(first posted 5/29/2012; updated with additional images in 2015. And worth running again after the 1994 Luxury Car Comparison the other day) At Curbside Classic, we spend our days debating the merits (or deficits) of old cars, based on our faulty memories, prejudices and subjective impressions from so many decades ago. So every once in a while, it’s good to get in the time machine, and go back to the source of so many of them: the car magazine tests we absorbed as innocent (gullible?) youngsters, like this one of six luxury cars from the July 1965 Car and Driver. I remember it so well, or thought I did, as it’s obvious we tend to remember those details that reinforce our own prejudices (the Mercedes 600 criticized for cheap switchgear and controls as well as poor ergonomics? The Imperial for poor workmanship?) Ouch.
Originally, I was going to do six separate pieces on these cars, with snippets from the original review. But I decided that it’s a fascinating time capsule by itself, so I’ll just shut up, sprinkle in some CC pictures, and turn the time machine back forty-seven years, when I was twelve and sucked up each and every word of this. Or thought I did.
What inspired this trip down memory lane was this 1965 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham, exactly like the one in the test, posted at the Cohort by wooriegi. It was obviously shot in New York City, which is where the original test was done, back when C&D was located there. Is it the same car?
[Click on all images for full-size viewing]
My homage to the 1965 Lincoln Continental is here.
CC’s own coverage of five of these 1965 luxury cars:
1965 Lincoln Continental: The Last Great American Luxury Car by Paul Niedermeyer
1965-1966 Cadillac Sedan DeVille – The King’s Last Stand by Laurence Jones
Jaguar Mark X – Curvaceous Contrarian by Perry Shoar
1965 Imperial Crown Coupe – Incomparable by Perry Shoar
Outtake: Rolls Royce Silver Cloud I by Paul Niedermeyer
YES! I’ve wanted to read this test for YEARS! THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!
Also, interesting/sad that there isn’t a Cadillac that flawless for $62K now, which would be the inflation adjusted price for a 1965 Fleetwood. 1965 was a weird, sad tipping point for Cadillac.
Gee; I’m glad I made someone happy. I do remember us talking about this a few times…
There’s just so much context going on, like… the Imperial was barely out of the price sweep of a Olds Ninety Eight or Buick Electra 225, and it looks like it would have been barely competitive with those cars, so no wonder they were such a hard sell?
More wondering this evening when I can pull it apart more, but again, Made my day.
Two problems with the Imperial. They tested the low-content LeBaron, which means its interior was below the level of the Fleetwood and Lincoln. But that shouldn’t affect its general interior quality impression as much as it did. The other issue is that this car is still riding on 1957 underpinnings (as well as still having that damn 1957 windshield). As good as the Imperial may have been dynamically in 1957, this was eight years later, and the Imperial was becoming rather obsolete.
Huh? Low content LeBaron? In ’65 LeBaron was the TOP model. Crowns were below LeBarons . . . . strange . . . .
Something’s wrong: based on the list price, and the fact that the text specifically says “this was not a top-line Imperial” makes me believe that they actually had a Crown, and mislabeled it a LeBaron.
I’m also suprised that the 413 Imperial didn’t beat the 425 Cadillac in this test . . . . perhaps Paul is right that the ’65 (continued through ’66) Imperial’s inner body panels, belt line, chassis and dynamics were little changed since 1957 and that by ’65 it was long in the tooth compared to the competition. Now, if this had been 1962 . . . . all one has to do is go back a few years to Tom McCahill’s comparos . . . . Insofar as Lincoln is concerned for ’65 – Ford “cheapened” the Lincoln dash to where it was more Mercury than Lincoln. Look at the ’61 dashboard – a work of art!
Something is off on the Imperial. The LeBaron was the high end. The Crown was the base model. Also, those prices seem off. According to one source I have found, the Crown was around $5700 while the LeBaron was around $6600. Still, a LeBaron was quite a bit less expensive than a Fleetwood.
The Encyclopedia of American Cars says that the Crown 4 door hardtop was $5772, and the LeBaron 4 door hdtp was $6596 Since their “as tested” price for the Imperial was $5596…something is off indeed. Maybe they meant $6696?? or $6596, the base price of the LeBaron? or? C&D screwed up; hard to imagine.
The picture in C&D of the Imperial shows a script on the C-panel. The Crown sedan didn’t have that, the LeBaron did. So I suspect strongly they had a LeBaron.
My experience with vintage mags is that they often used stock photos that were unrelated to the cars they actually had. I’ve caught both C&D and Motor Turd at it.
The RR shadow was either new on the block or nearly released too and Jaguar did have a V8 they got the Daimler 4.5 which they canned it was much better than the Jag engines. A Daimler Majestic could top 130mph with that engine, one reason Jags were designed for I6s it wasnt to keep Rovers V8 out it was to keep Ed Turners brilliant V8 out.That 420G tank was designed for the US luxury market with soft suspension and ponderous size/weight, sports sedan what were these clowns smoking it might feel sporty compared to aircraft carriers like Lincolns and Caddys and the like but it was NO sports sedan and had NO sporting pretensions and it couldnt out run a Vauxhall Cresta in a straight line. Good MB promo.
Jaguar fitted Daimler’s 4.5L V8 to a few 420G prototypes. They were so much faster (and more economical!) and better to drive than Jag’s own 4.2 that the factory quietly pretended the prototypes were never built! Politics eh. The 420G wa also used to trial the V12 before its release – apparently the V12 420G was phenomenally fast – they said it lapped the proving ground at well over 200 km/h, the body pressed down on the bump stops due to the camber and the engine’s weight.
There was very much something wrong with the test results on the Imperial. I have this test from new, and bought my ’64-65-66 Imperials starting in 1971 but was driving family friends and relatives Imperials from new. The test was full of s#%t. I have tests from other magazines testing same era Imperials with vastly different conclusions, (including Road and Track which is not partial to large cars, but loved the Imperial) Beside my Imperials which I kept, I’ve had every year Cadillac from 1947 through 1976, having several of the ’65 and 66 years. also Lincolns from 1941 through 1967 + a few newer. The Imperial torsion bar suspension will run rings around any 1961 and up Lincoln, and still easily tops Cadillac even though the Cad is quite responsive, The test mentions the Rolls-Royce was like driving a ’39 Packard, I believe the Silver Cloud was modeled after the 41-47 Packard Clipper sedan, which was a beautiful car in itself, they mention the Rolls Hydramatic trans has no Park position. Anyone who has been around the GM cars should know (or can look in the manual) to find putting it in reverse after shut off is the same as a Park position, it is on my aunts ’65 Silver Cloud convertible. They also seemed to not know about the suspension adjustment switch on the Rolls and had it on soft. On the Imperial they say the steering wheel has no adjustments, the car they had apparently had no tilt adjuster, which is what I have seen in most Imperials, actually, I’ve never seen a 64-66 Imperial without a tilt wheel and in 1966 the tilt and telescopic Imperial wheel was introduced. They also didn’t seem capable of operating the power seat control, which is one knob that pushes front-rear for forward and back, up and down, and twist for forward or rear tilt, plus the sedans in 66 had a split bench seat with recliner on the passenger side, with both seats 6 way power. Instruments are complete on the Imp, with a monitor to check them for you. They say the A/C is poor, my main driver is my 66 Black Crown Although this car was a special order with ALL LeBaron equipment,(she wanted the large rear window with all LeBaron equipment) plus 440 Magnum, and HD suspension and drive train, it has dual A/C which will lower temps enough to ice trim areas, they said it had ugly dual plastic vents in the cowl. They don’t mention the other four vents, fully adjustable, two on top of the dash and one at each corner of the dash on the lower section. They said the quality seemed inferior to the other cars, all of my Imperials still have very comfortable original leather interiors, with the quality of the leather quite good. My 66 is still quiet, no rattles, and a very nice environment to drive in. They said the acceleration and braking put the imperial at the bottom of the list. All my Imperials have been at least equal to and usually faster then contemporary Cads and Lincolns. And stopping ability in the real world has been excellent. In the check list I have found the Imperial matches the Cadillac and not the low points listed, especially in the “bumper protection” it was rated lower than most all others. I can attest to the fact the Imperial could ram the hell out of the rest of the cars in the test and not be blemished. My 66 has been rear ended 5 times by full sized cars travelling at 15-35 mph and totaled all of them with only broken tail lights on my Imp (I keep a stock of them.) It has taken out two ford sedan that were stupid enough to run stop signs directly in front of the Imp (one left a 1/4 inch ding in the trim strip.) And a few cars have bounced off the SIDES on my Imp with no damage to it, and total to the others. Looking at bumper attachments it looks like part of the Golden Gate bridge. I noticed C&D had other comparison test through the years and usually the Imperials were rated lower even though rated equal or better in other magazine tests. I met Brock Yates one time, and mentioned the tests that seemed wrong to me. He told me, “In a test every word written can be true in a broad sense, but if the tester has a prejudice against a certain car, they can make it as unattractive as possible. Make of it what you will.” Our main conversation was about myself and friends entering the “cannonball” in my Electra (I’d already made a trip from Florida to California in 36 hours, without trying hard) and I considered running the Imperial instead of the Electra, but gas mileage is better on the Electra. From their testing and prices they seem to have found a one off unusual Imperial. pics od my Electra, Imperial, and a friends Tucker.
I would love to visit LRF’s garage!
LRF: Your Imperial was obviously made out of Kryptonite.
It’s funny, because I have at least two reprints of this one (I may have the original around here somewhere — I don’t remember). It’s reprinted in both the Brooklands book on Cadillac 1960-1969 and the Lincoln Continental Performance Portfolio 1961-1969, and probably the newer Cadillac 1948-1966 book, as well.
I especially like the columns on the Lincoln. I’m happy nothing’s really changed – still an also-ran, but it’s a Ford, what do you expect?
I like a few of Ford’s products now, especially the Fusion and Mustang, but I’ll still take a Chevy if all other things are equal.
Give me a GM any day – or a M-B.
but it’s a Ford, what do you expect?
Hey man, come on, I try not to pick on GM without specific criticism… although for you (and me in some cases) its like Ohio State vs Michigan, reason and logic are just not part of the equation. 😛
Back in my youth, in the 60’s, if you were a car guy, you either liked Ford, Chevy or Chrysler, no crossing over. You had to secretly admire across the fence, if your car preference was well-known and were adamant about it as I was.
I changed somewhat as I grew up, because a friend had a Rambler and my buddy got a Volvo PV544. Also, I began to warm a bit toward Ford as a certain girl I chased around Yuba City, CA when in the air force drove a very nice 1965 Ford Galaxie 500! Hence my love for mid-60’s Fords!
There you go! “CC” brings all the memories and feelings back as I revisit all this stuff. It’s a lot of fun.
The Lincoln’s engine was one tough unit – it was used in marine applications for many years. It had standard front disc brakes, a big selling point at that time, and a stiffer overall structure than the Cadillac. Other contemporary road tests noted the flexibility of the Cadillac’s perimeter frame.
The Lincoln’s styling still looks remarkably fresh, given that the basic design was introduced for the 1961 model year. There was no way that either Imperial or Cadillac could have successfully sold slightly facelifted versions of their 1961 cars in 1965.
The 1961 Imperial, in particular, was outdated the day it debuted, and the 1965 model wasn’t that much fresher looking when it was new, especially with that 1957 windshield and “Forward Look” outside rear-view mirrors.
I would have given the Lincoln serious consideration at that time if I were in the market for a luxury car.
That “1957” windshield gave and still gives the best view of the road I’ve had in a car. There are NO obstructions in your way. BTW the side glass was also carry over, the rear side window chrome was changed slightly, but same glass. Hey. they they got the chassis right in 1957, why change, except the traction arms needed to be heavier over the years, I’ve broken them many times.
The ’65 GM cars were a high water mark for sure! The Caddy was really coming into it’s own- my dad sold these new back then! They had the new perimeter frame, the Turbo 400 trans, the smooth 429 engine (I am surprised it pulled the HUGE Fleetwood as good as it did in this test!) The 472 would show up in 1968. Don Draper drives a ’65 Coupe DeVille in Mad Man! I remember reading a review in the early 70’s about Mercedes. They were asked why they did not offer an adjustable steering column. Their response was very Teutonic “We have spent years finding the perfect steering wheel position and you want to change it?”
Would love to have a ’65 Caddy for sure! Another “non-belly button” classic car!
no offense John, but if Mad Men were set in 1970 Don Draper would also be driving a Cadillac– it was THE ‘i’ve made it’ car for 2-3 generations.
I don’t believe it makes a difference, a Caddy was still a Caddy until after the 73 MY, IMO.
I think that by 1970, Don Draper may well have been in a Continental Mark III.
you might be onto something there, jp. like the Frog in the French Connection? sweet set of wheels.
TV Detective Frank Cannon drove a Mark IV during the course of his show “Cannon”.
Don isn’t really a Ford guy, the series started in 1960, and even then Don drove a Buick LeSabre or Invicta convertible in the first season, (though in the pilot he drives a 1959 Oldsmobile only seen all the way at the end of the episode)there was a short period there he had a Dodge in the 2nd season(the only reason for that, I imagine, is that Don wrecks the Dodge while drunk driving and the stuido wanted a cheap old car they could wreck) then Don gets the 62 Coup deVille and its been Cadillacs from them on.
If the series runs until 1970, don probably would still be driving a Coupe deVille, or maybe an Eldorado.
That 1960 Invicta is the car the Frogs used in the real French Connection. Note that the crime occurred in 62 and the movie was made a decade later.
Though in TinMen all the scammers were in Caddies
Probably depends on where you lived at the time. In the town where I grew up, Caddy lost a lot of cachet to Lincoln when the ’61 Lincoln was introduced. By the end of the 60’s and early 70’s, the W108/W109 Mercedes were coming on strong. By this time Caddys were viewed as the cars for blue-collar retirees who wanted a car that would be their last and had always lusted after Cadillacs.
I think 1971 was the year that Caddy started cutting corners and got “cheaper” . . . much like 1969 was the year Imperial really started to get decontented. Look at a ’69 Imperial steering wheel! El cheapo design that isn’t much different that what was offered on a ’69 Plymouth Fury II or III!!!
’69 Imperial (and I love Mopars) really is a New Yorker with lipstick.
The massive 1973 Colonnade Cadillac Fleetwood WAS still a beautiful car.
I don’t think so. Draper would be ahead of the curve as far as knowing what the wealthy and status conscious liked, and why.
If his firm had a contract with one of the big 3, then of course that would confine him to that company’s top car. But assuming that the ad agency didn’t have one of the Detroit companies as a client, I bet he’d be driving a MB in 1970.
Not really, if you follow the show, Don is very much a man of his era, he turned off the Beatles Revolver album this season after his new wife told him to listen to it, he told the hippie girl that was waiting back stage waiting to see the Rolling Stones that he was “worried” about her generation. He told his daughter sally to get rid of the go-go boots she was wearing and remove her make up before he took her to awards dinner this season, Don and his wife voted for Nixon in 1960 in the first season.
Now towards the end of this season the firm has gotten a contract with Jaguar, to prep up for their presentation Don drove an E-type for the afternoon, he says “the car does nothing for me” after driving it for a while.
The very cool thing about Mad Men is that they characters have a realness to them, Don is all of a sudden going to turn into a hippie because the calendar says “its 1967”.
Driving Miss Daisy also has lots of vintage Caddys. In the beginning, Boolie (Dan Aykroyd) has a ’48-’49 Cadillac Sedanet, then a ’57 Eldorado Brougham, and at the end what appears to be a ’70 280SEL. And other than the brief appearance of a ’46-’48 Chrysler and the Hudson that replaced it, Daisy stuck to Cadillacs (’55, ’65 and ’70 models) all the way to the end of the movie.
Very well done and entertaining film, even without all the neat cars.
Typical arrogant krauts.
Also drove a 64 Imperial convertible in mad men.
I was actually impressed by the observed fuel economy of the Lincoln and the Imperial. Given that I would only plunk my money down today on either a Cadillac, Lincoln, or Imperial that fuel economy edge could help decide it for me. (I know that fuel economy didn’t likely matter to the original owners but it would now to me.)
Finding one of those three gems in the car market, I’d have to keep that stat in mind. Styling wise for me its a wash, all three of the American cars are appropriately intimidating and imposing.
My 66 Imperial Crown on cruise at 70-75 mph runs 17-19 mpg, but with octane boost and a built engine that pulls the weight easier. In stock form it was 14-16 mpg, my Lincolns ran 10-14 mpg and the Cadilacs 12-18 mpg. Also my driving style, I tend to get 2-4 mpg more than people get with their own cars.
Also my driving style, I tend to get 2-4 mpg more than people get with their own cars.
Thanks for this. Needed a laugh.
You should be on Twitter.
Not only that, but all his cars are/were consistently much faster than other folks’ comparable cars. As in, they all could/can do 140 without breaking a sweat. Yet not one of them could break 110-115 when all the magazines tested them.
I’ve figured out why: LRF always has a 40 mile tailwind wherever he drives. it’s the only explanation. Oh wait; there’s one other possible explanation…
I put a K&N air filter and Tornado in the Mini and now I get about 72 MPG city.
I’ll take the Cadillac and I wouldn’t even think twice, I thnk the sadest car in the test is the Rolls Royce, its like comparing a 1946 car to 1965 car, I dont car how nice the “hides” are, its totally outmatched.
Agreed Carmine they didnt use the newer RR Shadow might of made the Benz look bad
Because it didn’t come out until 1966!
Fair enough Paul i dont know the release dates country by country but the fact remains the RR is a very old model not the newest version.
I am struck but how narrow (75 in) and short (212 in) the RR is compared to the Cadillac and Imp at 80in and 228in – very old looking indeed.
My college roommate’s Dad had a beautiful black 65 Fleetwood Brougham. Black vinyl roof and brocade interior, quite handsome car though IMO my Dad’s 65 Thunderbird had more dash and elan. So many great looking American cars produced in 1965 – no wonder it was a record year for sales.
I dont even know why they picked the 600 as the best, its a nice car with some very interesting technology for the time, but its mostly out classed by the Cadillac which is…..$12,000 cheaper than the Mercedes.
You could have bought a Fleetwood Brougham, a Riviera GS and a nice Corvette roadster for less than one 600.
And which one conferred the greatest prestige? Caddys were dime-a-dozen; I never saw a 600 until I got to LA.
That’s what sold cars like the 600; folks to whom the twice-as-much price didn’t really mean anything, although it did of course. Kept it (and the RR) pretty exclusive.
The 600’s dont impress me as car of that price range should, very complicated and not enough luxury features, you cant even adjust the steering wheel and it looks like a 40’s car steering wheel and its the size of a bus. They are interesting no doubt, expensive, snooty, but they do nothing for me.
But I would rather have the 3 cars I mentioned over one 600.
How can you say the 600 isn’t beautiful? I had the opportunity to see one first-hand and take some pictures, and it is gorgeous! The guy was a retired doctor and had put just 18,000 miles on it since new. Truly stunning.
I have never driven a 600 but I have driven its close first cousin. In this case it was a 1971 300SEL 4.5 litre, with all the hydraulic stuff. The car had led a hard life but it was still total blast to drive. The 4.5 V-8 ran like a train and revved like crazy and this was the first MB to actually have a decent automatic, a three speed. The quality of everything inside was truly the best I have ever seen except for the awful MB heater controls that always broke.
These cars were heads and above totally superior to all the American barges on the road. They went like gangbusters and made totally cool V-8 noises and revved to like 6500 rpm, which I had never seen on a V-8. They had great brakes and the road holding was excellent, even when the car was 15 years old.
The Rolls and the Benz were marketed to heads of state that was the price point and both were hard to get built to order type of cars the Caddy Ford and Chrysler were available at showrooms along with the Jag so no real exclusivity
In this era there might have been a few “spec” cars on the big three’s lots but the vast majority of cars in that period were built to order. You drove the salesman’s demonstrator and then set down with him and went through the options list and spec’ed out YOUR car YOUR way. Then you plunked down your deposit and took delivery of your vehicle a few weeks later. American mfgs actually were the originators of “just in time” production and the “year end” deals were those demonstrators or the loaded up showroom machines.
one should not overlook that both, the MB and the RR are cars to be driven in rather than to drive. If your chauffeur is large enough you won’t even see the steering wheel.
I believe the Cadillac would have the greatest prestige at the time.
You’d have live in a cave not to have heard of Cadillac in that era, whereas the Benz would have been a mystery to some.
I’d pick the Caddy in a instant, along with the suggested radials & firmer shocks.
Thanks for the article, Paul. Throughly enjoyed it.
The 66 R-R wouldn’t have made the Benz look bad, but RR continued to refine it until it was more equal, and even though the RR cost a LOT to maintain the Benz needed the economy of a nation to keep them going.
Totally agreed with you Carmine.
Cadillac, hands down.
Thanks for posting this, what an awesome article! How dare they even come up w/ 1 negative or slightly derogatory comment on that wondrous MB 600 Pullman? The Grosser indeed!
Anyone notice that sweet Corvair sprint fastback on page 63? ME LOVE!
Last point: ‘The Jaguar’s instrumentation ranks among the very best but the steering wheel has some sharp edges’. They didn’t mean that literally, did they?
Yes, I noticed and very much liked the Corvair. I think the 2nd gen. is beautiful and that fastback would have made a nice variant.
Paul likely just posted this article so he could sneak that Fitch ‘Vair in :).
I enjoyed this article quite a lot. I owned (about 10 years apart) a 63 Fleetwood and a 64 Imperial. I have not driven any of the others. But as for those two that I owned, I think that C/D hit the mark pretty well.
The Cadillac was just utterly competent. The Imperial seemed a little “old school” compared to the Cad. The body was not as tight feeling, and it did not feel as nimble (odd for a Mopar torsion bar car). Also, the Imperial’s 413 was breathing through a single exhaust, and never struck me as having all of the performance that it should have. My Cad had the 390, and I recall it as being very quick, although the 4 speed Hydro in my car didn’t hut.
Poor Lincoln was still using the old 430 – this would be its last year. The 462 would probably have helped.
I agree completely that Cadillac was at a tipping point in 1965. It was selling a car that was almost as good as the Mercedes that cost 2.5 times as much. This would have been a great time to move upmarket with some first class machinery, which would hyave required very little fresh thinking. Nieither Lincoln nor Imperial was as well positioned to do this. But from this point, it became a race to the bottom among the big American luxury 3.
They do talk the caddy up
The Imperial was a 1957 car with a bit of cosmetic updates. Chrysler was probably spending very little on it, given its modest sales.
Interestingly, when this test was done was right after Cadillac had finally given up on the OHC V-12 project, which would have given them some additional cachet. With the V-12 and disc brakes (which GM offered only on the Corvette in ’65), the Cadillac would have had a lot of engineering prestige value. Of course, in retrospect, it may have been just as well: the V-12 would have been a lot more expensive than the 429, no more powerful, and potentially troublesome. (It used a linerless aluminum block, a modern idea that wasn’t ready for primetime back then.)
It may be a performance point locally, the dealer here ordered most Imperials with dual exhaust and each car was tuned to the teeth before delivery. The shift points on my 66 are 70 from 1st to 2nd, and 125 from 2nd to 3rd.
125 mph 2nd to 3rd? That would have required about 6,000+ rpm.
Without a doubt, I would take the Mercedes Benz 600. I have always thought that was a great car. I know it was Jack Nicholson’s favorite.
He drove one in Witches of Eastwick, correct? here’s my favorite grosser, the famous Red Baron.
Steve McQueen had a 600 too if I remember correctly…
So did Idi Amin.
I believe Jeremy Clarkson had one too, or at least used to.
So did Jackie Kennedy
So did Pablo Escobar…
so did all the dictators of world. Marshal Tito has one too
After a long long lousy day at work following a great 3 day weekend this was awesome to read. This truely is the high point of my day!
Keep ’em coming!
’65 was an interesting year to do a test like this, maybe one of the last where you could address the big three’s barges, a Rolls and a 600 as if they were chasing the same customers.
Also painful to see the ’65 non-Imp Chryslers described as “lithe” and “responsive,” two qualities that Europeans would trumpet in the ’70s after Mopar pretty much gave up on offering them.
They mention the Imp’s dedicated plant like it was a good thing. Nope. They were made in the Jefferson Avenue facility in Detroit, which had been slapping Maxwells together since before the world war. The FIRST one!
Imperialclub.com has a nice selection of old “comparos” like this.
I’ll take the Cadillac. And if we can get Car and Driver back to writing such complete comparisons, I’ll renew my subscription after a 10-year lapse.
And if the stories were as well written as the one we just read.
I dumped C&D also many years ago. Got tired of their “hipster” writing style. A few months ago I got an ad in the mail for 12 months of both C&D and R&T for 10 bucks. I figured what did I have to lose? Well, it’s no better, plus their graphs are now completely incomprehensible. I’ll let the subscription run out again.
A great read. I especially appreciate the no nonsense, straight forward style.
A welcome change from a good deal of current automotive criticism that seems to strive for a hipster-like ironic detachment.
True, its a well put together article, with a lot of tech info, a far change from today where every auto writer wants to be Jeremy Clarkson.
To paraphrase Simon and Garfunkel, “Where have you gone, LJK Setright?”
I always found LJK Setright’s apparent attitude insufferable. I’m sure he was well informed and technically competent, but I never felt like I’d want to sit down in a bar booth with him for a few hours.
Jeremy Clarkson & James May put their own MB600& RR Shadow head to head on top gear neither was very impressive by modern standards especially in slalom and stopping distances having seen that its hard to take anything C&D say seriously. Yes they in depth on the spec sheet but the driving impressions are a joke The RR & MB are meant as chauffer cars the Jag Id drive myself even though its one of the worst they made in reguard to handling. The US cars are meh on our roads but the Chrysler torsion bars would be best even if the brakes are only 55 Austin Westminster in size
In a perfect world, it would be highly amusing to put these cars on a dyno at the time of this publication. I am really curious just how little horsepower these cars are truly putting down.
I was wondering about that too. Low 300’s gross would be, what, maybe low-mid 200’s net?
The 600 was rated at 250 hp DIN, which is almost exactly the same as the SAE net ratings. It’s SAE gross rating was 300. But I suspect those numbers were very conservative. The lighter 300SEL 6.3 ran 14s in the 1/4 mile, with the same 250/300 hp engine.
Really, the 600’s power ratings are the most believable, followed closely by the Jaguar’s. The Lincoln, which is 100lbs. lighter and has more hp and torque delivers a 0-60 time 1.9 seconds slower than the big Merc. The Cadillac, some 800lbs. lighter than the 600 delivers only a .2 second faster 0-60 time. On the short end of the numbers stick is the Imperial. Whatever happened there is well beyond me. Maybe someone switched the 413 for a 318. (Kidding, of course)
I don’t see how they got a reading of “4,600 lbs” for the weight of the Cadillac. My former 1970 Cadillac Sedan de Ville weighed 4,920 lbs (I had it weighed at a recycling center). My current 1969 Fleetwood Brougham weighs 5,060 lbs.
LimoTony: There’s a considerable difference between “shipping weight” or “curb weight” and actual on-the road weight. Typically, that’s some 200-300 lbs for a big car like the Caddy, so your numbers are right.
My dad’s ’68 440 Imperial would, even when stock, blow away my mom’s 65 Cadillac Sedan De Ville, not even close. I think they got a bad 413 in this test, the one in my mom’s old New Yorker, stock as far as I was aware of was pretty quick. My dad didn’t like sluggish cars and after the Imp got a cam and some other work on it, it was definitely a runner, and it sounded great with the dual exhaust. I loved listening to it’s slightly lopey idle in the morning when we were getting into it so may dad could take us to school. I remember clearly the morning we were on the way to my dad’s store and he stopped and got gas at Sohio (Boron, of course) and he figured the mileage was 9MPG. Pre cam swap, it was over 10. He couldn’t have cared less.
Had the 66 Imperial weighed while traveling, with two people and luggage, well over 6,000 lbs. also full 28 gal tank.
I tried an experiment to see if the secondaries were working on the Imperial when my engine was original, in just the primaries my Imp was still quicker, but only .5 second less.
I just dont see the what you get with the 600 over the Fleetwood other than better brakes and more problems, the Cadillac was even faster than the Mercedes, and that the 429 which was at about the end of its run in 1965, not the new 375hp 472 from 1968. To me, in 1965, you would have had to have been both really rich and really stupid to buy anything but the Cadillac, sorry.
Straight line fast the caddy might be quiker, but all day at 120mph it would fall apart, the european cars are built for unlimited motor ways and can be driven flat out the caddy is a wallowing turd at speed
But either car would mostly not ever be driven at that speed, in this country it wouldn’t even be legal in almost every state, so take the “high speed” factor out of it, and I would say that the average 80mph is reasonable, even 85mph, that Cadillac is still better.
A 60’s through early 70’s vintage Cadillac can actualy cruise at 100mph without falling apart, dont believe everything you read.
In their home markets at the time those cars would certainly be driven at high speed ordinary Vauxhalls and Austins had cruising speeds of 100mph + so a Caddy being able to do a ton is no big recomendation for a flagship car. luxury high end cars are meant to be able to carry their passengers in comfort at 120mph plus cruising speeds on long continental trips otherwise whats the point the creature features were all available in cars at a tenth of the price, thats the whole point of luxury cars their driving ability. Thats the joke of the C&D test they did it in a parking lot is that because the Caddy handles so well at speed?
You seem to have this fixation on the top speed an cruisng at 120mph as if that was something that you could just do anywhere at anytime, in the real world, even today, thats hard to do, not to mention in 1965 with the tire technology of that era
Maybe you didnt read the article but they took all the cars up to high speeds, even the victorian horse cart Rolls Royce.
Again, whatever continent, the Cadillac is an American car, for the most part, we never need to cover distances at over 120mph unless its some sort of emergency, if you needed to go that fast, you proably want to fly.
Sorry, Bryce – many of the American cars of that era could EASILY be driven at 100+ on end . . no strain at all. As evidenced by friends and relatives piloting these cars on desert and prarie highways. I distinctly remember my Dad piloting my grandparents’ ’66 Dodge Monaco (383 4 bbl) at 100+ for an extended period . . . . contrary to opinion not all U.S. cars of the mid 60s through 70s were complete turd-boxes . . . .
You have apparently never been to Texas . . . or Montana . . . or Nebraska . . . .
ive driven several cars with US originated powertrains at sustained high speed Im trying without success to point out to Mr GM Carmine that some of the cars in this test were built with high speed driving envisaged as part of their daily exercise where C&D found the caddy too softly sprung for that type of use. A Dodge at high speed no problem. Carmine seems of the opinion nobody in the US would drive fast thats why the cars tested werent capable
They are perfectly capable cars, at 80-85 mph, you could drive one down the road all day long with out breaking a sweat, I’ve done it, several times, even in a downsized 70’s Cadillac, you can cruise at near 90 without trouble, I’m saying thats where their sweet spot is, yes its higher on the Mercedes because of the country where its from, top speed on a 600 was about 127mph, and great maybe it could cruise at 10/10th all day long, what I am trying to say is that is not the type of driving that most of the car buying world does, especially in 1965. Great for Mercedes, it can go fast for a long time, now why doesn’t the wheel tilt and telescope?
Wheres the cruise?
The automatic head lamp and high beam changer?
The 6 way seat?
automatic climate control?
And yes I know that the 600 did some very cool things to like all the pneumatic tricks with the doors but you have to admit that the Cadillac at 8000 is super impressive when compared to the Mercedes at a ridiculous $20,000.
I have driven all this stuff at speed at some time or other but an S Class MB is heads and above better. You can barrel down the highway at insane speeds and have plenty of reserve horsepower and brakes to deal with it. Really, anyone who thinks a Caddy is better than a big MB car or the era has never driven one.
Carmine, to quote F Scott Fitzgerald, “They rich, they are different than us.” People who bought the 600 didn’t care what it cost. They could buy two if they wanted. I see Bentley cars around here all the time. I think they are absurd but their owners want the exclusivity. That snob factor is what a car like the 600 was, a feeling a Caddy could not do on this scale at this time.
It’s just an apples VS oranges debate with no right answer. In the eastern US, or even the UK, the shortcomings of the Cadillac (other than fuel costs in the UK) would have been tolerable and the extra features welcome. For someone who did 100+ MPH on the Autobahn on a regular basis, the 600’s ability to get them home in one piece would probably make it worth the 20k price. There were still some people who thought power windows and AC were totally silly in 1965; who knows what they would have had to say about 4 power vent windows and self-dimming headlights. The bottom line is that the conveniences of the Cadillac as well as the handling and braking capabilities of the 600 have become standard on any decent luxury car now, so they were both ahead of their time, unlike the Rolls and the Imperial.
I can drive all day long at 100 mph + in my 67 Buick Riviera. I don’t think this Cadillac will be worse. In my family we have a mid-seventies MB 280 S. The 67 Riviera is a way better car, especially when it comes to quietness, reliability and comfort. The automatic transmission behind the gutless MB straigt six is harsh shifting and the TH, or ST400 with the switch-pitch convetere inn the Buick is way better.
my Buick comes fra California and have 170.000 miles on it, the MB has been in the family since it was new and has only around 50.000 km or 30.000 miles on the odometer….
Austin and Vauxhalls with a cruising speed at 100 mph in 1965 ? Most of them could barely break 65 mph…. Vauxhall Victor, 1,2 liter and 55 hp. 3000 rpms in 50 mph.
The European and especially the English cars was extremely badly made in the 60s and even worse in the 70s. And look, where are they today?
In the 60s English cars had a unbelivable high marked share in Norway, at the end of the 70s they had a marked share about none. German and Japanese cars was way better.
Bryce, I really don’t know where cruising speeds 100 plus for Austins and Vauxhalls comes from, its not my experience of mass market British cars of the 60s, with their low gearing they would be revving their nuts off at 100 plus, even though the engines might sustain that it was hardly relaxing. The best my fathers Vauxhall Cresta could hold was 90.
You must be referring to the largest engine models, 3 litre plus of which few were sold in the UK
The only Vauxhalls that cruised at real speed were the front drive Cavaliers with 5 sp gearbox of the 80s, I remember driving a new one following a late 50s, early 60s Bentley Continental, it was beautiful so I tried to catch it to take a better look, but couldn’t catch it even driving flat out for 15 mins, that Bentley was definitely cruising at 100 plus. The later Vauxhall Carltons with aerodynamic bodies were very fast cruising cars, 100 mph easy, but much later that the cars in the test
I had a 73 Wolseley six, flat out at 95 but would hold it driving into a gale, the engine was fine, but pushing it that hard for miles blew a seal on the BW auto gearbox
I ran a 420G for a few years, it could hold 100 mph but my god the fuel consumption. You could definitely hold 100 mph in a Rover P5, love that car
Back in the 60’s-70’s I drove the vast American stretches of highway at 120 mph or more all the time, my Electra, Imperial, New Yorker Brougham’s, and 56 DeSoto have no problem with engine or suspension, being rock stable, the ’61 and up Cads were pretty good 1959-1960 Cads could wallow 5 directions at once. Roads were more clear if not completely empty at the time, and much more than once I was paced by cops in wide open spaces and after miles a tip of the head or beep on the horn and they would accelerate away. I drove very fast but smooth and know what the hell I’m doing at high speed. I was also driving alone. With passengers I slow down and high speed was always away from towns or traffic.
Stopping from 100+ mph, on the other hand…
Yes and the only cars in this test with adequate brakes are not the US models
The Lincoln Continental was praised by the testers for its braking abilities. Front discs were standard on the car beginning in 1965 (along with the Ford Thunderbird).
Fact is that in 1965 at least a couple of states had unlimited motor ways, Nevada and Montana at least, and the national defense highway system was designed for transporting troops and armaments at triple digit speeds, despite the fact that there weren’t trucks capable of that speed at the time. The curves and sight lines on the original portions of what we now call the interstate system were designed so that a 2’x2’x2′ box in the road way could be seen in time to stop that imaginary deuce and a half traveling at 100mph with the brake technology of the time. So doing 120mph in a car was entirely doable and was done by some. Personally as a youngster I did well over 100 in Nevada in the back seat of my uncle’s Caddy for hours at a time while my cousin with the small bladder stood on the driveshaft tunnel peeing into a coffee can held by my Aunt. Year later I did triple digit speeds in my drum braked 69 LeSabre w/o the car complaining one bit. Yeah hitting the brakes at 100 would heat them up and not do a lot but taking your foot off the throttle slowed you down pretty quick, quick enough so that you would be able to avoid that 2′ cube in your lane w/o it being a traumatic event. That R&P (reasonable and prudent) speed limit stayed in effect in those states, outside of towns, until the federal gov’t mandated the national 55mph speed limit. Montana chose to more or less look the other way with a $10 fine for “wasting resources”, IF the officer decided to spend his time pulling you over, which stayed until they returned to a R&P speed limit for awhile in the 90’s.
So no, many American cars of the era would not “fall apart” if driven at 120mph all day long, even when they were 30 years old.
Several cars with Corvette powertrains were tested by Holden in the 90s on European auto bahns and were found to be mechanically unsuitable for high speed sustained running as well as excessive fuel consumption. This was a GM division testing cars for that market so you are telling me US powertrain technology has gone backwards over 30 years hard to credit but ok GM went broke for a reason
The SBC is not a Cadillac by a long shot, the SBC is the worst of the GM V8s when it comes to durability and is not suitable for sustained high rpm use with a long life. The BOP big blocks and the Caddy mills on the other hand were usually coupled with gearing in the 2.xx or at the most low 3.xx and they pretty much loaf along at speed. When you have over 400 ft/lb of torque you can still accelerate strongly or smoke the tires for a few blocks despite that gearing.
Those Corvette powered Holdens have since been sent to England wearing Vauxhall badging and are a success in that you cant go as fast unless you spend about 10k pounds more at a BMW store. Some were given Pontiac badging and sent to the US and will be exported again next year with Chevy SS badging worst GM V8 or not they sur haul arse .
TIRES were the main limitation on sustained, high-speed cruising in those days, not the engines or transmissions. Blow-outs were common still common in the 1960s. Plus, many people who bought used cars – even used luxury cars – also bought the cheapest replacement tires possible.
Yes they make lots of power but they aren’t that durable if called upon to make that power on a continuous basis. On the theme of the day stick a 350 or even a 454 Chev in a motorhome and if you get 60k out of it you are doing really well but the Olds 455 powered motorhomes will keep on going for twice that mileage w/o issue, of course you be replacing a few drive chains in the transalxe in the FWD versions.
your LeSabre had the finned aluminium front drums and cast rears, at the time the best drum brakes. My 63 Electra will haul down incredibly fast and not heat up. On a trip from L.A. to Vegas in my 66 Imperial, at 120+ mph there were dips on the road, one dip had a full sized double door refrigerator laying across the slow lane. Flick the giant Imps steering left then right, we were around it with no problem PS love the ’69 70 styling.
Forgot to mention tires. I used the best high speed tires I could get, There were blow outs, on the Electra a left front at 125mph, in a curve, a right rear at 140. On the Imperial left and right fronts, and rears, one right rear blowing at 110 alongside a semi’s trailers. It was actually a calm event, back slowly off the gas, as the semi disappeared move to the side of the road and park. true the tire was too hot to touch for awhile, but handling was no problem. If you drive at these speeds you damn well better know what to do in every situation.
I’m paraphrasing the article, but it said that the Caddy was a victim of it’s own success. They sold so many of them that they no longer had all that much prestige.
I’ve always thought this was the main reason for MBs ascendency – the Caddy’s were becoming too common. There is no doubt the MB was a really good car – from an enthusiast POV. It’s just hard to believe that people who were content to waft along in isolation suddenly took an interest handling and braking. These are nice talking points for explaining why one bought a MB, but the real reason may have had more to do with all those people not quite of one’s class also driving Caddys.
There’s an interesting C/D article from 1975 in which Don Sherman admitted that in terms of sheer A-to-B comfort (noise levels, ride harshness, etc.), the Ford LTD was superior to the contemporary big Mercedes.
That was Pat Bedard.
Oops, you’re right.
But Cadillacs had been pretty common high end cars for at least 15 years. Only Packard came close in yearly sales totals, and those were propped up by decidedly Oldsmobile priced Clippers.
And it wasn’t the 600 series cars really changing minds either, it was the more common garden variety 220SE or 300 Sedan, that were probably cross shopped by quiet a few people that maybe actually thought their latest American cars were becoming complacent.
I’d count My Aunt Linda and her Husband as people that went from Big Buicks in the late 60s to Mercedes and Jaguars instead of Cadillac, and the sunroof, real wood and more playful character of those cars versus an American Luxury Boat were in addition to the snob appeal they surely wanted.
A 1967 DeVille is like a resort, 300 6.3 SEL is like an exclusive chateau. Despite a lack of features, a late 60s Mercedes had better workmanship than any Cadillac past 1966.. I think you can’t ignore the factor of how great an approximation of a Cadillac a Ninety Eight or Electra 225 was in comparison, either.
I think what Cadillac really should have done was offer the LaSalle again (rebody the slow selling Opel Diplomats?) and they would have lost far fewer “snob appeal” or “the Eldorado is still to huge” buyers in the same price range of where they offered the Calais, and moved every other Cadillac up in price by $500-$1000, which would have made the Fleetwood a true $10,000 car when that price meant something. But Cadillac, and General Motors as a whole saw volume as the only true sign of success when they still commanded at least half of the market.
Not only was this the era that started Cadillacs downslide, it was all GM brands losing their image. You can’t blame the buyers, GM internally did it to themselves.
That pretty rain soaked black 65 just makes me imagine Roger Sterling comming out of the buidling, hat in hand and strolling over to the drivers door and getting in.
It seems to me this article captures Detroit at the height of their “fat, dumb, and happy” era. They were making gobs of money for the shareholders, the managers were all getting big bonuses, the workers were all getting plenty of overtime. From that point of view, it’s easy to understand why nobody wanted to rock the boat. Why invest in technology beyond auto temp control and auto headlamp dimmers?
Well, within five years M-B was gaining major share in the luxury market, and within 10-15 years the Japanese were eating Detroit’s lunch in small cars.
And yet well into the 80’s the marketing types in Detroit insisted they understood “their” customers. The problem was their customers were rapidly aging and dying off.
The average M-B customer of the early 70’s didn’t have a clue what four-wheel disc brakes, independent rear suspension, or overhead cams were, it just sounded cool and high tech, and they wanted it. It took Detroit about forever to understand that high-income buyers could be swayed by a technical sell against cars that were following an age-old pattern.
I also think that, in particular, Cadillac’s success doomed them. Once Caddy introduced the Calais, they were just too common, and could be seen everywhere, being driven by people who are NOTD (“not our type dear”). Yeah, there was snobbery afoot (and probably some racism as well), but Caddy brought it on themselves by chasing share at any cost.
As I said in my comment on the “cars we love to hate” thread, this generation of Detroit iron is frustrating, because Detroit had the money to be leading the world in technology, but chose not to, and then paid the price.
The Calais was just a new series name for what had been the Series 62, if I recall correctly. It didn’t really take Cadillac to a lower price point.
The big problem with American cars of the era and the biggest cause of customer flight to the European and Japanese brands was reliability. American cars broke down right and left. Do you know anyone who owned a 1980’s era Cadillac that didn’t have to install at least one new transmission? How many people with Benzes had to do the same?
Interesting aside on the possibly racist motivations behind “snob appeal” – my (white) family lived in an up-and-coming, predominantly black neighborhood in Atlanta from the late 60s to mid-70s, and I remember that among the successful black folks, most of them small business owners, an entry-level Cadillac was often the first big status symbol to be purchased once they had entered “safely middle class” territory. Even if they couldn’t quite stretch to a new Caddy, they often would opt for a year-old used one over a less prestigious new car.
At the same time, more and more of the rich, white and very Southern lawyers and doctors from the suburbs were buying their first imports. Coincidence?
Of course one cannot forget the impact of the used, often questionably modified, Caddies and Lincolns driven by Atlanta’s many hustlers, dealers and other “men of leisure” – of all colors and backgrounds. I recall the baroque Lincoln personal coupes being very popular with that crowd.
Nothing was as strikingly handsome as those 64-76 Imperials. YMMV, but I love the look of those cars…
The article mentions the Mercedes having the brakes (paraphrased) actuated by compressed air from the suspension system? What happens if that fails? Imagine getting something like the Mercedes fixed in 1965 when no one knew what they were! Of course, I suppose if you could afford one in 1965, you didn’t worry about such plebian things as repairs. . . the upkeep on the thing would terrify me. Great Article!
Trucks use a similar system its simple and very reliable
My Dad had a triple black ’67 Brougham, with the same basic driveline as the test ’65 shown in the article. They were quick cars for their size, and ’65-67 used a variable pitch stator in the transmission which I believe gave the car an extra boost. The interior of our ’67 was beautiful, with rich brocade, fold down trays, footrests etc. Keep in mind that these cars were riding around on bias ply tires inflated to around 22 psi. When equipped with radials and proper inflation, gas front shocks and the rear air suspension, they were not that bad a handling car, and were better than most domestics. See the Motor Trend test of the ’73 Fleetwood for additional handling comments. My ’68 or ’69 with the 472 (they dropped the variable stator starting that year) doesn’t feel any quicker from a seat of the pants perspective that the ’67, and they all have that huge torque push off of the line that I miss in newer cars. Mileage with my 472’s run around 16-18mpg (US) on the highway, driven conservatively at about 65 mph, which is equal to my 350 Chev, and about the same as my departed 318 Valiant, so it would be interesting to see what they could have done with modern engine management and an overdrive transmission.
69 60 Special
Picture was taken in ’91, but there are a couple of K-cars in the background for Zackman to drool over..
Trunk escutcheon is wrong…had to use a Deville decklid, and the wreath didn’t fit without some drilling and filling.
Very nice, I have conflict with 66-67-68 Broughams, I love the fold down trays in the rear of the 66-67. I like the slanted power window controls on the doors of the 67’s, but I really like the 472 instead of the 429, which is just in my head anyway, there’s really nothing wrong with the 429, I do also like the hidden wipers of the 68, but then again there are the last of the fins, 64 models too.
All Broughams through 68 though have my favorite power window control of all time, 8 button front vent-window-window-rear vent, power window control on the drivers door, I remember the first one of those I ever saw when I was a kid, I was so impressed by the number of window controls that it has stayed in my head til this day.
I loved that power window swith assembly on my 63 as well. As a teenager, that was the height of luxury, to be able to pivot those little rear door vent windows out.
In a mini-review of each 1968 car, Car and Driver said that, with better shocks, a standard Cadillac made a great road car, as the handling was good for that time, and the air conditioning and adjustable power seats really did improve driver comfort.
“Cadillac..hydraulically locking doors” WTF am I reading?? Imagine having to have those fixed today! No one would have a clue about them.
Yep, until at least 1966 or 67, most of the GM higher end cars had a vac power lock set up, so they hisssssed shut, instead of the more familar clack-clunk of the common GM power door lock set up.
Yup they showed that they didn’t really know the cars they were writing about since the lock were vacuum operated not hydraulic on the Caddy and I’m pretty sure on the Mercedes too, I’m pretty sure the Mercedes power windows were also vacuum too.
And they would not lock completely in unison, either. In my 63 Fleetwood, the locks on the four doors would lock with three syllables – like “Cadillac”.
That reminds me of my 1991 Volvo 940SE. When you hit the door lock, all four doors would lock at once, then there would be a muted ‘thunk’ as the trunk locked about one second later.
The things that trigger memories…
Wonder if that was deliberate, to sort of underline what you’d bought?
My Electra still makes a slight hiss but the locks have’t worked in years My 66 Imperial sounds like someone has fired a pistol in the car, but the power door locks are quite positive. My 77 New Yorker Brougham they all came up with a bang, but going down was thunk, thunk, thunk, thunk. In one magazine test of a 69 Imperial, the tester said it was too bad the headlight doors went “thunk, thunk” as they closed. I like it on all the Mopars I’ve had, on closing there is a thunk, thunk so slighty spaced it almost sounds like one thunk, but that sound tells me the headlight doors are shut. Other cars with hidden headlights I’ve had to get out and see if they’re closed
Wow. Any of them, Any of them. BTW, the CPI from 1965 to 2012 is a bit over 7X. Not even Rolls builds anything like that today. We have lost quite a bit.
Interesting article. I like how they say they are “going to attempt to put aside their enthusiast leanings and consider the cars as the average American would”, then of course threw that out the window and crowned the Mercedes the winner despite the fact that if failed in so many factors that would have been important to the “average luxury car buyer” of 1965 while the Caddy excelled in them and the Lincoln was very competent at. Like a transmission that you couldn’t tell was shifting and having luxury features like a 6 way power seat, tilt & tele or tilt only steering column, cruise control, AC that would freeze you out in triple digit temps, lots of chrome, room for 6 large passengers ect.
My thoughts exactly, not only did it miss so many factors, but its price was 2x’s more than the Cadillac, insane.
Kind of like any C&D comparison test with a BMW, you can save ten minutes of reading, knowing they’ll pick the BMW every time.
They may have tested a 600 in this group but in reality few would seriously have considered one against the Cad or Lincoln. They probably would look at a W108 or W109, at less than half the price, and many bought one too. In all the years the 600 was in production – something like 18 years if memory serves me correctly – they made fewer than 3000 of all variants combined. It was ever intended to be a competitor for these Caddy models and frankly was aimed at a much more rarified market. I agree that US luxury cars of the era were just as fast or faster and were reliable high speed all day cruisers. However when it came to cornering, braking and genuine long distance comfort there is no comparison – the 600 reigns supreme, a fact acknowledged in almost every contemporary test.
The 600 was more expensive than the Rolls,competing with it,Facel Vega Excellence and very little else. The 300 SEL 3.5 and 4.5 were more the competition for domestic luxury, with a 6.3 If you liked to go fast. I have driven a 600 from here to the bay area (200 miles) for pickup when a collector here sold the one he had, it had slight feelings of other cars, the reactive suspension on curves, it was comfortable, but knowing the years he put into the car I just wanted to get it there and gone.It was rather eerie the way most things worked silently, and the door and trunk activators. I hoped the suspension lowered at speed because that one did, but it made it. It was a very nice car, but I would constantly be worried about things going wrong, I did love the ocean liner horn There was just a touch of feeling like I was driving my dad’s 59 International pickup with a very similar steering wheel. I picked up the funds for the 600 and the car, ironically he had purchased I was to drive back, a 1965 Cadillac Fleetwood 60 Special in medium gold with ivory parchment top, and all accessories, and 33,000 miles. the ivory leather like new. I was much more comfortable, and confident the Cadillac would make it.back, as part of the Cadillac collection he had.
I greatly enjoyed this article, and the whole other tech article that went with it. Top notch writing.
I was really struck by the then-novel features, like central locking, good cruise control, good AC, power windows, and mirrors you can adjust from inside the car. Such luxury! All standard in nearly every economy car today.
Interesting point the tech article made about hydraulic actuators everywhere being lighter than electric motors. Rare-earth magnets have transformed electric motors that doo all those jobs now. They were discovered the year after this test, 1966, and only went into volume production in the 1990s.
fyi, wooriegi is me. the caddy was truly stunning. i wish i had more than my cell phone with me. it appeared to be in original condition with just a touch of patina. the interior was perfect, too.
Awesome article – and fascinating to read the C&D test too! I like all the cars, but the Mk X Jag is my #1. Since I was a teenager, a Mk X/420G is the #1 classic that I will own some day. I just love the styling and the overall look and feel of them (I base ‘feel’ on my experiences sitting in them on dealer lots as a kid). The luscious one pictured below is my favourite colour for them, and is currently for sale here on trademe, but at NZ$28K it’s twice what mint ones usually go for, and precisely NZ$27,995 more than I currently can afford. My lottery-winning dream is to buy a 420G and have Beacham Jaguar (owned by Bryce’s Doctor) – http://www.beacham-jaguar.co.nz – do one of their brilliant resto-mod updates for me. Ah, happy days.
Those 420s were going cheap at one stage Iguess people woke up to them.Beachams do some awesome work I read about the 30s V12 RR they did up $2 million or so it cost but the original engine got fuel injected modern automqatic and not some shitbox turbo 350 it got turned into a resto mod that couldnt be spotted very cool if youve got the coin there aint much that outfit cant do
I’m in the midst of restoring a Jag 420G. Love them. Its just been painted Botanical Green Metallic, a 2010-2011 Jag XF Dark Green colour. By the standards of many cars they are huge but in this comparison it is the “compact”.
Awesome! I’m so envious! I saw my first one on a 1980s kids TV show named “Terry and The Gunrunners” (based on the NZ book of the name). It was pink with cerise interior, and the bad guys blasted everywhere in it. Even with the unique colour, I was instantly in love with the shape, still am. Wheels magazine used to poke respectful fun at 420Gs too – I remember they called them “Old fatty the G”, and said once they lifted their skirts they could seriously hustle on the back roads. Made me laugh anyway. I will definitely own one one day (my local mechanic is ex Jag-NZ, so that’ll be the servicing etc sorted), hopefully sooner than later.
Are you in Oz or NZ? A couple Oz 420Gs I’ve seen imported here to NZ had factory a/c – a weird set-up in the boot feeding air through the rear parcel shelf, but with the compressor etc up front in the engine bay (that’s some really long piping connecting it all). There was a late 1970 ex-Oz one on trademe a couple years ago with factory a/c, factory sunroof and p/windows; all the options I hope to have one day. I hope you post some pics of yours when it’s done – I’m a fan already!
I’m in Australia. Interesting test and I’m not surprised by C/Ds comments about the MK X. They pretty much were an E-Type drive train with a huge monocoque bodyshell drapped over them. Same triple carb SU motor, manual versions had the same Moss box and the rear IRS was the same except a wider 58″ track. Front suspension is different, coil overs in the MK X instead of torsion bars in the E but the same disk brakes all round. The weak link in the braking in early Mk X’s was the bellows system Kelsey Hayes brake booster although the later MK X 4.2L’s and 420G’s went to a normal vacuum brake booster. The nature of this sort of drive line is that it is going to be better handling but a revvy engine especially compared with the other 5 car’s big cube V8’s. Notice the 0-60 time is pretty good, in the middle of the pack despite the cylinder and hp disadvantage but the nature of its power delivery suits an E-Type, not a luxury car. Your comments about the A/C are dead right, mine doesn’t have it but that was the system, mounted in the boot. The review comments about the lack of “kit” is true but by the standards of English cars it was good. Even against Benzs (excluding the Grosser) the Jag would be pretty good. It pays to appreciate that where American cars lead the world from the late 30’s up until probably the early 70’s was in comfort and convience features. Auto gearbox, Power Steering, A/C, Cruise Control, Climate Control, Power Seats, Windows etc. An English car in the 1940’s and 50s would have been luxurious if it had wooden picnic tables. Many Yank Tanks were still body on frame, drum brakes, leaf springs, live axles, OHV motors well into the 80’s. In the end MB trumped them when it caught up with the luxury features plus with better engineering and technology.
As a person that owned one, the Jag does feel special, might be big but you can still throw it around, but on radial tyres please
Me in my 69 420G on the day I brought it home in 95
I have to say that the price difference between the American cars and the Mercedes is huge, the 600 is better in many ways but so it dam well should be for the cost.
The Royce was totally obsolete by then. I had a ride in one but the space utilisation was horrendous. Used to like them but my tastes have changed.
The silver shadow is much better, I think of it as our version of the 61 Lincoln.
Thank you, Paul, for posting this test. I have the test in a Brooklands book, but it’s fun to discuss it with the best and the brightest!
When considering Mercedes, it’s important to remember that, in the mid-1960s, it was offering cars that were much cheaper than a Cadillac or a Lincoln, if I recall correctly. In essence, the Mercedes-Benz nameplate was the equivalent of General Motors, not just Cadillac, as it sold vehicles at several price points.
Mercedes did offer a more solid body and better handling compared to the Cadillac, but its automatic transmission shifted harshly and seriously sapped performance, its air conditioning was a joke (while Cadillac was offering automatic climate control!) and its reliability was not superior to that of the Cadillac.
Cadillac, though, began to drop the ball around this time by slowly decontenting its cars in the quest for volume. This really became apparent with the 1971 models, but the process started in the late 1960s.
Interestingly, while I love the car, the 1967 Eldorado is the car that really shows signs of Cadillac wanting to have its cake and eat it, too. On the hand, it was beautifully styled and built (Car and Driver said its coachwork equalled anything from Mercedes-Benz or Rolls-Royce) with a reliable, unique front-wheel-drive layout.
BUT, Cadillac chose not to equip it with standard disc brakes for 1967, which was crazy, given its weight, front-wheel-drive layout and performance capabilities. That car should have had FOUR-WHEEL disc brakes as standard – it was supposed to be the ultimate Cadillac, for crying out loud! And, if I recall correctly, if you ordered the leather interior, only the front seats were really upholstered in leather, and even then, it was only the seating surfaces.
That nickel-and-dime attitude would cost Cadillac dearly in the coming years…
This would have driven up the price of the Eldorado, but it would have also made it even more exclusive. If there was one thing Cadillac needed at that time, it was the aura of exclusivity.
At any rate, it wasn’t as though GM wasn’t selling enough Impalas, Catalinas and A-bodies – not to mention DeVilles – to keep the factories running and make up for any volume lost as a result of an even pricier Eldorado.
You have to remember the rear suspension was independent on MB and several of my customers ended up making backward excursions off the road, into poles, and one upside down. They handledwell, but at the limit could bite you. I bought these from customers and fixed them, the A/C was weak for years, power windows slow, no power seats etc. I made several trips in these, but my back problems didn’t fit the seats
I had 67,68, 70 and 76 Eldorados. The leather was front and rear seating surfaces, with the back of the front seat and side bolsters in vinyl. The problems with these wasn’t content, it was not being dependable. On the 67,68,79 cars the auto air A/C was always going out, the heater wouldn’t work, windows jammed and quit, suspension was too soft on all of them, (I had Toronados with none of these problems) On the 70 the outside door handles didn’t work in cold weather. The brakes on the 67 worked fine, nothing else did. I loved the looks, the emerald green 68 with white top and interior and wide whites looked stunning, but I like my cars to be cars,so the Eldos left. the 76 was a terrible disappointment, silver in and out with 125 hp for 5000 pounds. It was comfortable enough, and my lady and I were going to tow the Airstream on vacation.The Eldo could not make the first hill into the Sierra’s with the Airstream, and top speed was 67 mph. The replacement triple white 76 Coupe deVille was everything the Eldo wasn’t. It still had electrical problems, but not bad. the 74-76 CoupedeVille still felt luxurious and looked really good. The first time I saw a 77 Cadillac, in yellow. I looked it over well, it looked like the Caprice across the showroom, except the Chevy looked better., customers were bailing on these WEEKS after purchase. Several told me the top speed was 75-80 mph. I don’t know why. The 78 was much faster.but Cadillac didn’t feel like Cadillac any more.
My Dad owned both a ’72 Eldorado convertible and a ’75 convertible.
The 500cid(8.2L) engine in the ’72 was rated at 235bhp net or, about 365 gross horsepower. By comparison, the ’75 was rated at 190bhp net(210 if you ordered the rare fuel injection option. Give or take, the ’75 was about 1-1.5 seconds slower from 0-60(a by product of ever stiffening smog requirements.
It’s not that Cadillac offered a lot of details about the performance of their cars,a typical Catalog brochure of the era covered pages of upholstery options,comfort and convenience features and a lot of trick photography showing the interiors as far bigger than they really were.
Living in northeast Ohio, rust was the enemy. Everything rusted after the first year, body shops made small fortunes fixing the rust that appeared around the wheel wells,fender bottoms and rocker panels.
Quality control was nil, my Dad refused to take delivery of his ’75 three times because the plastic fender extensions(a byproduct of 5 mph bumpers) were so poorly installed, body panels were indifferently aligned and the transmission barely lasted 10,000 miles. Then there were the General GR 15 x 78 tires what junk!
Wow, a great read! I find it surprising how they picked the MB as #1 after going on about it has the most boring boxy design, unlabelled controls in unusual places, and a tiny trunk.
Funny how they got a personal blow in at Elwood Engel making Imperials look like the previous years Lincolns. I’ve read comments before that criticized the late-50’s hold-over windshield in the Imperial and how it doesn’t look good versus the rest of the body. I always thought it looked fine before, but seeing it on the same page as the Lincoln and Caddy, I can now see how it looks dated.
Dated be damned, it worked better than the others, and I had all of them.
so they say the rolls is almost silent and the ride is super smooth , the brakes are amazing and its put together with the finest materials but they dont like it and say its the most overated car! WTF!
Thomas, actually, they didn’t say the Rolls had a super-smooth ride.
My aunt had a 1965 Silver Cloud III Mullner Park Ward hand built drophead (convertible.) in a very dark gold. I drove this from Redding to Las Vegas when they had a house there. With suspension on firm it felt great, cornered well, and maintained the speed my aunt was traveling in a separate car.(just over 120 mph) Of course it felt like a classic car, Rolls was the first to build classic cars new. It had no more room inside than my 64 Riviera, and less trunk space, but it had a warm, happy feeling driving it (of course I didn’t have to pay for it either) It was the quietest convertible I ever drove, and my Electra is pretty quiet. You could hear the clock, but they have abnormally loud clocks. The reaction is big part of these old Clouds (it was new on the trip) Lots of thumbs up and smiles
Many thanks for this precious article ! It should be listed right at the top of any specialized list of test drives. In those good old days (when these cars were new and there were NO speed limits in Europe), I have driven each of them (Imperial Le Baron, not the Crown). Driving conditions are different in Europe compared to North America, so my view may be somewhat distorted. My uncle (my dad’s brother) had a RR SC-III, lovely majestic piece of machinery, great visibility, incredible finish and quality, total dignity even when driving full blast. Will never forget. The thing was quite fast in reality and, seated high above the other small European cars on the road, you really had the feeling to dominate. Another uncle (my mum’s brother) had a “Grosser 600” (as they called it), I drove it full blast across Europe many times, so smooth and easy to drive, an absolute rocket with a fabulus suspension making you feel more comfortable than in any other car, in total silence. It runs and runs and runs without ever getting tired at any speed. You totally forget the size and the weight of the car. My aunt (my mum’s sister) had a Lincoln Continental 4-door Convertible (with those lovely “suicide doors”), which I later bought from her. Gorgeous well-finished car, it moves you quietly from A to B with good road holding for those days, but far from sporty. The electric wiring system was a pain in the neck, repairs costed an absolute fortune. The Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham was a pure delight, my best friend’s father had one fitted with red leather interior, by far the most impressive of all by its silence and its comfort and when driving not too fast, but boy, what a gas guzzler ! Last but not least the Mark-X Jag, a big beast when driving, with nearly the luxury of a Rolls, nearly the performance of the “Grosser 600”, it would drive faster than the Cadillac, the Lincoln and the Imperial – something which on a long stretch, say from Paris to Monte Carlo, would be most welcome and enjoyable. The three US luxury cars would be much, yes much slower on the same distance and gobble much more gas, making the trip less relaxing. In spite of their size, they would be more comfortable in city traffic (yes, even in Paris !) … perhaps because the smaller cars would be too scared to run into them. In those days, perhaps for that reason, US luxury cars were very fashionable in Switzerland and many other European countries, perhaps because they were so totally reliable to drive and when chauffeur-driven, their size didn’t really matter. My choice ? Each of them, but for different reasons. The 1966 Fleetwood for comfort. The Mercedes 600 for long distance driving. The 1962 Le Baron for excentricty, the Rolls for the evening, the Lincoln … I am not sure if there would be another reason than just cruise around, the Mark-X …. mmm, perhaps I prefer its more stately predecessor the Mark-IX or a more sporty E-type.
Paul, but Car & Driver listed “curb weight” of that ’65 Cadillac Fleetwood at 4,600 lbs. Maybe they meant shipping weight (for all the cars listed)?
If only Car and Driver would give detailed tests and in depth research today. Engine weights? Sure, there were some errors, especially confusing hydraulic with vacuum operation on some of the cars, but there was still lots of info you would never hear about today. And performance results seem to be more honest. Interesting the Lincoln was 700 lbs heavier then the Cadillac but got 3 more MPG. The Cadillac was the best looking of the bunch, in my opinion. The Rolls had drum brakes, but they were determined to be the best of the bunch. Interesting. That fastback conversion for the Corvair is pretty tacky looking. I did notice it comes with a ‘Lucas Flame Thrower’. I wonder if that’s a James Bond device, or some kind of an ignition ‘upgrade’. Either way, it probably didn’t work for very long. Thanks for reprinting this old C/D test, it was a fun read.
Lucas Flamethrower – a high candlepower high-beam headlight. Popular after-market with the tweedy sports car set. They were marketed in the days before halogen headlights. John Fitch included them as part of the Fitch Sprint package for Corvairs.
Thank you! As soon as you mentioned the headlamps I remembered that term from way back.
I recall a several-way test of subcompacts a few years ago, in which C+D rated the Chevy Sonic turbo a close second behind the Honda Fit, marking the Chevy down for an engine that wasn’t as flexible as the Honda’s. It required a deep dig into the (online-only) expanded test result chart to discover that the test Fit had over 1000 miles on it while the Sonic was first-tankful tight…maybe someone on the senior staff with a long memory was getting payback for the ringer launch X-bodies?
Terrific article that gives you a taste of times past. The description of the Rolls is a dose of reality if you do any study of Rolls Royce cars from this time period.
In the lead photo, the Cadillac stands out as the modern, serious, grown up car. No pretense, simply the practical choice of the successful man in 1965. With improved shocks, tires and a decent set of disc brakes it appears that it would have been the undisputed “Standard of the World” in 1965. Those are pretty simple tweaks, it is unfortunate that Cadillac didn’t head these criticisms faster. That dated looking Mercedes has most of the ingredients of a major headache for Cadillac that was just a handful of years away from setting in.
My favourites of the six luxury cars are the Mercedes-Benz 500, the Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham, and the Chrysler Imperial Le Baron.
You know, I’ve written and edited plenty of CC posts, but this is the only one that causes such an emotional reaction within me, to the point of even tearing up a little. Why? I have no idea. Maybe it’s seeing an American luxury car equal to anything else the world has to offer. Or maybe through the prism of hindsight, I’m just romanticizing the mid-sixties. Either way, thanks for reposting this, Paul.
Jay Leno has such enthusiasm for his 600 that it is contagious. And I get that if money is no object, I definitely see the appeal of the 600. And I think it is beautiful. And I would love to have one, but I have never driven one or owned one.
But Carmine is right. The Cadillac should win the test based on luxury alone. And especially with cost added in. Basically, if you had added disc brakes to the Cadillac, they would have been hard pressed to find a flaw.
That is a complaint I have of Top Gear. Jeremy Clarkson claims all American cars are crap. And yes, my Mustang is certainly no Porsche Boxster and the interior controls are cheap. But show me another car for 17,000 pounds that even comes close to the Mustang. Or the Challenger. Or the Camaro. For the cost, they are amazing compared to the competition.
Also, Leno mentioned that the Big’s hydraulic power windows include a valve with a $15k replacement cost. I would bet that if a window motor went on a ’65 Caddy, you could make one from any PW-equipped GM car from the next 30 years work in it for the (junkyard) parts cost of a deluxe burger.
This article is one of the reasons my Father (and later his son) had a continuous subscription to “Car & Driver” for over 40 years.
David E. Davis left his unique “mark” on this magazine during his long tenure(s) there.
The “inside joke” during this time period was that the ultra-rich kept an always reliable Cadillac around for the many times when their Rolls-Royce would not start..errrrrr…I mean…”fail to proceed”.
When driving limo’s for an exclusive company in L.A. in the 80’s it was a shock to hear engines start in Rolls limos, often they were changed for domestic, the most glaring hearing a 440 starter
An un-mentioned (in the article) ‘feature’ of the Rolls mechanical-servo braking system was that while it may have been beautiful for stopping the car from highway speeds, it didn’t actually engage very well unless the car was MOVING. Try parallel-parking a ’65 Rolls. You can’t, ’cause the servo isn’t moving enough, the car has to move something like twice it’s length before it engages.
Then again, if you’ve got a Rolls, you’ve got a Chauffeur, too, no? (And I’d not realized the pricing differences in these cars — $20,500 for a Mercedes 600 is really, truly mind-boggling! The 1960s were not like today in giving outrageous pay-scales for the upper classes — there weren’t that many people who ever could have afforded one).
I think this comparison really shows why Cadillac was/is no longer the “Standard of the World”. To be the “Standard…” it should excel in style (which it does), engineering (which the Mercedes does) and interior/exterior quality (which it does not). Cadillac’s engine is very good as is the Rolls’s engine. Mercedes has the highest score, with Cadillac second. However, Mercedes and Rolls have top scores in quality control, with Cadillac third place (42 out of 50). I feel that Cadillac is just not quite world class. Before World War Two I think the upper end of the Cadillac line (Fleetwood 75, 80’s and the 90) were world class.
I remember those Car and Driver apples-to-oranges comparisons, pretending the cars tested were in the same class, readily available to practically any buyers…..which cars such as M-B 600, R-R Silver Cloud and even the Jaguar were well beyond the financial capabilities of the majority of even the Cadillac/Lincoln/Imperial customers. C&D always selected the European cars a oh-so-superior. Well, they should have been for the large price premium to own one.
For the general upper end of the American middle-class, the Cadillac was the best all-around car for the money; Lincoln and Imperial slightly less so perhaps for lower resale value. Any one of these three was still very much an aspirational car for most buyers, and something they were able to eventually afford and enjoy as a well-kept used car…..which was rarely the case with the European ‘competitors’.
The Jaguar was almost the cheapest car in the test, beat out only by the Imperial. Had Cadillac still been making the Eldorado Brougham (which cost well over $20,000 to build in the late 50’s) it would have been the most expensive car in the test.
However, getting to the point, good value for the money does not make a car “The Standard of the World” for luxury cars. I don’t know what Mercedes was trying to do the the 600, but they only produced about 100 per year. Compared with the Rolls Royce Phantom’s, this would have been a lot, and at bargain price.
As a member of the Imperial club I discovered part of Imperials success AND downfall. Once a person finally has an Imperial, that was what they bought. A Cadillac or Lincoln wouldn’t do. Imperials were a different philosophy, they did corner, they had power everything and powerful engines, were dependable. From point a to b especially on a winding road the Imperial is going to get there first if you want to. I belong to a lot of car clubs and in few of the others 99 year old men and little old ladies are talking about drifting their cars around curves and some of our meets cover a LOT of ground with average speeds around 100 mph Chrysler built luxurious, fast, owner driven automobiles with capabilities far past what Cadillac or Lincoln (at least after 1960). I have done things in an Imperial the designers of other luxury cars would be horrified by, but the Imperial DOES it and comes back for more. On one long trip we were cruising at a nice 110 mph in the 66 Imp, a long boom truck ahead decided to cut the wheel left and roll the truck. I knew the crash capabilities of the Imperial, but why screw it up, there was an alternative. MORE POWER, There was a side road to the left I could see was clear. Problem was it was more than 90 degrees, the road actually came back some. I set the Imperial into a four wheel drift with smoke rolling off all four tires. positioning the front left fender so it will clear the stop sign and still be coming around (Imperials can be positioned within an inch of where you want to go) once past the stop sign power hard on and tires screaming, countersteer and feel the huge weight responding and changing direction, it’s going to snap the other directrion and are responding as it shifts weight, just as suddenly you are now going strait down the side road with smoke clearing in a trail at 125+ mph. I slow and turn around, go back and check the driver of the boom truck who had fallen asleep. There still wasn’t any other traffic. We helped set out flares and a CHP unit came by, said we could take off after statements.The truck guy was ok he slept through half of the accident. The cop walked back to the Imperial, then saw the tire marks that went around the corner. saying softly, “What the hell made those?” Then looking at what had been sparkling wide whitewalls (kept at 35-42 psi) which were now blackwalls to the rims. “Looks like a long wheelbase” he said. “Looks like someone made an emergency maneuver to me” I said. The wrecker arrived and the officer got busy When the boom truck was cleared I started to pull out. the chp told me, “It’s obvious you know what you’re doing, but take it easy, and get your car checked over.” he waved me on. I ran at 65 (was 80 miles from home) had the tires checked, and replaced, also found a cracked ball joint on the passenger side, but it had survived a move most cars would have disintegrated trying. I’ve seen Imperials that have collided with all sorts of things, and a common denominator was being able to talk to the people who survived them. And they bought another Imperial. The sales problem was the same people who had Imperials were the ones who bought Imperials, a closed system. There were exceptional years, 1957 and 1964 were good because of design. The ’64 was a fresh design for Chrysler for 1 year, then the similar, and much less expensive Chryslers were there in 1965 and sales dropped. Some in the club have never driven the cars to excess, but knowing it can do what you need to is very comforting.
Fasinating read. The Jaguar caught my eye until all those shortcomings popped up. Out of curiosity, I decided to look at current values for the group presented. The Imperial and Lincoln are worth a couple thousand more today than when new. The Cadillac and Jaguar are worth about twice as much. Then things get crazy… It would take $70,000 to buy that Mercedes, and $100,000 for the Rolls Royce today. My takeaway? You pay for the name with the Rolls, the Mercedes is likely every bit as good as everyone said back then, and I find the Lincoln very appealing all of a sudden…
A hundred grand is only the starting point when it comes to 600’s. And it would cost a hundred more to just get it in order. Or twohundred more. There are cheaper ones to be had, and there are reasons they are cheaper. As there are reasons perhaps it’s a better alternative to look for one of the really nice ones to begin with.
And perhaps a 600 isn’t even a viable option without unlimited amounts of money? It really is the car for those where money is of no object. And if it isn’t of no object, this car isn’t for you. When even Jay Leno says upkeep is “crazy expensive” you know shit is real.
Though I love the car to death, and I could probably kill for the opportunity to own one, I wouldn’t really wanna be stuck with one that needed a lot of repair and not being able afford to have it fixed. The 600 is an indulgence, and has to be to treated as such.
Like this car: for sale at 165 grand. Cost of restoration since 2006: 185 grand. That are the kind of non-recoverable costs involved.
From what I understand the Mercedes 600 is never really ” in order “, something will almost certainly break while you are fixing something else.
OTOH the Lincoln is one of those cases where a solid body and good interior are the most important things; mechanical condition is almost irrelevant in a driver (rather than show car) since everything is standard Ford, or close enough to interchange.
The guy with the limo company bought the complete shell of a 600 and spent over 100,000 replacing ALL the complex systems, has modern air suspension and a 64 Buick 425 with turbine 400 trans, the steering column tilts and telescopes. It LOOKS like a Mercedes 600, but will go anywhere he wants and be dependable. He wanted the image, he got that, and has a very nice custom 64 Buick Electra.
This was from a time just 2 years before I would discover this type of car magazine. Up until about 1967 my “library” would consist of magazines like HOT ROD.
You mention prejudices:
Over the years the British magazine CAR would do similar tests like this one, but almost always European brands of cars as the American products were considered to be massively un-competitive, and 99 times out of 100 Jaguar won the test. If not Jaguar, then BMW, but almost never Mercedes.
Being a Ford fan, no matter what the test results, I would have voted with my dollars and gone with the Lincoln…even though the basic design, was by then, several years old. The Cadillac APPEARS to closely rival the Mercedes….but it borders on too flashy for a luxury car. The Jaguar looks like a whale on wheels, on the outside. The Lincoln just seems to hit all the right marks (no pun intended).
I almost forgot the Imperial…..and that’s Chrysler’s biggest problem: a forgettable car.
It’s quite telling to see how slow these 60’s full size cars were with the quickest 0-60 car being the 9.2 second Cadillac. It’s interesting to put into perspective that many of the 70’s emission smogged cars weren’t really that much slower than there 60’s counterparts despite being down so much on the power ratings. A perfect example being my uncles 1965 Cutlass with a 330 Olds Ultra high compression Jetfire V8 engine and 320 HP versus his 1974 Cutlass with a Rocket 350 4 BBL V8 that only made 180 horses. Now the 1965 car was indeed quicker but not nearly as much as the power ratings would infer. Keep in mind also that 70-80 of this hp difference was in how they were rated. The old “gross’ rating differed from the “net” mainly in how it was averaged out and the accessories that were hooked up when tested.
Another example is a 1979 Trans Am with the 220 HP 400 tied to a 4 speed stick that timed out at 6.7 seconds 0-60 which was quicker than most 60’s so called muscle cars bar the odd 455 GS Buick or yenko F-body etc. If I was to speak with an older car enthusiast he would go on and on how race car fast all those 60’s muscle cars were even though most were severely handicapped by lousy tires, brakes, steering and suspensions. As they say the memory often cheats.
Hmmmm……I drove several late 1970 Trans Ams. I don’t recall any of them doing zero to sixty in 6.7 seconds in “stock” condition.
Perhaps the test car had been “heavily breathed on” by a co-operative car dealer?
Had a 74 TA 455SD buccaneer red, black inside, did 0-60 in 6-6.5, but heavily breathed on.
I found a Car&Driver road test online for the downsized 78 Deville. 0-60 is 10.6 seconds, standing quarter mile is 18.2 firstname.lastname@example.org MPH. 0-80 is 18.5 sec. A 1965 Deville convertible would do the standing quarter in 17.2 sec@82 MPH. Gross horsepower did not require the engine to have a cooling system, exhaust system or air filter. What we know is “advertised horse power”, which may have been somewhat different from the actual horsepower. For example, the Buick 430 CID engine is rated @360 HP, then the 1970 455 is rated @370 HP. One would have expected about 380 HP.
The fast cars existed, there were Studebaker Larks in 64 that ran high six second 0-60, top speed of 132 mph. We were lucky when we found a “done” car that was quick, if not we made them fast. My Imperial now is pushing 600+ hp, which wasn’t that hard, rebuilt the trans to hold the power, had to rebuild the suspension because it tore the traction arms out of the frame, that’s fixed, heavier components everywhere, broke the front sway bar in half,now larger. Now the weak point is the rear end. It will heavily burn the rear tires for blocks, run 0-60 in 6 without the car being lightened, but eight diffs later, need to change it. My Electra was re-engineered years ago and has been delightful for a long time. a side effect is better gas mileage although octane boost is a must with 12 to 1 compression. Us old crazies are here, quietly keeping our cars looking beautifully stock, but surprise, we got power. My son was interested in Subaru for a first car. After he got his license and I let him learn to drive in my cars, one of his first cars was a 67 Imperial with factory 440 Magnum. He still likes some new, but wants old. Cool. He also was trained in high performance driving, with track time
” 1965 Cutlass with a 330 Olds Ultra high compression Jetfire V8 engine and 320 HP versus his 1974 Cutlass with a Rocket 350 4 BBL V8 that only made 180 horses…”
Yet another example of not knowing the difference between Net and Gross HP.
*1970’s Trans Ams.
Surprised the Mercedes cost more than the Rolls!
Also surprised they both had 4-speed automatics back then.
I remember a ’50 Cadillac I drove has 4-speed auto also, but a past rebuild could mean the reliability isn’t superior comparing to 3 on stick from the ’30s.
Cadillac had the original 4 speed hydramatic until a complete redesign of it in 1956 which was kept until some models started using the Buick Turbine 400, renamed Turbo 400 with variable pitch in 64. Rolls used their rebuilt version of the original 4 speed hydro until changing after the silver shadow went into production.
Dont know what the Rolls had, but Mercedes used a fluid coupler four speed, like the 1940 Olds Hydramatic, well into the 1980’s on some models. The torque converter three speeds are much smoother in operation.
Great cars all of them… Although I have a weak spot for the Jag, I wouldn’t mind floating around in the Cadillac… Or any of these land yachts really.
I also love reading those old car reviews, as they often (atleast try to) give some technical specs. Although you can find good reviews nowadays if you look, they often just claim the car handles great wihtout much assesment of the suspension design and by “handles great” they mean the car has little body roll and a stiff ride. Then there’s lot’s of yada yada about theoretical fuel economy and infotainment. *sigh* I was born in the wrong generation.
M-B 600 Landaulet and ex-Ringo Starr car.
I remember reading this article in the summer of 1965 when I was a ten year old kid. It was my older brother’s magazine. I haven’t seen the article since then, but it made a huge impression on me at the time. I had been a Ford lover all my life, and had been loyal to the Lincoln Continental. This article switched me over to Cadillac. Twenty years later, I purchased a 1985 Cadillac Fleetwood FWD. Unfortunately, that particular model was doomed to many mechanical failures, and it ended up being an unhappy experience. That was the end of my interest in American made luxury cars.
Interesting how each of these designs, except the Imperial, are iconic symbols of their respective brands.
This was my second reading of the article, which certainly merits it. After the first go-round I started searching for a ‘65 or ‘66 Cadillac and found one in VG condition, a silver coupe with red leather buckets. No A/C and a “short” garage nixed it. Sigh.
I’ll take the Caddy as I had a ’66 Fleetwood Brougham and had to get rid of it to keep the HOA from suing me. I purchased the Caddy in 1988 for $200 as it was somewhat of a derelict. But what a car with the big real walnut trim, picnic tables and foot rest for the back seat occupants. Beautiful car in triple black. I hate myself for giving it away but perhaps I’ll find another one someday.
There is a saying in the Mercedes M100 group, The 6.9 is a Bachelors degree, a 6.3 is a Masters degree, and the 600 is the Phd. The Maserati Bora used the same hydraulic actuators as the 600, for the pedal box movement, headlights and I don’t know what else. I do remember that my Bora leaked hydraulic fluid from the pedal box actuators so when you were driving fluid would leak on your feet. The Bora is gone!
I find it interesting that the most luxurious American cars built for the 1973 aren’t much different in performance than their 1965 counterparts despite the lower compression smog era engines
Here are the 0-60mph and 1/4 mile times for the 1973 Cadillac Fleetwood, Lincoln Continental Town Car and Chrysler Imperial according to the April 1973 issue or Road Test Magazine
1973 Cadillac Fleetwood
0-60mph: 10.2 sec
1/4 mile: 17.6 @ 80mph
1973 Lincoln Continetal Town Car
0-60mph: 10.4 sec
1/4 mile: 17.6 sec @ 80mph
1973 Chrysler Imperial
0-60mph: 11.8 sec
1/4 mile: 18.1 sec @ 77mph
I find it strange that the 1973 Lincoln and Imperial’s acceleration was faster than the 1965 counterparts.
Smog era cars were affected less by low-speed acceleration (0-60) than high speed acceleration/top speed. 0-60 times vary considerably for any given car,, due to different driving techniques and conditions.
Gearing can affect a 0-60 run considerably. If a car has to upshift before hitting 60, that will slow down the time. As best as I can tell, the 1965 Imperial did upshift into 2nd before 60. Also, the 1973 had the larger 440 engine, the ’65 has a 413. Frankly, the ’65’s time seems a bit low to me.
The ’65 Lincoln had the MEL 430 engine in a modest state of tune, and that engine was pretty out of date by 1965. The ’73 had the much stronger and newer 460 engine. Gearing and other factors may have played into that difference too.
The MEL debuted in 1958, the same year as Chrysler’s “B” engine, and Chrysler released the 413 version just a year later. Point being that the MEL was no older or out of date than Chrysler’s “B” and “RB” engines were. The basic roots of the Cad 429 date back to 1949, and the Jag engine’s roots date back to 1949 as well.
The carburetors in 1965 were the limiting factor. They’re development hadn’t kept pace. None of the Big Three’s big engines could be had with a 4BBL bigger than 600 CFM. That would all change within just 2 years with the release of GM’s 750 CFM Quadrajet, and Carter’s release of their 750 CFM AVS.
” Frankly, the ’65’s time seems a bit low to me.” Frankly, I think a lot of C & D’s test results from the mid-60s are suspect. GTO vs. GTO anybody? They’ve even admitted in later years that they knew at the time that the Pontiac was a ringer with a Bobcat preped 428.
Regardless of the the date of the MEL’s birth, its heads did not breathe as well as the Chrysler B Block’s. Try comparing the competition successes/lifespan of these two engines. The 460 had better breathing heads, and as you said, a larger carb. The same applies to the Cadillac, to a lesser extent.
Plus by 1965 the MEL was a dead engine in the lineup in no other application while the B block was still getting development.
Your points, as well as Cavanaugh’s are well taken, but speaking as someone who has a 56 year history of preferring Mopars over Fords, and speaking as someone who did a ton of drag racing and rear kicking both on and off of the track with a ’68 440 Charger R/T and a ’70 383 Cuda, I’m here to say that the MEL never got it’s due. First of all, despite it’s funky flat combustion chambers (which the Chevy W also had), those ’65 MEL heads do outflow the 413’s heads! In ’65, the 413 was using the 2406516 head which, according to Stan Weiss’ site, flows 201 In. / 151 Ex. CFM @ .400 lift and 216 In. / 151 Ex. @ .500 lift vs. 209 / 153 @ .400 and 234 / 179 @ .500 for the 430! http://users.erols.com/srweiss/tablehdc.htm#Chrysler_Big_Block http://users.erols.com/srweiss/tablehdc.htm#Ford Do you remember that famous photo finish of the 1959 Daytona 500? It took NASCAR three days to figure out who won. The second place car (by a hair) in that race was a full size Thunderbird powered by a 430! And if these C&D test results are to be believed, it’s worth noting that the Lincoln spanked the Imperial at every acceleration point despite carrying more than 200 pounds of extra weight! (Both cars had essentially the same gearing: 2.89 for the Conti., 2.94 for the Imp.) Yes, the B has a more storied competition history, but that was only after Chrysler thoroughly redesigned it’s heads. First there were the vaious Max Wedge heads, and when those didn’t prove to be enough, Chrysler slaped some Hemi heads on the B. (That proved to be enough.) Prior to these efforts, the B was routinely spanked by the Pontiacs, Fords, and Chevys at dragstrips and NASCAR tracks all across the country. Chrysler even had to redesign the B’s heads for truck/industrial use, something that Ford and Chevy didn’t have to do with their FEs, MELs, SDs, and Ws. If you ever study a 361/413 truck/industrial engine you’ll note it’s relocated angled spark plugs and it’s raised exhaust ports. It actually looks like a scaled up Mopar LA head! So if the MEL was so great, why wasn’t it raced more? Well, for one, after Ford dropped it from the Thunderbirds and Mercurys that it had been optional in, and after Ford killed the Edsel, The MEL became a Lincoln only engine. And Lincolns were far too heavy by then to be competive with the smaller lighter competition. Two, NASCAR had imposed a 7 liter limit on displacement and by then Ford had punched the FE out to that size. The FE was over a hundred pounds lighter, which is of course a huge advantage.
Yes, the B engine had a lifespan that was 21 years vs. the MEL’s 11, but that was because Chrysler didn’t have the resources to replace a 10 year old engine like Ford (MEL to 385) and Chevy (W to Mark IV) did. It’s the same reason that ’65 Imperial is wearing that ’57 windshield. You have to remember that at that time, Chrysler only had a 12.5% overall market share compared to Ford’s 25% overall share. Chrysler was quite literally only half the size of Ford. (And it was a situation that was destined to get worse.) The street/civillian version of the B wasn’t really a contender until the #915 and #906 heads came out in ’67/’68 but even then Ma Mopar knew the B’s days were numbered. That’s why they designed and readied for production the “Ball Stud” Hemi. This was a very different engine (still based on the B block though) that was going to completely replace the existing B but of course the accountants that were running (and ruining) the company by then killed the whole project. The B.S. Hemi would have given Mopar a compound valve angle big block that would have been a direct competitor to Ford’s 385 and GM’s Rat, but being closer to being a true Hemi the new Mopar engine would have actually been superior to them.
Lastly, no, in 1965 the MEL wasn’t completely dead yet. The very next year it got expanded to 462 cubes and received even better flowing heads (as seen on Stan’s site).
So please, for history’s sake, let’s be more respectful of the Mighty MEL!
Great article (as confirmed by the huge number of replies!)
The 600’s steering wheel gets criticized, when it’s pretty obviously designed for safety in an accident. MB was a leader in designing safety features into their cars early on. Recall that collapsible steering columns didn’t come into the US market until 1967. Ford also used some heavily padded steering wheel centers starting in about ’66. Kudos for thinking ‘safety’! It sells today, even if it didn’t so much back then!
I once read that MB used oversize steering wheels in case of power steering pump failure. They continued to do so into the 80s. Typical MB over-engineering…
I really enjoyed the test, as well as the spirited discussion!
I’m not sure what the 600 is doing in this company. A better comparison might have been the lwb 300 SE, which could have been afforded by mere mortals. After all, they picked the “standard” Rolls and Caddy (i.e. not the Phantom V or Fleetwood 75), so the W112 would have been more in keeping with the other cars.
Also could have included the Maserati Quattroporte, while they were at it. Maybe instead of the Jag. It would have stood out like the Mk X did here, but might have made for an even more entertaining test.
The W112 300SEL was an extreme rarity. There is even some dispute about it having been sold in the US. I’m not aware of it having been sold here. In any case, its very limited production was essentially wound down when this test was done, and the W109 300SE/SEL would have replaced it later that fall, as a 1966 model. So the 600 was really the only choice at that particular time the test was done.
The 600 was the sedan, not the Pullman, so it does fit in. The Fleetwood 75’s are limousines so do not fit into this test. Before World War II the 75 series had a number of body styles, some of which were owner driven rather than chauffeur driven. Production of the 600 was limited with about 150 produced each year. The Phantom V production totaled just over 500. Not sure about the price tag, but I think much more than the 600’s.
You can really get a good look at how closely Elwood Engel tried to make the Imperial look like his own Continental in that C/D shot of the three dark American sedans on the same page. I’ve long also found it curious that at this time Chrysler had gone all-unibody except for the Imperial luxury cars which were the last body-on-frame holdouts, whereas at Ford it was the exact obvious – the plebeian full-size Fords and Mercurys stuck with body-on-frame while the Lincoln luxoboats were unibody.
The ’65 Imperial reminds me of the ’53-’66 Studebaker sedans, facelifted every year in a desperate attempt to keep them looking up to date. Yet there’s always something that tips you off to it being an old design that’s been tweaked so much you can barely tell it’s the same car, yet it doesn’t quite look truly new because you can recognize the parts that haven’t changed.
This article has certainly raised some strong feelings, speaking as a European with experience of American cars, both driving and restoration, it is clear to me that the huge 50s 60s American luxury cars were not suitable for our small roads and towns, incidentally nor was the vast Cloud and 600 for everyday driving
However, if I lived in the USA, I could not justify the excessive cost of the European cars.
The Cad, Lincoln, Imp almost follows the Pareto principle giving 80% of the car for 20% of the price of the 600. Its where I would put my hard earned money. You can keep your elitist snobbery so that rules out the 600 and Cloud for me
I cannot accept the Mercedes argument that they worked out the perfect position for the steering wheel, humans come in all shapes and sizes, that attitude just annoys me; don’t they come with adjustable wheels now ?
The Mercedes looks like a chromed clumsy block to me, the American cars, in the right colours still have glamour
All would be a disappointment in comparison with modern cars, best never to meet your idols; but as a classic to own today, just for the sheer fun of it, based on complexity and cost I would only consider the 3 American cars, though its the 62 Lincoln I covet
Well, I owned a ’69 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham and it was not a disappointment in comparison to modern cars. In fact, I much prefer the ’69 FB!
I actually drove a friend’s ’66 Fleetwood Brougham. Very impressive. A smooth ride, easy to drive, comfortable seats and plenty of room. I was tempted to buy it; may have if it didn’t have 220,000 miles on it.
Very interesting articles and responses. I was suprised to know 1965 Benz 600 (W100 short base) costed more than a Rolls-Royce Sliver Cloud, but its price of $20k then is about $155k today money, a bargain compared to a 2012 Maybach 62 S costed close to half million dollars.
When I looked the styles of those six cars, I found Benz look is strange, first time in my mind as a long time Mercedes product and W100 has a special place in my place, and more this model was designed by Paul Pracq, a master of designer in his own right. You see, Rolls-Royce stayed on its tradition, Jaguar had its dynamic flow, Cadillac had American exceptionalist style in full display, Lincoln was promised to be morden and simplistic look; and last Chrysler Imperial was very closed to a cheap Cadillac. Benze here put too much emphasis on its trade mark radiator gill that ruined its beautiful body. Therefore, in my taste, Lincoln is the most beautiful of all. Being beautiful is important for high society vehicle. Meusem of Morden Arts in New York should display 1963 Lincoln Continental, rather than a Jaguar XK.
Yesterday, saw a 10-15 year old M-B was broken down in middle of busy intersection, blocking traffic. With them being more common, such as the CLA, this is an image that may hurt them as did Cadillac and Lincoln.
I am reading this in a moment of retrospection in semi-lockdown in the UK. I read it at the time it came out, when I was far too young to drive, but still remember it. Looking back at the acceleration figures, all I can wonder having driven Chrysler products from that era is whether the Imperial had all eight spark plug leads attached.
I remember reading an article Tom Mccahill wrote about a Mercedes 600 that Mercedes gave him to drive from Florida to California, and then give his impressions. The only thing I remember about the article is he said while driving through Colorado on a mountain road, he noticed a well known American sports car behind him sliding out on turns trying to keep up with him, so he slowed down and let him pass so the driver wouldn’t kill himself.