1990 Cadillac Brougham – Now THAT’S Cadillac Style!

The 1990-1992 Cadillac Brougham has always had a hold on me. And never mind the fact that I was nine years old when it first appeared as a facelifted variant of the 1987-89 Cadillac Brougham, in the autumn of ’89. Many 1990-92 “facelift” Broughams have been either driven into the ground or rendered nearly unidentifiable by customizers, but I think these classic Cadillacs look beautiful just as they came from the factory.

While this car was not strictly the final classic RWD Cadillac, and itself was a revised version of the 1980 Fleetwood Brougham and Brougham d’Elegance, I just happen to really like the look. It remains one of my favorites today, nearly 30 years after it first appeared. Retaining the classic, elegant lines of the 1980-89 model, but with just enough modern cues to carry it forward. Today’s vintage premium GM product is owned by a friend of mine, Jim Jordan. And it only recently turned 30,000 miles. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, shall we?

I am grateful to GM for recognizing the beauty of the 1977 C-body Cadillacs. True, the long, long production run was more a result of GM not quite wanting to bet the entire farm on smaller Cadillacs, but I am still happy that it turned out the way it did.

1978 Fleetwood Brougham

This basic body was in continuous production from 1977 to 1992, receiving a major sheetmetal revision in 1980 and the more minor update in 1990. By the end of its long, long life, the Brougham was surrounded by front-wheel drive, unibody Cadillacs in the showroom. It might have lacked a driver’s side airbag and more modern interiors and amenities, but it stood alone, and in a good way. This car was, and is, a modern classic.

1985 FWD Cadillac Fleetwood

When full-size Cadillacs were downsized yet again in 1985, the Fleetwood series became confusing. First up, there was the all-new front wheel drive Fleetwood sedan and coupe that shared a body with the Coupe and Sedan de Villes.

1985 Fleetwood Brougham d’Elegance

But there was also the Fleetwood Brougham, which returned for the model year totally unscathed by the downsizing. It was a wise decision by GM to retain at least one true, full-size C-body Cadillac. If they hadn’t, even more ex-Cadillac buyers might have gone across the street to Town Car Ville. While the Town Car was indeed full-sized, it didn’t quite match the C-body Brougham for looks. And keep in mind I love Town Cars. But facts is facts. The Cadillac was just more attractive. Sleeker, smoother. Broughamier? Well, perhaps.

The big sedan remained as the Fleetwood Brougham through 1986.  By then, GM had finally recognized the confusion caused by two very different Fleetwoods–a monocoque FWD version and a traditional body-on-frame, RWD model–sharing space in Cadillac showrooms.

Photo courtesy Jayson Coombes

What’s more, tfhe upcoming long-wheelbase Fleetwood Sixty Special would make three Fleetwood models–each with a different wheelbase, overall length and price. Thus, the RWD 1987 model gave up its Fleetwood moniker. No longer would the biggest, baddest, chromiest Cadillac carry ‘Fleetwood’ plaques.

image: ebay.com

Starting in The Year of Our Lord 1987, the biggie, full-frame, RWD Caddy was simply called Brougham. It would keep that name plus all its Fleetwood-specific trim, including a padded top, smaller “privacy” rear window, and a chrome spear that encircled the greenhouse and ended at the leading edge of the hood, until the end of production.

I told you this car was special: Yes, it has the 5.7-liter, 350 cu. in. V8 instead of the far more common 5.0-liter, 307 cu. in. Oldsmobile V8. The 307 was not necessarily a bad engine, but the pace at which it motivated a car of this size and curb weight was, shall we say, somewhat leisurely? Fitted with a four-barrel carburetor, it produced only 140 horsepower in the ’87 Brougham

The new-for-1990 revisions included white lens taillights and revised bumper trim. Said facelift also added side cladding, flush, integrated headlamps (instead of the quad rectangular sealed-beams used from 1980-89) and a mildly redone instrument panel.

Brougham d’Elegance interior

Standard Brougham and flossier Brougham d’Elegance models were offered. with the latter featuring the former Fleetwood Brougham d’Elegance’s heavenly button-tufted, plush leather seating.

But even the regular Brougham interior was a fine place to be, with deep carpets, fine Sierra grain leather and gadgets galore.

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

Today, 5.7 Broughams are prized for their superior driving dynamics and beefed-up suspension. For far more information about Cadillac Broughams than you’ll ever need, I highly recommend a visit to Matt Garrett’s Cadillac page. His triple-black, Astroroof-equipped, 5.7L Brougham d’Elegance is a thing of beauty.

1992 Brougham d’Elegance at the 2017 Shirey Cadillac show

Which brings me to the d’Elegance. The Brougham had always been a very complete car. By 1990-1992, its standard features included dual six-way power seats with power recliners, an AM/FM/cassette stereo, leather-wrapped tilt/telescope steering wheel, automatic climate control (of course!), power steering and brakes, Soft-Ray tinted glass and Bosch II anti-lock brakes. A true luxury car; you could buy the standard version and enjoy many thousands of miles in comfort. But for those wanting even more, there was the d’Elegance package.

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

Our featured Brougham has the standard interior, which was nearly as plush. And, in your author’s opinion, especially fetching in navy blue leather. Although FWD Cadillacs got a standard driver’s- side airbag in 1990, the Brougham carried on with basically the same steering wheel from the early ’80s. But Cadillac had never planned on continuing this car for this long.

Supply and demand kept it in the lineup year-to-year, so there were never really any drastic changes, as it could have been axed at any time. But those pesky customers kept buying them!

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

All 1990-92 Broughams were built in Arlington, Texas, hence the “Built in Texas by Texans” decal that was added to the rear quarter window on every 1990-92 Brougham.

Really, could there have been a better place to build such an unabashedly all-American, Broughamtastic luxury car such as this? Just look at the amount of chrome trim lavished on it inside and out. You didn’t need to see the emblems to know it was a Cadillac Brougham: You could tell from two blocks away.

The redesigned 1993 Fleetwood, while a nice car in its own right, lacked much of the RWD model’s extensive chrome-plated jewelry–not to mention its more traditional proportions. Still a fine car, but a lot of those little details were omitted for the sake of production clarity and profit per unit.

Brougham badging was displayed prominently on the rear quarter panels and glove box door. Cadillac Brougham d’Elegance models featured a specific Brougham d’Elegance script. “Brougham d’Elegance”: Is there a Broughamier name than that?

Yes, the Cadillac Brougham was a thing of beauty, with its Chris Craft-like prow and chrome jewelry, and that unmistakable wreath-and-crest rising above it all. But let’s talk a little bit more about today’s featured car. My friend Jim Jordan recently acquired this fantastic example.

It was never driven in the rain by its previous, and original, female owner. As a result it is fantastically original, straight and corrosion free. The Brougham was seldom driven, as she usually drove her Oldsmobile instead. This was because she didn’t want everyone to think she was rich. Thus, the Brougham’s spectacular original condition.

In 1990 the Cadillac Brougham was the longest American car in production, with a 121.5″ wheelbase. MSRP was $27,400. For comparison, the Sedan de Ville sold for $27,540 and the Sixty Special was $36,980. I was somewhat surprised to see the Brougham was cheaper than the FWD de Villes. 33,741 were sold for the year.

Leota, as Jim has named her, is a totally original car. The tires were 18 years old! That was corrected a short time ago with some brand-new gold-trimmed Vogue tires, as Jim was planning to take her to the CLC (Cadillac-LaSalle Club, for those of you just joining in) Grand National meet in San Marcos, Texas.

Leota was driven from Oklahoma all the way to the show in Texas, where she most deservedly picked up this fine award. Good for her. Good for Jim!

She clicked over 30,000 miles for the first time ever during the trip. One thing about these Cadillacs, they eat up miles! And you arrive relaxed, happy and in good spirits, thanks to full-frame comfort and V8 ease! Yes, I love these cars, and I shall defend them and their Broughamy accoutrements to the end of my days. We will never see their like again.

I close with this excerpt from the 1992 brochure: “It is easy to understand why America is so comfortable with the classic Cadillac Brougham. Because as America’s longest regular-production automobile, it affords you uncompromising, six-passenger luxury with all the amenities.”

Truly, in 1990 the only way to travel was Cadillac Brougham style. Make mine either burgundy or navy blue, thank you.

10 Replies to “1990 Cadillac Brougham – Now THAT’S Cadillac Style!”

  1. VTNoah

    My wife’s grandfather had one of these that just hung out in his garage for years. When he passed, it was my father in law and I’s job to transport it over to the mechanic who agreed to purchase it for a song. It was pretty rusted out but I was shocked by how comfortable and relaxing it was to ride in. THIS is the car that got me to appreciate 70’s and 80’s Cadillacs.

    Reply
  2. JustPassinThru

    Is it just me, or do Caddies of this generation, all look like they’re loaded with a body in the trunk?

    The pic of the 1977 makes that obvious, but they all have that overloaded-droop in the rear. I know that when the Bumper Ordinances came out, some adjustment had to be made to some cars; but in 20 years, they could have somehow done something to get the boat back on keel…

    Reply
    • Tom KlockauTom Klockau Post author

      See, that’s one of the things I like, gives it a powerboat vibe. A road-going Chris-Craft Constellation…

      Reply
      • JustPassinThru

        I’m more reminded of Henry Hill’s account of Mafia skulduggery, in Wiseguy. Of how one of the junior muscle-men took out a “made guy” without permission, and didn’t know he had been fingered – and was invited by the capos to a ceremony to get “made.” Instead he got whacked, and it was messy and slow and the crew almost got caught. They hauled around the half-dead goon for a day, and then, after burying him, had to dig him up, carry the body around a couple of days, and re-dispose.

        The car was, IIRC, a big old Cadillac convertible, and the stench of the rotting corpse never left it.

        That’s what I think, when I see one of those with the sagging rear end: Of a driver with a black shirt, white tie, white belt and white patent-leather shoes, and a malodorous package in the trunk.

        Reply
  3. Carmine

    The 1993 and up Fleetwood still manages to look the part, big, imposing and flashy, there was a loss of the general “bric-a-brac” detailing that the earlier cars have, no where is this more evident than in the interior, where the were great updates to things like the seats, which now gained lumbar and heat functions, but there was a trade off as lots of the other surfaces became that textured “simulated aborted baby alligator” material that GM was so fond of in the 1990’s

    The 1993-1996 Fleetwood still had some really cool details, it was the last car with the Packard-Electric “Vigi-Lite” lamp monitors, and the “foot-o-chrome” lower rocker panel treatment.

    What I always remember about sitting in the later 1977 style Fleetwoods was how it felt like sitting in a brand new 1977 car, all the hardware and switches had that same tactile feel as in an old car, but it was brand new, thats really kind of a gone sensation there really isn’t anything on sale today that spans decades like these did, maybe the GM full size vans, they’ve been around for 20 years, but still, being in one doesn’t really feel like your sitting in something from 1996.

    Reply
    • Tom KlockauTom Klockau Post author

      I pretty much agree with you, the 1993-96 Fleetwoods were nice, especially the Broughams with the nicer alloys, seats and vinyl roof. It was the interior that lost a lot of the gingerbread, a 93-96 interior is much more monochromatic than a 90-92.

      And speaking of, Jayson also got some nice pictures of a red 1996 Brougham, so that one will probably get written up soon as well.

      Reply
  4. ArBee

    I like this white example very much. This car’s standard interior is more to my taste than the d’Elegance upgrade, and the dark blue adds a businesslike touch to the luxury. Factor in the 350 engine and you have peak Brougham. Nice car!

    Reply
    • Carmine

      Yeah, as much as I have always liked the d’Elegance interior, there is something tastefully restrained about the standard Brougham pleated seats. Make mine black with a red leather interior and the tow pack with the sway bar and the 3.23 rear.

      Reply
  5. Tomko

    I really enjoyed this.

    As the original owner of a DTS Lux III, these 1990-92 Broughams remain one of my all-time favourite Cadillacs.

    Reply
  6. Scott

    I picked up a 1990 5.7, 69k mile 1 owner Brougham in 2014. I still have the 4” binder with every detail of every service/maintenance performed from day 1. The 1st owner was a funeral home owner in Florence SC & this was his personal car. It was my daily for almost a year & over 25k miles……80 mile a day commute. This part gets me….. I paid $3900 with a trans flush service(shop owner who maintained the car for over 20 years sold it for the older man)& sold it for $3600 with only oil changes & a set of tires needed. I’ll never score a deal like that again. I consider that my obligatory used car WIN….. we all deserve at least one in our life.

    Reply

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