(first posted 5/8/2017) Cadillac’s greatly downsized 1985 DeVille and Fleetwood have been extensively covered here before, but we’ve never featured a front-wheel drive C-body Fleetwood Seventy-Five limousine… and we still aren’t in this post.
That’s right. Although Cadillac continued offering a factory stretch limousine on the new front-wheel drive C-body platform in the form of the Fleetwood Seventy-Five, this 1985 Cadillac limousine is not one of them. Rather, it’s a more basic DeVille converted into a stretch limo by an aftermarket conversion firm.
While the Fleetwood Seventy-Five was actually a stretched Fleetwood coupe body, with large rear doors added between the front doors and rear-quarter opera window, this DeVille is based on a standard sedan body, with regular sedan doors in their normal position.
The idea of a small, front-wheel limousine is still a little odd to me, but at least Cadillac’s versions weren’t as extreme as the Chrysler Executive. Still, a 4,000+ pound, extended length vehicle powered by an engine with only 135 horsepower and 200 lb-ft torque isn’t ideal even for slow daily driving, especially when loaded with 7 passengers.
It’s unusual that Cadillac decided to shift the series Seventy-Five to the front-wheel drive C-body, when the rear-wheel drive D-body was still in production. After all, at 218.6 inches long and 71.7 inches wide, the FWD Seventy-Five “limousine” was actually shorter and narrower than the RWD Fleetwood Brougham regular length sedan.
I have no idea the length of this aftermarket conversion DeVille, but it can’t be that different from the Seventy-Five. Regardless, General Motors was on a massive purge of its rear-wheel drive vehicles in the 1980s, and the decision to make Cadillac’s production limousine front-wheel drive was likely made in the way of CAFE.
Plus, the Series Seventy-Five was always more of a personal limousine, and not one used for say, a wedding party, prom, or a state dinner. For those needs, plenty of aftermarket coach builders converting RWD Fleetwood Broughams (later just known as “Brougham”) into stretch limousines. In fact, following the FWD Fleetwood Seventy-Five’s discontinuation after 1987, the 1988 Cadillac brochure featured these aftermarket inspirations.
Now as for this particular stretched DeVille, the forward compartment appears pretty stock. The new front-wheel drive DeVille featured a new two-tiered instrument panel, that according to Cadillac, “replicated a hand-tailored leather appearance”. Okay, if you say so. Either way, it had a full-width effect similar to its C-body Oldsmobile and Buick siblings.
All 1985 DeVilles came standard with amenities such as digital automatic climate control, six-way power driver’s seat, one front and two rear cigarette lighters, retained accessory power for up to 10 minutes, digital fuel data calculator, carpeted litter receptacle in the center of the lower dash, and electronic load-leveling suspension. Limousine conversions were naturally to each and their own. Many likely featured TVs and minibars.
This car features the available Sierra Grain leather up front, but velour in the rear. Unfortunately, my one shot of the rear came out terrible due to the dark aftermarket tint and excessive dirt on the windows. I would’ve taken more but my car was illegally parked and running (locked, thank goodness for Comfort Access!).
Either way, the exterior of this DeVille looked remarkable for a 32-year old car, much more so than its decade newer Curbside Classic Roadmaster and Grand Marquis bookends. I’m willing to bet it hasn’t accumulated many miles in its three decades, especially so in recent years.
Beyond CC aficionados, not many people want to be chauffeured around in a 1980s front-wheel drive Cadillac limousine. The old-school rear-wheel drive Wreath and Crests still were the preferred choice of limousine in the 1980s and early 1999s, as evidenced by TV and films such as Pretty Woman.
The truth is, this was likely very true when this car was new as well. Front-wheel drive C-body Cadillacs (whether DeVille or Fleetwood) just didn’t convey the same presence and prestige as their rear-wheel drive D-body predecessors and counterparts. It was much easier to show that you’ve arrived in a “big Cadillac” than one of these, unfortunately.
The Fleetwood Seventy-Five was dropped after the 1987 model year, marking the end of the Series Seventy-Five’s four decade history. Front-wheel drive Cadillacs were still converted into limousines by aftermarket companies in the following years, though not really until the DTS of the early-2000s did it become more common to see one on the road (or more specifically, in a funeral procession). As for this DeVille, it looks like it still has a few good years left.
Photographed: North Quincy, MA – April 2017