leak, it had the 500 in it. I put it up & found a massive hole in the block. I reached into the hole & pulled a piece of camshaft out. Yeah, totally unsuitable for high rpm use. Better swap in a olds 455.
Did something similar with my ’77 Rabbit. A GTI with four people pulled next to me and we both opened it up, it was close with the extra weight they were carrying but my Rabbit was only a four speed and after going 100 mph for a while the GTI slowly pulled away so I figured it was time to back off. Took my foot off the gas and when it was down to 65 I gave it some throttle and a rod started rattling really loudly. I drove on the shoulder at about 35 mph 25 miles home, at idle and below about 2000 rpm it still sounded fine. Rebuilt engine and 5 speed trans were in it’s future after that. At least they were long gone by the time the rod rattled so I was saved that embarrassment.
Sweet looking Cadillac. I’ve always loved this generation of Sedan de Ville. I’ve never seen one made into a police car. 🙂
I believe this is what Buford T Justice drove before budget cuts relegated him to a Pontiac LeMans.
Love these last big Devilles–true hardtop, the opera windows in the C-pillars, the square lamps work so well. Attitude in spades, but with a certain elegance. And just that little bit of kitsch that seemed to be baked into every Caddy of the era.
I don’t mind the faux-police colors – if the car is just sitting, at least it makes for an interesting roadside decoration. Shame about that missing window though; I’m sure the interior is trashed and the floorpans rusty because of it.
Perhaps back in 1976 this was an actual police car at Aspen or Vail. 🙂
I was starting to kind of like this until I saw that interior shot, which reminded me of why I disliked these so much. Here you can see the crack trifecta that so often afflicted these cars: cracked windshield (from the shuddery structure), cracked dashpad and cracked upper door panel (from the thin, non-reinforced vinyl which covered the thick foam padding). It is sad when the Mercury Marquis or Chrysler New Yorker were using better quality interior materials than were found in this Cadillac.
Even so, maybe I could make peace with this car as a beater. There would be few more menacing beaters available today.
Aspen police were actually driving Saabs at that time. A much better suit for the mountains than a gargantuan Caddy!
I’m reminded of Beverly Hills Cop, when upon riding in the back of a squad car, Eddie Murphy exclaims that it’s the cleanest cop car he’s ever been in.
I’ve always liked the C-pillar windows on these later models. Gives an airy feeling and improves rear visibility.
Centennial for years had an old Ford Fairlane painted up a like a police car parked on the outskirts of town along the road. You could see it quite a ways off, and it was primarily meant to encourage you to slow down as you blew through town.
My guess is they replaced it with the cadillac sometime after the turn of the century.
Yes, I have never seen the Fairlane, it must be gone. The Cadillac is holding station pretty much in the center of “town” right at the curve.
These were the last GM cars that were built with any level of design confidence. The cars that replaced them were more efficiently packaged, but they were a pale shadow of these leviathans. Everything we’d been told was luxurious and seemed to actually be luxurious was gone with the downsized cars. No more real hardtops, or real styling flourishes, or space to stretch out on the sofa. From then on, it was badly executed attempts at efficiency under a thin veneer of reminders of what came before. Just when people got used to the austerity of sitting upright in caged boxes that wouldn’t have made nice intermediates in the ’60s, CAFE took away the engines that could move the downsized cars sufficiently. American cars have been synonymous with public restroom pleasantness ever since. Even all the rusty, seized Vegas, the brakeless Toronados, the ’68 Corvettes, the creaky, leaky Monzas; they couldn’t bring the point home that GM didn’t know what it was doing. Downsizing the fullsized cars that their business was built on did the trick.
Now that I’ve owned a ’77 and ’75 C-Body, I couldn’t agree more. The ’77 might be structurally tighter and more fuel efficient but that’s about it. Less engine access. Less room. Less window and visibility. Touches like the classic bow headliners replaced with glue ons. Sure, I still like the ’77 C and Bs but you can tell they were a compromise. Still, the real downfall was the next downsize for ’85
Is this the love child resulting from a mating of Boss Hogg and Rosco P. Coltrane’s vehicles?
The word pairings “love child”, “Boss Hogg”, and “Rosco P. Coltrane” should never be used in the same sentence. Good lord, this is a family website!
Part of the reason that it’s easy to forget that 70’s caddies are 40 years old is probably because they don’t look dramatically different, except in scale, from vehicles Caddy was making up until the ’92 Brougham.
And part of it is because we don’t want to remember how old we actually are, either.
I don’t mind the car, but the last paragraph jars a little. I wanted to comment “and how many fled in the opposite direction?”, but thought it might be taken the wrong way by Caddy fans. 😉
It would be pretty sad if someone emigrated to another country simply in order to drive a big car of much bigness.
Top Gear (now probably a defunct TV show) liked the CTS and thought it a desirable change of direction for Cadillac.
Well, the big cars of yesteryear are part of the american lore and certainly recognized by those in other countries.
Big , comfy American Land Yacht .
Unless you are a complete maniac or the car is woefully out of tune, you can get 12-14 MPG in these. Ten MPG is 460 engined 70’s Lincoln territory.
My 71 Riviera @80+ MPH could get 13 MPG and 14 at lower speeds.
This has to be one of my least favourite of the full size Cadillac iterations, simply due to the fact that externally and internally, it is indistinguishable from its Caprice/98/Electra Brethren. The successor looked only very slightly different from the 98/Electra brethren but that roof ending below the trunklid v at the trunklid somehow made all the difference. I do love the hardtop but I would have been one of those unfortunates who took a mad risk on a New Yorker/Imperial.
My Grandmother’s second husband had one of these, a 1974 gold Coupe deVille. I remember riding in the backseat with four of my cousins in Newport, RI when we were all around 10 years old. One of my cousins got car sick in it and he was furious! He kept that car for a long time, and eventually replaced it with a green 1978 Coupe deVille after the ’74 was starting to give him some problems. He always said the ’74 was his favorite. The ’78 was nice, but not nearly as “Cadillac-like” as he would have liked. There was something about the sheer size of the ’74 that gave it presence. And to many, that is what a true Cadillac was all about.
Some of my buddies settled themselves in the North-Americas… After a while most of them reported that they’ve bought their first/second… american cars…like…a Focus, Corolla, i??, Accent, Sonata, Golf/Rabbit, A4, “whatever Hybrids” etc., etc. 🙂
On the opposite…those who are coming back to Europe are bringing home V6 and V8 Infinities, GM (Chevy, Cadillac, GMC), Ford, Toyota (V8) SUVs and trucks, Mustangs, Camaros…as symbols of their former “overseas success”… Sooner or later these thirsty vehicles usually disappearing from their ownerships to the favor of “sparsam” InLine4 DIESEL Citroens, Peugeots, Kias, Hyundais, Audis, Skodas, VWs, Opels, Renaults, Dacias etc., etc. A family who owned ONE like this, they came back from Canada. They used to drove that big-block Cad only for next 2-3 years then they gave it up and had changed IT for a 5 door Renault 5. For the next decade Cad became a decorative element / steel statue together with their garden gnomes, roses and pinetrees at the front of their family owned printing company… 🙂
…later the Cad had disappeared forever… Only the roses, pinetrees and garden gnomes stood their…hopefully until forever… 🙂