The Bonneville Brougham. Most primo Pontiac of them all. And my buddy, The Brougham Whisperer, Jason Bagge, found one out in Spokane. He posted pics. He bought it. I got excited. So excited I did a preview post last month. Why? Simple. I love these. Absolutely. Love. Them. Let me tell you why.
My friend Jason Bagge, also known as the Brougham Whisperer, has just purchased this magnificent 1976 Bonneville Brougham!
A good friend of mine is the “Brougham Whisperer,” Jason Bagge, also known as Mr. Caprice, ha ha! He buys real cars about as often as I buy model cars. Which is to say, a lot. Most of those cars are 1970s land yachts, though not exclusively so. But one of his favorites are the Nimitz-class 1971-1976 Chevrolet Caprice. He’s owned several over the years, but perhaps the coolest one he had is the subject of today’s Klockau Classic. The 1976 Caprice Classic Landau. In triple black, no less!
Living in the Pacific Northwest, he is in a great position to find clean old cars that just need a little love to be really nice. In fact, it’s uncanny. Every time he finds a new car I think, “Holy crap! I haven’t seen one of those since about 1993!” And then he sells it. And then, three months later, he finds ANOTHER one, often times nicer than the last one. The man has a knack for this stuff!
The final piece of the puzzle in Mercedes-Benz’s total revitalization of their lineup design-wise was the W114/W115 series of sedans and coupes. The ‘New Generation’ finalized the form of Mercedes’ new styling direction led by M-B designer Paul Bracq for the Sixties and well into the Seventies. This transformation of M-B’s look from slightly rounded Fifties full-fenderedness to sleek, smooth Sixties modernism began with the finless 220SEb coupe and cabriolet in The Year of Our Lord, 1961.
And it made sense to start with those models. The 220SE coupe and cabriolet were the top of the line. As many manufacturers have proved over the years, it is always better to introduce a new look on your top-of-the-line car. If you do it back-asswards, you will probably hear many a customer remarking loudly how the new Belchfire Eight Super looks suspiciously similar to the half-as-expensive Hiccup Custom Four.
And so it was that the W114 and W115 were the final recipients of the look that started on the 220SEb, sporting 230SL and uber-fancy 600 earlier in the decade. However, despite the presence and popularity of the diesel 220D and 240D models (taxi luxury for Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight money!) you could get a very nice version of this car, if you ponied up for the 250 (later on, the 280), which featured real leather, real wood, and a straight six gasoline engine.
As a kid growing up in the 1980s, the “Colonnade” 1973-77 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme was a constant factor. In my Midwestern city, they were, even by 1988-89, as common then as beige beigemist Toyota Camry LEs are now. But the one I remember the best was owned by my Aunt Candy.
Uncle Don was a mechanic. A damn good one. Back in the 1970s he worked at Bob Neal Lincoln-Mercury in Rock Island, where my grandparents bought their Lincoln Continentals and Thunderbirds. Whenever they brought a car in for service, they always requested Don, and only Don, to work on their cars. The other guys in the service department groused about this, but as Don was the best mechanic they had, they had little recourse.
In fact, Don was constantly getting job offers from other dealerships in the Quad Cities. My aunt once told me that at a Christmas party in the late ’70s, Erv Peters, a local Ford dealer whom Don was working for at that time, asked Candy how to keep Don on? Simple, she said, just pay him more money! So he did.
Once upon a time, back in the ’70s, there were full-sized cars. And unlike today, lots of people bought them. Single people, families, professionals, you name it. It was the Time Before SUVs And Combovers..Oops, I Mean Crossovers. People bought actual cars. True, there were SUVs and Jeeps and pickup trucks, but people who bought them back then were more likely to use them for something besides schlepping to work and dropping the kids off at school. There were, of course, any number of compact, subcompact and mid-sized cars, but back in 1976, there were still plenty of people who stepped up to a big Chevrolet. And the Caprice Classic was the Broughamiest of them all.
Remember Oldsmobile? Sure you do. Well, most people born before 1990 do at any rate. As a kid in 1980s Illinois, my neighborhood was full of them. There was the next door neighbor’s daughter’s beige Cutlass Cruiser station wagon, with wire wheel covers. Her husband had a metallic root-beer brown Custom Cruiser. Across the street and two doors down lived a cedar metallic 1982 Cutlass Ciera Brougham. About a block away, a friend’s mom had a white FWD Firenza hatchback. Expanding further outward, one of my classmate’s parents had a triple burgundy Cutlass Supreme coupe, and both my aunt and a cousin had a 1976 Cutlass Supreme Brougham and ’77 Cutlass Supreme coupe, respectively. So yes, I am familiar with the make, even now, over a dozen years after the marque’s demise. But what I remember best are not the Aleros, Auroras and Bravadas seen in the make’s final years, but the plush, velour- and leather-lined gunboats of the ’70s. Like the Ninety-Eight Regency. Continue Reading →
Was 1976 Peak Brougham? Perhaps it was. Sure, the phenomenon of V8, RWD luxocruisers with crushed velour and landau tops went on for decades after, but in ’76, it was everywhere, and in screw the fuel economy, fully full-sized form. Also, it was the last year for the gigantic Eldorado convertible.
Please welcome Tom Klockau to Riverside Green. You’ve read him on various other automotive sites, including “Curbside Classics”. He’s graciously agreed to toss a couple of articles in for the old-car fanatics among us, self included! — jb
I like old cars. I like new cars too, but whenever I’m on the way to work or the store or wherever, I always keep an eye out for anything interesting. Modern cell phones mean most people are carrying a camera anyway, but I still keep an honest-to-God digital camera in the car. You can’t even make calls on it, honest! And sometimes, I see some pretty cool stuff.