I love American cars. Really. I’ve been reading CC pretty religiously for over six years now. Before that, I was already pretty well-versed in the subject (well, more so than the average European), having lived Stateside for a spell and occasionally taking the paternal Pontiac for joyrides. Even at age 15, I knew my DeSotos from my Studebakers. But even I have my limits, and this Caddy is testing them.
This generation of FWD C-Body Cadillacs, introduced in 1985, has had its fair share of well-deserved criticism on CC (see incomplete list at the end of this post), though the deadliness of the sin is not necessarily incontrovertible (or rather incontrosedan?), but still. “You done shrunk ‘em too much, Irv!” America’s senior citizenry seemed to mutter, shaking its collective head in equal parts despair and dandruff. The DeVille should have been rechristened the DeVillage, or even the De Hamlet. Not to mention that HT4100 boat anchor — and transversely mounted, if you please. What a DeSgrace! So GM did what they do worst: they tried piling on the lipstick on that pig so that some of the Cadillac would shine through the mediocrity. From the get-go, they debased the prestigious Fleetwood nameplate by making it a fancy trim level of the reviled DeVille in DeSguise.
The Fleetwood Seventy-Five limo also made the jump to FWD. Never mind that the nameplate was still used on the RWD D-Body at the same exact time as the Fleetwood Brougham. The usual GM fustercluck. They then added further insult to injury by resurrecting the gingerbread-basket “Sixty Special” as a LWB sedan in 1987 (above), even as the Fleetwood Seventy-Five died. Stretching a generic-looking car and slathering it in chrome and leather only went so far, though.
In 1989, a set of tall and vertical sticky-out taillamps or, as we might have called them back in the ‘50s, “fins” helped fix the hind quarters a bit, by way of more overhang. Fender skirts were also added, I guess to increase the Fleetwood’s buoyancy. Overall, since 1985, the sedan had grown by 10 inches. And with status symbols like Cadillac, size matters a lot.
They then turned their attention to the front end. There was change afoot in the mouth, as the ’89 refresh had only resulted in a modest evolution on that front. But in 1991, the dreaded “High Technology” V8 grew to 4.9 litres and 200hp, so in celebration of this impotent mill-stone, the grille was made much bigger.
The chromium-botox treatment helped the DeVille / Fleetwood last a couple extra years, though the Fleetwood name bravely retreated to the big new RWD chassis, leaving the higher trim ‘93s as plain Sixty Specials.
The whole naming thing for ’93 became moot when the 1994 model year arrived, for a new DeVille came on the scene. As always, it’s a case of better the DeVille you know, and I really don’t know that one, though there is some fine CC literature on that subject as well. But I digress.
The whole point of the front-drive Fleetwood Sixty Specials, as far as I can tell, is inside. Cadillac’s sales literature made sure you knew where that extra US$3500 went. Externally, only the “Sixty Special” plaque on the rear end was exclusive. The vinyl padding was standard on these, but optional on lesser DeVilles / Fleetwoods, so it was fairly common.
But that interior, with that heated leather couch “designed by Giugiaro,” complete with sweet, sweet lumbar support and more positions than the Kama Sutra – that’s what folks were buying here. The rest of the car is incidental, really.
Nigh on 30 years after it was stitched together, the precious Giugiaro twin recliner still looks eminently serviceable. In this case, it seems you do get what you pay for, although I cannot ascertain anything as to the durability of this sofa’s electronic party tricks.
The rear lounge area looks just as comfy, but I gather it’s much less heated and adjustable. It’s a completely different mentality to, say, a Nissan President. In a Japanese luxury car, the rear compartment gets all the goodies. In a Cadillac, the front seats are the best in the house.
And it is a house. Or rather, a living room with wheels, cupholders, a sound system and A/C. The object of the whole thing is to transport a maximum of four occupants in complete comfort and utter isolation. And don’t you give me any of that “six passenger” salesperson BS. Look at how those seats were designed, and look at the average USDA-fed middle-aged taxpayer, even back in 1992. Only four will fit comfortably – emphasis on that last word. Six adults is probably doable, but for a short while only: the strain on the unibody, the seat frames and the engine would make any attempt at a trip lasting more than a few miles rather ill-advised.
After all, we’re talking about an early ‘90s Cadillac here. Workmanship and reliability were not what they once were. It takes Japanese levels of OCD to keep a thing like this in this condition. And it took more space than I could find to actually make Big Bertha here fit my lens in profile. Impossible, it was…
For what it’s worth, it seems like the 1992 Sixty Special is a relatively rare couch set: only 554 comfort-conscious customers parted with US$39,860 (at a minimum) to get the support their lumbar regions so desperately required. That’s down from 1817 units in 1990 and 879 for model year ’91. The trim package was called Sixty Special Ultra for 1993; prices came down slightly and 686 Ultras were made. The Coupé never made it to the ’93 name change.
The last Sixty Special was put together on 18 June 1993, putting an end to a name that had been on Cadillac catalogues since 1938. No good deed goes unpunished and no slow-selling sub-nameplate overstays its welcome for more than a few seasons. Maybe they could have asked Giugiaro’s input about the exterior, while they were at it. Not that it mattered, or would have changed much of anything.
Curbside Classic: 1991 Cadillac Sedan DeVille – Almost Doesn’t Count, by Laurence Jones
Mi Curbside Classico: 1991 Cadillac DeVille – Bought New For 154 Million Pesos, by Juan Agustin Romero Melchor
Curbside Classic: 1991 Cadillac Sedan de Ville – Save Me!, by Tom Klockau
COAL: 1991 Cadillac Sedan de Ville – I Can’t Help Myself, by BigTomBrougham
CC Outtake: 1992 Cadillac Coupe de Ville – The Real Jackpot, by Brendan Saur