Quantity vs. quality: the eternal dilemma. I spotted both of these cars in nearly the same spot on the same April weekend, last year. For 20% over the premium of this ’77 Toronado, one could have purchased an entry-level Cadillac – the newly-downsized Coupe DeVille. The Eldorado, which shared the Toronado’s E-body platform, cost about 45% more than the Toro and was in a completely different price-class, but it still begs the question: for your hard-earned, middle-class money, and between just these two cars, which would you have chosen?
Our featured cars are just a few more of the classic, American broughams I’ve spotted in my neighborhood. I’m starting to feel like I have some kind of magnetic pull on interesting, older cars. Sometimes, it’s almost like my stretch of North Sheridan Road is like some sort of remote extension of Woodward Avenue in Detroit.
Speaking of Detroit (the site of this year’s annual CC meetup, which was awesome, thank you), we excelled at building cars like these in the 70s: (mostly) rear-wheel-driven, V8-powered, luxurious isolation chambers. Despite the DeVille’s big shrink that year, it still had almost the same power-to-weight ratio as the Toronado – about 23 lb.-per-hp. The 4,600-pound Toronado was powered by a 200-hp Olds 403, and the 4,200-lb. Cadillac came standard with a 180-horse 425.
The Coupe DeVille did the dash to sixty mph in about eleven seconds, so I wouldn’t be surprised to find out the Toronado posted a similar number. The Caddy posted a dismal 12.5 mph mileage rating from the EPA, however, so given the Toronado’s 10% greater weight, the Olds probably regularly saw single-digits in the city on a regular basis. Good thing it was so comfy (up front, anyway).
Both cars share obvious similarities: expressive styling, padded vinyl roof treatments, stand-up hood ornaments, and pillowy, luxurious interior appointments. Each, however, has one exclusive, distinctive feature I love. For the Coupe DeVille, it is the driver-facing, top-mounted turn signals at the leading edge of the front header panel. Our lowly ’77 Plymouth Volaré had those, too. I remember sitting in that car and trying to activate the turn signals when the car was parked, but to no avail, with the keys out of the ignition.
The Toronado, alternately, had that cool, second pair of brake lights mounted just under the rear window (also shared with its 1974 – ’76 Buick Riviera platform-mate). I would love it when Mom or Dad would trail one of these in traffic when I was a kid, while I held out hope its driver would need to turn and activate those signals. (You know…kids, and blinking lights.) I wonder now why the ultimate E-Body, the Cadillac Eldorado, did not share this feature with the Toro and Riv.
According to my 2002 edition of Encyclopedia of American Cars from the editors of Consumer Guide, there were 31,371 ’77 Toronado Broughams (the standard trim level) produced for the model year, with a starting price of $8,134 (about $32,800 / adjusted). This is against 138,750 Coupe DeVilles priced from $9,810 (about $39,600 / adjusted). Which car would have spoken more to your dollars, sense, and priorities at the time? As for me, and as of this writing, I honestly can’t say if the pride of owning a new Cadillac would have persuaded me over the more-car-for-the-money appeal of the Oldsmobile, given my thrifty upbringing. Sometimes, you don’t need no fancy Häagen-Dazs – a big, old tub of Breyer’s will do just fine.
In a weird twist of fate, the license plate of the Toronado matched that of a ’74 Pontiac Grand Ville I had featured in a piece of CC fiction a couple of years ago. I was sad to think that that old Grand Ville is probably toast (or, quite literally, a toaster). I do, however, respect the Toronado owner’s taste in fine, American broughams of the Seventies. Let’s see what other goodies the rest of this summer will bring on North Sheridan Road.
Edgewater, Chicago, Illinois.
April 16 & 17, 2016.
Related reading from:
- GGH06: Curbside Classic: 1978 Oldsmobile Toronado Brougham – Here Come ol’ Flattop; and
- Paul Niedermeyer: Vintage Review: Car and Driver Tests The Downsized 1978 Cadillac Coupe De Ville.
CC Effect Pre-Cursor: Now that we in The Frozen North can be reasonably sure that the snow is gone for good, they’re coming out from the shadows. I saw this original, unrestored, incredibly low mileage example at a Cars & Coffee just last Sunday….
A fine example of the Brougham Era button-tufted velour, deep pillow seating….
…and those trademark high-mounted turn signals….
It’s beautiful. And I love that it’s an actual creampuff-colored creampuff!
Very easy choice for me… Budget or no budget. Olds. Styling is everything. And to me the olds wins. Ironically note rare too. With more caddy’s sold it shows u how well the economy was back then.
Between those two specific cars, I’d probably go with the Cadillac. Mostly picking blue over green.
However if it was an earlier year with the Cord like grille, like the ’76 I saw last month then I would be more likely to go with the Olds.
A ’79-’85 Toronado wins easily.
The ’76 Toro, unlike the ’77, may have been fitted with dual front airbags. I can’t remember what years the rear anti-lock brakes were offered but I think that was through by ’77 also. I do like those little illuminated Toronado emblems on the front blades next to the headlights on the ’77 though.
The de Ville. Because front wheel drive is evil.
I’d probably go with the Cadillac, too.
By 1977/’78, the Toro looked like a dinosaur.
Besides, the DeVille would’ve been easier to maneuver and you could still get the d’Elegance package.
Here’s a rear seat view of a Coupe deVille d’Elegance:
I’d go with the Cadillac, too. Never particularly liked this generation Toronado, but if it had the funky wrap-around rear window…. (although that might not have arrived until ’78.)
Interesting to see that both of these cars suffer from disintegrating rear filler panels, an ailment as common to mid-to-late 70s GM full size cars as fender vent rust used to be with 40s and 50s Studebakers, a.k.a “Studebaker cancer.”
One thing I particularly like about the ’77 Cadillacs is the one-year only taillight treatment with the stubby vertical lights. I’m not sure if it looks better or worse than the full length taillights that replaced it, but it is unique.
If the prices had been the same….I think I would have bought something else entirely. Yeah, the Cadillac is better looking than the Toronado, but really….wouldn’t you really rather have a…..Caprice 2 door? Better looking than either of these cars for 77.
To each his own Howard. I think the olds looks nicer than the caddy.
Your neighborhood is the perfect backdrop for these cars–they look just look at home there. Always look forward to your posts–hopefully a good CC-spotting summer in store.
Thank you for the good words, Jakengle – much appreciated.
I think part of why this neighborhood provides a fitting (and I agree) background for classic cars is that many of these apartment and condo buildings that line this stretch of North Sheridan Road were built between the late-40’s and early-70’s…back when such cars were either new, or featured on the intros or outros of TV shows from back in the day that also showed buildings like these.
I can’t help but think of the intro to the “Bob Newhart Show” (the fictional Hartleys’ building is just a block from this intersection) and other such shows when I see a piece of vintage iron rolling down this street.
Well, with less complexity, better fuel mileage, better styling and more prestige, I’d pick the Caddy. And it was available as a 4-door. That Olds is just plain ugly!
As for testing those fender-mounted flasher-indicators without a key, you could’ve tried the hazard-switch.
Happy Motoring, Mark
Ah, yes – the hazard switch! Mark, you brought back a memory. I am certain I had activated the hazards just to see those chromed, fender-mounted turn signals blink. Thank you!
I would have to pick the Oldsmobile even if it is the ugliest year of the tornado. With the tornado front wheel drive it will get me through the Michigan snow.
Wrong wheel drive is evil.
Wrong wheel drive is fine in these, transverse engines in tight engine compartments are the work of Satan though.
Wrong wheel drive is evil, regardless of engine orientation.
Why — Did anyone car how these big plush cars handled? Was torque steer an issue?
Ummm, Chrysler New Yorker? No? Well then I pick the Oldsmobubble. If you are going to do 70s Brougham, go all the way. The downsized Cadillac is just so . . . sensible. The Toro has wretched excess written all over it. And maybe the Cadillac suffers from a “been there, done that” syndrome with me, while the ‘Nado is fresh territory.
But a man of your exquisite taste settling for Breyers ice cream? Joe, Joe, Joe, . . . We have to talk about this. 🙂
LOL, yes, I was 13 and it suddenly seemed like Jack Jones was personally singing to me. Hold the St. Regis top, please. And, I’m right with you on the Toro.
Depending on the year, I’d probably answer this different ways:
In 1977, I was living in a mostly GM centric world. I was initially bewildered by the square, boxy, dare I say look-alike GM B – C range cars. Despite my misgivings regarding the ravages of age on the 1971 Toronado design, I might have gone for the Toro.
In a few short years, I was greatly schooled in the virtues of the ’77-’79 GM B-C cars, I racked up 90% of my car time in them. The ’77 Toronado was suddenly ancient, and a serious handful of car to drive. The neighbors picked up a used ’77 Coupe DeVille in about this color, and it seemed so fresh compared to GM’s pre down-sized cars. Caddie please.
In 1991, I was shopping for a late model used Mercury Grand Marquis. I was making some money, and was ready for a transition from my old school sleds (’72 Pontiac Grandville still in my garage, I added an ’87 MGM as its mate). When a dealer came up empty, he just had to show me a ’77 Toronado. I was briefly intrigued and offended. Dark red, loaded, hmmm, NO. The ’70s are over for me! Cadillac’s ’80s offerings had made a Ford man out of me, so no Cadillacs either.
Now, I’m sort of full circle. I can recall my many years and miles of riding and driving in GM’s B-C range like yesterday. I have T-shirts from all five divisions.
So, I’ll take the Toronado, and that ’70s mint green is just perfect!
“I was briefly intrigued and offended.”
HaHaHa . . . you win the internet today, sir! Not just anybody can do both of those emotions at once.
+1 “Intrigued and offended” – definitely the most unusual of combos!
Dave B., like you, I lived in GM-Land (Flint, Michigan).
JP, I had no idea that Breyer’s quality-slide from what I remember back in the day was quite as severe as what G. Poon references below! Still tastes good, though… I may need to swing by the store on the way home and give it the ol’ “Pepsi challenge”.
Gaaa, Here Joe – let me be of some assistance. Friends don’t let friends eat (modern) Breyers. https://jpcavanaugh.com/2016/10/14/we-all-scream/
JP, I loved your essay. I may have to take Jason Shafer”s recommendation and hunt down some Turkey Hill.
I was doing a bit more research on Breyer’s after reading some of the comments, and it appears that the big change from the all-natural ingredients occurred some time around 2006.
I used to love Breyer’s vanilla, with the bean flecks in it. Never mind that I usually drenched it in Hershey’s chocolate syrup (please, nobody deliver any sad news about Hershey’s!), but I used to eat it by the bowlful as a teenager.
I recently discovered a Chicago institution (Margie’s Candies & Ice Cream) that serves up some of the best ice cream I’ve ever tasted, so maybe I’ll just save my cravings for ice cream until after I shop for groceries and can head over there.
If you’re ever in the Pittsburgh area, Turkey Hill products (not just ice cream) are available at just about every local convenience store and supermarket, Especially Giant Eagle (in all of “Big Bird’s” formats…) and CoGos (both of those chains are almost unavoidable here!?) It’s made in Lancaster county,PA so I’d imagine you’d score some almost anywhere in Pennsylvania.
I’m glad I’m not alone in noticing and lamenting the tragedy that is modern Breyer’s vanilla ice cream. That stuff was so great onceuponatime. The downfall came after Breyer’s was bought out by Unilever who quickly cheapened it and hoped nobody would notice.
LOL, I can expand that a bit.
Prior to 1991, I shopped the classifieds for cars, frequently the “Antique Classic” section.
In 1991 I had a decent job, a commute, a girlfriend, and was doing more road trips. It was time to get out of the old car way of life. So, and again in 1993, we found ourselves shopping late model used cars on franchise lots. Looking for a Grand Marquis and then an MN12 Thunderbird, we usually had several cars to consider on any lot.
In some cases where we could not find the right combination of price, condition, mileage, etc., the salesman would wildly pitch all sorts of cars completely unrelated to what we were asking for. A 14 year old Toronado is not a late model low mileage Grand Marquis sedan. But, at least it was a pretty cool old car!
In the case of the Thunderbird, it was the salesman that listened that got the sale. When we could not find the right Bird on his lot, he promised to keep an eye out. He called me a week later when a creampuff ’89 came in on trade, I checked it out that afternoon and bought it.
“…But…settling for Breyer’s ice cream?…We have to talk about this.”
Take a careful look at Breyer’s at the grocery store. Most if it isn’t even ice cream, as it does not meet Federal standards any more. Instead of all-natural milk, cream and sugar, it now is jam-packed with cheap artificial additives.
They are called “frozen dairy dessert.”
Old Philadelphians, whose ice cream traditions run deep, recall old Breyer’s with affection. That was before it was sold off to some corporate nonentity (Unilever, of soap fame). Another treasured tradition has gone into the maw of corporate mediocrity, alas!
Don’t ask those old Philadelphians about Tastikake…taken over out of near-bankruptcy and now based in Atlanta.
Now back to cars, but please don’t drip any ice cream or smear any frosting on those velour seats.
G. Poon, that is heartbreaking! I still remember the days when advertisements for Breyer’s focused on the all-natural ingredients – and I guess that was what I was remembering. I’m not a huge sweets person, but in the summer, I definitely like my occasional ice cream or frozen dessert.
I love and completely understand that as a Philadelphian, you take ownership in the Breyer’s name. Many of us grew up in cities that were tied to manufacturing or brand-identity, and it’s always sad to see a brand with which a community had closely identified see a decrease in the level of quality or prestige it once had.
Joe go for Turkey Hill, instead. I have no brand preferences for ice cream, but with many Breyer’s varieties, your taste buds will have to slug it past the high fructose corn syrup, only to be dismayed and disappointed with a host of other unpronounceable (and equally hard to envision) items. Even with TH, you have to read the ingredients.
Oh, I am completely with you – the old Breyers was great stuff. Although I am a native midwesterner, my father hailed from Philly. At least they haven’t screwed up Goldenberg’s Peanut Chews. 🙂
“Old Philadelphians, whose ice cream traditions run deep, recall old Breyer’s with affection.”
As a native Philadelphian, I agree 100%. In my opinion, the demise of Breyer’s Ice Cream ranks up there with the demise of Oldsmobile as far as Great Tragedies of Modern Times. Similar type of corporate idiocy, as well.
I was always very loyal to Breyer’s (my family even once had a dog named Breyer), but I won’t go near the stuff any longer. I’d prefer if the brand was simply put out of its misery.
Even in Pittsburgh, where the late lamented Islay’s held sway, Breyer’s was popular, especially Vanilla with the vanilla bean flecks throughout.
You can still get genuine Philadelphia ice cream from Bassett’s, either from their stand in the Reading Terminal Market or in local stores. Great ice cream sandwiches, too.
As for Islay’s, they even took the name off the Klondike, the one ice cream survivor. But you can still find their chipped-chopped ham at Pittsburgh delis and some supermarkets.
Ah Tastykake…. I remember listening to the Phillies on the radio at my grandparents homes (grandparents on my Mother’s side lived in Shillington PA(outside of Reading) and my dad’s lived in Upper Darby Pa(outside of Philly) ) and hearing the “Nobody bakes a cake as tasty as a Tastykake” jingle on the radio during commercial breaks.
As for an “old” Philadelphian, my father(raised one block away from Philly in Upper Darby) does not care that Tastykake is not in Philly any longer, he just cares that they still exist and makes the items that he remembers eating while growing up.
Toronado. It has a hubcap. The fact that one managed to hang on over 40 years of driving shows the car is truly worthy of wearing the coveted GM Mark of Excellence.
Another indicator of excellence are the missing rear fender end cap fillers on the Toronado. This was a chronic problem with most of the GM cars of this era. The quality of the plastic was woefully inferior.
The combination of exposure to UV rays and cold temperatures made them extremely brittle in very short order and they just crumbled, a real world scenario that seemed to fly under the radar of whoever engineered the material.
It’s hard to tell, but I think the Cadillac is missing its bumper-to-fender filler panels, too.
Anyone else notice the Cadillac’s big bumper guards? Definitely a sign of an urban warrior.
It sure looks that way to me, too. Like I said: real high quality materials. Such junk!
I actually physically looked at what was left of a bumper filler from an Eldorado at a junkyard, and was able to basically shatter it just by squeezing it. How does the endura used in Firebird bumpers and stuff hold up so much better? You’d think they’d use the same material but I don’t think I’ve ever seen even a beat up Firebird with the bumpers gone, whereas I’ll see one owner Cadillac’s at cruise nights with their caps gone, long obliterated.
Endura costs more.
It’s a Cadillac!
I wonder if it has something to do with the size, shape, and orientation. The Firebird’s filler was a large, horizontal, flat piece whereas the Cadillac was small, folded, and vertical, making it more prone to weathering and eventually becoming brittle enough that the bumper’s vibration eventually shattered it.
OTOH, maybe it was harder, thinner plastic when new and was just another example of GM’s cost-cutting.
I’d probably have gone with neither, and gotten a Ninety-Eight!
Probably a LeSabre for me
Honestly…for 1977…gimme a Dodge Charger, or a Chrysler Cordoba.
Actually, no…find a willing dealer and order a Firy or Monaco with the Pursuit 440.
A ’77 Cordoba (or even LeBaron) would have spoken to me, too – as ’77 was the last year of the early Cordoba’s fantastic style, and also the first for T-tops.
(I’m sure many would prefer cars other than these two, which is why I referenced “limited to these two choices”, but I am curious to know what would have been on folks’ radars for that model year. 🙂 )
If we are choosing non GM vehicles, then a Lincoln Mark V would work for me.
Funny, as a 10 year old in ’77 I was obsessed with the Grand Prix. My family traded in a troublesome ’75 Cordoba for a new ’77 Monte Carlo that year, and my grandparents also traded a ’75 Cordoba for a new “Trim Sized” ’77 LeBaron coupe. I was categorically unimpressed by any of these. In my small town at that time the Pontiac dealership had about a 20 car lot and a 3 car showroom nestled up against an embankment at the main intersection in town. This meant that their wares were prominently displayed about 10 feet from my young eyes as we idled at the traffic light going through town. As soon as I laid eyes on a bright lime green GP with white top & interior and Rallye II wheels, much like Chris Green’s Monte Carlo, I was hooked. (I now know that must have been in ’76, as that color was one-year-only) and I was captivated by the GP. My father was not inclined to pay the few hundred bucks more to upgrade us from a Chevy to a Pontiac in 1977, so to me Pontiacs immediately took on an air of mystique, and a Grand Prix represented something to aspire to.
For about $7,200.00 an Electra Limited gave 90% of the Caddy goodies (using the same body) at an MSRP less than the Toro. A 98 would work too for the Olds guy.
Given the two choices, I never liked this generation of E body, they are too bloated and wallowy and epitomise all that is the worst about ’70’s cars. Ridiculous exterior size and very little useful room inside. The Cadillac is much roomier inside and has a lot less wasted space, plus some semblance of handling and driving feel.
If we expand the field, I would have gone 98/Electra, and probably a fully trimmed out wagon.
Joe, you definitely have a magnetic pull for interesting old cars! I am always blown away by your shots, and in Chicago to boot–not exactly an L.A.-style nirvana perfect for keeping old iron on the road…
As for the choice, it’s easy for me: Caddy all the way! As a kid, I was hugely smitten with the downsized GM cars when they came out. Still impressively large and luxurious, but so much more logical and contemporary than the bloated barges that preceded them. And that is exactly what the Toronado was–a really dated design at that time (even Buick didn’t bother to keep it, opting instead for the LeSabriviera). Part of the snob appeal for this class of car (then or now) is having the latest and greatest. In 1977, the Caddy was an “it” car, the Toro was a “relic” with minimally changed styling dating back 7 model years. For buyers who wanted “fresh” and “extra jumbo” at the same time, the restyled Lincoln Mark V would have been the choice.
I’d take my Coupe DeVille in Cerulean Blue Firemist with a moonroof, leather and every option on offer, including fuel injection.
Totally the Toronado. It was a styling exercise, whether it worked or not is irrelevant, because to me, “You look marvelous”. I always think that I would rather have something that was made to be different than something that was styled by a committee. And to once again quote Fernando, “It is always better to look good than to feel good…”
(For the youth, google Billy Crystal on SNL)
I would take the Oldsmobile. Cadillacs came with more electronics, which means more stuff that eventually breaks
Normally I’d agree, But if I’m not wrong, The Toro and the CdV were pretty equal in electronics and gadgetry overall in 1977.
I’d take the better packaging of the Cadillac, though I’d rather have an Oldsmobile 98 over either. I’ve probably said this before, but this Toronado is basically brutalist architecture on wheels – everything about it is made to LOOK big, scary, and serious, and too much so IMHO. (Nevertheless, it is nice to see the very clean Toro above!)
“….this Toronado is basically brutalist architecture on wheels –” ??
I’d have gone with the Cadillac also, because as GN noted above, in ’77 the newly downsized DeVille was “it”, whereas the Toro was a bit of a dinosaur by comparison.
As for gee wiz features though, the top line Toronado Brougham would surely have had BOTH fender mounted light monitors AND those nifty high-mount brake/turn lamps, FYI.
I’d have to vote for a 98 4 door, vinyl-top delete, black with red leather. Who am I kidding, I’d take just about any B or C body GM from that era, or a square Seville, or how about a Hess & Eisenhardt Cadillac station wagon?!?
My best bud lives in the building the Toro is exiting.
To people who don’t live here, we have this magic invention called “garages” that help maintain cars’ exteriors. Also “car washes”, 😉
I think for me.. neither. I currently daily drive a 1995 Cadillac, which is 22 years old. So in 1977 I think I would be enjoying my 1955 Cadillac! 😉
As one who enjoyed a ’50 Buick Super in the 80s, I might agree;?
I would go with the Coupe deVille – more manageable size, same space on the inside, and the less thirsty 425 (fuel injected please!). Plus I like the styling of the Caddy better, but that’s just me. If it was the CdV vs a 98 Regency…then I might have to go to the Olds.
Those fendertop light dinguses (…dingi? Dingii? Dammit…) aren’t really the same on the Cad as on the numerous ’60s-’80s Mopars. The Mopar dingus was a turn signal indicator with its own bulb, tied into the turn signal feed. The Cadillac dingus was actually the upper terminus of a couple of fibre optics(!) that ran to a port in the park/turn light and to the back of the sealed-beam headlamp, where there was a convenient unreflectorised clear glass window on account of the process by which such lamps were made. Details differed by year and model, but many varieties of the GM “Vigilite” fendertop dingus had coloured lenses. So you got a dim amber glow if the parking light was working, a bright amber flash if the turn signal was working, and a steady green glow if the headlamp was working. No glow or no flash = burned out bulb or electrical fault (…or faulty fibre optic Vigilite thing). The turn signal monitor was more than a little redundant, since outage indication was already provided, as required by Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard № 108, by a significant change in the flash rate.
As I recall the three fiber filaments were clear, amber and blue (for high beams). I recall running into a problem on my 89 Cadillac where some sealed beams did not have those clear spots on the back side, making the little indicators useless. There had been a time in the 60s when Cadillac used bulbs just as Chrysler did for so many years.
None of the above. I would have been thrilled with a new 1977 Caprice with 350 and F41 suspension. A friend had one and it was wonderful.
I’d take the Caddy, this generation Toro/Eldorado don’t do anything for me, and a 500 swaps right in place of the 425.
Oh, the challenges posed by the personal luxury car market in 1977! If it has to be one of these two, then I’d go with the Caddy any day. The father of a good friend drove a ’76 Toro and I remember all too well the claustrophobia of the back seat of his car compounded by his chain-smoking habit when he drove us to and from school. The ’78 Caddy that replaced it at least provided a larger window and more legroom.
Yeah, my memories of my uncle’s Toronado are fuzzy (his would have been a bit older, probably a ’73 or ’74), but I don’t remember the rear seat being terribly spacious. Rear seat comfort was never a priority in the “personal luxury” segment. (I don’t really think of a Coupe Deville as being a personal luxury car. It’s a big coupe.)
All of the ’77 B- and C- bodies had nice big back seats that could actually fit three adults. A coupe bodystyle made ingress and egress more difficult, but once back there, a person could stretch out a bit.
I am not sure that either of these are quality cars. What I liked about the Cadillac was that electronic fuel injection was optional. If I were to go with the Toronado, I would want the XS model with the wrap around rear window.
Given that I HAD a Toro (’78 XS) during this period I don’t think I’d change my mind. When the ’77 downsizeds debuted I thought they looked too small and honestly, cheap in my eyes; I wanted a REAL car and the fwd was great in the western Pa winters. Actually, I bought the Toro after I graduated high school (’80), but my parents had bought a ’79 Town Car new so the Caddy would be a distant ‘also ran’ in our house. Mom replaced the Lincoln with a 98 diesel after my brother totaled the TC in ’83 which is a chapter all to itself!
GMs of this era physically aged badly, the earth tone metallic lacquers and the biodegradable filler panels are the worst. The trim and details became very chintzy and one dimensional too, no doubt the unfortunate result of the sheer look design language. This isn’t to say that GM was alone in these faults in this era, but as such an influential design leading company, with Bill Mitchell manning the ship no less, I just find these two cars depressing to look at in a way that bothers me more than Ford or Chrysler’s lackluster efforts.
I have a hard time picking one, the Toronado became such a blatant discount Eldorado looking car, a complete 180* from the car it started as a mere decade earlier, so I have a hard time finding any respect for it. If it was an XS with the cool bent rear glass my decision would be easier. The Cadillac, well, I think the 77-79s look cheap. The big fins with the clunky red lens only occupying the top half looks plain ugly and the overall shape just seems like a low rent tarted up B-Body. The 76s may have been lesser quality than Cadillac’s at the peak but they still looked good, and the 1980 restyle did a much better job at conveying the classic Cadillac image. For me these are both beyond the arbitrary dividing line between old cars being cool no matter what because they’re old and unique and just plain old cars that may be fun to look at but never would inquire about to own, nor would bother me if I never saw one again. The Cadillac may have the leg up there for me since even if it’s a generation I dislike, it’s still a piece the unbroken Cadillac timeline, while the Toronado basically lost any reason to exist after 1970.
Back in the day your choice of car might depend on what your boss drove. If your boss was the president of the bank you worked in and he drove a caddy then the smart up-and-coming bank executive would drive a lesser but nice olds or buick. If you were a senior teller perhaps a chevy or poncho. Of course if you were the boss you could drive anything you wanted.
I want to like the Toro but something about it has always come across as “off” to me. Besides, by ’77 these would have looked old-hat next to the new Bs and Cs. So, Caddy all the way… I love the ’77-79 DeVille/Fleetwood, especially the ’77s with their wraparound fin taillights. I’m probably in the minority here but I hated the ’80 redesign… They went from looking clean and fresh, to generic and uninspired and blocky.
Of course, there’s a significant chunk of change between the Toro and the DeVille so in real life I might have driven off in an Electra instead (not the Ninety-Eight… that was one car that looked better after ’80) or a Bonneville or Caprice or… Well, there are a lot of good options with that platform!
I also probably would have gone with a Sedan de Ville, not the coupe. Still looked great as a sedan.
I also hated GM’s 1980 redesign, especially on Chevrolet and Cadillac. The front of the 77-79 Cadillac looks lean and borderline sporty, but it’s back to fat and formal in 1980. The sheer look went to bolt upright.
As near as I can tell the the 80 Cadillac facelift was mainly the radiator grill and moving the parking/turn_signal lamps to be under the head lights. The basic body was unchanged or possibly given a few different creases. As the 1980 model year is the fourth year of production, I would think the body was unchanged. Significant updates would have been planned for the 1983 model year, except that GM had determined that the B & C bodies were to be FWD by the mid 80’s. The 1977 bodies remain largely unchanged till the 1991 Caprice.d However, the front and rear (radiator grills and lights) are changed a number of times.
This is not to say that the changes were good or bad.
Actually, the roof stampings were changed completely on both the 2 and 4 door models of the C body. The 1977-79 sedans had a “faster” slope to the C pillar, with the 1980 version being much more upright (classic?). The 77-79 2 door had cut a rear quarter window into the C pillar (opera window) while the 1980 reverted to a more traditional greenhouse. I think that the 1980 redesign of the C body did a lot better job of making it look bigger and more expensive than the similar B body models, something that the 77-79 versions had done less successfully.
While I see that the coupe C pillar is different, I am not sure that the entire body structure required redesign, whereas the 93 body changes almost certainly suggest that the underlying body structure has been redesigned to some extent.
It is true that the 1980 models were restyled to some degree.
The difference is, side by side, quite striking. The 80 is a very formal roofline…while the 77-79 Coupe de Ville is about as close to a fastback as a stylist could get away with on a Cadillac. It reminds me a lot of the difference between the MN12 Cougars and T-birds.
The difference is much less dramatic on 4-doors.
I think though that the lower body is the same. The rear window does have more slope on the 77, but the 80’s window joins the lower body at much the same point.
I’m pretty sure all the sheet metal on the ’80 Cadillacs (and other B bodies) was new – there’s a prominent crease line on the lower body of the ’80 that wasn’t on the ’77-’79 models. Overall, the design details were sharper and more formal. They may have kept the trunk lid, but even that looks changed to my eyes.
I can say with certainty that the doors are unique to the 77-79 CDV…so I would bet you’re correct.
The trunk lid was different too. The vertical (back) part had creases and bends in different places and on the horizontal (flat) surface, the earlier car had a more pronounced “power bulge” than the later one. I do not disagree that most hard points like cowl or floors were probably unchanged, but it was a very thorough restyling on the basic inner shell. And one that made the cars look so much larger than the earlier style had accomplished.
Yes, but I think that it’s basically a superficial restyling, not a complete update of the basic engineering design. The 1993 model is an engineering redesign.
Yes, the hard points remained the same. The ’91/93s were a more extensive re-work, but starting from the same point – I suspect the floorpan and the B-post and rear wheel arch up to the belt line were the same. Not unlike the surgeries performed on the ’62 through ’64 Mopar B-bodies.
Best analogy to describe it!?
I must be really odd, I liked the one year only ’77 taillights AND the ’80 reskin!
Both rubbish – go back 10 years
In 1977? No contest. The Caddy, of course. The mid-70s were an automotive desert when even the Chevette was proclaimed “The Most Important Car Detroit Ever Built” by Car & Driver, just because it was an American small car without Vega’s and Pinto’s issues. So when the downsized GM B-bodies appeared, they were like the future. The Toro was an old-fashioned pig, a total has-been, cool lights notwithstanding. And the production figures bear this out, despite the Caddy’s higher price. Today? I’d probably not choose either of them, though it’s good to see both cars still out thetre.
I easily choose the Caddy based on looks. A Toronado XSR would have tipped me the other way.
I’ve already picked the Caddy, but wouldn’t refuse a nice Toro.
Very, very nice, Dean!
Cadillac for me. I like the long flowing, clean lines of the lower body. I am not a fan generally of 70’s brougham greenhouses, but the Caddy’s is a bit better looking to me. The Toronado is a cool car, but 77-78 are my least favorite years for that car. I prefer RWD and the Cadillac engine at the time was really good.
I would’ve gone with the 1977 Cadillac Coupe Deville, I’ve always liked the 1977-79 C bodies a lot and always have a hard time deciding whether if I want a Cadillac Deville/Fleetwood, Olds 98 or Buick Electra, they were big without being excessively huge, the 1977 Cadillac was IMO their best one since 1973 (the last year of the hardtops).
I can’t get past that in the Oldsmobile you were getting a car that cost so much more than the DeVille when it wore a Cadillac wreath and crest. Even more confusing, the Buick Riviera of this generation wasn’t a patch on the Toronado, while it should have been a step up. Given the choices, the Toronado appeals the most to me of the big GM cars of ’77. How much would a 320i have cost?
Actually I would take the license plate back to it’s previous owner. I always liked Pontiacs and the Grand Ville was the ultimate Poncho !
I guess it’s easy to overlook how many decades the old movie I was the best selling card America continuously
Probably would have chosen a 77 T-bird or Mark V over these 2, but between these 2 the Coupe Deville easily!
I always liked the Cadillacs of the late 70’s so I’d be an easy choice for me. I’d also have to go with a green interior with the weird swirl design patterns on the upholstery that was common back then. Throw in a then state of the art AC Delco cassette player and bury me happy. Me gusta!
Well back in 1980 I bought a ’77 CDV after college graduation.I thought that the design was lighter and fresher and even a bit sporty compared to the ’75-76 Caddies that had preceded it. The Toros and Eldo had just grown to oversized blobs. The earlier E bodies were distinctive and handsome but the design had grown stale and overworked. The ’77 Caddie was just big enough, not enough to be bloated, but big enough to have presence. A prestige car has to have presence.
What was referred to as a turn signal light on top of the front fender (similar to that of a Plymouth Volare’) was actually for the fiber-optic front lamp monitors. Turn signal bulbs as well as upper and lower beam headlamps were monitored by these lights. An additional monitor was placed over the rear window for the tail and stop lights. This monitor could easily be seen in the rear view mirror. I owned a 1977 Cadillac Coupe DeVille back in the day (sold it in 1988 with 60,000 trouble-free miles). It was a far superior vehicle to the bloated Toronado. My Coupe DeVille had electronic fuel injection which upped the horsepower to 195 from the base 180 hp. The downsized Cadillac was much more modern as was shown by the fact that it (along with other B & C body cars) was designed with the help of CAD programming. The engineering was extremely sound on these cars and the basic chassis saw a nearly twenty years life-span (practically unheard of). I seem to remember gas mileage estimates of 12 mpg. city and 18 highway. I can’t remember exactly what my car achieved but it must have been fairly good as I do not recall thinking it was a gas hog. The 1977-’79 Deville and Broughams were beautiful cars that suffered from an unfortunate 1980 model year update. Sadly, the ugly new design lasted until the end of the 1991 model year. However, Cadillac was not alone as all of the 1980 B & C bodies received this bland update. This along with the infamous X-body started what was to be a long and painful decline of General Motors.