COAL #7: 1977 Cadillac Coupe de Ville – The Things That Dreams Are Made Of

Downsized, but still pretty impressive. All photos sourced from Bring a Trailer.


My first Dream Car, a 1977 Coupe de Ville.

The ’57 had served me well. I was approaching my college graduation. Finally, after seven years of part time attendance. I thought that I would mark this special occasion, as well as reward myself, by getting my Dream Car. I decided to sell the ’57 Cadillac and start looking for something really special.

There was a consignment used car lot in Santa Clara, and that’s where I took the car. As it turned out, the manager of the lot laid eyes on my ’57 and decided that he wanted it. He didn’t want to buy it outright, exactly. He told me to find something on the lot that I liked, and we could work out a deal.

Originally there was one car that caught my eye, a bright red, Alfa Romeo GTS coupe. It was an interesting car and looked to be in good shape. But an Alfa? Stories of problematic Italian cars were common. Pass.

I was actually hoping that a cash buyer would appear, it would give me a wider choice. It turned out that the manager was holding onto a ’77 Coupe de Ville that had just come in. I had been very excited by the ’77s which had just come out three years ago. This downsized model was exactly the direction that I had hoped Cadillac would follow.

Cadillac was still clinging to the sheer look.


The car was the right size on the outside, especially compared to the much bigger 74-76 models. It was spacious and comfortable and the handling was also very good. The 425 engine was not as powerful as the 472 in my old ’70, but it was fairly responsive. In addition, gas mileage was much improved. I remember that it would average 16 mpg. on long highway trips.

Seven liters could still do the job.


My car was triple yellow, Naples yellow body, yellow half landau top, and yellow leather upholstery. The combination probably sounds kind of weird, but it actually struck me as fresh looking. Kind of like a slice of lemon cake.

This design is still unmistakably a Cadillac.




The car had just over 50,000 miles. It still looked like new, and since the current models still looked largely the same, I got to enjoy the prestige of driving what appeared to be a new Cadillac. This was during my embrace of the”Dress for Success” ethos and I was feeling pretty good about myself and my future. I loved everything about this car and I took immense pride and pleasure in owning it.

A faded touch of class.


This is not a Pep Boys wheel cover!


There were some nice details; the hood ornament led the way. The tail lights lenses were adorned with a vintage winged insignia. The wire spoke wheels were nicely done. These were quality pieces. I think that the disfavor wire wheel caps are viewed with is because of the cheap spaghetti strainer wire baskets that were available from discount suppliers. The whole set was stolen one night while I was at the movies. The wheel covers were replaced by my insurance company at a cost of over 500.00!

My last Coupe de Ville had been a ’70 model. The ’77 was one of the biggest of current American cars, but it lacked the feeling of massiveness of the earlier car. The ’70 while larger, had a more intimate feeling in the cabin, while the interior of the ’77 was brighter with larger windows. The ’70 was a pure classic Cadillac, with knife like front fender blades, and towering fin like rear quarter panels and tail lamps.

As I mentioned, I had graduated from college, so this car came at a very significant period in my life. Before the late ’70s layoffs at GM, I had applied for the Supervisors training program. It was two years later that I got a call from the company asking if I was still interested in the program. I had a pretty good job working for the County, and my future with them looked good, but GM paid a lot more.

So I left, just for the money. It was while I working for GM that I met my future wife. Where else but at a disco? It was the 1980’s after all!

GM’s Fremont assembly plant, from I 880, in 1972.


The training program was three months of classroom instruction, then three months on the floor, learning to manage a section of the assembly line. I had worked on the line for a couple of years previously. My Dad would go on to retire after 30 years with the company. Many of my relatives, including my older brother, and uncles also worked there. We were a UAW family.

I found the training program somewhat interesting, especially since I was familiar with the production line. This was my first white shirt and tie job, I was the first white collar worker in my family. (That didn’t last!) The word was that successful graduates of the program would be sent to Kansas City Missouri, where a new plant had been built. This would have been a good opportunity for me, the cost of living was lower than in the Bay Area. But Kansas City?

Even though there was nothing really tying me down to the Bay Area, I still didn’t want to go. So I called up one of my buddies that was still working for the County, and asked if they were still looking for people. He said that they were. I called up my old boss’s office and made an appointment. During our meeting, I asked him if there was an opening, and if so, could I come back? He asked me. “Are you tired of building cars?” I told him that I was. He said to show up on Monday.

The next morning I showed at GM, went to the personnel office and informed them that I was resigning. They suggested that I meet with the plant manager first. I had met him briefly during training. He was the number one man at the plant. It was a job with a lot of responsibility and it paid really well. He had once invited all the trainees to his house in the Fremont foothills for cocktails. It was quite the house!

He was pretty fair with me, and asked why I was leaving. I told him that I wanted to work in a field that was more in line with my education. I didn’t mention anything about moving to Kansas City. He told me that as a college grad, there would be a lot of opportunities available to me in the future with GM. I supposed that there would be, GM was still a powerhouse at this time. I told him that I had made up my mind, and I positively slammed that door shut. If I was burning bridges I didn’t care. I was a young guy with a lot of years ahead of me to find my path in life.

I never wanted to be a company man. My life and plans always came first, I had always been a conscientious employee who did the job, but that was as far as my loyalty extended. I stayed with the County for another year or so, then moved onto a better job with the State. I will add that the management of my department were always supportive of their young employees who were in the process of improving their education or career paths. I was looking forward to my new job, but I knew that I’d be required to relocate to the Los Angeles area.

Portrait of the author as a young man. Sorry about the poor photo quality.


The car served well through this time and I thought that it made me look as up and coming as any Yuppie in a BMW. Cadillac still held a lot of magic for me as a marque. There would still be one more dream Cadillac in my future.

I had added a hitch and hooked up a U-Haul trailer to tow my stuff down to So Cal to start my new working life. After I completed my training period I returned home to marry my girlfriend.

My new wife took over driving the Cadillac and became quite adept at handling it. We lived in an old part of Whittier and the house had a long narrow driveway that sloped downward onto busy Beverly Boulevard.

We would often drive the Cadillac up to Northern California as well as to the Central Valley, on hurried weekend visits. I was still new on the job and was worried that I might have car problems and be late reporting back to work. This led me to begin thinking of buying our first new car.

I was still thinking about Cadillacs. I checked out a couple of the new downsized El Dorados. They were beautiful, but a year or two old Eldo was priced beyond my reach. I was now a married man with a family and it was time to become more realistic and practical.

I had owned the ’77 long enough to pay off the four year loan, and after a few months of saving up some more money for a down payment, it was time to buy my (our) first new car.