(first posted 3/23/2015) In contrast to Gerardo’s entry last week on the Cimarron, which was perhaps the nadir of the Cadillac brand, I’d like to present an example of “Peak Cadillac.” Actually, one could argue that Cadillac’s success never really crested at a single point, but spanned decades, from the elegant V-16s of the Depression era to the beautiful Eldorados of the late 1960s. In those days, Cadillac was America’s Rolls Royce, and they never had to concern themselves with such nonsense as “matching the Germans.” Cars like this 1965 Sedan DeVille saw to that.
The most shocking thing to me about 1960s Cadillac “sedans” is that they don’t command more money. With a little searching, one can find a Sedan DeVille in reasonable condition for well under $10,000, ensuring its status as the value winner per pound among its collectible car brethren. Sedan DeVilles may look better than their coupe counterparts too, almost like they were designed as a sedan (or in this case, a four-door hardtop) first.
Since even the most handsome car should also prove to be a useful one, 429 Cadillac power moves its not inconsiderable bulk effortlessly down any superhighway in America. And it’s loaded.
Available for order on DeVilles was Cadillac’s brilliant “Comfort Control” climate control system, which included air conditioning. 1965 models came standard with GM’s outstanding Turbo-Hydramatic 400, and could even be ordered with cruise control, power seats, power door locks, automatic headlights, leather seats, tilting and telescoping steering wheel (which was quite sporty, actually), and an AM-FM radio. Save for a touch screen user interface, this cabin cruiser on wheels is nearly as well-equipped as a 2015 Cadillac.
1965 Cadillacs were a substantial leap forward from the 1964 model shown above; in fact, they were almost entirely new from the frame up (many GM models received a new perimeter frame in ’65, and Cadillacs were no exception). As has been noted many times, the ’65 Cadillac was shorn of its famous tailfins for the first time since 1947 (although one could argue that even the ’65 kept a vestigial fin of sorts). Whether the ’64 or ’65 was more attractive is open to interpretation, but magazine editors and road testers of the time were almost universal in their praise for both.
Cadillac’s greatness was so unquestioned in the mid-1960s that its resale value was almost unmatched, a fact that Cadillac highlighted in many of its print ads.
One could go so far as to call it the “Standard of the World.” Oh wait, Cadillac did, and they weren’t twisting the truth either. The featured ’65 Sedan DeVille was heralded by nearly all who drove one. Their engineering and quality matched their attractive looks, and GM mass produced a car that was in every way a match for even the most carefully handcrafted luxury cars the world had to offer.
The only thing wrong with this Sedan DeVille is that it’s not in my garage. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t fit. That doesn’t stop me from feeling a twinge of envy whenever I notice one of these big beauties. It’s not only a win for the home team, but also a somber reminder of a time when our greatest car didn’t have to play catch up, because it was miles ahead.