Curbside Classic: 1992 Cadillac Brougham – The Only Way To Travel Is Cadillac Style

(first posted 10/1/2012)    This, friends, is my dream car. If I ever have enough space and spare time for a Curbside Classic of my own, it will be one of these. The Brougham. The last true Cadillac. Many 1990-92 “facelift” Broughams have been blinged out or otherwise modified, but I think these classic Cadillacs look beautiful just as they came from the factory. And this particular Brougham is just the ticket: a rare, final-year 1992 model. There’s something special under the hood, too, and if you’re a Broughamaholic like me, you probably know what it is.

I am grateful to GM for recognizing the beauty of the 1977 C-body Cadillacs. This basic body was in continuous production from 1977 to 1992, receiving only one major restyle in 1980. By the end of its long, long life, the Brougham was surrounded by front-wheel drive, unibody Cadillacs in the showroom. It might have lacked a driver’s side airbag and more modern interiors and amenities, but it stood alone, and in a good way. This car was, and is, a modern classic.

When full-size Cadillacs were shrunk in 1985, the Fleetwood series became confusing. There was a newly-arrived FWD Fleetwood that shared a body with the Coupe and Sedan de Villes, but also the Fleetwood Brougham, which reprised the big 1984 model. It was a wise decision by GM to retain at least one true, full-size C-body Cadillac. If they hadn’t, even more ex-Cadillac buyers might have gone across the street to Town Car Land. While the Town Car was indeed full-sized, it didn’t quite match the C-body Brougham for looks. The Cadillac was just more attractive.

The big sedan remained as the Fleetwood Brougham through 1986.  By then, GM had finally recognized the confusion caused by two very different Fleetwoods–a monocoque FWD version and a traditional body-on-frame, RWD model–sharing space in Cadillac showrooms. What’s more, the upcoming long-wheelbase Fleetwood Sixty Special would make three Fleetwood models–each with a different wheelbase, overall length and price. Thus, the RWD 1987 model was simply called Brougham. It would keep that name plus all its Fleetwood-specific trim, including a padded top, smaller “privacy” rear window, and a chrome spear that encircled the greenhouse and ended at the leading edge of the hood, until the end of production.

I told you this car was special: Yes, it has the 5.7-liter, 350 cu. in. V8 instead of the far more common 5.0-liter, 307 cu. in. Olds V8. The 307 was not necessarily a bad engine, but the pace at which it motivated a car of this size and curb weight was, shall we say, leisurely? Fitted with a four-barrel carburetor, it produced only 140 horsepower in the ’87 Brougham. You can also see the new-for-1990 white lens taillights and revised bumper trim. The 1990 facelift also added side cladding, Euro-style headlamps (instead of the quad rectangular sealed-beams used from 1980-89) and a mildly redone instrument panel.

The standard 5.0-liter V8 (a Chevrolet version had replaced the Olds 5.0 in 1991, after the Rocket V8 ended production in 1990) had been improved by swan-song 1992: Throttle-body fuel injection had bumped horsepower up to 170, and torque to 255 lb-ft. This helped get the 221″ long, 4276.7 lb. Brougham up to speed more quickly than in years past, but to really add to your driving pleasure, you needed the optional 5.7-liter, 350 cu in V8, available either as part of the trailer towing package or as a stand-alone option.

On paper, the 5.7-liter didn’t promise a huge difference, offering 185 horsepower and 300 lb-ft of torque. In actuality, it was a much better engine for everyday driving, regardless of whether or not you were towing anything. In acceleration and highway cruising, it was far superior to the smaller engine. Broughams with the 5.7 are quite rare, however, because the engine triggered a hefty gas-guzzler tax. Today, 5.7 Broughams are prized for their superior driving dynamics and beefed-up suspension.

Which brings me to the d’Elegance. The Brougham had always been a very complete car; by 1992, its standard features included dual six-way power seats with power recliners, AM/FM/cassette stereo, a leather-wrapped tilt/telescope steering wheel, automatic climate control, power steering and brakes, Soft-Ray tinted glass and Bosch II anti-lock brakes–but for those wanting even more, there was the d’Elegance package.

The signature feature of the d’Elegance was floating-pillow, button-tufted seat upholstery. Prima Vera cloth was standard, and leather was optional. Among other d’Elegance features were illuminated dual visor vanity mirrors, overhead assist straps for front- and rear-seat passengers, power trunk pull-down, Twilight Sentinel, and d’Elegance script on the rear quarter panels, door panels and glove compartment lid.

Our featured Brougham has the standard interior, which was nearly as plush. Although FWD Cadillacs got a standard driver’s- side airbag in 1990, the Brougham carried on with basically the same steering wheel from the early ’80s.

As expected from a car riding a 121.5″ wheelbase, the Brougham offered limo-like rear seat legroom. Here you can see the standard adjustable reading lamp in the C-pillar. These cars also had what might be the most elaborate door pull/door handle trim ever. This one has it all: chrome and woodgrain-trimmed door pull, a built-in, illuminated ashtray with lighter, a heavy chrome-plated door handle and a courtesy lamp/reflector. Nice!

There is one thing I can’t figure out about this car: Although it’s a standard Brougham, “d’Elegance” is embroidered into the door panels; those on standard Brougham door panels simply read “Brougham.” Odd.

All 1990-92 Broughams were built in Arlington, Texas, hence this “Built in Texas by Texans” decal. Really, now, could there have been a better place to build such an unabashedly all-American car? For example, just look at the amount of chrome trim lavished on it inside and out.  The redesigned 1993 Fleetwood, a nice enough car in its own right, lacked much of the RWD model’s lavish, chrome-plated jewelry–not to mention its classic proportions.

Brougham badging was displayed prominently on the rear quarter panels; as noted previously, d’Elegance models featured a specific Brougham d’Elegance script. “Brougham d’Elegance”: How could any other name sound more luxurious?

Yes, the Brougham was a thing of beauty, with its Chris Craft-like prow and chrome jewelry, and that unmistakable wreath-and-crest rising above it all.

In my Brougham Outtake (yes, this is the very same car), I mentioned that a friend’s dad, who worked at the local Cadillac dealership in Rock Island, got hold of several of the lush deluxe Cadillac brochures. We both loved the Brougham and Brougham d’Elegance. Forget the Allante–and forget Porsches, Ferraris and Lamborghinis, too. I wanted one of these!

I close with this excerpt from the 1992 brochure: 

“It is easy to understand why America is so comfortable with the classic Cadillac Brougham. Because as America’s longest regular-production automobile, it affords you uncompromising, six-passenger luxury with all the amenities.”

Truly, in 1992 the only way to travel was Cadillac Brougham-style. Make mine either burgundy or navy blue, thank you.