I love 1970 Cadillacs. It goes way back. In first grade, my friend Luke Carlson’s mom had a 1970 Fleetwood Brougham. A coppery gold metallic, with white leather, white vinyl roof and black dash and carpet. By 1988 it was a little rough, but it still had…presence. Something you don’t really have with any modern Cadillac save the now-cancelled CT6 and current Escalade.
What was the last year Cadillacs were really Cadillacs. In the true and healthy post WWII, successful, gin drinking, golf playing Don Draper type businessman sense? 1964? 1966? 1972? A case could be made for any or all of those years. But I’m on my third screwdriver of the evening and don’t want to delve too deeply into it; feel free to play it out in the comments. My friend Laurie Kraynick has perhaps the most gorgeous ’70 Fleetwood Brougham in all of civilized humanity, in its choice aqua hue, with matching interior and black vinyl roof, but this morning I was drawn to this stunning example in Sable Black with gold brocade interior, espied on eBay.
Starting with its inception in 1902 and continuing more or less through the Sixties, Cadillac produced well-built, well-finished, impressive–and expensive–cars. Inside and out, wherever you looked you saw chromed, die-cast metal, leather, fine fabrics and extensive gadgetry.
The 1970 Cadillacs were mildly restyled versions of the all-new 1969 models. In my opinion, the 1970 Cadillac is that rare case of a facelift improving on the original. The revisions involved nothing drastic, and every refinement–from the new eggcrate grille, to new wheel covers, to new taillights set above a deeper V, to the fender peaks bearing the Art Moderne Cadillac emblem–simply looked great. It didn’t hurt that the 1969 body shell was very well proportioned for a luxury car, and enhanced by a subtle character line that flowed from the top of the front fender through the door handles before melting into the rear quarters. Very elegant, and so very appropriate for a Cadillac.
The Calais and Hardtop Sedan de Ville had an attractive “fast” C-pillar; but in my opinion, the Fleetwoods, with their traditional wide C-pillar, were the best of the bunch.
This Brougham, from the ’70 brochure (I have at least three copies), looks wonderful in Lucerne Aqua Firemist, but then I’m a sucker for aqua, blue and green cars. Like Lincoln’s contemporary Moondust colors, Firemist paints had a high metallic/pearlescent effect compared with the “standard” color choices. Firemist colors were available on all 1970 models for an additional $205.
While some of the interior appointments were not quite of pre-1968 exuberance, thanks to new Federal regulations frowning on reflective chrome and stainless steel trim, the cabin still offered an abundance of well-tailored leather, fine fabrics and most certainly, plenty of stretch-out room. Which is exactly as it should be, since the Sixty Special and vinyl-topped Brougham were the largest Caddies in the lineup save the Seventy-Five Series Sedan and Limousine. We’re talking about 133 inches of wheelbase, 228.5 inches of overall length and a road-hugging weight of 4,835 pounds (or 4,830 lbs. for the steel-roofed Sixty Special).
A lot of folks of a certain temperament like to blast Cadillac for cheapening their interiors post 1966. But keep in mind that 1968 brought much stricter limitations on the amount of chrome and other bright interior trim in American cars. Some of these folks think GM should have just said, “Hey! F the regulations! Let’s just keep doing what we’re doing and pay all the fines! Hell yeah!” Oops, never mind, I usually just think that part. Anyway, the inevitable result was a somewhat drabber look for instrument panels, steering wheels and door panels. Considering the level of trim and furnishings expected in a luxury car, the new regulations surely hit Cadillac harder than, say, Plymouth or Chevy. That said, I personally find the ’70 dash attractive. Especially in the aqua, red or blue interior choices.
That aside, there still was a lot that recommended the 1970 Cadillac, not the least of which was its proven powertrain. At its heart was the 472 cu in V8, which featured five main bearings, hydraulic valve lifters, and a Rochester four-barrel Quadrajet Model 4MV carb. Not surprisingly, it provided power, torque and durability that were second to none. Still rated at 375 hp and 525 wonderful lb-ft of torque, it also gave up nothing to the 1968 engine. As the saying went, a Cadillac could pass anything but a gas station. Turbo-Hydramatic was an expected and welcome standard feature.
Just below the $7,284 Sixty Special Brougham was the “plain” Sixty Special, which eschewed the Brougham’s padded vinyl roof. While much the same as the Brougham, it was priced at a slightly lower $6,953. A mere 1,738 Sixty Specials were built for the 1970 model year, versus 16,913 Broughams. Small wonder 1970 was the steel-roofed Fleetwood’s last year; it would be absent from the 1971 roster.
Whether a Sixty Special or Sixty Special Brougham, Fleetwoods offered all of the features of the de Ville series along with automatic level control. As you’d expect, the stitching on Fleetwood seats and door panels was unique, and complemented what the 1970 brochure described as “the rich look of oriental tamo wood on the doors and instrument panel. Sixty Specials offered a choice of seven sumptuous leather interiors, four Dumbarton cloth-and-leather selections, and four upholstered in Divan cloth. And there were colors–lots of colors. Remember when car interiors offered real colors?
The Brougham set itself apart from the Sixty Special primarily with its oh-so-current padded vinyl roof, but also featured adjustable rear-compartment reading lights, folding carpeted rear footrests and a two-way power Dual Comfort front seat. Full power control of the seats could be had for an extra $90-$116, depending on the model. Both the Sixty Special and Brougham received thin horizontal chrome belt line molding, bright wheel opening moldings and a wide chrome rocker molding with rear-quarter panel extensions. Fender skirts? But of course.
All in all, Cadillac had a good year in 1970. It produced 238,745 vehicles, a marked improvement over the 223,267 built in 1969. In fact, 1970 production set an all-time division record, despite disappointing calendar-year sales of 152,859 units, a performance due in large part to the major GM strike that, well, struck during the 1970 model year.
A 1970 Cadillac may have been a bit cheaped-out compared with a 1962 or 1963-64 model, but to my eye it remained every bit a Cadillac. Just look at that back seat. Comfy, yes? What’s more, 1970 Caddys were safer, thanks to new 1968 Federal safety regs. Lap belts were provided for every passenger, along with shoulder harnesses for the two outboard front-seat passengers. A dual-circuit brake system (a Cadillac feature prior to 1968); headrests; an energy-absorbing steering column; anti-glare dash top and A-pillar covers (the bane of all you chrome-loving ’60s Cadillac interior lovers); and power front disc brakes with finned rear drums were present and accounted for on every 1970 Caddy.
I actually got to ride in one of these. As mentioned further up, a grade school friend’s mom had a gold ’70 Brougham with a white top and white leather interior. They actually had a thing for old Cadillacs, since they also had a navy blue ’69 (I think) Seventy-Five sedan. Both cars were a bit worn out, but still did their fine pedigree proud. Anyway, there was a class trip to the Rock Island Arsenal when I was in second or third grade, and Luke’s mom was one of the drivers. Guess who I rode with? It was a cool car that was great to ride in. To this day I have fond memories of that car. She kept on driving it daily for years, even though it steadily got rougher. The last time I recall it running I was in maybe sixth or seventh grade.
Years later, I ran across the very same car (it’s hard to miss that color combination) in the local junkyard, probably around 1994-95. I was sad to see it had succumbed, but I guess it was nice to get to see it one last time. I took the Fleetwood Brougham plaque off the instrument panel as a souvenir of a happy childhood memory. To this day, it sits on my desk at home.
Yes, 1970 was a good year for Cadillac, and in my opinion, a good year for Cadillacs. However, it was all about to change as Cadillac Motor Division, in its relentless pursuit of profit and sales records, drastically decontented the 1971 models. I like them, but I don’t think they can match 1970 and earlier Cadillacs for sheer quality and presence. As for the featured black and gold car, it’s still on eBay as of this writing, seek it out here if you’re so inclined.