The running joke among my friends is that I go change cars like some people change their underwear, given that I have owned around 20 cars in the last 15 years. I made it easy for them when I decided to ditch the 1991 Sedan DeVille after only a year and change of ownership.
I didn’t want to dump any more money into it after spending $1500 on AC repairs only to have the evaporator go out – as well as fix a few small issues like the driver’s window not working right and the baffles in the gas tank causing stalling issues anytime the fuel level would get below 6 gallons. I loved the car, but with the ’88 Brougham needing a new transmission I felt one basket case Caddy was enough. I put the car up for sale, but dealing with FB Marketplace and Craigslist is a hassle with scammers so I ended up giving the car away to a friend of mine who needed a car and didn’t mind what was wrong with it (driving with no AC beats paying for Uber to get back and forth to work). So Christmas Eve my friend hopped a train from NC to CT and I played Santa signing over the title while showing her the foibles of the car before she left for her relatives in NJ.
At this point, a normal person would be satisfied with having the ’88 Brougham and ’07 Grand Marquis. But Facebook Marketplace kept showing me lovely examples in my area (Bridgeport CT and Long Island NY) – going so far as to drive a ’94 Sedan DeVille that was for sale, and even make an offer. I lost out on that one, but test driving it reminded me why I loved that era DeVille – it rode smooth, the noise level was whisper quiet, and the interior was so much more comfortable than my 91 with the bigger dimensions and raised seating position. I was hooked again!
This got me looking for a ’94 or ’95 DeVille in decent shape for a reasonable price – a day after Christmas I found a ’95 DeVille for sale on Craigslist out in East Meadow NY on LI with only 88k miles. I called the guy up, and set up a time to meet at his house to look at the car. Not wanting to risk losing out, I made sure I had cash on me this time.
I show up Saturday at noon to look at the car, and it’s as good as advertised. No serious mechanical issues, the interior is clean aside from the leather on the driver’s seat being worn, and the only electrical issue is the radio is broken. Fire it up, and no warnings on the dash to greet me. Take it for a spin and the car feels great aside from the ride being off. Look at the tires and there’s the gremlin – dry rot. We go inside to talk and he tells me about the car – it was a leased vehicle for the first two years, then his mother in law bought it and drove it 10 miles a day back and forth to her job at the local police station. When his MIL passed away, he bought the car and used it in the summer with it being covered and garaged in the winter. I offered him the cash I had in my jacket…and then a little bit more from the ATM down the street…and the car was mine!
Now why would I want a ’94 or ’95 over a newer model DeVille or DTS? One word – Northstar. I had one in my 1996 DeVille, and while it was fast (and more engine than a high schooler should have!), it also wasn’t a paragon of reliability. Oil consumption and finicky engine electronics were my main gremlins – I didn’t have any bad luck with headbolts but I didn’t keep the car past 130k miles so I’m not sure what happened after my ownership ended. But after hearing the horror stories from others, I wanted the nice reliable 4.9 – it has enough horsepower for my needs in day to day driving along the Merritt Parkway and 287.
This car has gotten mixed reviews on this site – but I personally love the styling of it. It really does look like a 5/8th scale Fleetwood Brougham, and the fender skirts fit better on this car than the Olds 98 of the same era. The interior is a bit plastickier than I would like, but the fake wood is much better looking than the ’91 DeVille – or even the ’88 Brougham. The digital dash is not the best, but the teardrop shape is attractive looking and functional. Standard features like four wheel disc ABS, traction control, and dual airbags make this a truly modern car – however it still has the float of Brougham days gone by.
This particular example is of course festooned with an imitation convertible top, a Sacred Heart Auto League medallion, and a few Nassau County police organization stickers. The previous owner replaced the top after it started to look aged – not my favorite styling touch, but given the demographic of this car, it’s to be expected.
Much has been said about this generation of DeVille – but I’m here to stick up for this car. It’s big, comfortable, quiet, powerful, and with the 4.9 V8, reliable. The styling is Cadillac, but modern – even with the less than stellar interior quality. I inherited a ’96 DeVille when my Pap died in February of 2006, and I was able to pile all of my high school buddies in the thing and still have room to stretch out. That 20 cubic foot trunk moved me to and from my college dorm without issue, and the A/C could freeze out a penguin.
So far, it’s been a month of (mostly) trouble free motoring – I discovered the AC compressor is shot, and the all but one of the speakers were dead. I replaced the bad factory radio rear speakers, but I’m leaving the front ones to a stereo shop with all the right tools (and patience) that I lack. We’ve had a few snowstorms here in the Northeast, and the heavy 4.9/FWD combo has made this car as good in the snow as my ’91 was.
But the Caddy did leave me stranded, and it has nothing to do with anything from the factory – the aftermarket security system failed, disabling the starter as well as the keyless entry. This happened on a business trip in Pittsburgh (near my old apartment oddly enough), and I was lucky to find a mobile mechanic on Facebook who removed the busted security system for a very reasonable price (and in about 20 minutes).
Even with my automotive ADD, I still think I will have this White Whale for a long time – the inside is comfortable, the ride smooth, and it does truly have the feel of a Cadillac when I’m behind the wheel (my stepdad’s Escalade has the same feel – sadly I cannot afford one of those right now). Plus, if I put on a toupee I can pretend I’m in college again – who knew a Cadillac could also be a time machine?