Curbside Classic: 1973 Cadillac Fleetwood 75 – The Longest Standard Production Car Ever

(first posted 2/10/2013)    In the good old days, Cadillac was always about superlatives, most of all when it came to size. They just kept getting bigger and bigger and bigger…until the laws of nature finally interceded, and they imploded. Not totally unlike the life cycle of stars; before they collapse into a black hole, they swell into red giants. So here is the Red Giant of automobiles, the biggest regular production car ever: 250 inches (6.35 meters). Strictly speaking, the 1974 version was two inches longer, but you get the point; and this is what I found. Anyway, it’s a bit dangerous to hang around red giants just before the implode; they create a supernova. And that can be quite deadly.

Cadillac 1973 Fleetwood 75

In discussing the Cadillac Fleetwood 75, it’s important to note that this was a regular production model, and not a “stretch limo”. There were two versions: the Nine Passenger Sedan, and the Limousine, which had a glass divider. Imperial had some spectacular Ghia-built limos for a few years, and Lincoln toyed with them too, but both were built by outside coach-builders, which made them substantially more expensive than the Fleetwood 75s. Cadillac practically had the limo market sewn up for itself for decades. They weren’t all that expensive: $12,000 ($60k adjusted) would put you in the back seat of one in 1973 (chauffeur not included). And Cadillac sold around 1500-2000 every year, like clockwork.

Cadillac 1977 fleetwood 75

“Stretch limos” as we know them now mostly didn’t exist back then. They started to come along right about the time Cadillac downsized the first time in 1977 (above). The eighties were all about flash and bling, and the downsized 75 was looking rather modest. Cutting and stretching a regular Cadillac sedan became a growing undertaking, and not just for the undertakers, but also for the coke-takers.

cadillac 1986 fleetwood 75

But the final implosion to Cadillac’s limo business came in 1985, with the drastically shrunken FWD models. The timing couldn’t have been worse; and coach-built stretch big Lincolns sopped up the market, as well as stretched Cadillac RWD Broughams. This was the black hole, even in silver. Cadillac managed to sell a couple of hundred per year, until they pulled the plug in 1987. The ignominious end of the long road for Fleetwood 75s. The only thing that could make these look long was the even shorter K-car Chrysler Executive Limo.

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This one sports a tv antenna; I’m not sure if it dates back to 1973, although small Sony tvs were becoming quite common. I remember riding in a stretch Cadillac in the Bay Area, accompanying a beautiful Venezuelan novela star on some promotional appearances, and we were trying to watch our station in the back; not exactly a successful undertaking. Looked impressive, at the time.

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That’s more than I can say about the back seat of this one. Maybe this was used by the Rolling Stones in 1973, and never again. No way to tell whether it had Medici, Magi, or the old-school cloth.

Cadillac 1973 Fleetwood 75int

This is the corded cloth, for “the conservative buyer”.

Cadillac 1973 medici -04

For the more adventurous or flamboyant, the Medici option is shown here, in a Fleetwood Brougham.

Cadillac 1973 magi

And here’s the Magi, the third option for the 75. It’s described as a “lustrous matelasse”. Good luck finding a source for that now. Fabric stores always made me feel a bit woozy, though.

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I need some fresh air…and some steel and cast iron. And there’s plenty of that under the 75’s long hood: 472 cubic inches (7.7 liters) of air are encased in the eight cast iron cylinders (not at any given moment, though). They churn out 220 (net) hp, and 365 ft lbs of torque at 2400 rpm. That’s a fair amount of twist, but a wee bit disappointing, given all those cubic inches. By 1976, the 500 inch motor would be standard, but torque dropped even further, to 360 ft. lbs. They have some 5800 lbs to push. Not enough? Throw a turbo (or two) on it.

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Padded vinyl has a limited lifespan, and this one is actually better than some I’ve seen of this vintage. And water has been collecting at the bottom of the rear window, also a common malady.

So who exactly would order a red Fleetwood 75? Don’t ask…it was 1973. I’m thinking this would make a good addition to the Official CC Tours fleet, for the Broughams of Eugene Tour (30 minutes max). Just need to put in an order for some replacement Medici fabric. or shall it be Magi? You tell me; otherwise I’ll just go grab a few saddle blanket-print pickup seat covers from Walmart.

Postscript: Somewhat surprisingly, this Fleetwood 75 is only 15 inches longer than the 1973 Imperial, which was the longest standard-length American car, at 235.3 inches.