Now that spring is officially here, I have been giving more thought to cost-effective ways of sprucing up my digs after a year of quarantine. I wouldn’t call myself a “neat freak”, nor would I aim to stigmatize those who prioritize cleanliness or order. I’d say that on the continuum, I’m probably closer to the Felix Unger side of things than in Oscar Madison territory, but I love my home and have tried to find ways to make the experience of staying generally confined within these square feet not only more bearable, but genuinely enjoyable. Over the past year and by necessity, my condo had been transformed from a place where I basically only ate, slept and watched television into also my home office, work space, art studio (which, admittedly, it already was), health club, place of worship, cinema, café, juice bar, and occasional disco.
I suppose I hadn’t considered when quarantine started just over a year ago that all of this extra time spent at home would have a measurable impact on the wear and tear of certain household items and furniture. Roughly six years ago, my ex and I had purchased a lovely midcentury modern sleeper sofa from a chain that specializes in that aesthetic. We had actually separated households before we ultimately split up, but I kept the couch (I got custody) and had maintained it well. I remember the first time I noticed a small stain on it and how upset this made me, reminded as I was of the time I had flicked a cigarette ash out of the open window of my then-pristine ’88 Mustang only for that giant ash to land instead in the back seat, leaving a very visible burn mark. It took me months to get over that.
My couch, however, had remained in otherwise great shape, until COVID-related guidance dictated that people should try to just stay home. This ultimately and obviously led to a lot more couch time. I don’t consider myself a sloppy eater, and I’m generally careful with the possessions that have been entrusted to me in this stage of my life, a philosophy I owe partially to a sensible, thrifty upbringing. I also sport a shaved head, which I made reference to in my essay last week about an ’85 Cadillac Eldorado. Those of us head-shavers know that our scalps can get oily as the day progresses. At some point earlier this year, I had started to notice some dark discoloration on the back of my couch. A friend suggested on social media that I should have invested in antimacassars, those doily-looking things people put on the backs of chairs and sofas to keep people’s greasy, bald heads like mine from inadvertently doing damage to nice furniture.
I had my sofa professionally cleaned, which helped, but there was still very noticeable, natural wear from six years of regular use. In a moment of inspiration, it occurred to me to look for a relatively inexpensive slipcover on the internet for a couch like mine to see what was out there in terms of looks, types of fabrics, care, fit, ease of installation, and price. After a little bit of due diligence, I wound up with a quality slipcover in a corduroy-like texture, in a beautiful shade of blue similar to the original color of my couch, that fits with absolute perfection. For less than $35 including shipping, I now have what looks, literally, like a brand new couch, keeping the comfort and utility of the $1,500 unit I had originally loved so much. All my sleeper sofa needed was a new cover, and its refreshed appearance has helped enhance the overall look of my living room, all on the cheap.
The 1980 Cadillac DeVille also received a new cover over its new-ish and recently downsized C-Body structure. Based on others’ comments I have read about full-sized, rear-wheel-drive Cadillacs of the 1980s, camps seem to be split pretty evenly down the center between those who prefer the original light, crisp visual athleticism of the 1977 to ’79 cars, and those who saw the meatier, more fully fleshed-out, 1980-on models as an improvement. I like the looks of both iterations, but one thing is for sure in my mind: a new skin definitely transformed the outward flavor of these cars. I was of a young car-spotting age when the new-for-’80 Cadillac DeVilles and Fleetwoods were introduced, and I remember a new Cadillac being one of my dream cars at the time – so stately, classy, and elegant. They looked like rolling status symbols before I had any idea what a “status symbol” was. People in them usually looked reserved and well put-together, in contrast to the middle-class, five-person circus going on inside my family’s ’77 Plymouth Volaré.
The ’80 restyle lost its initial visual impact over the course of a decade, but thinking about this within the context of the 1980s, yearly model changes were already thing of the past by then. The basic design of these big Cadillacs did hold on for a long time, but let’s talk about the coupes for a minute. I’m not completely positive about the featured car’s model year, but the later ’82s had the red center on the wheel covers, and the ’81s had the newly-introduced and problematic HT 4100 engine, so by process of elimination, I had initially thought this one to be an ’80 model*. The Coupe DeVille would last in this form through ’84, with a one-year encore for this bodystyle for ’85 as the renamed Fleetwood Brougham. For this reason, the two-door C-Bodies have always seemed rare and special to me.
I spotted this example in traffic on iconic Wacker Drive near the Civic Opera House while on a walk from the office to a business lunch with an external insurance colleague, and it made me think about how much things continue to change in our industry. Maybe when this car was new, it had been the personal transportation of an insurance executive. These days, cars like the Audi A6 in frame seem to be more the standard for those types of business men and women. On the sign at the opera house, I had seen that “The King And I” was the stage production that was about to show at the time. I’d like to think that driving this Coupe DeVille had made someone feel like royalty. Getting back to my new slipcovers, the old adage may say that beauty is only skin deep, but if a new skin was good enough for Cadillac, it is certainly good enough for my living room sofa.
Downtown, The Loop, Chicago, Illinois.
Friday, April 15, 2016.
*It has since been identified as an ’84.
That is an ’84 or ’85 with the 4.1 engine. Way to tell is the body-colored side moldings with no chrome beading.
Nice car, crap engine. An American luxury den on wheels. Pity they don’t make these any more instead of trying to make AmericanIsed BMWs.
Thanks, Bill. If the molding is the tell, this one must be an ’84, with the “Coupe DeVille” script badge on the C-pillar. Appreciate the clarification.
I believe the ’80 had the 368, ’81 the 368 8-6-4, and the ’82 the 4.1 (and the 1.8L Cimarron). Two years that Cadillac and its fans would like to forget.
The variable-displacement feature of the 1981 models could be disabled to simply disconnecting the computer that “managed” the process. Then the engine operated as a normal 368 V-8, which wasn’t a bad thing. That engine was still durable and smooth, if not exactly a powerhouse.
My uncle bought one and it had the 8-6-4 engine. Light blue. It was amazing. He’d drive me around and show me where the little digital gage indicated how many cylinder were engaged. He was a great guy and always drove Cadillacs. Until that one.
It was such an impressive car. Except for the you-know-what.
I definitely prefer the ’77-79; the ’80 refresh was withering on the vine by my formative years. With 20/20 hindsight for the coupes it would’ve made more sense to standardize on the ’77-79 Buick/Pontiac roofline across all 5 car divisions and eliminate any possibility of vinyl.
Ah come on, the Chevy roofline was the best of the ’77-79 years! 🙂 In fact, overall, the Chevy is the prettiest/youngest-looking of all of them, although I did like in ’79 when Pontiac started offering buckets and console in the Bonneville. The no-vinyl-top look was good on the Pontiac, but it seemed like I rarely saw them that way. The Olds quarter window always made me wonder why they did it the way they did.
I’m with you; in fact, ‘79 is probably my favorite year for the whole Cadillac range, styling-wise. The Eldorado looked great, I prefer the 1st-generation Seville, and the deVilles were terrific as well.
The antenna’s got a mean tilt to it.
Great write-up as always, Joseph.
It is really hard to peg down the exact years on these coupes, as they changed little during the years of production. I see that the subject car is cursed with the usual dissolving body fillers at the front, and it looks like the rears have been replaced. My new ones just came in the mail this week. When I put my ’81 away in the Fall, they looked fine, but managed to spiderweb over the Winter and need to be replaced. These make great cruisers for a reasonable price.
Did you raise the rub strip?
Yes, it was raised when the car was last painted….Not my idea, as I like to see things as close to factory as possible, but it was already stuck on when I got the car back.
Thank you so much, Dean. Yours is a great looking example.
I’ll say this one more thing about quarantine. I don’t know if you purchased your new body filler panels on the internet, but one thing I’ve learned is the breadth of things one can research and purchase online. It’s mindblowing. I do try to support brick-and-mortar when I can, but when I can’t, I can usually find what I need online.
I remember as a teenage car nut in the summer of 1979 how bright Cadillac’s future seemed. The full-sized cars were selling great, and felt better made and more luxurious than the 71-76 generation despite being smaller and more efficient. The new Eldorado was a major hit, having captured the essence of previous Eldos in a much more manageable size and shape. And I read in car magazines how the 1980 big Caddys would be even better, with lighter, more aerodynamic, more stylish bodies. And the Seville would move to the impressive new E platform and was going to be essentially a four-door Eldorado. Things were looking up. I’d never have believed then how far Cadillac would fall in just the next two years, much less the next six years.
If you look at the sales charts, you’ll see 1980 was the year Coupe de Ville sales cratered. It’s not hard to see why – it’s the year Cadillac (and GM in general) gave up on building real coupes and instead built two-door sedans and called them coupes. I slightly prefer the 1980 and later Sedan de Ville styling to the 77-79s (though I’m starting to come around on the pre-facelift cars), however, the 77-79 coupes wipe the floor with the post-facelift versions. The sedan’s stiff roofline simply doesn’t look right on the 1980 coupe, and jettisoning the opera window makes it even less distinctive. The 1980 B and C body coupes all lost their distinctive coupe rooflines (and other unique touches like the Chevy’s bent glass backlight). GM would make the same mistake with several future models like the 1982 A bodies and 1985 C bodies, both whose “coupes” shared the sedan roofs, and both whose coupes sold poorly.
I’ve had the same issue with the upholstery on one of my living room chairs getting damaged where your head leans back (I don’t know if it was my head or someone else’s who inflicted the damage). Fortunately it’s an Ikea Poang chair, which besides being ridiculously comfortable also has inexpensively replaceable seat cushions in lots of colors and materials. I wish there was some equivalent for couches.
Cadillac sales cratered in 1980 (along with all cars, especially big ones) because of the second energy crisis and subsequent recession, not its coupe styling.
I’m aware of this, but the percentage of total DeVille sales that were coupes plummeted post-facelift which cannot be blamed on the recession or energy crisis. Here are the de Ville sales figures for this generation (which include Fleetwood coupes from 1980 onward when the coupe became available):
——- Sedans — Coupes
1977 – 95,421 – 138,750
1978 – 88,951 – 117,750
1979 – 93,211 – 121,890
1980 – 49,188 – 55,490
1981 – 89,991 – 62,724
1982 – 86,020 – 50,130
1983 – 109.004 – 65,670
1984 – 107,920 – 50,840
As you can see, the Coupe de Ville substantially outsold the Sedan de Ville all three pre-facelift years, but after the facelift the coupe barely outsold the sedan in 1980, and fell behind in 1981. By 1984, sedan sales more than doubled coupes. Of course coupe sales in general were in decline by this time (especially big ones), but you won’t find a sudden drop-off in 1980-81 on most other cars that were offered in both body styles. There’s a great bar chart somewhere on CC that shows shows full size Cadillac sales in the 70s and 80s with different colors for each model that I can’t find.
I wonder how much of the drop in coupe sales in relation to the four-door sedan was due to the aging of Cadillac’s customer base.
It was in the early 1980s that the European luxury cars really began making headway in the U.S. luxury market, and they tended to attract younger buyers (the notorious “Yuppies”). Older Cadillac customers preferred the easier entrance and exit provided by four doors…plus, the front doors weren’t as heavy on the four-door sedan.
That, and the long decline of the coupe for all makes and models started at the same time as Cadillac’s. The Coupe DeVille, lasting through 1993,outlived virtually all its competition.
La673, seeing these numbers and the ratio of 2-door to 4-door DeVilles completely flip-flop like this has me wondering. Not only was the diminishing of the coupe market a factor, but I also think the more rakish roofline of the 1977 – ’79 models was better suited to the coupes than the sedans, and the 1980+ roofs looked better on the four-door models. Thank you for posting these numbers.
I wouldn’t mind if someone with a sales-figures catalog could verify those numbers – I had surprising difficulty finding it online and the site I pulled these from was a bit vague as to whether the 1980 and later figures included Fleetwood sedans as well as Fleetwood coupes, which would skew the numbers toward sedans since the 1980s Fleetwood coupe never sold well. Either way, it’s clear the body-style mix veered heavily away from coupes starting in 1980, and the only real uncertainty I have is whether Cadillac’s big coupes suffered more in 1980 than other B, C, and Panther coupes.
I don’t have time to pull all those number, but there’s no doubt in my mind that big car coupe sales fell across the board starting about then.
it would make an interesting article; some other time perhaps.
Count me as a fan of the 80+ Coupe DeVille, at least for its styling. It looked far more like a Cadillac than did the 1977-79 version (even if it didn’t run like them). The stylists really captured the idea of “Cadillac” where those doing the 1977 car stumbled a bit with that question.
My first exposure to the styling of the 1980 was on an episode of the Rockford Files, and I thought it looked pretty good – more substantial.
In the ensuing years, I’ve wondered it was a little too retrograde, especially for a car that persisted for a dozen years. 1975 (Seville), 1977 (DeVille/Fleedwood), and 1979 (Eldorado) all seemed to move the Division forward. 1980 seemed the beginning of lost direction.
Long lived restyles have an odd way of influencing perceptions. I recognize the 80 restyle so vividly as “the” Cadillac almost solely because they were produced for 9 years virtually unchanged and 12 years total counting the aero headlight refresh and were common as dirt as livery cars through much of the 90s when I was a child and a common sight in the Chicago area around Ohare airport, and almost always black. Seeing the short lived 77-79s in colors popular in that period was an odd sight, even at a young age I intrinsically could tell they were the same car but they looked weird and somehow primitive to me, not helped by the fact that the few older ones out there tended to be worse for wear than the still fresh later models I saw so many of. Now I think the 77-79 is the much more cohesive and attractive design, but it took a good while for my opinion to shift on that, the 80-92’s sheer(no pun intended) ubiquity influenced me to think it was a “winner” and the short lived original design was a dud.
I had the same realization with Fox Mustangs. 87-93s were so common and seemed more contemporary to other cars of my childhood than the “four eye” models, in particular the 79-82, yet without that influence of newness the charms of the early examples are more apparent and the flaws of the later ones become much more obvious.
Matt, my experience of both the 1977 – ’79 Cadillac DeVilles and four-headlight Foxes mirrors yours pretty closely. I have definitely swung back around to really liking the earlier 1979 – ’82 Mustangs, and I have also come to really appreciate the purity of design of the pre-facelifted / downsized Cadillacs.
I didn’t grow up in an area that have a lot of livery, but I can always appreciate it when commenters here who lived in large, metropolitan areas like Chicago, New York, and Boston recognized certain makes and models as black cars of choice.
It’s funny how perceptions of “what looks right” is so dependent on what you grew up with. I came of (teen) age in the late 1970s, and started paying attention to cars around 1976. The new cars those years, especially American cars, looked elegant and luxurious to me. Malaise? What malaise? The main signifier a car was new (and thus in my mind desirable) was the large chrome bumpers. Those meant it was a new car, and they looked “right” to me, whereas the thin and spindly bumpers on “old” cars looked dated and cheap. Of course to someone 10 years older, the thin, spindly bumpers look right and the newer 5mph bumpers looked like railroad ties.
I completely get the bumper thing. Citing Dave Skinner’s ’76 Camaro post from yesterday, I can remember thinking the early 2nd generation Camaros with the thin bumpers didn’t look quite as “finished” as the later models, when I was a young kid.
Came full circle with the bumpers too, I grew up when every automaker cemented their commitment to the flush jellybean designs. In effect it’s many of the small or tightly integrated bumper designs of the late 60s and early 70s designs that look “right” to me, especially on cars where a body colored option was available. The only “Malaise” era cars that look “right” are Firebirds, Camaros and Corvettes with their endura caps, where everything else looks retrograde to the mid 50s with similarly large chrome bumpers and grilles and headlight trim.
My buddy Joseph…
Yet another great essay, and I’m liking the “Caddy” theme. But, I have to correct you once again (even though I really hate doing that to you). These 1980 Caddy’s were C body cars, not D body cars! I’m assuming that it was just a typo on your part.
Well I hope your not mad at me, as I am a total fan of your amazing writing style…
So if your not mad, let’s keep score since I consider myself very knowledgeable on the Caddy’s from the mid 60’s through the mid 2000’s.
1.) The faux convertible top on the 1985 Eldorado was not a factory installed one.
2.) The 1980 Coupes were C body, not D body cars.
I know a lot, but I don’t think I can fill the shoes of Carmine, who used to always give awesome comments on all the Cadillac posts.
Tommy – Still one of your biggest fans!
Looking forward to your next essay !
Are you secretly Carmine? LOL Nope, I deserved this, and so I fixed it. 🙂 You know, Paul is always taking submissions from willing contributors!
The “D-Body” thing is just embarrassing, but thankfully, I don’t actually embarrass easily anymore. I’ve got another two essays in the hopper, as of today. Tommy, thank you for the good words.
Glad you don’t embarrass easily anymore Joseph. No need to !!
I do miss Carmine’s knowledge on Cadillac, which also taught me a few things that even I didn’t know haha. I wonder what he would think of Cadillac going all electric, and using odd names of Lyriq and Celestiq…
Looking forward to those two essays!!
Maybe you will get to read my essays one day, too !
Didn’t these become D bodies once the 1985 FWD C bodies arrived? The car itself didn’t change much. It’s the same thing with the 1978-81 A bodies that became G bodies when the 1982 FWD A’s were introduced, which I think were originally intended to completely replace the RWD A bodies. Today, I often see the ’77-’81 A bodies referred to as G bodies. GM clearly wasn’t expecting these old RWD cars to remain so popular throughout the ’80s.
Yes, you are correct. The 1984 “C Body” Fleetwood Brougham did become the 1985 “D Body” Fleetwood Brougham, with it’s name changed to Brougham from 1987 -1992.
The restyle of 1993 took on the Fleetwood Brougham name again.
Always nice to stop by here and to see one of these still roaming around. The ’82-’85 4100 engine was slow and unreliable, but most ’82-’85s I see around today still have their original engines, so they must be the “good” ones or ones which the owner religiously maintained per 4100 standards.
I had an ’87 Brougham (Cotillion white) from 2004-10, and recently picked up a glacier blue with navy interior ’89 Brougham d’Elegance in my growing collection of 70s/80s cars. But I frankly like the ’80-’84 Sedan DeVille best of all of this body style, and would have loved to find an ’80 with the 368 and THM 400 (good luck with that). It’s the rear window. I think the limousine rear window on the (Fleetwood) Brougham is a little silly. I’d like a full view out back–not to mention the last big block and 400 combo but still with this look.
As to the ’77-’79 vs. the ’80-’89 (and to a lesser degree ’90-’92) design, as a child of the 1980s the ’80-’89 still says “Cadillac” to me like no other Cadillac in my lifetime (so, the ’63-’64, my favorite, doesn’t count), for all of its shortcomings we’ve long-discussed compared to the quality of the earlier models, and the convenience and safety of later ones.
I still have my ’79 Seville (stretched 4 door Nova) EFI Olds 350″ TH400 tranny Pewter grey, matching full vinyl top, with red leather interior. Red dashboard looked like every Caddy dash from 10 years earlier thru 20 years later, they didn’t change very fast. I probably wouldn’t have it but got a steal on it. Saw it at an old auto repair shop, customer dropped it off, those old school mechanics there knew nothing of this newfangled EFI with computer, said there was a problem with the TBI, was getting 1 MPG, raw gas dripping out of tailpipe.
It was low miles, 1st owner flew to Florida in winter and left it home in the garage, put 11K on it. 2nd owner didn’t put much more on it, apparently elderly owners.
My next door neighbor high school buddy drove similar series Seville, dark green, so I had some interest in them, but knew they were pricey new.
I bought it and drove the short distance home nearly running out of gas. Put 20 gallons in it and got 20 more miles. Opened the hood, pulled the air cleaner off, and checked out the TBI… couldn’t find the injectors in the TBI… looked like just a 2 barrel carb… or throttle body… sitting on a single plane aluminum intake manifold… eventually I realized I was resting my arms on one of the fuel rails for the 8 injectors while peering at the ‘TBI’… epiphany happened !!! … Direct Port Injection, this was Premo EFI in 1970’s… I found a leaking injector… a call to Cadillac revealed I could have a new injector for $150… 8 injectors = $1200 in 1980’s !!! … Looked for a new plan: apply voltage to the injector while someone applied air pressure through it backwards… that cleared it out… -0- repair cost other than a lot of wasted gasoline… put it back together and started driving it in good weather… You kinda have to look at the Seville close to realize it’s not a full size Caddy, all the trim looks about the same, it just seems like a handier size…