I didn’t plan on buying another Cadillac after acquiring our 1994 Fleetwood Brougham, but that car has spent more time in the shop that out of it in the year that we’ve had it, and Igor (88 Brougham) was still getting the kinks worked out of the EFI upgrade. So I hatched a plan – sell the Suburban since I have a company Toyota Highlander, sell the ’94 FWB once it gets fixed, and find something that my wife can take to car shows so we can go with his and hers classic vehicles that doesn’t remind us of a money pit whenever we look at it.
Turns out, nobody wants to buy a 2003 Chevrolet Suburban when gas is $4/gallon. So I ended up selling it for less than I had hoped to one of those “we’ll buy any car” places – but it was out of my hair, off our insurance, and I don’t have to deal with the hellhole that is FB Marketplace.
With that taken care of, I scoured the usual places for a classic car – and found today’s subject on Craigslist locally here in Pittsburgh with 92k on the odometer. I called the number and spoke with a lovely elderly lady named April who along with her husband Auggie was selling the vehicle as they didn’t want to pay for the storage anymore. I made arrangements to drive to their house in the South Hills, and took a ride in the car now known as “Rosie”. Auggie looked right out of Central Casting for an elderly Italian gentlemen, complete with leather penny loafers, pinky ring, and an affinity for big band and jazz music.
The story behind the car is an interesting one – it was purchased at Rohrich Cadillac on Nov 18th, 1991 for a wife by her attorney husband. When she passed away, the car went to April & Auggie, as April was the secretary for the attorney. Auggies brother, who lost his similar looking 80’s Sedan deVille in an accident, bought the car from him sometime in the early 2000’s. His brother died from a stroke after driving the car from Western PA to Florida and not stopping to rest (or run the AC). The car came back to Auggie and April, and they maintained it until deciding to sell it over the past year.
As soon as I saw the car, I knew I didn’t want to let this one slip thru my fingers as other have the past couple of years. While not in perfect shape as the pics can attest, the interior was neat as a pin and with zero cracks in the dashpad and no rips in the leather seats. The back seat doesn’t even look like it’s been used at all over the last 30 years!
I didn’t even try to haggle with them on price, as I didn’t want to insult them. But buying the car turned into an adventure itself. I wanted to surprise my wife with the car, so I enlisted my mother in law to drop me off at April & Auggies house, we would go to the local AAA to do the paperwork, and then I could drive the car back home.
Well, turns out Auggie didn’t actually have the title to the car – he had all the paperwork from when he did the transfer, and PennDOT sent him registration and renewal slips, but not the title. So he filed for a replacement title, and they gave me a ride home to the North Hills in their 2002 Jeep Grand Cherokee. Auggie was very proud of the Infinity sound system in the Jeep, showing it off with a CD of Duke Ellington while profusely apologizing for the missing title.
With speed unusual for PennDOT, the next week I got a call that the replacement title arrived. The next day I had my mother in law give me a ride once again to the South Hills, returned home with Rosie, and proceeded to place the included cover on the car to surprise my wife – I captured it on video, and with the help of Bruce Springsteen, did so when she got home. Here’s the video (with her 2017 XTS daily driver in the background).
Rosie is a 1992 Brougham in “Antelope Firemist” – an $240 extra cost option color – with matching leather interior and padded vinyl roof. The car has been repainted partially, with the bumper fillers not being original. A clue that an elderly person drove the car is the aftermarket bumper guards – we’re keeping them on the car since they seem to have done their job over the years. Rust is a big problem out here in Western PA, as PennDOT loves to throw down salt on the roads, much like the residents on perogies. Luckily there is a minimal amount of rust on this example, owing to being a snowbird car and kept in storage during the winter.
The paint isn’t perfect – I can tell that portions of the car have been repainted by the placement of badges and a slight color mismatch, and there are a few dings, but given that creampuff low mile examples of these cars go for over $20k, the $9k spent on this looked like a great deal.
Blemishes aside, I think I know why this car didn’t sell as quickly as 90-92 Broughams have been lately – the lack of the 5.7 350 Chevy under the hood. Even with only 15 HP and 45 lb/ft of torque less than the 350, people shy away from the 5.0 cars unless they are a d’Elegance model. Rosie is lucky to have the TBI 305 under the hood, making 170 HP and 255 lb/ft of torque – much better than the carbed 86-90 307 Olds with only 140. The 305 is adequate for daily driving – I only really wish she had the 5.7 pulling a steep grade, but aside from that I’ve never really felt the need for the big motor under the hood.
Compared to our 88 Igor, Rosie is much better on road trips – the TBI 305 means we’re not praying before merging or trying to pass someone, standard ABS gives me a bit more assurance when I slam on the brakes, and the reclining seats mean that my wife can find a comfortable driving position.
Everyone kvells over this generation of Cadillac, with nearly the same look inside and out from 1980 to 1992 (and some of the lines from 1977) – looking back it is easy to see why. The “Sheer Look” formal roofline combined with all the detail and chromed jewelry just oozes “Classic Cadillac”. But competition from the restyled Lincoln Town Car, Lexus LS400, and other more modern styled/aerodynamic luxury cars were causing sales to slump – by 1992 production was down to only 13.7k versus 65k for 1987.
Cadillac completely redesigned the D body for 1993, renaming it Fleetwood with the Brougham option package available – for 1993, the FWD extended C Body was simply called “Sixty Special”. Even with the larger interior, flush glass reducing wind noise, upgraded tech like dual airbags and traction control, something was lost in the interior and exterior translation. The touches that made the 1977-92 cars special went away and the interior feels much more Buick or Chevrolet than Cadillac – and that crisp Bill Mitchell “Sheer Look” was traded for a mixed bag of modern aero/1940’s ponton styling that people either hated or tolerated. From certain angles and in dark colors, I like the 93-96 cars, but they don’t get the same response the 77-92 Caddys do.
So far it’s been just regular maintenance, with one exception – Auggie didn’t do much highway driving I guess, because anytime we took the car out for the first week the “Service Engine Soon” light would come on when merging onto the highway, and the car felt like a four banger. I changed the plugs, wires, cap and rotor to be on the safe side – no change. Turns out the knock sensor went bad – changed that out and it’s been great. I also had to change out all of the speakers since only one was working when I bought the car – I guess Auggie blew them out with some Glenn Miller.
We took Rosie on our New England road trip – from Pittsburgh to Kennebunk Maine, up to Acadia National Park, out to Provincetown on Cape Cod, over to The Hamptons, and thru NYC to my family in Central NJ. Mileage? Somewhere around 20, but I have a heavy right foot and nobody keeps to the speed limit unless there’s a cop in sight.
This is my second round with a 90-92 Brougham – my first was 12 years ago in college when I bought a 1991 Brougham d’Elegance with a 5.7 off of an elderly gent in Massachusetts. The car died on the drive back to NJ in The Bronx due to a dead fuel pump (at 11PM), and eventually I had to donate it to Kars 4 Kids when the bushings in the steering column went completely out chewing the wiring harness up. I was still in college at the time, and didn’t have the time or money to fix it up properly.
But my most memorable experience with this flavor of Brougham was via Dad’s limo business – Brigadier Limousine (“We Take Pride In Every Ride”). He had a 1990 Brougham equipped with the 5.7, and everyone loved driving that car. It was white with dark blue leather interior, and I had a ball as a toddler playing in and around it. Here I am with Pappy Lawler at the original Brigadier Limo HQ in Houston TX.
Nothing lasts forever, and after 12 years the sheer age of the “Sheer Look” was out of step with the times – despite the sprucing up in 1990 with Euro style cladding, composite lamps, digital dash, and much better sound systems. Those of us who love these cars look back and wish they still made them, but looking at the sales numbers I can’t say I blame the product planners when they started making changes.
This particular Brougham will have a nice long pampered life – this summer was a washout for car shows unfortunately, but we’re already planning for next year. So if you see us around the Burgh, ask for a ride! The backseat is the best around for being chauffeured to a nice night Dahntahn….