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.
Sure, there were midsized choices, and you could even get a Vega with a landau top this year, but for the folks with deep pockets and wanting the full road isolation experience, you had to get Biggie Broughams.
There were a score or more on hand for your inspection, starting with Chevrolet Caprice Classics and Plymouth Gran Furys and Ford LTDs, and moving steadily upward toward the top dogs, the Lincolns, Cadillacs and Chrysler New Yorker Broughams. And make no mistake, Cadillac was king in ’76.
Well, in the sales charts at any rate. Cadillac consistently outsold Lincoln in the ’70s, with the exception of the Continental Mark IV, which generally trounced the Eldorado. This, despite the fact that the Eldo was also available in convertible form.
Heck, the Eldorado was born in ’53 as a convertible, and it was only in ’56 that a coupe variant was added, the Seville. But that only lasted through 1960. In ’61 it was once again convertible only.
But then, in 1967, it became FWD and coupe-only, in one of Bill Mitchell’s coolest designs, as a pricier, razor-sharp version of the Toronado. But the drop-top came back in ’71. Confusing? Yep! But I absorb all sorts of useless automotive facts. If there is ever a “Brougham” version of Jeopardy!, I will win.
Between 1971 and 1976, there was a pesky gas crisis, and proposed legislation (which never materialized) over improved roll-over requirements of U.S. cars got lots of Detroit execs nervous. In addition, the increasing popularity and decreasing cost of factory and aftermarket automotive air conditioning led to a decline in the demand for convertibles. And so it was, with much fanfare, that the 1976 Eldorado convertible was announced as the last one.
There was a stampede. GM determined that they had about 14,000 convertible top mechanisms in stock, and boy, they used every single one. Some just wanted the last new Cadillac convertible, to use and drive like any new car, some (many) were speculators who flipped for thousands over the MSRP (which was not cheap in the first place), and of course many dealers took advantage of the situation and inflated the ask themselves.
Sales of 1975 Eldorado convertibles-of which there was no LAST ONE! LAST ONE! fanfare, was 8,950. 1976 production was an even 14,000 units, 156% over ’75 demand. And they probably could have sold a couple thousand more at least, as everyone and their brother wanted one, and now!
Yes, 1976 was a grand year for Cadillac, with giant lux yachts roaming the earth. Each of these fantastic, plush, open-topped conveyances turned in a curb weight of 5,153 and an overall length of 224.1″. But the recently-introduced Seville in ’75 was the future, at least in overall packaging. Luxury in a more manageable size.
Though the mighty Eldo would hang on in all its present glory-in coupe version only, mind-though 1978, the ’77 C-Body Cadillacs would be smaller and much more in keeping with the Seville’s design aesthetic. There were smaller engines as well (with “only” a 425 CID V8 instead of the former 500-cube unit) and yet more room at the same time. The future had arrived.
But as you may expect, there were lots and lots and lots and LOTS of ’76 Eldorado convertibles stuck in hermetically-sealed chambers, jealously hoarded by speculators. Which translates to many primo examples, never-driven or seldom-driven, being available today. Like this one, recently spotted by yours truly on the electronic bay.
Not only is it in remarkable condition, the color combination stopped me in my tracks: Greenbrier Firemist with white Sierra grain leather and green trim, and a white top. Parade boot, too. Oh, and only 34,000 miles. Nice! It appears to be ready to go, a running and driving vehicle. There are, I’m sure, many ’76 Eldorados with five miles on the odometer, that haven’t turned a wheel since 1976 and will need EVERYTHING to get running. Not this one.
If you like your drop-top motoring in extra-jumbo size, or just want to look at more pictures of this fine green motor yacht, you can check it out here. Oh, and was this the last Cadillac convertible? Nope! In 1984 the Eldorado convertible returned, much to the chagrin of those who bought ’76s for investment purposes. The folks who bought one to enjoy and drive probably just laughed.