It’s a reflection of my age and the times, but for me, the 1964 Cadillac was the last one I really desired. In 1965 I became twelve, and saw the world with increasingly different eyes, which were now increasingly focused on imports and some of the smaller and lither American sporty/muscle cars. But in 1964 I was still in awe of a Cadillac, and why not? It was then still a world class car in terms of its performance and handling, not just in world class luxury.
All this was driven home (quickly) by this road test of a ’64 Sedan DeVille, at high speeds and over rough mountain roads. Who would do that after 1964? And its performance, high-speed handling and braking were exemplary; it was mighty quick for a 5,050 lbs luxury sedan, as in a 0-60 time of 8.5 seconds. I can’t find a faster time for any classic Cadillac, even with the big 472 cubic inch engine that arrived in 1968.
No wonder this was peak Cadillac for me; it wasn’t just my youthful imagination or innocence.
Cadillac was on a roll in the ’60s, outselling Lincoln and Imperial combined by five to one. And it earned it, not just by virtue of its fins. Although some of the European cars excelled in certain aspects, no one could equal the Cadillac on a dollar-for-dollar basis. And realistically, none of the Europeans had anywhere near the performance, comfort and convenience features all in one well-balanced package.
This was brought home in Car and Driver’s classic “Six Luxury Cars” comparison from 1965, where only the three times more expensive hand-built Mercedes 600 beat the Cadillac. It really still was the standard of the luxury car field.
The tested Sedan DeVille was loaded with just about every available accessory and convenience feature, things we mostly take for granted now, although good luck finding a car with the quality of materials in the Cadillac. Real genuine cowskin leather, not some thin veneer glued to a backing fabric. The automatic climate control was particularly appreciated, and highly appropriate for a luxury car. That component alone was heads and shoulders above what any import could offer in that area.
Fully loaded, the tester weighed in at a hefty 5,050 lbs; the base weight would have been 4,575 lbs. And yet it scooted right along “if there’s ever been anything this big that’ll move this fast, we haven’t heard of it“. The ’64 was the beneficiary of the new 429 cubic inch version of Cadillac’s famous V8, packing 340 hp and a mighty 480 ft.lbs. of torque. That 480 ft.lbs. was the equal of what the best big Super/Stock engines of the day were making, which explains its excellent acceleration.
Multiplying all that torque was the brand-new Turbo Hydra-Matic 400 transmission, which of course had a torque converter and three speeds instead of the fluid coupling of the previous 4-speed Hydra-Matic. A detail I had forgotten: the old Hydramatic was still standard on the lowly series 62 as well as the series 75 sedan/limo. The THM-400 was as good (or better) than the lauded Chrysler TorqueFlite.
As to me calling it “the fastest classic Cadillac”, that’s based on my searches for 0-60 times of other Cadillacs from this era. I had long assumed that the ’68 (or ’69) would be quicker, given its new 472 cubic inch V8, but to the extent that I could find old reviews or stats gleaned from them, the best one I found was a ’68 Eldorado with a 8.6 second time. I found a ’68 Coupe DeVille with a 9.1 time, and a ’69 with a 9.4 time (in a recent comparison review we posted here), and Consumer Reports got only a 10.0 second time from the ’68 they tested. This ’64’s 0-60 of 8.5 seconds and the 1/4 mile in 16.8 @85 mph is exceptional and the best I could find.
Obviously there is going to be a range of times based on variations of engine build, the conditions of the testing site and of course the driving technique. But for what it’s worth, this ’64 appears to be a worthy recipient of the title, especially given how heavily laden it was.
The Cadillac was taken on an extended round trip Phoenix from LA, by way of Las Vegas, and included fast highway running as well as over mountain roads. “Considering the sheer size and bulk of the Cadillac, handling characteristics proved outstanding...the brakes held up very well during the hard use they go in the mountains…even survived two maximum stops from 115 mph before fading completely“. Given that some of the other tested cars of this era couldn’t even complete one hard stop from 80 without fade, that’s saying something.
“On the straight stretches in Nevada (where there’s no speed limit) we rolled along at 110 without any concern. The big Cad is extremely stable at these high speeds.”
The automatic climate control got gobs of praise, not surprisingly. Set it once, and forget about it; summer or winter.
Interior room was of course very adequate, even for six. The perforated leather seats enhanced the comfort, as did the six way power seat and adjustable steering wheel.
As to its quality and fit and finish, it was fully up to the standards that Cadillac had firmly established.
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