[Not mine, but the correct and rare triple white]
My Pop was born in 1925. That made him a member of the so-called “Greatest Generation”. Folks from that era loved, and aspired to, big American cars, and Pop was no exception. He was a GM man all his life. This car got old, and he went to trade it in on a 2002 Monte Carlo, and the dealer offered a lowball on the trade. That’s where I swooped in.
Pop always aspired to a Cadillac. At times in his life, good fortune allowed him a new one. At other times, he would buy a lesser GM product. But by 1995, he was retired and living in Florida. Florida had no shortage of older, low-mileage luxury cars, and he bought this one at 4 years old, but with only 22,000 miles. I have no idea what he paid, but I bet it was half the cost of a new one.
At 120k, he was done with it. The Chevy dealer offered him $2000 in trade. Pop wasn’t interested in selling it himself. He told me what was going on, and I jumped in and offered him $2100.
A one-way plane ticket to Florida, money and papers changing hands, and I was riding in style! Say what you want about General Motors (and I have a few choice words myself) but they always could build a beautiful highway cruiser. The 4.5 V8 had plenty of torque down low, and combined with tall gearing, the drive home to Michigan netted me 27mpg. The A/C, like every GM before or since, could make the inside of that car feel like a meat locker. It had been a long time since I had a car with working A/C, and even though a Cadillac was totally not “my style”, I learned to enjoy the nicest car I’d owned in a while.
I drove it all winter, into spring and summer, and I really enjoyed driving something totally out of my league. Then the autumn came, and the heater didn’t work. I diagnosed a stuck thermostat, and changed it. What I hadn’t known (because I hadn’t turned the heat on in a while, and because Cadillac owners can’t be bothered with a temperature gauge) is that it had been running cold all summer.
Then one day it drove slower and slower, until it finally stalled and refused to re-start. The diagnosis was beyond my skills, and I had it towed to my buddy’s shop.
The sad outcome, courtesy of the fuel injection of the era and the bad thermostat, was that the catalytic converter had become clogged solid. You see, the computer’s temperature sender saw the cold coolant and ran that engine with an over-rich mixture that wound up killing the cat. My buddy cut me a deal and installed a cheap replacement cat, and $400 later, the car ran better than it ever had during my tenure.
Within a few months the transmission started taking longer and longer to get into Drive, and a flush didn’t help. I saw the writing on the wall, and listed it for sale for $2500. It still had low miles for it’s age, and no rust relative to anything that old in Michigan, so it didn’t take long for me to receive an offer of $2000.
I got out while the getting was good, and I certainly don’t regret owning it or selling it. Nonetheless, I will cherish the memory of driving that pimpmobile, and probably the only car I will ever own with a white leather interior.
Ironic – my Dad was also born in 1925. He always wanted a Cadillac, and when he was diagnosed in 1989 with lung cancer he decided now was the time to get one. He walked into the showroom and spotted a brand new 1990 Medium Sapphire Blue Spring Edition Coupe deVille and that was it. He loved that car, and like you said he was often able to get 28-29 mpg on the highway with that car. He would often brag about how he managed to get that car to get him the best mileage possible. It never gave him any trouble in the 3 years he drove that car, and after he passed my Mom drove it and kept it until 1998 when it had almost 80k on it. It then got shipped down to Florida and my brother sold it to a friend of his. I don’t know where that car is now, if it even still exists. But I can still remember the smell of that blue leather, the sound of that 4.5 V-8 and the feeling you had going over bumps in that car. It truly gave a ride like no other car I can ever recall.
We had a white with navy blue leather 1994 Sedan deVille with the 4.9 V8 and loved it. We kept it until it had about 150K and this was 2004. Sold it and bought a Buick. By then whatever bugs the 4.x motors had were worked out and that was about as solid as a card as we ever had and it looked good. Other than an odd rear bumper trim bit that wanted its independence, we never had any real problems other than usual maintenance and expected items. I am not so sure about a white interior but a white exterior with a particular nice contrasting color can be very eye catching.
Evan, I agree that “not my style” reasoning often turns to appreciation when confronted with comfort, low cruising rpm, good a/c, reliability, and solidity of construction.
A few years ago I helped an aging parishioner maintain her late husband’s 1998 Olds Regency. It was not my style, but I learned to appreciate the old fashioned (and familiar) GM 4 door solid sense of motoring gentility. Also, it only had 25,000 miles on it and as such probably suffered from lack of use. It had a 3.8 V6 and acceleration was not a weak point.
Regarding gauges, yes, it would be nice if cars had more gauges and fewer lights. When my 57 Olds thermostat went bad the COLD light would not go out. Of course there was no Cat Converter back then, and juggling some cardboard baffles in front of the radiator got that light out and the heat back.
So, if they don’t want to put real gauges into cars, at least give us back the good old COLD light (it’s right over the 110 mark of the speedometer in the 1959 Olds photo below). You can even call it the COLD CAT light.
All of my more recent cars had temperature gauges, beginning with the 1995 Riviera. But what is standard on most cars today I am not sure. I would really like to see the Driver Information Center display oil pressure as one option. Engines that are running cold too long should trigger a check engine light I think, but I am not sure, as the computer would have to get some inconsistency.
I may be out of date regarding newer vehicles and gauges.
I have a 1999 Miata and it has what looks like an oil pressure gauge, but web sites have informed me it is a binary indicator not unlike a warning light. It is either OK (about 2/3 sweep from the left) or off.
Not sure what is worse, a warning on-off light or a warning on-off gauge. The on-off gauge seems a bit less honest.
My Grandmother’s 1950 Buick had gauges. By the 1960’s cars as I remember had mostly a light for everything except the speedometer. Sports cars probably were different, but cars I had into the 1980’s were mostly gauge free until the 1990’s. My cars have been upper end GM models, the last few Cadillacs, so they may be equipped better. My CTS has a choice of dash displays, two of which are useful, and two are digital instead of analog (simulated), with minimal information.
I can’t remember what the rental Dodge had for gauges (a tach and speedometer for sure).
It could be worse. With GPS technology these days they could come up with a binary speedometer – You’re Legal or Look out!
Wonder whether anyone at GM suggested this idea? 🙁
GM was the worst offender in the lack of instruments. By the 70s, only Chrysler offered a decent set of instruments, in cars that often really needed them.
The binary gauges are definitely a thing. My ’03 Marauder had two accessory gauges mounted low in the center console for voltage and oil pressure, and while one was a legitmate gauge, one was the same sort of binary on/off. Kind of annoying but better than nothing I suppose…
Toyota seems to have brought back the cold and hot light in some of their cars. My Scion XB had a cold light and a hot light with no temp gauge.
I hated it a lot, I have had a couple of times where having a temp gauge saved my car. In one instance, I was driving my 1989 Century and when I came to a stop light, I watched my gauge start to go up to hot quickly, I was able to turn into the church parking lot that was right next to the traffic light and turn the car off. It turns out the rad cap failed and pressure built up and blew the lower rad hose off. Had I had that stupid light the car would have been toast before that light went on.
Dad’s 1990 around 1998. Still looked brand new!
From the rear – what a good looking car!
My Dad was born in 1941, so he’s not a member of the Greatest Generation, nor is he a Boomer. He is of the smaller generation born between the two, the one you seldom hear about. He always wanted a Cadillac, and in 2002 he got his chance with a 1989 Seville for about $1300 from the local Honda dealer. The car had been repainted in its original pearlescent white paint and looked new. That new flashy paint job hid a myriad of mechanical problems.
As a pensioner on a fixed income with no savings or investment income, I told him not to buy that car because the repairs would break him. Did he listen? No, and he lived to regret it. After about 2 yrs of ownership and about $5000 sunk into that wretched car, he finally let it go to the wrecking yard and admitted defeat.
Everything went wrong on that car. The power steering developed morning sickness, just like the lowly Pontiac 6000 he’d once owned, probably because the steering rack was the same. But besides myriads of electrical problems and a rattly interior with loose trim pieces falling off regularly, the worst problem he had was when the power brake booster failed, and it was going to cost over $1000 to fix. Dad drove that car WITHOUT power brakes for 6 months until his mechanic could source a used booster. I drove it once and told Dad to immediateley park it, as you had to do everything but stand on that brake pedal to get the car to stop – it was very scary! I was terrified that if a small child ran out in front of him he’d never be able to stop in time. Was so relieved when he got rid of that POS.
Few people buy a 13 year old luxury car for their low running costs. In 2002 there weren’t too many cars from the 80’s still on the road. The 4.9/4.5 Cadillacs were pretty reliable compared to other luxury cars of the era with the possible exception of Lexus.
In those cars, steering and brake failures are not very common. More common are water pump failures and problems with the computer controlled struts/shocks. The fresh paint may have been hiding the fact it was a rebuilt wreck. That may have explained the steering issues as well, but that’s just speculation on my part.
” After about 2 yrs of ownership and about $5000 sunk”
Compared to value depreciation of average new cars, this actually isn’t so bad at all. There ain’t no free lunch. The difference is that instead of driving some pathetic soulless penalty box, you’re driving a CADILLAC.
The picture you are running is of the earlier 85-88 style and the engine your car had was the 4.9 V8 which replaced the earlier 4.5 V8.
A quick, slightly off topic question. I’m considering buying a 1984 Cadillac DeVille RWD and I think it has the 4100HT. I know these had a bad reputation, but what exactly was the problem with them? With the local climate, rust should not be an major issue, and this type of car tends to be kept nice by their owners here, so would it be a good car to own?
If I remember right there was a basic design problem that could develop into a coolant leak into the crankcase, which would then lead to engine failure. If you google the Cadillac 4100 engine for problems there is some information on it.
I also seem to remember several people on here discussing a strict maintenance schedule and some tablets supplied by GM. There is also probably some merit to the point that if it is still on the road now, it may be “one of the good ones”. Use the search function, I’m sure we talked about this at some point in one of the Cadillac articles.
I had the ’87 Brougham which is the same body just a different engine. The car itself was solid, well built, and did not rust in New England.
This motor has an aluminum block with cast iron heads that incorporate part of the intake manifold. Leaky and failed headgaskets are common. I would guess that these motors are extremely sensitive to head and block warpage. A few of the older guys I worked with had problems with theirs, although once fixed they may have been okay. A co worker had a beautiful green slick top Eldo. He said that he would get 25 mpg. but the car was very under powered and slow.
The problem was that if you let it overheat, the engine was pretty much destroyed. This was covered in detail before, including a few articles and comments on curbsideclassic.com
If this engine has survived so far, there are probably good chances it will continue to run in the future. Take it to a mechanic who knows what he’s doing and let him thoroughly inspect the cooling system. Replace all rubber hoses and replace coolant (the proper type) and keep the cooling system in top shape. Be careful never to overheat the engine. With all those precautions taken, it should be fine.
instead buy a Lincoln
Probably the best idea. 5.0 or 4.6 both very good motors.
Have fun with those shit AOD transmissions, lethargic 70’s 460 bost anchors, or the ready-to-fail Ford solenoids.
I’ve three REAL Cadillacs… A 73 Coupe de Ville, a 76 Coupe de Ville and a 75 Sedan de Ville and NONE of them, ever gave me a lick of trouble.
The basic problem was that the 4100 was a combination of aluminum and cast iron, which should work OK, but there were a number of things not quite right. Once Cadillac/GM sorted out the problems, the engine was upgraded to the 4.5 liter size, which was a good engine. Then the 4.9 version was also good.
Cadillac engines that are best avoided include the 8-6-4 version of the 6 liter engine (this engine was based on the 425). The 472-500-425 family was fairly good, but they are big gas hogs. The 4100 was not good till the end, so the 4.5, 4.9 versions are best. The FWD Northstars are well known for problems with the head bolts loosening up and the engine then is toast. RWD Northstars are good as far as I know (I had an SRX with one). The last of the FWD Northstars were fixed (about 2006 or 2007 maybe?).
If I were buying an old BOF RWD Fleetwood (AKA Brougham) I would go for one in the 1994-1996 model year range. The engine in these are good for performance and not bad for fuel consumption. A painted roof is best for looks, but the vinyl top is much too popular…
The 8-6-4 engine is not a bad engine mechanically(like the HT-4100) the only issue it had was the computer system controlling the “displacement on demand” setup was to primitive. Most folks took it to the dealership or a independent Cadillac shop and had them disconnect one wire and that kept it in 8 cylinder mode. After that it was very reliable and a good engine.
As for the 94-96 Fleetwood, I love the car but would pass due to it having the Opti-crap distributer unit. What a pain in the @$$ that system was. On the Caprice/Impala/Roadmaster, it seems GM engineered the whole setup to fail with the water pump(which always tended to leak in these cars) above the unit and when it leaked it killed it.
I would take the last year of the Brougham(1992). It had fuel injection, reliable engine and a comfy ride.
Besides the computer, the solenoids controlling the valves tended to fail. The 1980 368 V8 was a reasonable engine, but the variable displacement idea did not work all that well. The EPA was dubious about how much it would reduce fuel consumption in the real world, and then the mantenence required to keep it functional was excessive.
Thanks guys for the input!
Enjoyable read. Everyone should own an old Cadillac, if only for a season. Mine both served me well, and there’s just nothing like one. Just looking out over that hood and gliding around on those Delco air shocks is a unique and irreplaceable feeling.
Not bad but I would take a 91 Fleetwood Brougham any day.
Nice story. I have always wondered how these cars is compared to the old fullsize BOF Cadillac cars in terms of ride quality, quietness (at speed), inside space, equipment, power and reliability. Anyone who have driven both, and maybe owned both?
I owned an ’87 Brougham and ’93 Fleetwood Brougham (RWD), and have driven a relative’s ’95 Sedan DeVille (FWD), the last one with the 4.9. The equipment was pretty much the same. The ’87 was much more of a throwback inside and out while the ’93 and ’95 were quite similar and modernized (lumbar controls, etc). The RWDs felt bigger in back and the ’93 was bigger in all dimensions than the other two. Palatial.
Can’t speak to reliability of the ’95. My ’93 had more electrical problems than the ’87 and some of the gadgets were flimsier on the newer car. On the other hand, the ’93 didn’t have the eQjet so was somewhat more “plug and play”.
The ’87 and ’93 rode about the same because they pretty much were. The ’95 felt like a smaller car engineered to ride like the bigger cars. So it had a soft ride but seemed to pitch and dip a lot more than the RWD cars, which “floated”. The FWD ride honestly made me feel slightly seasick. You’d hit a depression and it would snap down like a smaller car, then yaw around. It was floaty but not the gentle undulation of the RWD…
the bigger ones were more comfortable and way better looking. it’s best to avoid the 4.1 engine cars and diesels altogether. the 4.1 is an underpowered slug that fails. the beat dull sized was the 77-79 withering the 425 v8 . the 80-81 was good though the 81 you had to disconnect the 864 engine. the 82-85 had the crap 4100 engine and in 86 they got a 307 old’s which was better and better I’ll a 350 Chevy in the 90s. the smaller car was a piece of junk 4100, weak transmission. ugly body .. all suffered from poor gm quality especially after 79. personally I would buy a town car over any of them. the compact caddy costs a fortune to keep running. 80s?were a disaster for Cadillac. far better to get a town car if you like the big ones or a fifth avenue m body if you like the little Cadillac.
I had a boss that went to the caddy dealer in about ’88 w 16k CASH to buy a new one similar to the main-article-pic,,,,,, the dealership called the cops because of the sack-o-Cash, just to be sure it wasn’t stolen or drug-money. He checked-out 2 hours later w/all the papers and the new-title arrived 2 weeks later.
I have a 1995 Deville with the 4.9l V8. It is a very comfy car to drive. I paid $1000 for it. Since I do my own work on my cars, the Deville has not cost much to own and maintain. It is a pig with 16 miles to the gallon around town(where I drive it the most) but I drive a Colorado as my daily driver.
The 4.9l only has 200hp but with its torque, that is plenty enough power to motivate the car around town or the highway.
The interesting thing about the 1994-1996 Deville is that they were called Sedan Deville and had this on the doors. However there was never any coupe offered. In 1997, the Sedan was dropped and only Deville was on the doors. I am wondering it Cadillac was considering a coupe Deville for the 94-99 Deville and dropped the plans after 1996?
Here is a pic of mine. It was taken when I still had that POS Firebird of mine.
Awesome website – love the visits down memory lane and your personal stories.
Can’t beat the white leather! Sounds like a great experience–driving something “not your style” for a time will broaden your automotive horizons.
The Cadillac photo posted is not a 1991, it is either a 1987 or 1988… The still squarer and smaller De Ville.
Then it was enlarged in 1989-93, to try and win back the glory days of “the big ole Caddies.”
Here’s a 1991. 😉