When Tatra87 pointed out that there hasn’t been a proper long form post on the last of the BOF RWD Cadillac sedan, it was timed perfectly since we just got our 1994 Fleetwood Brougham back from the shop after the engine developed a rod knock in January.
I am going to do my best to pay homage to these (almost) King of The Road land yachts of yesteryear, because despite shortcomings, these vehicles still turn heads and represent the last in their evolutionary chain (at least as far as General Motors goes – the Town Car/Grand Marquis/Crown Victoria still had some of that DNA until 2011).
By the late 80’s, the D Body Cadillac Brougham was getting a bit dated looking, inside and out, especially compared to the new 1990 Lincoln Town Car. The 1990 refresh addressed some of the issues, but the interior and body were still basically the 1980 DeVille/Fleetwood with a digital dash, better sound systems, Electronic Climate Control, body cladding, composite headlamps, and the optional L05 5.7 TBI solving the power problem (real or perceived) of the 307 Olds.
But the planners at Cadillac saw the writing on the sales wall and looked to revive the D body with a completely new body, interior, and mechanical features to better compete with what FoMoCo managed to whip up. Designer Chuck Jordan worked his magic within the framework of the related B Body restyles of the 1991 Chevrolet Caprice & new 1991 Buick Roadmaster – with somewhat mixed results.
Further up the corporate ladder, there was distain for these vehicles – from “The Cadillac Story, The Postwar Years” p167:
“For years, Cadillac officials had been earnestly hoping that the old rear-wheel drive Brougham would simply go away. The distaste that Cadillac – and significantly, GM executives – held for the rear-drive models in these years should not be understated. Chairman Roger Smith and Bob Stempel, who had been elevated to the presidency in 1987, positively loathed rear drive technology….Stempel admitted that the then-new 1992 Buick Roadmaster and Chevy Caprice rear drive lines had been put into production ‘over my dead body’. The paying customers, however, refused to be dissuaded…the rear drive Brougham still accounted for nearly one in five full size Cadillac sales.”
The new D body retained the 121 inch wheelbase, but the body was lengthened to 225 inches and the widened 4 inches to 78. The steeply raked windshield, triple door seals, and aircraft style doors helped reduce the drag coefficient and wind noise – two big complaints with the old design. But it led to a deep dashboard similar to the “Dustbuter” minivans, along with some not so nice comparisons to the exterior looking like a bloated whale or a upside down bathtub. All speed traction control combined with anti-lock brakes to help keep the SS Fleetwood going down the right path – but Cadillac insisted on keeping rear drum brakes even with the new car weighing more than the old Brougham.
No wire wheel covers were available from the factory, with two cast aluminum wheel styles available depending on if it was the base model or the Brougham.
Inside the new Fleetwood, Cadillac strived to bring it up to date – within reason. Tufted seats were out, the chrome was toned down, and the dashboard was cleaned up a bit giving it a more Lexus look than the outgoing Brougham or FWD Sixty Special. The use of flake plastic wood was kept up on the dash and door panels, and everyone still had their own ashtray like in the Cadillacs of yore. Split frame seats along with front articulating headrests, driver/passenger triple lumbar, two position drivers memory, and gathered cloth/leather look on the Brougham option package made for an even more comfortable turnpike cruiser.
The new armrest was wider with dual cupholders and room for a small tissue box along with CD’s and cassettes. Back seat passengers were treated to more room, rear cupholders in the armrest, and Brougham trimmed cars came with rear lighted vanity mirrors. Radios were upgraded with the introduction of tweeters in the front doors, with the amp & tuner module moved into the trunk next to the relocated power antenna for reduced electrical noise and simplified cable routing.
Only the L05 TBI 350 Chevy V8 and non-electronically controlled 4L60 carried over from the 92 Brougham, with the L03 305 Chevy V8 dropped. With 185 net HP and 300 lbs/ft of torque, nobody cared that it wasn’t a Cadillac exclusive engine under the hood – especially given the recent issues with the HT4100 and V8-6-4. Three different rear end ratios were available – the base Fleetwood got 2.56:1, Brougham package 3.08:1, and the trailer towing package 3.73:1. Suspension carried over as well with coils at all four corners, shocks up front, electronic level control air shocks in the rear along with front and rear stabilizer bars to keep it from completely rocking and rolling on turns.
Sales figures for the new Fleetwood Brougham rose to 31,773 units compared to 13,761 from the previous year – but still nowhere near the 110,000 Town Cars or 125,000 deVilles that found new homes that year.
You may be asking yourself why GM was putting effort into the B/D Body – this sales promo film for the Buick Roadmaster partially explains GM thinking people buying the Ford Panther cars were all potential customers that weren’t ready to embrace the C body offerings from Olds/Buick/Cadillac. The debate is an ongoing one, but the sales numbers speak for themselves – only the Caprice cracked production numbers of 100k/yr, and the Roadmasters high water mark was 70k in 1992. Compare that to 163k for the Mercury Grand Marquis in 1992 or 101k Ford Crown Victorias that found homes.
For the 1994 Fleetwood Brougham, the General decided to put a little pep in the orthopedic shoes with a detuned version the Corvette LT1 under the hood – 260 hp and 335 lb/ft of torque was matched to a new electronically controlled 4L60E. Fuel economy improved from 16 MPG city to 17 MPG with highway estimates staying at 25 – rear axle ratios were changed as well with base models retaining the 2.56:1 axle , Broughams getting 2.93:1, and 3.42:1 for the trailer towing package. Chromed aluminum wheels were now an available option for those who thought the foot of chrome running along the bottom wasn’t enough. Fleetwood was available in 12 exterior colors including the new Light Gray, Light/Medium/Dark Adriatic Blue and Majestic Amethyst. An improved HD6 air conditioning compressor (for use of R-134a refrigerant) accompanied the LT1 under the hood for cool Cadillac comfort.
Inside, the “tissue box” steering wheel was replaced by the new four spoke Cadillac design used across the entire line, but all other interior features and looks carried over from the previous year. A dealer installed 6 disc CD changer was now available for those who wanted the finest in digital audio – but still only thru 6 speakers (really 4 speakers and two front tweeters) with no Bose or ActiveAudio system available. Also included was a turn signal activated “flash-to-pass” feature that allowed the driver to signal the driver in front of intent to pass via bright headlamps whether the headlamps were on or not.
A DEFOG feature added to the Climate Control system, directing 65 percent of the air to the windshield for clearing and 35 percent to the floor heat ducts.
1995 saw the Fleetwood improved under the hood with a new quieter starter that all Cadillacs received, a revised camshaft design that in conjunction with new sound and vibration reducing composite rocker arm covers decreased engine mechanical noise and valve noise on the outside of the car.
The 4L60-E now featured a 298mm torque converter clutch assembly that had a higher torque capacity, which enhanced the unit’s durability.
Previously optional equipment that was made standard included remote keyless entry, central door unlocking and automatic door locks and electrochromic inside rearview mirror with new map lights.
Other new standard features included larger, foldaway, patch-mounted outside rearview mirrors; quiet door latch system; ignition key anti-lockout feature; revised instrument panel top pad; “SIR Airbag” embossed label for passenger side; and two new exterior color choices: Fawn Gray and Calypso Green.
The Brougham sedan added a programmable garage door opener and a revised electronic lumbar system that replaced the three separate lumbar controls with one. A toggle switch in the glovebox allowed the traction control to be switched off and on without restarting the engine.
Also on the Brougham, the optional V4R security package was upgraded to include the theft deterrent system and auto lock/unlock fuel filler door.
As in previous years, the Fleetwood could also be ordered as the V4U Coachbuilder Limousine Package, B9Q Funeral Coach Package, or RIP Heavy-Duty Sedan Package with heavy-duty components required for continuous commercial service.
1996 was the last year for the big RWD sedans, as the Arlington Texas plant was being converted to Tahoe/Suburban duty – but the Fleetwood went out with a revised cupholder/armrest design, new optional Dual Mode built in cellphone, revised radios with the amp/tuner in the dash rather than the trunk, OBDII compatibility, and electro-motor cruise control instead of vacuum controlled. The LT1 also switched over to DexCool coolant, for better or worse. Those who still wanted RWD Caddy limos and hearses could order the V4U Coachbuilder Limousine Package, B9Q Funeral Coach Package, or RIP Heavy-Duty Sedan Package with heavy-duty components required for continuous commercial service. 1996 is the rarest of the Fleetwoods, with only 15,101 examples produced for the swan song year.
These Fleetwoods and their lesser corporate cousins never did put a dent in the FoMoCo sales as intended – and that is a testament to how much better the Park Ave & DeVille were in almost every way as passenger cars. For livery use, body on frame is preferred, but that was a market Lincoln had pretty well sewn up by the 90’s. Lincoln catered to the coachbuilders in a way Cadillac didn’t, and it showed. But these vehicles were not without their own shortcomings – cheap plastics, flakey electronics and switchgear, OptiSpark, and styling that only looked great in certain angles/colors. The driving dynamics, such as they were, did not compete at all with anything Japanese or European – 4 wheel discs or independent suspension would have been a way to been seen as seriously trying to update the large luxury sedan.
But I come here to praise this car, not to bury it. For highway travel, there is almost no other car better suited to the task. You settle into the seats, set the cruise control, and just make miles while the big V8 lazily turns somewhere underneath the massive hood. Valet parking the car gets you admiration from even the Gen Z set – my wife and I always take either this or our 88 Brougham out on date nights, and you do feel special piloting the barge around.
The 1994 FWB that now graces our driveway with a new Jasper engine came about because a 1995 Sedan Deville bought sight unseen from Queens turned out to have a top that was dyed with shoe polish…and nobody outside of a place on Long Island would repair it. I found this example on Craigslist in Cleveland – my wife loved the white on white look of the car, and it test drove fine aside from a noisy ac compressor.
Unfortunately, after I paid him the car refused to start. Letting it cool off for an hour allowed it to restart, and the guy gave me back $500. He told me the car was well maintained and couldn’t understand what was wrong. That was the tip of the iceberg – we managed to get the car almost all the way home before the coolant pump gave way and took the OptiSpark with it. My mechanic found algae on the coolant temp sensor trying to diagnose a drivability issue – we spent about $2k on repairs before the engine developed a rod knock.
While $11k total is a tough lesson to learn about nor fully checking out a car before buying, at least we now have a fully sorted Fleetwood Brougham with new brakes, tires, and an engine that will last for a long time.
The big Brougham (Fleetwood or not) Epoch may have hit an evolutionary dead end, but it did leave its mark. And if prices of nice examples are any indication, my wife and I will be getting looks and waves from drivers for years to come.
The dilemma: The car that looked like a Cadillac lacked the power a Cadillac should have, and the car that had the power lacked the look of a Cadillac. A late 80s D body with mid 90s running gear would have been a great combination.
Your photo of the Cad and a Town Car at the gas station makes plain how the Lincoln was relatively trim and elegant while the Cadillac was bloated and awkward.
It is interesting to read about the corporate headwinds these cars faced, and knowing that it is no wonder there were so many compromises made. GM drove buyers of this class of car away with whips and dogs, and then wondered why those folks didn’t come back to buy these.
The corporate edict GM issued with the 1959-60 big cars all having to share the front door originally designed for the Buick is well known, and the other four division’s styling was quite affected by it, having to work that downward slope into the body lines. For the 1993 Fleetwood, it looks like GM decided everyone had to use the Chevrolet Caprice door (I think the Chevy, Olds, Buick, and Cadillac front doors are all identical, but I haven’t checked part numbers). Having to share doors really limits how much the rest of the car can look different, and I think that’s why this car didn’t looks as obviously Cadillac as the previous design. This also applies to major facelifts/tail-lifts where the doors aren’t changed, which keeps the car looking old despite looking entirely different ahead of the A pillar and behind the C pillar.
The vinyl roof above the limo doors and the chrome underpants are just too awful.
Were these the last American severely-tumblehomed sedans?
The worst thing is the ’94 Deville used much of the shape, so the Seville was Cadillac’s only good looking sedan in the 90s.
Awhile back, I did a photo shop of the 1996 Cadillac with the window beltline raised to mate up with the hood and trunk lines, which to me were non-congruous with the overall lines of the car.
After seeing that, I can see why a decision was made to use a lower window beltline. Higher window beltline makes the sides look chunky and more slab-sided. It looked much slimmer and sleeker the way it was.
Nice for sure; prefer the Buick Roadmaster of that era. The car itself is better proportioned.
Its quite hard to like this the styling is all over the place but somebody here is real keen, they imported one and I got to see it tooling along the south Auckland motorway a bonus for working at easter I guess lots of old classics out and about, all except for my one which finally has a fault, nothing earth shattering just a failed O ring in the carby but daylight time to fit a spare carb and cure a couple of fuel leaks is scarce its taken a while for 66 MK4 only parts to fail so I really cant complain.
I was raised in a Mercedes household and never drove any American car until around 1990.
In 1995, I went on a trip to Nova Scotia with my ex who insisted when making car reservations on a Lincoln Town Car for a rental. Our rental agency at the time gave us a Cadillac Sedan deVille. My ex was livid and insisted on a Town Car which we got two days later. So during this trip I had the ability to compare the Cadillac to the Lincoln.
It’s all opinion of course, mine. I preferred the Cadillac’s handling and driving to the Lincoln.The Cadillac had more feel for the road and the Town Car was more floaty, which was nice, just not what I was used to. The Cadillac was just closer to my Mercedes history (without being a Mercedes). The Cadillac had more gizmos to play with too. The Lincoln interior layout was probably going for clean and uncluttered and I took that as boring. Between 1995 and 2022, the Town Car probably won as being more reliable and more of them are still on the road than the Cadillac.
In retrospect, having committed to front wheel drive, I don’t know why GM didn’t just discontinue the RWD B and D bodies and give Chevrolet an H body Caprice. Also don’t know why GM developed the W body, which was almost as large as the H body but not much roomier than the A body. I like these cars but competing against Ford’s Panther with both FWD C/H and RWD B/D bodies seemed overkill. The materials and interior quality were also inferior to the Panthers of that era and the C/H.
I agree with you that there should have been an H body Caprice. Cardinal sin. No need for the W body either, whose wheelbase was within inches of the H body. All those billions saved could have been used to better differentiate the A bodies, improve the H bodies.
I expected a better looking, higher quality car than this. That dash was a complete embarrassment. From the moment I opened the driver’s door, that giant flat plastic dash just hung in front of the interior like a child’s picnic table. The sensation of just that dash was so unappealing and uninviting I couldn’t believe GM wanted a $35,000 or higher price tag.
Exterior-wise, these cars didn’t look visually rich. The chrome looked plasticky, the panel gaps weren’t skillfully designed, and the shape made these appear bloated, in my opinion. Someone had a terrible idea of putting vinyl roof options on them and for some crazy reason, the Town Car almost pulled this look off, but the GM versions, just failed.
I’m sorry this happened. Cadillac, Buick and Oldsmobile deserved better. Chevy could get away with these shortcuts and design errors, but these were not the quality and richness traditionally seen on a Cadillac, Buick or Oldsmobile. Why do these cars look like they aren’t solid? A sad way to end the legacy of the big GM automobile.
That Buick video is excellent. The narrator is excellent, the reason Buick was doing this car was presented. It was really good.
I see your console radio, and raise you a rocking chair.
Nice! The deep well trunk of the Town Car had the B/D body beat for space, even if it did mean bending over a bit more. Love that color blue…
Solid article, Big Tom.
An excellent summation of this final run of land mattresses. You really articulate well why those of us who love these big bastards love them for what they are, not what they are not.
$11k total is probably $33k less than what you’d pay for a comparable new car. And, for better or for worse, there is no new car that could match it.
Have to admit, Mr Brougham – unusual first name, btw, “Big” – that once upon a life I would have found nothing but mirth in these, but now, I must admit to sort-of liking them. They have some charm as a last iteration of ’50’s over-the-topness, still harking to a very different era just 30 years earlier, but with appeal to the oldening buyers still looking for the glamour they recalled (or indeed, for a world they, at minimum, thought they did). 1959 dressed up in a 1992 version, unapologetically not current, but current nonetheless. And the idea of long highway travel on a silent couch has a lot of allure.
Of course, and alas, reality butts in, and tell us that a whole two years earlier, Toyota introduced the actual Standard of The World: as unexciting as the Lexus LS 400 was to behold, the quality and the silence were from Mars to Caddie’s Earth. (That it drove and went like a good Euro is irrelevant to this, though not the near-future). GM had two years or so to wake up, at least in interior quality, and didn’t. It is hard to believe these two products are contemporaries.
I’d still have one of these, though, were fuels not a luxury as they currently are. Not so as to go about defending its excellence, but to enjoy its time-bound squishy-luxe qualities.
And to perhaps occasionally explain to young gigglers why it’s actually all good.
I’ve owned a 1991 Brougham D’elegance, “Black Sapphire Metallic” This was a very dark navy blue metallic that color shifted to black in low light. Matching very dark navy blue top and dark navy blue leather. That car had so much presence, just straight look at me curb appeal with its flawless factory wire wheels and wide whitewalls. Paint was not perfect but was awesome for a driver, I spent who knows how many hours detailing that Cadillac
Anyways, time moves on and I bought a red 1995 Fleetwood, base model, no vinyl top, tan leather. I didnt form the same bond I had with my 1991. Yeah it was way quieter, faster, and softer. But the 91 handled better/drove nicer. Also that button tufted leather seat was way nicer and more comforable in the 91.
Main thing though the 91 Brougham, it was built to a higher standard than my 95 Fleetwood. I HATED that ugly long/plain dashboard on my 95, while that 91 had the windshield almost in your face. There was so much more detail in the 91 interior, it was total overload of gingerbread/sugary frosting that made Cadillacs just that bit more special in the 70’s and 80’s
I was a luxury big car fan almost my whole life. I had vintage, as well as more current models in a mixed order. I had, in model chronology: Cadillac 56, 57, 64, 70,77, 94 ( Seville) and a ’66 Lincoln as well as a lot of experience with my Dad’s ’63 and ’69 Lincolns. These cars all seemed special, much better than a typical Big Three sedan or coupe. Not only in looks, but in performance. They were all great road cars, which was their main attraction to me.
Then it seems that the competition got much tougher, not just from the imports, but from inside the American auto industry. And not just from passenger cars. Remember the great CC post that described the new Ford Explorer as the “new” Cadillac? The rise of the luxury SUV/CUV really pounded the nails in the coffin of the luxury sedan. Even a one time die hard like myself now prefers the luxury SUV over a sedan.
i wonder how many people ordered a Cadillac with a tow package, and what did they tow? I find it hard to imagine a Fleetwood at the boat ramp, or picking up a load of bark dust.
I may be a lone aberration, but to my eyes, the 93-96 Fleetwoods (sans vinyl top), were absolutely gorgeous cars. The front end looks stately, it’s a handsome face. The steeply raked windshield and overall aero-wedge profile of low front and high rear gave it an attractive 90s-modern look. The lower chrome cladding, I wouldn’t like on any other car, but on this one, I love it. The fender skirt takes me back to the gorgeous Cadillacs of the 50s, 60s, and 70s. It also gave the rear quarters that smooth, clean look as though it goes on forever. I initially didn’t care for the formal rear roofline – it just didn’t fit the steeply raked windshield. However, it’s grown on me. A mix of unique styling cues?
Perhaps, but overall, I find it striking. Very special, very different. What other car had fender skirts in the 90s? This is not a car easily confused for anything else. To me, the Town Car looks ordinary, forgettable, in comparison. Granted, I may have preferred the ultra-sleek and futuristic design of the 1988 Cadillac Voyage concept. However, I like them (sans vinyl) enough that they are one of my ultimate dream cars.
Probably the only car with styling I like better is the 91-92 Chevy Caprice with the unique semi-skirted rear wheel well. To me, one of those lowered a bit, trim shaved and smoothed, is THE best looking car in the history of cars. When they opened up the rear wheel well, I thought that took a lot of the car’s character away.
The slab-like plastic dashboard on the 1993 Cadillac Fleetwood reminds me strangely of the slab-like plastic dashboard on the 1978 Chevy Van. And I wouldn’t be surprised if the vertical air vents were identical between the two models.
The video indicates the name change from just Brougham back to Fleetwood happened very late, after the second half of the video was filmed. I wonder if the ’94 Deville Concours was originally going to be named Fleetwood as a follow on to the ’93 FWD Fleetwood. That would explain its rear fender skirts, an odd addition to a sporty model.
I personally loved these cars. They were big. Enough said! My first car was a few years old Lincoln Mark IV. At 16 (& for a decade before), I wanted LUXURY cars, not sports cars. I even taped an emblem on my bicycle handlebars when I was in elementary school so I could pretend it was a Lincoln! It hurts my soul to know that we will never again see design or craftsmanship, or Hell, nothing with 4 doors that sits close to the ground. I had always hoped Cadillac (or Lincoln) would design and build a “retro inspired” land yacht for those of us willing to shell out $$ for one (I suspect there are more of us than the manufacturers are willing to acknowledge). All that said, I gave up on domestic automakers but not on sedans. I presently drive a Mercedes E350 4Matic with a Volkswagen Passat 3.6L 4Motion as a back up. 3 things I can promise you… 1) I will never buy and SUV or CUV and 2) I will never buy a car with less than a V6 under the hood and 3) I will never buy a car that you have to plug in at night just to make sure you can make it to work before your battery died. Unfortunately, I will be forever relegated to buying used cars of at least 10 years of age. Fine with me! “ya hear all that Cadillac and Lincoln?!”