Ladies and gentlemen, we have here one of my favorites, the 1971-76 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham. The top-of-the-line owner-driven Cadillac. Luxurious in space, in gadgets, and in power. The best “owner-driven” Cadillac money could buy. Despite the upper-crust European makes seeing increased sales, here in the heartland Cadillac and Lincoln were still the go-to marques for full-sized, uncompromising American luxury.
All Cadillacs save the Eldorado used the body shell introduced for the 1971 model year, updated with the expected annual front and rear end styling changes. By the early 1970s Cadillac was attaining ever higher and higher production records.
As a result the cars, though still luxurious and remarkably cosseting, were perhaps a bit more commonly seen. Especially where the higher-ups worked and relaxed: Office suites, country clubs, and the like. Judge Smails’s kinds of places, ha ha!
And so it was that in autumn of The Year Of Our Lord 1970, Cadillac debuted their 1971 models. All of them, from Calais to De Ville to Eldorado, were redesigned and bigger than ever. And remarkably attractive. The top owner-driven Cadillac was, once again, the Fleetwood Sixty Special Brougham.
I’ve always had a soft spot for the 1971-76 Fleetwoods, as one of the first old car brochures I got as a kid was the huge prestige catalog for the 1971 Cadillac line. In 1971, for the first time, the sole Fleetwood sedan was the Sixty Special Brougham.
The prior year, these were two separate models, the Fleetwood Sixty Special, and the Fleetwood Brougham. The primary difference between the two was the Brougham received a padded vinyl roof and the appropriate Brougham badging, while the Sixty Special featured a painted roof, or ‘slick top.’
Yes, Cadillac was on a roll in the early 1970s. They set a record in 1973, producing 304,839 luxury automobiles. And for good measure, the five-millionth Cadillac came off of the Clark Avenue production line that same year.
The 1974 models were restyled front and rear to comply with the 5-mph bumper requirements. While still smooth, the nose and tail were a little bit more squared off. Brougham fans will be happy to hear that the spectacular Fleetwood Talisman debuted in ’74, with decadent velour trim for you and three of your best friends, and center consoles front and rear!
The taillights were moved from the chrome bumper ends to below the trunk lid. Production-wise, things were not as quite as spectacular as 1973, as the first gas crisis hit in autumn of that year, right around the same time ’74 Caddys were first appearing in dealer showrooms. Model year production dropped by about 60,000 units. But this wasn’t really a Cadillac problem; all the car makes suffered, except for those whose lineups consisted of compacts and subcompacts, anyway.
Newly restyled 1975 Cadillacs were introduced to dealer principals on September 19, 1974. The most noticeable change were the quad rectangular headlamps, featured on every 1975 Cadillac. 1975 Buick Electras, Rivieras, Oldsmobile Ninety-Eights, and Toronados also received the square lamps. The new sporty GM H-body sporty subcompacts also received quad lamps: Chevrolet Monza, Oldsmobile Starfire and Buick Skyhawk.
Many West Coast and East Coast higher ups were getting into W116 Mercedes S-Classes and BMW Bavaria 3.0s, but there were still plenty of folks who equated Cadillac with success. Those traditional buyers were Cadillac’s bread and butter. True, the 1971 redesign had resulted in even bigger Cadillacs than in the recent past, but the upcoming Seville would provide an option for those desiring a trimmer Cadillac, but with all the expected luxuries, quiet ride and V8 power.
In addition to the aforementioned rectangular lights, the Fleetwood, de Ville and Calais got a revised eggcrate grille. Many new colors and upholstery selections were available as well. And the expected long option list, which by 1975 included several AM/FM stereos, tape players, Astroroof, turbine wheel discs, and Firemist paint, just to mention a few.
The ’75 Fleetwood Brougham retained its pillared sedan styling, that and the longer wheelbase being the biggest exterior differences from its less expensive Calais and Sedan de Ville siblings.
Naturally, Fleetwood Brougham interiors were even nicer than lesser Cadillacs. Monticello velour was a new option, as shown here in the 1975 brochure. It was available in six different colors. Six! Imagine that, with most new 2018 autos having maybe three interior colors. But back then, there were so many more choices!
The Monticello velour looks pretty wild and crazy to modern eyes, but back then, this was plush. This was top American-style luxury, circa 1975. I had the pleasure of sitting in this car and I can tell you it was most cushy. A very nice place to be. Driving a 1975 Fleetwood Brougham is very much like piloting your living room around the city.
Here’s what you got over a Sedan de Ville. That three extra inches or wheelbase all went into the rear compartment. Such room! You also got those retractable foot rests, another Fleetwood Brougham exclusive.
As Broughamtastic as the Monticello velour is, I would have sprung for the Sierra grain leather myself. Maybe white leather with red carpet and trim? Or navy blue leather, with matching paint and top? In 1975, there were so many color choices, inside and out!
At introduction, the Fleetwood Brougham set you back $10,414. But inflation twice bumped up the MSRP model year 1975. First to $10,424, and later to $10,843. Back then, sticker shock was a fact of life of new-car shopping, but most Cadillac owners probably weren’t too worried about it, ha ha!
This Cerise Firemist 1975 Fleetwood Brougham is a near showroom-condition car. At the time I took these photographs in the summer of 2013, it had only 38,000 miles on the clock. I was driving by Bocker Cadillac in Freeport, Illinois and this car was sitting right out front. I had to stop immediately!
It is interesting to read the original window sticker, which was folded up inside the owner’s manual in the glove compartment. This car is loaded with options, like Cerise Firemist paint ($139) and an AM/FM Stereo Radio/Tape Player ($89). Interestingly, the opera lamps cost extra. It is also interesting that a passenger-side remote mirror was still an option in 1975, even on a Fleetwood Brougham.
This car was in remarkable condition! And the color combination was very sharp! Cerise Firemist was a new color for 1975, one of several extra-cost paint choices.
The former owner of the Cadillac dealership was the first owner of this Fleetwood Brougham, and when he recently passed away, the dealership started liquidating his collection of 30+ vintage Cadillacs.
Gary, a salesman at the dealership, greeted me and was more than happy to open up the car for me. The sales manager, Chuck, was able to give me some of the car’s history as well.
This car looks just great, and I hope it found a new owner who will love it and keep it as it is – a time capsule to a time when 500-cu in V8s, velour upholstery and 234-inch-long Fleetwoods could be found at your local Cadillac dealer. The perfect car to drive from Chicago to Las Vegas, the GM Harrison air conditioning blowing out tiny ice crystals even in 90-degree heat!
The 1971-76 Cadillacs were the last true, unapologetically gigantic Cadillacs, and the Fleetwood Brougham was the best of them all. Unless you wanted to be chauffeured around in a Fleetwood Seventy-Five, this was the biggest, baddest Cadillac of the year. And the last of the true land yachts.
After the 1976 model year, as you all know, the Cadillacs were downsized along with their C-body brethren. And although the new cars were superior in many ways, they just didn’t have the sheer presence of these final Nimitz-class Fleetwoods. But superior survivors such as this one remind us of what once was!
The upholstery must have driven the import buyers crazy. I respect the confidence in your own people to try it. I have been waiting for a return to a good quality velour instead of the only cloth being on cheap cars and of the material of jogging shorts. Then an old Cadillac comes along and makes me realize I should be asking for real choices.
So, is the “individually longer wheelbase” because the rear axle is located such that no two are quite the same?
Good article. In ’76 I talked two of my friends into buying the “last” Fleetwood, they kept them for years. What an undiluted car…at the end of the line. Performance, appearance, safety and cost cutting were taking their toll, but the basic ’71 platform still stood proud. Never again!
I have little memories of the car; only of seeing them about in their, and my, travels. I thought the 1969s were a pinnacle of clean styling, and that the coarse eggcrate grill that later emerged, the separate valence panels for headlights, and then the rectangular headlights, were all steps downward.
The one Cadillac owner in my family, a maternal uncle, had a 1968 at this point…stacked headlights. I don’t remember it much. He traded in in year 1976, and his new Cadillac killed him. Traffic accident and the steering wheel broke and skewered him.
But the times…I remember well. My mother and one sibling, and I, took a trip from Ohio to her hometown in central New York State, fall of 1974. A three-day weekend – my father and another sibling didn’t make it – college and work precluded.
It was to prove the last get-together of that sort. 1976 was a hard year for her family, with four deaths.
But I remember that ten-hour trip on I-90 and the New York Thruway. My mother had the radio tuned to the Detroit clear-channel Adult Contemporary station she preferred…and, it being out of the Motor City, it was always automotive-attuned. Cadillac was making a big advertising push for 1975…I remember that damned jingle, it must have played every 15 minutes:
An American Standard for the world
…hold the last note for ten seconds. I endured that from Cleveland to midpoint between Buffalo and Rochester. That’s how far WJR would carry, in those days.
It hit me, reading this. That was 44 years ago. Forty-four years before THAT, the nation was deep in the Depression; and Cadillac just getting its mojo as a semi-mass-marketer of a luxury brand.
Much as Cadillac, and its market share, have changed, it was not nearly so much as the changes 1930 to 1974-5.
The Double Quarter Deluxe of Cadillacs……………Cadillac with extra Cadillac sauce……
I always loved these, I really liked the limo style roof with the thick C-pillar. The Fleetwood name and the LWB gave these an additional cache that they lost a little of on the 1977 and up Fleetwoods that were the same size as the DeVilles. Though sales still remained the same.
The big Fleetwood was a rarer commodity in the Cadillac line up, while the deVille’s would usually tally up 100,000 units a year easily, the Fleetwood would usually hover in the 15-20,000 a year range.