CC Mini Project: 1989 Cadillac Brougham d’Elegance – Buying By d’Pound

If you have read some of my COAL series you will realize there is no brand loyalty factoring into my choices but if anything could be considered a trend it is probably a tendency to smaller and simpler vehicles. Even when browsing I am generally not drawn to a luxury or big car but there is one large exception that I have always wanted to own. I already have a project car that is taking entirely too long so adding another seems reasonable. Right?

Hopefully (for at least one household member) this one will be a simple “turd polishing” exercise to turn it around quickly.

A similar era Lincoln or Chrysler really does not get very high on car lust meter for me but there is just something appealing about these big Cadillacs.

Or a sub set of them to be more accurate as I do not like the early or late ones as much. They are not horrible but I do find the front and rear end detailing of the 1977-1979 cars as less fully resolved somehow. The late ones of 1990-1992 with the composite headlamps just look off and have entirely too much “gingerbread” with the lower cladding added and digital gauges. That leaves the Eighties cars which are, mostly and unfortunately, saddled with a rather poor selection of engines.

Outside of 1980 one could choose from a problematic 8-6-4 V8, over burdened Buick V6, problematic diesel V8, also problematic aluminum block/iron head HT-4100 V8 or the slightly sleepy Oldsmobile 307 V8 depending on the year. Problematic seems to be a recurring theme. The best of the bunch is the normal 368 cu in of 1980 or a converted V8-6-4 but the second best choice and much easier to find is the slow but steady Oldsmobile V8, which meant for me that a 1986-1989 was the best candidate.

I have been casually looking for one literally for decades but each time I find a candidate my wife kicks up a fuss, but I cannot complain too much as she is generally pretty chill about the junk I bring home. The snag remains that she is just not a fan of big American cars. Like really not a fan. It probably has something to do with having to drive a rear wheel drive, two door  Oldsmobile Cutlass as a teenager before they were cool.

Given the values of these Cadillacs seem to be on the (modest) rise lately when a cheap one popped up for sale locally I figured it was now or never to scratch this itch. As illustrated by my COAL history you will know if nothing else I am a sucker for what appears to be a good deal. I hatched a plan to take a look at it after work and triumphantly arrive home with it. That sneaky strategy was accidentally dashed by wife insisting on picking me up from work … late. So she had to come along to look at the car and was suitably unimpressed. Sometimes a man just has to put his foot down so I declared I was buying it no matter what. We comprised that I could do so as long it never parked outside and lowered the property values of all our neighbors.

During a short test drive I discovered the seller was a bit of a car buff and we had a mutual acquaintance in common. He had a few cars with a Dodge Dart under going restoration and this modified 600hp Nissan Skyline GTR among them.

The Cadillac was found to be more or less as described and pictured. The padded roof was toast, a wheel was missing a hubcap, which were all visible from the ad photos, as well as the heater core needed replacing (as disclosed in the ad). Additionally, there were some not unexpected paint issues and the turn signals did not flash but I optimistically figured it would just be a cheap flasher replacement. I made a reasonable offer which the seller accepted and I was now a proud, first time Cadillac owner. This made my wife was a rather more reluctant co-owner by extension.

While not sporty in the least, the Cadillac is quite fun to drive. It is joyful in a different way, giving a sense of occasion on every drive, as it looks like nothing else on the road which is mostly cluttered up with pickups and SUVs. The 307cid / 5.0L V8 engine only puts out rather low 140hp but a more robust 245 lb-ft of torque, so while not fast by any stretch it does not feel as slow as they 140hp figure might indicate. Regardless, raw power and speed is not what this car is about.

It was only a short drive home but with the fuel gauge on E, I splashed a bit more gasoline into it.

I also took advantage a slow winter sunset to get a few photos. Full disclosure, they flatter the car by hiding how horrible the vinyl top is. But more importantly, the body is very solid and rust free. I do wish the color was something other than this hearing aid beige but it has been slowly growing on me a little bit. The front vanity plate came with the car and says “If you can’t run with the big dogs stay on the porch” with a Dallas Cowboys plate surround.

Experts will note that the grill is incorrect for the year as it has the ’81 and ’87-’88 egg crate one. I was wary that this might have been repaired collision damage but there was absolutely no sign of that so perhaps someone had a strong enough preference to swap it out?

There are a few neat features of this vehicle that are worth drawing your attention to including these fender mounted indicators. They use fiber optics and indicate if you have the signal or headlights on. There is another set on the inside above the rear window that does the same function for brake and signal lights.

An another interesting feature of this car is that the hood is so long that the engine can be set quite far back that it is almost a front mid engine design. The whole engine compartment needs a good clean and I suspect this car has sat for a number of years until recently.

In the trunk this contraption prevents access to the fuel tank filler cap by locking the license plate frame in place (the filler is behind the fold down license plate).

There is a carpeted trash bin in the passenger side foot-well. This feature is quite touted in the period advertising. Was this peak luxury in the late Nineteen Eighties?

It also has a few advanced features that were rare in the day but common now such as automatic headlights (Sentinal in period Cadillac speak) and climate control. Additionally, the trunk is also powered for an assisted soft close which is something that has always struck me as a nuisance rather than a convenience.

After a bit of clean the interior is actually in really nice shape. Remarkably, there is a third seat belt between the two front seats so it could be somewhat uncomfortable sixth seat.

The rear is quite roomy and comfortable looking.

On the less good side the padded roof is in horrible shape and likely beyond saving.

Unfortunately, some previous owner had a flat tire at some point and absolutely trashed the hubcap to get it off. These GM wire wheels have a special anti-theft locking nut in the center. There are methods to get around getting not having this key but unfortunately someone choose the caveman route destroying the hub cap and the mount.

As promised to my wife it is safely tucked away from any disgusted eyes with a tight fit in the garage. The rear of the Cadillac is lined up with the front of the Austin and you can see the length difference between the two. By the numbers, the wheelbase is 121.5″ for the Cadillac vs 92.5″ for the Austin. Overall length is 221.0″ vs 158.5″ so the Austin is a massive 5 1/4 feet shorter!

The plan is some some (hopefully) light mechanical work to get it up to a (slightly) higher standard. Further possibilities for the summer could be some family ice cream runs, ironic Auto-X and perhaps the Great Beater Challenge. The really big question is if my wife will even ride in it.