(first posted 7/16/2020) Presence. Some cars just have it. It’s hard to define, but as Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart famously said (about something else entirely), “I know it when I see it”. When I ran across this 1970 Sedan deVille, I definitely saw it! These days you are much more likely to see a Caddy of this vintage at a car show than on the street. At a show, it really wouldn’t stand out being surrounded by other cars having their own healthy dose of Presence, but out on the street in 2020, this car makes the modern vehicles fade so far into the background, it’s like they’re not even there.
I spied this DeVille at a car wash, where its owner was getting ready to give it a little TLC. You can tell the love because it wasn’t even really dirty! Since he loves his car, he was glad for it to get the attention and photos. The Cadillac is part family heirloom, part hobby car and sometimes daily driver. He’s not sure if his dad bought the car new or as a late model used car, but it has been in the family his whole life. It’s not hard to imagine how a Cadillac of this vintage would have escaped being sold. Ever since it was about ten years old, it’s been obvious that GM would never build a flagship sedan like this again. If one values Presence over practicality, why would one have wanted to replace it with an 80’s or 90’s model?
Since his dad passed away several years ago, it’s been all his and he’s been slowly refurbishing it. The biggest item so far has been paint, in the original color. One thing I really like about the car is its 15 inch wheels, whitewalls, and Cadillac hubcaps. At least in this part of the country, if you see a car like this in the big city, it probably has either giant, 20 inch+ aluminum wheels or wire wheels with outlandishly long spokes (i.e. Swangers, see my CC on that phenomenon). Those wheels have their place, but I really appreciate the stock look. Yes, these hubcaps are from a 73-76 but they look totally at home on the 70.
The original 472 c.i.d. Cadillac big block looks bigger in person than it does in the picture. It’s rated at 375 hp (gross) and 525 lb-ft of sweet, sweet torque to move its 4,725 lbs with respectable alacrity. The odometer quit working a while ago, so mileage is unknown. The TH400 transmission has been rebuilt.
The 1969/70 Cadillac interiors had a bit less Presence than the body, certainly less than some of the glorious-looking, chrome-trimmed, bright interiors of a few years earlier. Cadillac did offer about 10 interior colors but strangely the steering wheel only came in black. At least with a black interior, the wheel matches, so that was the best color choice in 1970. New upholstery is on the owner’s to do list.
Badges are not needed to instantly know from any angle that this is a Cadillac. The ultimate expression of stretched-out styling, the long, graceful lines are in no hurry to end. With a wheelbase of 129.5 inches and length of 225 inches, the DeVille is only 1/2 and 5.7 inches shorter, respectively, from that model’s all time record dimensions (in 1975/76). Fleetwoods were a few inches longer in both figures. Given that the later 70’s models’ extra length is mostly accounted for by bumpers, this may be the longest-looking standard Cadillac ever.
With all side windows down, the massive opening makes the lack of functioning AC in this car a less serious problem. The wing vent windows found on Cadillacs through 1968 would have helped even more.
The brochure contained an identical car apart from interior color. Tom Klockau did a full Curbside Classic on a 1970 Fleetwood Brougham several years ago, so I’ll refer you there if you’re interested in the full backstory on the ’70 Cadillacs. I’ll just mention that in terms of styling, the DeVille/Calais hardtop roofline has it all over the Fleetwood’s boxier, pillared look. The hardtop’s lower height, expansive side windows, and vee’d rear window fit the styling so much better, IMO.
Along with many classic car enthusiasts, I tend to be prejudiced in favor of two door models. However, the last few years I’ve been coming to the conclusion that for large, luxury-type cars, four doors are more fitting with the overall look and mission of the car and, with few exceptions, are better looking. Unless we’re talking convertibles and that’s a whole different matter. It’s worth noting that 1970 was the last year for a DeVille or any rear-wheel-drive Caddy drop top (not counting the XLR).
In contemplating the nebulous Presence quality, I think it would have to be said that any separate-framed Cadillac has it to at least some extent. Just conjure up any model from the Teens to the last one in 1996 and they pretty much all have it, but for me the best years were in the Sixties (with the 70 being very similar to the 69). To my eyes, earlier and later models were certainly attractive, just not in the gorgeous, uncompromised, low, long way the 61-70 models were. The 65-70 generation is respected for being well-engineered and built. CC readers are probably familiar with the following generation’s faults and the corporate-wide and industry-wide compromises and distractions that effected Cadillacs for decades to come.
So, the 1970 model represents a sort of finality as possibly the last great Cadillac before their troubles really set in. This may not have been obvious to car buyers in the early 70’s, but became more so over time, making this car’s owner’s father quite prescient in holding onto the car. The fact that this Caddy is still loved and on the road makes it a welcome Presence indeed.
photographed in Houston, TX June 6, 2020
This is just the highlights, there are actually quite a few articles on this site on 65-70 Caddys if you want to search for them. We love those land yachts!
Note: If you have an opinion on the proper way to write this model’s name, please chime in below. It could be De Ville, de Ville, DeVille, deVille, Deville, or DEVILLE.