1979 Cadillac Phaeton Sedan – Broughamtastic Perfection in Chicagoland

2015 was a big year for me. Not in home and hearth (I haven’t moved since 2002) nor at work (been at the same place, happily, since 2013), but in other matters. For starters, I left CC. Why? Easy. The guy who runs the site became insufferable. Let’s leave it at that. As a result of that voluntary departure, I decided that 2015 was going to be “the summer of George!” It was going to be my year. I was going to do what I wanted. So I did. I joined the Lincoln and Continental Owners Club, went on a club meet to the Pabst Mansion in Milwaukee (and had a blast!), bought a second Town Car, and met a lot of terrific people I had previously only known via Facebook. Case in point: The 2015 Shirey Cadillac show in Oak Lawn, Illinois (convenient to the City of Chicago).

Myself, Jim Smith, Ron Schweitzer, and Bill Buckingham, at the 2015 Shirey show. All Brougham fanatics!

Thanks to certain Brougham and Cadillac FB groups I was in, I became friends with a lot of terrific people in the greater Chicago area. And they all told me I needed to go to some of the Cadillac club shows in the area, because they were excellent and had a lot of the cars I like: 1950s-1980s domestic luxury cars. My friend Jim Smith was particularly insistent: “You gotta come to the Shirey Cadillac show! It’s full of Broughams, and they grill burgers and hot dogs and it’s all free!” Well, dammit, how could I say no? And as I was recently divorced from time-consuming Der Kurbensiden GM Hatenfesten, I had a heck of a lot of free time on my hands. Well, why not?

So I hopped in the good old Volvo V50 and drove into Chicagoland, with my trusty Garmin suction-cupped to the windshield. And the show was indeed a nice one, with nary a red Camaro in sight.

And I finally got to meet Bill and Ron and Jim in person, and they were just as nice and Brougham-obsessed as I had hoped. Both Bill and Ron had several cars in the show as well.

Bill’s father bought this 1978 Cadillac Eldorado Custom Biarritz Classic for his mom back in late ’78. It still has very low mileage, and the car is pretty much as new.

Although I have not driven the car, I have sat in this car, and the seats are supremely comfortable! I highly recommend them. I wanted to take a nap, or read a book, with a gin and tonic conveniently positioned on the instrument panel.

Ron had his 1971 Cadillac Fleetwood Sixty Special Brougham on display as well, in navy blue with matching Sierra grain leather and top.

The interior on this car was heavenly!

Check out those “Chicago” bumper guards. They could total a Smart car in one fell swoop. But let’s get to the main subject of this article, shall we?

So there I was, full of burgers and hot dogs and chips and Coca-Cola, yakking with my Cadillac buddies. It was about 2:00 PM, and the show ended at three. So we were just kind of sitting back in the shade of the dealership, talking. And then she drove in. Zounds! A white on white ’79 Phaeton! But wait, you may be thinking, what is a Phaeton?

The Cadillac Phaeton first appeared as a special edition for the 1978 model year. The primary feature was a simulated convertible top.

Like many Detroit special editions, the Phaetons were farmed out to American Sunroof Corporation for the extra bits added.

Said special features included the the aforementioned simulated convertible roof, leather upholstery, accent striping and a smaller rear quarter window on the coupes.

1978 Phaetons were available in a choice of three colors: Cotillion White, Platinum Silver, and Arizona Beige, with color coordinated interiors and tops.

Leather was standard. And cushy.

It was available in either sedan or coupe body styles, though the coupe seems to have been much more popular (and immortalized in the 1990 classic Goodfellas, when Henry Hill dodges helicopters in his Western Saddle Firemist ’79 Phaeton coupe).

The least common Phaeton were those painted in Arizona Beige for 1978; silver and white were much more popular.

1978 Phaeton sedans received a special B-pillar trim molding as well, with Cadillac crest.

1979 models added an electroluminescent opera lamp. Hey, it was the ’70s, when luxury ruled!

The Phaeton returned for 1979, and was now available in Cotillion White with dark blue roof and white leather, Slate Gray with black roof and antique slate gray leather, or Western Saddle Firemist with dark brown roof and antique saddle leather seating.

The Phaeton package added $2029 to the tab on your Sedan de Ville or Coupe de Ville.

I was yakking with Bill, Ron and Jim, when this spectacular example drove in mid-afternoon. To say I was stunned would be an understatement. I knew there was a Phaeton sedan, due to the ’79 Cadillac brochure I owned, but I had never, ever seen one in person. And I have always loved navy blue and white with white interior, on anything. Very Bill Blass. So I, in a rather ungentlemanly fashion, said “Holy Crap!”, dropped my Coca-Cola, and scampered after it, camera in hand.

This ’79 Phaeton was a beauty! With the correct wide-diameter whitewalls, wire wheel discs, and perfect paint and upholstery.

Is that not an elegant conveyance. And let me tell you, you’re not going to mistake that for anything but a Cadillac. Brand identity was still quite strong at the premium GM make in the late Seventies.

Look at all that spectacular white Sierra grain leather! And everything color-coordinated! The only demerit is the fuzzy dice on the rearview mirror, throw that out the window, or give it to the guy with the American Graffiti ’58 Impala…

I really miss the period when cars were really specific to their home country. Cadillacs were definitely American. Mercedes-Benzes were definitely German, and the quirky, cool Nissan Cedrics and Toyota Centurys could be nothing but awesome Japanese conveyances. But I digress. Forgive me, I have strong opinions on vintage rolling stock!

Anyway, this car was a treat to see in the metal! 1979 was a good year for Cadillacs. They still had the bullet-proof Turbo Hydra-Matic, 425 CID V8, and plush, cosseting isolation chambers in velour or leather. In but a few years things would change, CAFE would appear, and smaller engines and somewhat less coherent drivetrains and such would come calling. But in 1979, you really couldn’t go wrong with ANY new Cadillac. And I’ll take this Phaeton. Just get me that white Steve Martin suit, and I’ll be ready to rock and roll!

12 Replies to “1979 Cadillac Phaeton Sedan – Broughamtastic Perfection in Chicagoland”

  1. ArBee

    Gorgeous car, thanks for the write up. I too miss the days when cars had identifiable national characteristics. If you wanted cosseting, you bought American. A Jaguar gave you elegance and performance (and a few headaches), while a Mercedes had splendid Germanic presence. All the Cadillacs shown here are beautiful, but the Phaeton package, especially in Cotillion White, is something I might well have spent the extra money for.

    Reply
  2. John C.

    My favorite was the 78 Eldorado Biarritz. You mentioned your friend’s family getting it in late 1978. By then the next generation would have been at the dealer with its trim style and not Cadillac small block. That too was a classic but I can see GM biting it’s nails and maybe even having a few spare classics around to lessen the shock.

    Amazing how many have been chased off at CC. He had a question of the day a while back about drum style mirror thermometers on driver door and when they went away. He didn’t know and his current commenters had no definite answer, just a lot of snark that they stunk. Think the old crowd might have had more answers.

    Reply
    • JustPassinThru

      Yes, to the run-off and ideological cleansing. There’s little tolerance for contrarian views, no matter how decorously expressed – which is odd, because the owner’s whole worldview is dissonance. The site is to celebrate old cars; and yet, when you point out why those old cars or their winning features cannot be recreated or resurrected, you’re damned as an apostate. How DARE you speak ill of our savior, GOVERNMENT.

      And, as is always done with apostates…since they cannot (yet) burn posters at the stake, they exile them.

      I’m glad some of the better talent is finding placement at places like this.

      Reply
      • Carmine

        I’m not even going to sugarcoat it, Neidermeyer was an unbelievable asshole, just pure hippie trash with a little bit of money wishing he was an arbiter of taste. I remember he ran a long diatribe about how no one should make fun of the Prius or Prius owners on his site and that any posts with anything derogatory about the Prius or their owners would be deleted, which required me to immediately call him out on his bullshit when I mentioned several articles where he called Pontiac owners “white trash” and worse and I asked him if those articles were going to be deleted to. Hypocrite schmuck.

        Reply
    • Bill

      John, Tom was talking about me with the ’78 Eldo. My Dad missed the deadline to actually order a new one (I think the Custom Biarritz Classic was only able to be ordered from May-July, if memory serves). My Dad bought our car off of a bank repo in December 1978. At that time they were nowhere to be found, and he wanted one really bad. He worked for the bank, so he had a little inside info on that car. When he bought it I think it had about 11K on the clock already, now it just turned 33K.

      Reply
      • John C.

        Thanks for the extra detail and for taking such good care of it. Do you know what your parents thought of the next generation? The two cars were after the same market and had some driveline similarities, but seemed so different.

        Reply
        • Bill

          John, to be honest, Dad wasn’t a huge fan of the downsized cars. Keep in mind I still have the ’58 Fleetwood he bought new. To be completely honest, the last one he REALLY enjoyed was his ’68 Eldorado. He liked the 70’s stuff, but never raved about it like some of the older stuff. But, all of that being said the Custom Biarritz Classic he did fall in love with, the colors did it for him.

          Another factor for my parents was that they both used wheelchairs, and needed room behind the drivers seat to pull it into the car (before they had lifts for that sort of thing). The Eldorado up to ’78 had enough room, but ’79’s didn’t cut it. The Coupe de Ville did, but the hump in the floor made it harder than he wanted it to be. So….until he passed everything he drove was a ’70’s Eldorado until he couldn’t do it anymore and needed a handicapped accessible van.

          Reply
          • John C.

            I thought that might be the attitude about the 79 generation. Cadillac no doubt spent up to give IRS and 4 wheel discs as if that what was selling Mercedes. Still ending up with the same old buyers, I have always thought it was just a generational shift against American big business that benefited MB and hurt Lincoln and Cadillac.

            Some details deteriorated in the seventies, but I wonder how much of that was people just not willing to pay to have it done right. Remember how burned Detroit was by the Lincoln Continental Mark II and Cadillac Eldorado in the late 50s.The lesson had to be keep the prices down.

  3. stingray65

    Great photos and write-up as usual Tom. Easy to see why these were popular when new – much more luxury and space, and equal acceleration and fuel economy versus the 450SEL, for about half the price. Too bad Cadillac lost the plot completely in the 1980s.

    Reply
  4. Glenn Kramer

    Tom,

    We’re glad that 2015 was the “Summer of LCOC” for you! Another great article, I had a ’78 Biarritz, the tufted seats were so posh that you could take a Big Gulp and twist it into the square buttoned indentations, using them as cup holders! Not in the design parameters admittedly, but useful.

    Reply

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