(first posted 12/03/2012) In the past couple of weeks we’ve seen several examples of Cadillac’s peak. Starting with its inception in 1902 and continuing more or less through the Sixties, Cadillac produced well-built, well-finished, impressive–and expensive–cars. Inside and out, wherever you looked you saw chromed, die-cast metal, leather, fine fabrics and extensive gadgetry. Since we’ve discussed the redesigned, dumbed-down 1971 Cadillacs ad nauseum (click here for the ’72 Coupe de Ville CC), today let’s take a look at the last real Cadillac: The 1970 model.
The 1970 Cadillacs were mildly restyled versions of the all-new 1969 models. In my opinion, the 1970 Cadillac is that rare case of a facelift improving on the original. The revisions involved nothing drastic, and every refinement–from the new eggcrate grille, to new wheel covers, to new taillights set above a deeper V, to the fender peaks bearing the Art Moderne Cadillac emblem–simply looked great. It didn’t hurt that the 1969 body shell was very well proportioned for a luxury car, and enhanced by a subtle character line that flowed from the top of the front fender through the door handles before melting into the center of the rear-quarter panel. Very elegant, and so very appropriate to a Cadillac.
The Calais and Hardtop Sedan de Ville had an attractive “fast” C-pillar; but in my opinion, the Fleetwoods, with their traditional wide C-pillar, were the best of the bunch. This Brougham looks wonderful in Lucerne Aqua Firemist, but then I’m a sucker for aqua and green cars. Like Lincoln’s Moondust colors, Firemist paints had a high metallic/pearlescent effect compared with the “standard” color choices. Firemist colors were available on all 1970 models for an additional $205.
While some of the interior appointments were not quite of pre-1968 quality, the cabin offered an abundance of well-tailored leather and fine fabrics and, most certainly, plenty of stretch-out room. Which is exactly as it should be, since the Sixty Special and vinyl-topped Brougham were the largest Caddies in the lineup save the Seventy-Five Series Sedan and Limousine. We’re talking about 133 inches of wheelbase, 228.5 inches of overall length and a road-hugging weight of 4,835 pounds (or 4,830 lbs. for the steel-roofed Sixty Special).
At CC, much has been made of post-1969 Cadillac interiors being cheap, flimsy, crummy, et al. Granted, this isn’t as impressive as, say, a 1960 Cadillac interior, but I really don’t think it looks bad. Keep in mind that 1968 brought much stricter limitations on the amount of chrome and other bright interior trim in American cars. The inevitable result was a somewhat drabber look for instrument panels, steering wheels and door panels. Considering the level of trim and furnishings expected in a luxury car, the new regulations surely hit Cadillac harder than, say, Plymouth. That said, I personally find the ’70 dash attractive. There was one cheap feature on ’70 Cadillacs, though. Regardless of whether the rest of the interior was navy blue, aqua, white or red, the steering wheel was black, just like a Chevy Biscayne.
That aside, there still was a lot that recommended the 1970 Cadillac, not the least of which was its proven powertrain. At its heart was the 472 cu in V8, which featured five main bearings, hydraulic valve lifters, and a Rochester four-barrel Quadrajet Model 4MV carb. Not surprisingly, it provided power, torque and durability that were second to none. Still rated at 375 hp and 525 wonderful lb-ft of torque, it also gave up nothing to the 1968 engine. As the saying went, a Cadillac could pass anything but a gas station. Turbo-Hydramatic was an expected and welcome standard feature.
Just below the $7,284 Sixty Special Brougham was the “plain” Sixty Special, which eschewed the Brougham’s padded vinyl roof. While much the same as the Brougham, it was priced at a slightly lower $6,953. A mere 1,738 Sixty Specials were built for the 1970 model year, versus 16,913 Broughams. Small wonder 1970 was the steel-roofed Fleetwood’s last year; it would be absent from the 1971 roster.
Whether a Sixty Special or Sixty Special Brougham, Fleetwoods offered all of the features of the de Ville series along with automatic level control. As you’d expect, the stitching on Fleetwood seats and door panels was unique, and complemented what the 1970 brochure described as “the rich look of oriental tamo wood on the doors and instrument panel. Sixty Specials offered a choice of seven sumptuous leather interiors, four Dumbarton cloth-and-leather selections, and four upholstered in Divan cloth. And there were colors–lots of colors. Remember when car interiors offered real colors? Personally, I love the look of the navy blue Sierra grain leather shown above.
The Brougham set itself apart from the Sixty Special primarily with its oh-so-current padded vinyl roof, but also featured adjustable rear-compartment reading lights, folding carpeted rear footrests and a two-way power Dual Comfort front seat. Full power control of the seats could be had for an extra $90-$116, depending on the model. Both the Sixty Special and Brougham received thin horizontal chrome belt line molding, bright wheel opening moldings and a wide chrome rocker molding with rear-quarter panel extensions. Fender skirts? But of course.
All in all, Cadillac had a good year in 1970. It produced 238,745 vehicles, a marked improvement over the 223,267 built in 1969. In fact, 1970 production set an all-time division record, despite disappointing calendar-year sales of 152,859 units, a performance due in large part to the major GM strike that, well, struck during the 1970 model year.
A 1970 Cadillac may have been a bit cheaped-out compared with a 1962 or 1963-64 model, but to my eye it remained every bit a Cadillac. Just look at that lush black-leather seat. Comfy, yes? What’s more, 1970 Caddys were safer, thanks to new 1968 Federal safety regs. Seat belts were provided for every passenger, along with shoulder harnesses for the two outboard front-seat passengers. A dual-circuit brake system (a Cadillac feature prior to 1968); headrests; an energy-absorbing steering column; anti-glare dash top and A-pillar covers (the bane of all you chrome-loving ’60s Cadillac interior lovers); and power front disc brakes with finned rear drums were present and accounted for on every 1970 Caddy.
I actually got to ride in one of these. A grade school friend’s mom had a gold ’70 Brougham with a white top and white leather interior. They actually had a thing for old Cadillacs, since they also had a navy blue ’69 (I think) Seventy-Five sedan. Both cars were a bit worn out, but still did their fine pedigree proud. Anyway, there was a class trip to the Rock Island Arsenal when I was in second or third grade, and Luke’s mom was one of the drivers. Guess who I rode with? It was a cool car that was great to ride in. To this day I have fond memories of that car. She kept on driving it daily for years, even though it steadily got rougher. The last time I recall it running I was in maybe sixth or seventh grade.
Years later, I ran across the very same car (it’s hard to miss that color combination) in the local junkyard. I was sad to see it had succumbed, but I guess it was nice to get to see it one last time. I took the Fleetwood Brougham plaque off the instrument panel as a souvenir of a happy childhood memory. To this day, it sits on my desk at home.
Yes, 1970 was a good year for Cadillac, and in my opinion, a good year for Cadillacs. However, it was all about to change as Cadillac Motor Division, in its relentless pursuit of profit and sales records, drastically decontented the 1971 models. I like them, but I don’t think they can match 1970 and earlier Cadillacs for sheer quality and presence.
(Special thanks to CC Cohort contributor runningonfumes, who spotted and photographed this splendid black ’70 Brougham. Great find!)
I agree, the last true Cadillac.
I like the close-up of the fender prow and its Art Deco details. It seems like a deliberate echo of the front of a ’41, maybe?
My favorite Cadillac year, 1941 (also the debut of Stan Kenton as a bandleader). The world forever changed after that.
Well said. Like you, this is probably the last of the big Cadillacs that I could really be interested in owning. The 1967-70 era was a transitional one at Cadillac. There are differences of opinion on whether the big fall-off in quality happened after 1966, or 1968, or 1970.
My main complaint with the 69-70 cars are the lack of vent windows in the front doors and the dash panel that looked awfully low-budget (by Cadillac standards.) But I think I agree with you that the 70 represented a stylistic improvement over the 69. I also agree with you on the Fleetwood roofline. I could definitely be talked into this big black Fleetwood. But move forward another year, and I become an un-apologetic Lincoln guy (who has a soft spot for the 72-73 Imperial.)
One final gripe about the car – I always hated that Cadillac replaced the big bold V under its crest with the wreath. The chromed V represented power and performance, while the wreath seemed a bow to Broughamification. I think that modern Cadillacs have missed a huge opportunity to slap a big bold V back under the crest.
I always hated that Cadillac replaced the big bold V under its crest with the wreath.
For a number of years, the “wreath” – actually referred to by Cadillac as “laurels” – appeared on the Fleetwood, while the V remained on the lesser models.
I think it was a historical reference to the quality awards won by Cadillac in the first decade of the 20th century. Unfortunately, by that time Cadillac was truly resting on those laurels…
The wreath was referred to in Cadillac sales literature of the 1960s and ’70s as a wreath, not laurels.
Resting on its wreath, then. And crushing it.
Wreaths were on 60’s Eldorados, too which were considered part of the Fleetwood series . . .
Well, the V was reserved for non-Fleetwood cars, the V remained on deVille(and Calais) series cars through 1984. The wreath and crest combination first appeared in 1964 on Fleetwood series cars, such as the Eldorado, Fleetwood sedan and 75 series limousines.
I thought the 69 and 70 model Cadillacs had a look all their own and appealing. I liked the Fleetwoods exterior but found the inside door panels, dash, and steering wheel very cheap in appearance. I have also noticed the dash and steering wheels of the survivors have not weathered very well. I do find the seats attractive.
Yep. When I was 16 I was needing a replacement for my ’68 Fury after a cop’s kid ran a stop sign and hurdled his Fairmont at me in t-bone fashion. I remember darting across a used lot to look at a ’70 Fleetwood, only to be let down by the kit-car quality steering wheel and door panels. They made the wheel/panels in my mom’s Club Wagon seem downright plush. Signs of GM let-downs to come.
Strange to see that all 1970 Cadillac steering wheels were black, as the full-size Olds and Buicks of the same model year featured color-keyed wheels. In fact, Olds offered at least two different wheels in multiple colors, since the “rim blow” option was available that year.
I’d love a 68 through 70 model for the better safey equipment and not quite being as cheaped out.
I found it cool how Cadillac offered heated seats in the 1960s- was this option dropped in 1970?
here is a pic for people –
The knob marked heat is a generic aftermarket switch, I installed one in my 1950 F1 seen in the first of my Cornbinders Of A Lifetime. A number of the walk in trucks built on International school bus chassis I used to work on have the same switch.
My grandfather had a 69 Sedan deVille. His son-in-law (my uncle on my mother’s side) gave it to him after his father (the owner) passed away. Must have been the late 70’s. It was dark maroon with a black vinyl top – I think it only had about 19,000 miles on it when he got it. He loved that car – he lived in a retirement apartment village and had to keep it parked outside – but he would go out every day and wipe it down – including the engine! Unfortunately it developed rust and a leak around the rear window which my grandfather tried to fix repeatedly with a tube of black sealant – not very pretty or effective.
I drove it once and it wasn’t as fast as I thought it would be ( I was probably 17 or 18 at the time) – but it did have a presence!
I think you are spot on, this is when it all came together one last time, the fins had been married successfully to the slab sides they cribbed from lincoln and the car was pretty much perfect. I like the 71’s too but they werent as special as these. My Mom had an 84 De Ville and it had the “V” instead of the laurels, ours was a “lowly” DeVille so it didnt have any laurels, Up until the downsizing I think the laurels were for the top line cars.
Kinda like Lincoln reserved the tall vertically elongated star for the Marks while the standard continental & towncars used square stars until 1988-. Occacionally youd find trunk latches that were stylized horizontally elongated stars on the lesser models, but the Lincoln symbol used today used to be specially for the Marks, just like the laurels are now across the Caddy line where as the used to denote the upmarket cars.
Interesting that $7300 in 1970 is $43,000 in 2012 dollars. Very cheap dash and wheel, yes; but no question that was still a lot of car for the money back then, especially when you consider its spiritual successor-the Escalade-costs twice as much.
A new Escalade starts @ 63k.
FWIW, Cadillac’s largest current sedan – the XTS – starts @ $44k.
Also, to do the comparison, you’d need to factor in equipment that was optional on the 1970 car and standard on the modern ones. Keep in mind that the list price of a Fleetwood did not include air conditioning, cruise control, a rear defogger, shoulder belts, or a radio; leather was also extra. Adding those features to the Brougham would add more than $1,200 to the tally.
Or a full set of disc brakes. This amazes me still.
Beautiful Car! Though I prefer the 69. Not the last true Cadillac though. I feel Cadillac became totally untrue to its roots and just an upmarket GM generic in 2000. No more Lamp Monitors, Cadillac Horn, exclusive buttons and switches the little touches that you felt and saw that were distinctive from the Buicks and lesser GM offerings. Even though my 96 Fleetwood shares the Engine and Transmission with the Roadmaster and Impala I also own each of the touch points is distinctive for it. Yes the luster was gone by then but those little touches survived until the 2000 models, which except for the Northstar was not that distinctive from say an Impala.
I agree – I think the 1969 “Lantern” tail lights were among the most distinctive and unusual of all the 60’s-70’s Cadillac’s. I also preferred the side marker lights metal plate with embossed emblem.
Mike, I think the tops of the late 60’s to mid 70’s Cadillacs all had the rear window problem you describe. I think the rust started growing as it traveled down the assembly line and onto the showroom floor. But at least back in those days if you were in the back seat of a Cadillac you knew it was a Cadillac. Today the rear seat of a Cadillac is indistinguishable from a Impala. I do not even give a Cadillac a second look today.
Well… I only had experience with that one in particular. My grandfather loved that car – even with the rust that eventually forced him to get rid of it.
He loved his cars and even into his early 90’s could recite every car he owned from the 20’s on!
It’s the reason my grandparents quit buying GM cars. They lived very close to the Gulf of Mexico and the back windshield would rust out.
I lived in Mobile, Al in the early 70’s and worked at a gas station. Practically every big 65 through 70 GM rusted around the rear window. A vinyl roof would slow it down some but not stop it. The 71-76 were better but not immune.
All of those GM cars had a channel in the sheet metal at the bottom of the rear window (basically where the roof joined the body of the car. If there was a vinyl roof, so much the better–rust formed under the vinyl). GM slapped a strip of chrome over it and called it good. Water collected in those channels and sat–causing the rust. Every. Single. One. Of. Them.
Early in the article an overall length of 288 inches is mentioned. Are you sure that wasn’t 228 inches? An easy enough typo to make….
Incidentally, Washington collector vehicle plates are issued as singles – it looks like the owner of the black sedan shown didn’t bother to remove the older front plate when he put the CV plate on the back.
Yes it is a typo. Oops! Actual length is 228.5″.
Disagree about the tail lights. Yeah, I’m biased but I like the ’69 more. And the rear window crease.
I need that steering wheel!
Tom, I couldn’t agree more, the ’70 was the last of the true Cadillacs, in my view, trumped only by the vaunted ’62. Nicely written, this was the epitome of Cadillac elegance, even if it was dumbed down a bit.
Interesting that your featured model is in the aqua firemist. The husband of my mother’s best friend in the seventies drove this very car, the Sixty Special Brougham, in this very color, with this very turquoise Dumbarton cloth and leather. He was a fanatic about all his cars, and it always looked like the day it came off the showroom floor. I had the opportunity to ride in it once, sadly when my father passed away unexpectedly in 1980, and he drove my mother and me to the mortuary. Even though it was ten years old at that point, I was so impressed. We rode in the back seat just for fun, like we were being chauffered (which we were), and I still remember the elegant feel of that sumptuous brocade upholstery, and the cool carpeted footrests. I was more interested in the car than the reason for being in it that day.
Several of the commentariat have mentioned the “V” under the Cadillac crest. If memory serves, 1970 and 1971 were the only two years that the lesser models were missing the “V” entirely, in favor of an enlarged stand alone crest, for reasons unknown. The “V” was restored in 1972, I believe, and ran through 1984, when it disappeared entirely, supplanted entirely by the laurels.
My Aunt had a 70’s Buick Centurion and my Grandmother drive a 70’s Buick Electra with brocade upholstery, I agree with you, that was a really sumptous and elegant touch, I think as far as Brougham’s go I’d rather have brocade over tufted velour or leather, but it seems the opposite is more popular with land yacht fanatics.
Don, thanks for sharing. I guess a rather sad day was brightened a bit by that aqua Fleetwood Brougham 🙂
I really have a thing for 1950s through early 1970s full-size American cars in aqua with aqua or white interiors. I absolutely love that aqua ’70 Brougham in the brochure!
“I really have a thing for 1950s through early 1970s full-size American cars in aqua with aqua or white interiors.”
Never liked the steering wheel in the 1970 Cadillacs, though the 1969 Fleetwood is still very nice, my Fleetwood preferences lie with the 1971-76 Fleetwoods, I think those are better trimmed than these, I think the dash on these looks a little plain.
I dunno Tom. I had a 1970 SDV and have a 1986 FWB now. No comparison, the ’77-’92s* were much better cars and “every inch a Cadillac”. Agree the ’71-’76s were a downgrade, too fat like the fuselage Mopars.
* except 4100 models
I have to disagree slightly. These were massive cars and well made, but I have a real soft spot for the 1971-1976 models. Those are my favorite Cadillacs.
Calibrick and John:
Actually, it’s pretty hard for me to pick a final “genuine” year for Cadillacs, as I have a soft spot for about all of them from the 1946-1999 years. Only in 2000 did the de Ville/DTS really start to lose the special touches that made a Cadillac. However, starting in 1971 more concessions were made in quality and finishing, as Cadillac started chasing sales volume rather than going above and beyond to satisfy every new Cadillac owner.
They seem to be coming back though. The 2008 CTS was much more attractive to me than the 2003-07 version, and lately I really have a thing for the new XTS, especially in pearl white!
I think we are missing a paramount reason for the cheapening of the Cadillac interior as the 1970’s progressed. When I bought my ’74 Fleetwood and traded in my 1969 Coupe – I was stunned at how plastic had invaded every nook and cranny. The Oil Embargo forced GM’s hand to lose weight, fast and plastic was the way to do just that.
I also hated the urethane extenders – which should have come with a replacement set or two – since it was only a matter of time before the Arizona sun made a joke out of them.
I think you are missing the paramount reason: cost, followed by safety concerns.
The 1971 – 1976 Cadillacs were bigger and heavier, and these cars were designed well before the OPEC gas crisis of 1974. The reason they switched to more plastic starting in 1971 was because it was cheaper, and safety regulations were also a big factor. The shiny chrome on dashboards were both a problem with glare as well as impact.
Don’t forget: your 1974 Cadillac was “locked in” in terms of its design and materials almost two years earlier, or 1971, since it arrived in 1973. The Oil Embargo had zero impact on 1974 models.
I have a vague memory of them introducing a numerically lower axle ratio mid-year, but it could have been for the ’75s. That happened to many cars soon after the oil price rise, or they switched the standard ratio to a lower one. I guess EPA certification killed off the multiple ratio options.
Another good thing about the 1970 model year was that it was the final one (for GM) in which you could still get the high-compression motors, and it was also the year that the 500CID engine was introduced (so 1970 is the only year you could get a high-compression 500 caddy motor).
If you’ve never driven one of the pre-1971 Caddies, you don’t know what low-end torque is!
I had a 472 in my 1969 Cadillac Ambulance (around 6400lbs) with a 2.91 (or so) rear end, and that thing could really move off the line for it’s size.
I’m a Lincoln fan (former Mark III and VIII owner) but I Love the 69-70 Fleetwoods! There was something about them in their elegant proportions/appointments yet HUGE dimensions that Imperial and Lincoln couldn’t match.
In 1974, a woman ran a red light in front of 18-year old me. My ’73 Pinto hit her ’67 Ambassador right where the front fender joins the front door. A police officer at Winchell’s Donuts (honest) witnessed the crash, resulting in a very cooperative agent from her insurance company.
My Pinto went to San Luis Obispo’s best body shop, which just happened to be the local Cadillac dealer. And her insurance company rented me one of their used cars…a ’69 Coupe DeVille. Had it for a month while they fixed the Pinto. Loved it. Absolutely the last worthwhile Cadillac…though if I were going to buy one, I’d probably drop back to ’68 or earlier to get one before the nickel and dime stuff began.
I always thought the Fleetwoods looked best from 1965-1970, mostly because the longer wheelbase gave them better proportions, and they just seemed the epitome of what a Cadillac was. That thick looking roof, the rear foot rests..they just seemed so plush, although even then (I was about 5 when these were new), or maybe just a few years later, I realized that the interiors, at least, were nothing like they were prior to the late 1960s. There were a few de Villes in my neighborhood, but really only a few Fleetwoods. I remember one neighbor around the block having one of these Fleetwoods, in a purplish rose color, that they kept for a good ten years, if not longer.
I agree that the changes made for 1970 were for the better – I love the taillights and the cleaner grille. I always thought the seats in the 69-70’s looked cool, as they seemed to be taller than those before or after. I think the creased rear window continued into 1970, but wasn’t this only on the de Villes?
I’m glad others said it first as I thought for awhile I was an army of one.
I, being a huge Cadillac fan, think this style Cadillac series is really very unattractive as they are waaay too “boxy”. The early-to-mid sixties models were art on wheels and the 1971-1976 models were style on wheels.
1971 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham sedan:
Oh, you’re not alone. Did you see the CC I wrote on the ’75 Fleetwood? https://www.curbsideclassic.com/curbside-classics-american/curbside-classic-1975-cadillac-fleetwood-brougham-the-broughams-brougham/
I agree, I like the long swoopy 747-ish lines of the early 1971-73 Cadillacs.
I like how the 71-73’s are stylized 1970’s versions of 59/60’s, the front end especially, and the way the fins have ghost lines of the 59 rear fender/rocket pods. My Uncle had a blue 72 or 73 Coupe de Ville and as a little kid it was a thrill to go for a ride in that car. I don’t remember there being much of a difference luxury wise from my Aunt & Grandma’s 72 Buick’s.
I will agree that the 71 Coupe deVille with a steel roof was a real looker. I occasionally used to drive a black 71 Fleetwood 75 sedan (a limo, but without the divider window.). Without a vinyl roof, it was quite sleek, for such a big car.
My favorite year of the Cadillacs is the 1973. I drove a Coupe dé Ville for 9 years and loved it. Not only the ride, but the design is long and slim, the interior is nice. I would love to have one again.
Especially a Fleetwood 75 Limousine is on my list. By far the most beautiful limousine of the 1970’s
The interior is very nice in 1973.
Nice without the trouble of the vinyl roof.
I also agree the 71-73 where the best looking. But of all the Fleetwood Sedans if I could choose one it would probably be the 1974 Talisman. Never seen one in the raw though.
Ahh, the Talisman, the Brougham of Broughams.
I have a 76 Talisman. The front and rear console was only offered in 74. The two remaining years (75 and 76) featured only the front console. I find it interesting the Talisman Package made the 74 Fleetwood a four passenger car.
Amen. The ’74 is quite possibly the most ridiculous postwar American car.
I never knew the Talisman came in gold until today, and I’ve now seen two photos of ’74s (I’d done a search of the Monticello (bordello) velour in the ’75). I wonder if that was one-year-only like the rear console. I’m sure I read the brochure cover-to-cover at the time, too (may even still have it somewhere).
Not counting the Talisman I saw at a Caddy dealer in`74, I only saw 2 in the 4 passenger configuration. One was a “pimpmobile” with blue velour seats, and one was in a maroon-burgundy color with tan leather seats.The Talisman option alone cost a little more that a standard Ford Pinto! I also understand that former president Richard Nixon had one. Kinda ostentatious and overdone,it took “brougham” to new heights-or lows, depending on your tastes.
+1! Maybe I wouldn’t go so far as to call theses series “very unattractive” (in my European eyes any pre-Cimarron Cadillac – and a few later ones as well – no matter how rusty and dented, will be more attractive than most things on wheels) but I totally agree that, in retrospect, they look like a somewhat boxy episode between the sharp early 1960s series and the looong beautiful beasts of 1971-1976. The latter were a swan’s song, possibly, but hey, what a swan’s song!
I like the 1971-76 models more as well. They may have cheaper interiors etc. but the exterior styling is far better. They even carried the big 5mph bumpers well IMO.
Seems many here like to pan the post-1970 Cadillacs, but my grandfather owned two Sedan de Villes, a 1973 and later a 1979, and I loved those cars. Lookswise, though, I would love to own a 1965 – the year I was born – especially in Fleetwood form.
Nah, my parents had a ’72 SDV, and it was a solid tank. Was more durable than relative’s 73 Electra. It may not have been as out there as the 59, but was a good entry lux family car.
To me last ‘old style’ Caddy was 1992. But today’s CTS and family are competitive, modern Cadilacs.
I like the art deco badge on the front corners, but still prefer the ’74 Fleetwoods as that is what my Mom had.
She had a 70 Sedan DeVille but I’m not old enough to remember anything about it..the car I remember was the ’74… I’m always on the lookout for a 74 with black leather interior!
Great article. I am an owner of one of these wonderful cars and have enjoyed it immensely since I bought it in 1993. The power of the 472, the spacious rear compartment, the effortless cruising and supreme comfort make it an all time favourite of mine.
I do feel, though, that it has been somewhat degraded in some areas of previous Fleetwood Broughams, but it still has an air of opulence and class that is unmatched by any modern car. I still would have liked the rear picnic tables last used in 1968. But I feel the the onslaught of safety regs dictated their demise.
Also, the huge seats found in these cars is a major attraction. Nothing can match their comfort, even the much more modern 1994 Fleetwood Brougham I own.
Mine is Glenbrier Green, with dark green Dumbarton cloth with leather inserts. It is a very good wearing combination. It has (had) a black rook. Rust forced my hand on removing it, however a new roof is in the future. This is an ongoing issue.
The back seat looked so inviting that I wanted to jump in and take a nap after taking the photos. There’s enough room for a friend to join me. Just move the Bible to the front seat. Make sure the foot rests are in the upright position.
I’ve never had any desire to own a Cadillac but I appreciate the cars for what they were. They don’t make back seats like that anymore.
I never did care for the front styling of the ’69-’70 Cadillacs. It was the simplistic headlight bezels mostly, as though they belonged to a Chevy. But the front just seemed a little downmarket to me, much like the Lincoln Continental fronts of the same time period… Conversely, I really like the styling of the ’72’s. Well chiseled with jewel-like details. Not that I would kick any ’70 Cadillac out of my garage though, I have a great fondness for the wreath and crest.
Opinions will vary, but I think the front ends of the ’69 and ’70 Cadillacs were a work of art! (More so the ’69.)
>> dumbed-down 1971 Cadillacs ad nauseum
Ad nauseam, not “nauseum.” The 1970 models were maybe the low point for full-size Cadillac interiors. Tacky fake wood and cheap-looking door panels, especially the plastic cups srrounding the door handles. Skip forward to the 1972 Fleetwood and things were much improved, that year marking what were arguably the last “real Cadillacs” before the flexible body color filler panels began their encroachment. The 1972 Fleetwoods also had the very pleasing “colonnade” B-pillar. A big step up from the 1970 Brougham.
I would prefer flexible plastic trim pieces to the flexible bodies that afflicted the 1971-76 GM B and C body cars. Sadly, GM was not alone here, as the contemporary Fords/Mercuries were not all that much better, especially the 1971-72 versions.
Awesome Cadillac. The beautiful forward stance of the headlights is so nicely complimented by the subtle downward lines along the rear quarter panels. My parents’ neighbor had one, bought new, in gold. A true beauty and beast at the same time. No plastic bumper fillers or body extensions on this one, but if you have a later 1970’s on up Cadillac, we have them, and would appreciate your consideration if you need them ( http://www.autorifix.com ). Love that car!
I’ve always thought this was the true zenith of the Cadillac’s due to the style and the powertrain they have, I thought the 1971-76 Caddies were a downstep to the 1965-70 Caddies even though it was the 1972 Cadillac from the movie “License To Drive” that got me into the big Caddies.
Cadillac’s powertrains were slipping during the 60’s in the sense that the 390 V8 had it’s peak horsepower at 4800 RPMs, while the 429 slipped a couple of hundred RPMs to 4600. Then the 472/500 engines slipped more, and then still more. But with the bigger engines the hydramatic was replaced, which was a good thing.
Big GM bodies were flexible to a greater or lesser extent until the 1995 Aurora/Riviera bodies were developed. The midsized cars were somewhat better in the 1990 time frame.
I had a 70 coupe back in 77 and I loved that car. The front end was simple compared to the fearsome 67/68s but the knife edged rear quarters soaring tail lamps and creased rear window (later borrowed by the second gen Monte Carlo) were truly dramatic. And boy could that thing run!
To correct some folks, 69 and 70 didn’t have any fake wood, not the wheel, not the inserts , nowhere.
Having owned a 67, 69, and 72 (and 85 slantback) I can attest the interior in my 72 Fleetwood was not of the same quality as my others. They looked very similar, but we’re cheaper .
I still like caddy up to 73…. The grill and light changes on 74 and up I don’t care for.
The author and a few comments about the 70 having looked better are crazy. The highway safety lights in the back bumper were a huge downgrade as were the louvered side markers. When I searched out my 69 I wouldn’t even look at a 70
Confused here as the brochure says “the look” of tamo wood. I know they went back to real wood briefly in the 77-80somethings, right?
1969 had real wood trim (rosewood). 1970 did not.
I had a 1978 Fleetwood Limousine. There was no real wood in the interior, but the wood look alike trim was beautiful, better than 1979 and 1980.
1978 Fleetwood Limousine trim in the front
I think the first real wood (encased in plastic) returned in the late 80s FWD Fleetwood, then the ’92 Seville & Eldorado.
GM dashes began to feel hollow in ’69. It would be nice to find out if it was safety, or $, or both.
Looking at Cadillac brochures from 1965 and 1967, as well as 1969 and 1970 one reads the following:
1965 – imported Tamo wood hand finished…
1967 – where the 1965’s had real wood, now there is fabric….
1970 – the look of Tamo wood
The brochures don’t brag about the wood so it is ambiguous as to whether it is real or not. My 1971 Buick Riviera had trim on the doors that looked like wood, but I kind of thought it was a very good imitation.
I’ve always hated the wood present in the 1966 Fleetwoods, they always seemed like something off of a pauper’s kitchen table. A 1965 Cadillac’s wood veneer (real wood) always looked very tasteful. I’ll never know why Cadillac eliminated wood in the 1967 line, but they compensated for some very tasteful topnotch fabrics, vinyls, and leathers. Although the 1967 Fleetwood contained no wood, it doesn’t bother me. It looks extremely understated and tasteful. To be quite honest I love the fabric inserts on the 1967 Fleetwood, it ties the interior theme together.
From having to personally remove the soor panel inserts in my 69 I can attest they were wood. Wood and convertibles in AZ don’t mix well.
The steering wheel had wood veneer stops in it too
I love the Caddy ads with the sliver of a window into the good life.
As for the reference to safety features, the collapsible steering column started in ’67 on GM and AMC cars. The dual-circuit brake system was mandatory on ’67 cars. AMC and Cadillac had introduced that way back in ’62.
Nice driving cars. Here is a shot of my ’69 60 Special.
A singer acquaintance of mine in the ’90s had a ’69 or ’70 Fleetwood that he had named Isolde. Like any soprano who undertakes that challenging role, Isolde had great resources, and would just go and go, for years and years, even as her cosmetics aged and her climate control failed. On and on she went, the indomitable Isolde, with her pale yellow paint and black leather interior.
As the former owner of a 1973Fleetwood brougham dark blue all over with leather seating a truly unique ride and current owner of a 1966 Deville convertible equally unique. Thanks for article. Norm
$205 for special paint is $1275 today. Maybe that’s where BMW got the idea.
Not quite sure what a “true Cadillac” is supposed to be. While I think that the 1971-76 Cadillac’s were not the best period, I am not sure that 1970 was better. I think that after World War Two Cadillac slipped and has not regained what they had. But the automobile market changed after World War Two, so really the luxury car market is completely different. Basically Chevrolets moved in the direction of Cadillac, while Cadillac moved down market. The 1965-66 Chevy Caprice was probably nearly a Cadillac, and probably better than a used Cadillac.
The ’69-’70 is not my favorite Cadillac. For me, they were the most awkward looking Cadillacs since the ’60 and ’61. (I know, different bodies, but the ’60 and ’61 were the lesser of their respective two year cycles.)
The boxy lines on these seem amateurish to me – especially following the very attractive ’67-’68 cars.
I’m in the camp that says Cadillac interiors began their slide in 1967, and the ’69-’70 was even a bit worse. This started the era when Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight LS interiors usually seemed a notch above the typical Cadillac interior.
In the era, I was exposed to a lot of Oldsmobiles, and if I had been old enough to buy, I’d have probably gone Oldsmobile no matter how much money I may have had – it was simply a better buy all around. Today, I’d consider one of these Cadillacs for a classic garage. But, make mine a ’69 Sedan DeVille.
I’m gonna have to disagree with you and that camp of yours. The one piece injection molded door panels were not introduced until 1968, granted they were rather cheap looking in appearance. The 1967 models had the old style door panel; of which it contained 4 separate pieced tacked onto one door panel. The 1967’s door panels were handcrafted where as the 1968’s were not. The door panels were regarded to make servicing easier, but it was still considered a cheap move. The cheap black instrument surrounds were also not introduced until 1969, upon which attached were plastic headlight and climate control switches; definitely cheap. I don’t quite know what you mean by the whole level of interior fitting dropped a couple of notches. I’ve sat in several 1966 and 1967 Cadillac’s one of which I own, a 1967 Cadillac Fleetwood Sixty Special, and I can attest that both cars of built of the highest quality. It can also be argued that the door panels of a 1967 model are of higher quality than a 1966. Both the 1965 and 1966 Cadillac’s contained plastic “cups” that held the padded arm rests. These were eliminated in 1967 and replaced with padded arm rests covered in highly textured vinyl. The bottom half of the dash on a 1965 and 1966 Cadillac, are also made of cheap plastic grained to look like vinyl. It always fascinates how those who defend a 1966 Cadillac fail to mention the hard plastic dash and cups holding the arm rests. These, too, were cheap moves by the automaker. The 1967 models’ instrument panels are completely covered in heavily grained vinyl, leaving no plastic exposed. The 1967 models actually reduced the amount of plastic present in the interior rather than introducing it. The only hard plastic present in a 1967 model’s cabin is the assist handles on the rear of the front seat and the pull handles on the doors; also present on a 1966. In the end, the “interior slide” didn’t begin until 1968 with the molded door panels. But it took full effect in 1969.
This brings me back to the early 1980s. My friends parents who lived in Los Angeles took bi-weekly trips to Las Vegas and had a 1969 Coupe DeVille parked at the Vegas airport, and I had a set of keys. Flying for Ozark in those days, we had 25 hour layovers. We’d arrive at midnight and while the crew took the bus to the Flamingo Hilton I would pick up the Caddy and leave it at the front entrance. We’d change in under 15 minutes then head north to the Horseshoe Club where we could play $1 blackjack at the tables while drinking free Heinekens. About three we would retire to the restaurant to enjoy the $2 strip steak special then return to the strip for some sleep. I get tired just thinking about it, but damn, it was fun.
When I was a teenage grocery bagger at a market in Pasadena, CA in the late 1970s an impeccably dressed elderly woman would arrive weekly in a chauffeur driven maroon with black vinyl top 1970 Fleetwood. The pristine Cadillac was very impressive and stood out in the parking lot filled with expensive cars. I was a car guy then and admired her car and the uniformed chauffeur added to its grand appearance.
We had a ’76 Sedan deVille that was fairly pathetic and a ’66 Sedan deVille that was an absolutely incredible vehicle. Comparing the two cars with ten years between them showed me how the American automotive industry had changed (in a negative direction) so very much. No wonder the imports, especially when they figured out quality control, eclipsed the American cars so severely. Notwithstanding fuel consumption, if I could buy a brand new ’66 Sedan deVille just like the one that rusted out from under us, I’d be likely to do so tomorrow!
Only the ’66 and ’67 Fleetwood Brougham had the picnic tables in the back.
The ’68-’70 472 engine was rated 375 hp @ 4400 rpm. The reason it made hp at less rpm than the 390 and 429 engine was because it was more efficient, and the bigger size (in cubes) means it made more power at lower rpm.
I think a new version of this era Caddy, with GM’s 6.6 gas engine, would be a pleasant
long distance machine. No 20 inch plus rims please.
For me I thought 1979 was the last truly great year of the Cadillac’s.
I may be entirely out of line here as a euro car fan, not domestic. But I’m still a car guy so I’ll weigh in.
To me the last of the “true” Cadillacs would be the Eldorados, what was it, ’76 or so? IMO their high point, at least in the last say 65 years would be the mid 60s. They were still true to aim then as a super premium variant in the evolution of American cars. But by 70 times were already changing and it was conspicuous consumption rather than premium. Accent on flash, not substance. I mean it had pretty good sized fins in 1970? Front and rear? I know “luxury” also tends to means conservative, resistance to change, but jeez, fins in ’70?
Easy to say what people should have done 50+ years ago, and it would have been contrary to everything GM at the time, but at the least they should have made everything standard. Charged for it of course, but include nearly everything. Make it the “Standard” of whatever, not just an expensive GM car. Maybe make a sunroof an option, sport suspension, or trailering for that matter as they were used as expensive workhorses at the time for boats and travel trailers. Maybe a premium package with sunroof, real wood interior trim and better seats all as a package.
I know, there he goes, lance in hand tilting at windmills again.
Just my .02
Oh, and that back seat? Now while I’ve spent some time in Nevada, but never have partaken of certain houses of “Ill repute”, nor even been in one, though driven by a few, that back seat makes me think of nothing else but a mental image of those broken down, not quite motels in extra rural Nevada.
We had a ’68 base Electra with a solid-feeling padded vinyl and steel dash. Grandma bought an all-black ’70 Cadillac Calais to replace her unreliable ’64. That deep binnacle was hollow plastic and felt like it. Even without the head restraints, she had to almost stand up to see over the high back seat, so she got a ’72. I thought its yellow buff interior was nicer than her ’70, but it may have been the color. The flexible body made the glass make funny noises against the weatherstripping until we used WD40 on them. The ribbed fabric shed threads after a decade despite the low miles. It had less than 50k when my dad gave it to his stepson in 2010.
Seems to be a split opinion whether the 69-70 or 71-76 style was better. I consider the ’62 to be the height of Cadillac, so perhaps my vote doesn’t count. However I do prefer the 71-76 style. But does style alone determine what is the last true Cadillac?
Beginning in 1971, progressively tightening emission standards forced all automakers to reduce engine output. The ’71s & ’72s weren’t too bad, but they were weaker than the 70 models and the technology employed did reliability no favors. Things got a lot worse beginning with the ’73 models. It wasn’t until the early 80’s that automakers were able to meet emission standards without completely choking engine output.
This problem wasn’t unique to Cadillac, but at the prices Cadillac commanded, it was perhaps more objectionable to owners. Cadillac owners were long accustomed to smooth seamless power that made no compromises to drivability.
Our dealership sales manager once offered an interesting comment. Back in the early ’70s, he told me a typical Mercedes buyer generally had a bit of interest in the engineering. They would often lift the hood when inspecting a prospective purchase.
A Cadillac buyer would not be bothered with such a mundane task. They expected the car to have a reliable engine and thought a hood release was for the exclusive use of mechanics during the occasional serving. Any car that required them to lift the hood wasn’t worth buying.
Powertrain performance is an important part of the Cadillac experience. By that I mean performance against the traits most valued by Cadillac owners. Add performance to style and quality when designating the last true Cadillac and I’d have to agree that the 1970 model is it.
What came afterward might have still looked like a Cadillac – an attractive one at that – but performance and reliability against Cadillac standards began to degrade beginning with the 1971 models. In time, performance would recover. But by then, Cadillacs were swamped with other issues.
My dad’s last car was a ’69 Sedan De Ville, in the awful “Palmetto Green Metallic”, AKA Baby &$*@ Green. It had, as almost all his cars did, a “hopped up” engine that could really move that big boat. The idle gave it away as not being stock, and I think it had something like 3.42 gears in the rear end. This seems to be an exact duplicate of his car:
I can remember that odd pattern on the “Dark Green Dardenelle” seat fabric, but most of my memories of it are when my dad and I would go someplace alone, and he would stomp on it, and take it up past 100, which was pretty scary to my 13-16 year old self. In March of ’73, the big Caddy died in a spectacular wreck near the Toledo Zoo. My dad passed out due to heart issues, six months later, he would be gone. The transformer on top of the pole exploded, knocking out the power to a fair chunk of Toledo. When I got home from school that day, my mom was trying to find him, as he had left work at 11:30am, but as of 2:15pm, was nowhere to be found. We called and called all the local hospitals, and nobody seemed to know what was going on. My mom called the police again, and they said they had taken him to a local hospital, but they weren’t sure where(???) and said he was talking and making perfect sense and told them where he wanted to be taken. About 3:30, I called the right place, and the person said, “Oh he’s been here since about noon, and he’s doing fine!”. Right about then, the owner of the driving school I was learning with shows up and by 5pm, I had my license. Dad never drove again. Hard to believe, but the last movie he saw in the theater was “The Godfather”! How he survived, not wearing a seat belt, with only a broken nose and loose front teeth is a total mystery. One odd thing, seeing that car folded up at the back of the dealership would be only the first ’69 Sedan De Ville in that same awful color I would see totally destroyed. The second one was trashed at a gas station I worked at when a minor (Like $50) money dispute between another employee, “Henry” and some supposed friend of his turned ugly and the friend tried to run Henry over. Henry shot him in the chest with a 30/30 hunting rifle just as he made a second run at him, killing him instantly. I got there just as the rods were coming out of the engine after he crashed into the big red bollards in front of the building, and the throttle stuck open. My dad’s car did the same thing after hitting the pole. Henry was arrested for murder, but the boss hired him a good lawyer, and soon Henry was totally off the hook. I soon quit after being held up and I always wondered what happened to Henry later on. The only real penalty he got was he spent a couple of days in jail and he never got his rifle back.