Curbside Classic: 1991 Cadillac Coupe de Ville: Triple White Birthday Cake

(first posted 12/1/2014)    Know the great thing about classic cars? There’s something for everyone. Timeless and sporty? Porsche 911. Classic American luxury? Lincoln Continental. Bizarre and cool? Citroën DS. Classic and go-anywhere? International Scout. Just plain weird? AMC Pacer. But for me, it is the now-extinct floaty, chromey and oh-so-cosseting V8-powered domestic luxury cars from postwar through 2011–with the discontinuation of the Lincoln Town Car. So, while some of you may go agog at a ’76 CJ-5 or BMW 2002, if you are with me at a car show, expect a major pause for something like this 1991 Cadillac Coupe de Ville. And if triple white? Fughettaboutit.

This was the last Coupe de Ville, a classic name in two-door luxury motoring from the Standard of the World since its 1949 debut. While the final downsized C-body CDVs were not exactly the classics of the Forties through the Sixties, they still had Cadillac Style in abundance. Lexus? Feh. You like ’em, good for you, but answer me this? Could you get white Sierra grain leather with red trim? That’s what I thought.

Yes, the 1985 Easy Bake C-bodies were not Cadillac’s finest hour. The 1980-84 Coupe and Sedan de Villes were so graceful, albeit with Self-Destructo™ HT 4100 motivation in the 1982-84 versions. But they still looked good!

Perhaps not so much the 1985. Not only did they look like they got screwed up by the dry cleaners, there was hardly any chrome trim! I can appreciate them now, with all the goofy lozenge-shaped new cars about, but compared to an ’84 CDV and especially the not-too-distant 1976 model, they looked like a practical joke. To be fair to GM, however, they (and everyone else) was expecting ten-buck-a-gallon gas by 1986-88. That it didn’t happen resulted in Mini-Me Caddys like this.

But by 1986, the wider rocker moldings and available Cabriolet roof improved the luxury look, for those who sought it. Still, Lincoln sold a truckload of Town Cars in 1985-86 due to these new FWD Caddys.

A mild stretch for 1987 gave the Coupe de Ville and its four-door sister much-needed length, but it still looked suspiciously like a Volvo 740 with a Florida-favorite “Palm Beach” package. But then, finally, in 1989 a heavy restyle of the 1985 shell made them much more palatable.

Longer flanks, new front and rear styling, an updated interior and other refinements gave the Coupe de Ville a much more imposing look. A steel top was still available, but rarely seen. While I’d prefer the slick top, most folks with the coin went for either the Cabriolet roof (landau with electroluminescent opera lamps and opera windows) or the carriage roof seen on our mint example here.

And while this was no ’76 Coupe de Ville d’Elegance, or even an ’82 model with “Hand Tighten” 4.1L V8, it did still offer all of the usual Cadillac comfort and convenience options, as well as a virtual cornucopia of colors, both inside and out.

In addition to the white leather with red trim seen here, white with navy blue was also available for the nautical-minded. Dark red, navy blue, light yellow (in its last year for ’91), black, tan, dark auburn and light gray were also offered. Such choice!

And Cadillac still offered rear ashtrays for rear passengers. I believe a lighter was also installed under the flip-up cover. Perhaps Carmine can confirm. Also note all the little Cadillac details: chrome trim, woodtone trim, assist strap, and courtesy lamp with mini wreath and crest. I love those things!

I drove several of these in the late ’90s, when they were still common. I loved the interiors on these, and the smell of the leather was so Cadillac. They rode great too. And the glass area! Yeah, you used to be able to see out of your car without seventeen cameras and annoying computer beeps.

And by the way, is this one a pristine example or what? I was at the annual Railroad Days car show in Galesburg, IL this past June, and while walking a couple blocks away from the show to photograph some neat old buildings, I came upon this mint Coupe de Ville. And it was triple white! I immediately locked onto the target.

It was for sale too. Mint example, no 4.1 under the hood, low mileage, excellent color combination. Yeah, the price might not be out of line. But I don’t need a third car! Didn’t stop me from admiring it, however.

While the 1989-90 had a lower, checkerboard-style grill, 1991s received a larger version and a domed hood. Under the hood was an updated version of the 4.5 V8 used since 1988 (itself a major re-do of the 4.1), now upsized to 4.9 liters.

The Coupe de Ville now had a quite healthy 200 horsepower with 275 lb-ft of torque. With standard anti-lock brakes and P205/70R15 Michelins, these cars, while no 911 or Miata (perish the thought!), could get up and go–or get out of the way, as the case may be.

Never forget that, downsized or no, these were still Cadillacs, so a long standard features list was expected. Dual comfort 45/55 split front seats, six-way power driver’s seat, Esteem knit cloth (leather was an option), Delco AM/FM/Cassette with six speakers and five-band graphic equalizer, power antenna, electric rear window defroster, heated power mirrors, cruise control, power door locks, leather-wrapped steering wheel, cornering lamps and 15-inch cast aluminum wheels with whitewall tires were all standard.

That last item threw me a bit–the chintzy wire wheel covers cost MORE than the alloys! However, the lacy-spoke ones on today’s car were a different style from the ones fitted as standard equipment. Here’s what those looked like–though still MUCH better than the wires in my opinion.

The Sedan de Ville remained popular, but by the late ’80s, Coupe de Ville sales were trending downward. The last ones, virtually identical to this one, were built in 1993.

Still, it outlasted its FWD C-body coupe siblings by a healthy margin, as both the Buick Electra/Park Avenue and Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight Regency coupes were last sold in 1987. But in 1991, you could still have your Cadillac Style in two-door Coupe de Ville luxury!