By on January 11, 2012

I must admit I’ve lost track of the variations on the DeVille name used by Cadillac over the decades; according to the 1970 sales brochure, this car— which I found at the same Denver yard that gave us the ’82 AM General Postal Jeep yesterday— was a “de Ville” (two words, first starting with lower-case letter). It’s pretty well used up, but you can still see the genuine pre-malaise luxury.
In my opinion, Cadillac (and, for that matter, GM) peaked in the early 1960s, and by 1970 the brand’s status had been watered down by diminished build quality and higher sales figures— this was still a well-built car, especially compared to its Malaise Era successors, but the Cadillac name was already beginning its long slide. The GTO taught The General that marketing was more important than product, and Cadillac was dragged along for the ride.
But let’s not dwell on the negative. Cadillac is building good stuff again, and the ’70 Coupe de Ville convertible was a helluva car. Check out this mighty 472-cubic-inch V8, with its staggering 525 foot-pounds of torque; not quite as impressive as the Eldorado’s 500-cubic-inch engine with its 550 foot-pounds, but… damn!
There’s rust. There’s Bondo.
Cruise control! Thermostat-controlled HVAC!
Why is there a rubber dolphin hanging from a shoelace tied to the rear-view mirror? Who can say?
The Denver Zephyrs were a triple-A baseball team that played at the future Mile High Stadium from 1985 through 1992. Always interesting to see such time-capsule stuff on junked cars.
I came close to buying the hardtop version of this car when I was 17; the sound of the Quadrajet-fed 472 was the biggest selling point. Instead, I went with a psychotic ’58 Beetle.

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41 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1970 Cadillac Coupe de Ville Convertible...”

  • avatar

    Don’t think I’ve ever seen a car with wiper controls on the door. (Obviously I never spent much time in early-’70s Cadillacs.)

  • avatar

    You don’t see these babies around anymore. I have never driven one but it must be like driving a boat! But this car has some character!

  • avatar

    The last time I saw one of these on the street was this past Halloween in Honolulu. The city turns into a crazy street costume fest and it was cruising around with a bimbo mannequin smashed over it’s huge front end. The guy had to stop and pose for pictures about every 6 feet. Was one of the best “costumes” there. The occupants looked like they were having a great time.

  • avatar

    Some like spice, some like vanillaroma, and some like rubber dolphin.

  • avatar

    I always liked these Cadillacs. I agree that 1970 was the final year before the brand’s downhill slide really gathered momentum. The 1971 models are flimsy and built with cheaper materials compared to these models. The 1970 models are still very nice cars.

  • avatar

    You take the dandy out of Sedandyville and you get a Seville.

  • avatar
    Darth Lefty

    I’m curious how you choose to judge a decline. Cadillac has been a nameplate for 110 years. In the “early sixties” it had been around for 60 years. Are the entire following FIFTY YEARS below your radar? Including the modern era, which is generally terrific? If you want a gauche barge like this to meet your standard, I think the CTS Coupe lives up.

    • 0 avatar

      MM indicates that modern Caddys are good…I note that the Frigidare log style compressor is long gone…as a kid the parent’s Eldorado (which had those door switches for the wipers, replete with a mist button) could freeze meat. The first Honda I was ever in couldn’t keep a doll house cool, let alone a car…one thing GM did really well, even thorugh the Malaise Era, was A/C…

    • 0 avatar

      “I’m curious as to how you judge a decline.”

      Well, I think you can look at it in aspirational terms. When about to start college in 72 a friend and I sat daydreaming about our hypothetical “successful” futures and what we would want. Nice house in the ‘burbs; a pool; a trip to Europe every couple of years and a Lincoln or a Caddy.

      By 1980, Caddy was totally off the radar for me but the older generation still believed. However I recall how actually angry one of my bosses was when GM came out with the fwd downsized Caddy’s. All his life his dream/plan had been to buy a new Caddy upon retirement and travel around. He had winced with the Cimmaron, and shrugged with the Seville but that was the last straw. He bought a conversion van; SUV’s not being in style yet. His generation was the last of the true believers got burned,and is now gone.

      Now there are two following generations with money who don’t want Caddys. GM may be laying the ground for the next generation but right now they have less cache than Audi and rate somewhare around Acura. You aren’t going to find a lot of college freshmen these days who will tell you they want a Caddy when they become successful.

      Oh, my daydream? Got there but the trips are to Japan and the cars are BMW’s. I’ve posted elsewhere about considering the ATS, but it actually unlikely till their quality is proven and resale improves.

    • 0 avatar

      Cadillac billed itself as “The Standard of the World,” and through the early 1960s, that was true.

      Today’s Cadillacs certainly aren’t bad cars – unlike the clunkers built during the 1980s and 1990s – but they aren’t great cars, either. Hardly anyone makes bad cars today. Cadillacs certainly aren’t as prestigious as a Mercedes, BMW or Lexus. Cadillac makes nothing that competes effectively with a Mercedes S-Class or BMW 5-Series.

      People are comparing Cadillac to Acura, and saying that this proves how far the division has come. Actually, it shows the reverse. It is a sign of how far Cadillac has declined that this comparison is even valid in the first place. From the mid-1930s through the early 1960s, Cadillac was the unquestioned top of the heap – foreign or domestic. Now, it is basically a “near” luxury car that barely competes with a rudderless 25-year-old brand.

      For all of the improvement shown by the CTS and, we presume, the upcoming ATS, Cadillac is really only catching up with the class leaders in those segments. It certainly isn’t a leader today.

      • 0 avatar

        “Today’s Cadillacs certainly aren’t bad cars – unlike the clunkers built during the 1980s and 1990s – but they aren’t great cars, either. ”
        I’d disagree with you in part. The entire LINE isn’t great (DTS / STS = fail), but it has two great vehicles in it. I’d argue the Escalade is a great premium sumo SUV, and the CTS-V is one of the best, if not the best, sports sedans on the planet (the base CTS is damn good too). It’s a good foundation. Remains to be seen what they do to build on it.

      • 0 avatar

        The Escalade isn’t great because it’s a Cadillac – it’s great because the full-size GM SUV platform is a great one. The Chevrolet version is great, too, so paying extra for the Cadillac isn’t getting you all that much, aside from the extra bling.

        When this DeVille was built, there were real reasons to buy a DeVille instead of a Caprice, aside from the extra length, Cadillac badge and nicer interior.

        The CTS and CTS-V are good cars, but I don’t really see BMW quaking in its boots over them. I presume that the 3-Series and M-versions were Cadillac’s target.

  • avatar

    This is a rhinestone Cadillac. It impressed people dazzled by the idea of a Cadillac, without delivering much in the way of any luxurious charm justifying the price of a Cadillac. At what point do the details here make you go, “Ooh!”?

    It is hard to like this car because it was crafted with so little emotion or interest.

    By 1970, GM was milking Cadillac and seemed to feel that simply building a big full sized convertible and slapping a Cadillac name upon it, made it desirable. There was little attention to any real luxurious details. The interior of this car looks about as real as a plastic Christmas ornament. The shape is correct, but the materials used and the execution is so throw-away chinzy. What we have here is disposable Detroit luxury.

    Look at that instrument panel. That is what a 1970 AMC Ambassador’s IP should look like – not a Cadillac’s. Faux walnut grain applique on the knobs? That would embarrass a pimp. Mattel toys used similar plastic as what we are seeing here. GM wasn’t even trying.

    What happened?

    By 1970, GM was coasting. It didn’t really feel any competition for the market Cadillac dominated. Lincoln tried, but was no threat. Mercedes seemed like it came from another world and appealed to conservative men that GM didn’t care to compete for. In 1970, Cadillacs were dream boats built by cynics and sold to dreamers disrespected by the men who built Cadillacs like this.

    When a brand gets this full of itself, it feels that it can solely define a market. It can cut corners, it can stop trying, but believe that as the superstar within it’s market, it can determine what everyone else does within the same market. To GM and Cadillac in 1970, if you wanted their best, you were to drive an Eldorado or a Fleetwood. Other Cadillacs were good enough for you, because Cadillac said so.

    This is one of those cars. When this vehicle was sold, everyone within the production process took a collective boring yawn and didn’t much care. You got yourself a Cadillac – big woo. Eventually, this attitude came to dominate Cadillac to the point where one day a man everyone assumed wanted a Cadillac, didn’t. He saw the plastic. He saw the uninspiring design. He saw that all he was buying was a name. And he knew that he wasn’t the only person who saw it that way.

    Cadillac catered to the masses without respecting the masses enough to give them something genuine. They kept doing that until they discovered themselves pimping out a Cavalier and hoping it would save their bacon.

    • 0 avatar


    • 0 avatar

      “They kept doing that until they discovered themselves pimping out a Cavalier and hoping it would save their bacon.”

      Quite right. At that lowest point, the laughter became so embarrassing that Cadillac finally turned things around.

    • 0 avatar

      Pimping, Cavalier, and bacon all in the same sentence when referring to Cadillac?

      Long have I waited for this day!

    • 0 avatar

      Yup. I always thought the Lincolns of this era were better cars, even though the Caddy easily outsold the Lincoln. Just goes to show how clever marketing/hype can trump good design and build quality.

    • 0 avatar

      Quote: It is hard to like this car because it was crafted with so little emotion or interest.

      That could be said about the bland generic soulless cookie cutter appliances made today. There is so little to distinguish between one car to the next and they all have boring gray or charcoal interiors with little warmth or charm. It’s got to the point that I could really care a less what badge is affixed to the deck lid as long as it’s reliable, roomy, comfortable on long drives and gets decent mileage. And doesn’t put me to sleep driving it!

      Quote: What we have here is disposable Detroit luxury.

      Again that same comment can be applied to so many FWD so called luxury cars today. DTS, MKS, ES, Azera, TL. Do you honestly think any of these cookie cutter generic cars today are ever going to be collector items in the future. Perhaps rare current Camaros like the ZL1 or the Stang Cobras or Challenger SRT8 packages. Maybe your odd 370Z. There are far more cars from the late 60’s and early 70’s that will be collectible than anything today if not this 1970 Cadillac.

    • 0 avatar
      Roberto Esponja

      Although I don’t think the 1970 de Ville is all that horrible a car (even though, in my opinion, it was a step backwards when compared to the vertical-lensed 65-68’s), I do agree with a lot of VD’s points. I mean, compare for example the interior of an identically equipped 1965 de Ville – case closed.

    • 0 avatar

      Unfortunately, I have to agree. The last Cadillacs that look and feel more like fine jewelry than mere transportation devices were the 1965-66 generation. The plasticization progressed over the next several years to this. In fact, I would argue that the interior materials in the 1971-76 cars are overall better than this. The interior materials and fit of a 1970 Pontiac or Buick are better. Not sure why, but Caddy drew the cheapest looking dash and door panels across GM in 1970.

  • avatar

    A good friend in college in 73 had a 69 deVille that his father had tired of and replaced with a 73. We often cruised with 5 people in the car, in comfort (and we thought) luxury. Easy power, great seats, lots of room, and great ac. We thought the quality excellent and he never had a problem wjth the car despite some wild duty.

    Interestingly enough his dad hated the 73. Lots of problems and a famous (to us) incident where in a construction zone a road worker lowered his hard-hat-covered-head and tried to run across the road instead running into the side of the car. What made the incident so infamous was that the worker was uninjured but the side of the car was pretty expensively damaged.

    Will that do for evidence of a (at least perceived) decline in quality in the early 70’s?

  • avatar

    Please, don’t get me started!

  • avatar

    I had never considered how rough a junkyard is on convertibles – wow.

    The dolphin on a shoelace is a big win.

  • avatar

    “I had never considered how rough a junkyard is on convertibles”

    But, when the top is intact and raised it is a wonderful place to ponder, to read, to dine or imbibe while reveling the rain and the unique sound it makes upon the roof.

    A sorta’ transcendental thing assisting the acquisition of a certain “mental state.”

  • avatar

    Don’t think of it as “a rubber dolphin hanging from a shoelace.” If it’s hanging from the mirror, it’s probably an air-freshener.

    While I personally wouldn’t choose a dead fish as an air-freshener, it’s certainly no more offensive than any other car air-freshener out there.


  • avatar

    This era of Cadillac was still special and I’ll tell you how. The sheet metal was THICKER than used on any other GM car of the era. I owned two 1969s, and two 1972s.

    The hood hinges have three bolts on each side. It takes two people to lift the hood of a 1969 Cadillac, while I could easily lift the hood of my 1971 LTD by myself.

    I’ll share one winter college driving story while in my 1969 that illustrates the point above. I was coming down a hill in Moscow, ID on icy roads, in manual second gear, pumping the brakes, when a lady in her 1984 Toyota Cressida sedan (top of the line Toyota of the day) tried to pull out of a grocery store parking lot in front of me. Her rear wheels became stuck in the curbside depression and she couldn’t move forward or backwards (it was really icy). I kept pumping the brakes as quickly as I could to scrub off speed, as I was in the outside lane and there was a car next to me so I had nowhere to go.

    I T-boned her Cressida going maybe 3-5mph. The Cressida driver’s daughter who was in the passenger seat jumped out and ran over to me to see if I was OK. I was laughing because it was such a non-event! No person was injured, but that couldn’t be said for her car.

    I backed up a couple of feet, revealing horrific damage to the entire left side of her car. The point of my left front fender had split her LF fender wide open like an ax. The center point of the grille had mangled the driver’s door, while the point of my RF fender took out her LR door. We called the police, but they never came so after waiting 1.5 hours we exchanged information and went our separate ways.

    A few weeks later, a person from her insurance company called me to verify the details of the accident. I described the damage to the other car, and then the person asked me what the damage was to my car and I said “none.” There was a long moment of silence on the line, but it was the truth! Not a single dent, scratch, or piece of the pot-metal chrome trim on the Cadillac was damaged (I couldn’t believe it myself).

    They don’t make cars like that any longer.

  • avatar

    From Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: [driving the white Caddy] ‘Now this was a superior machine. Ten grand worth of gimmicks and high-priced special effects. The rear windows lit up with a touch like frogs in a dynamite pond. The dashboard was full of esoteric lights and dials and meters that I would never understand.’

  • avatar

    I have one of these sitting in the garage right now. To get to some of the comments:
    First, it really is a land yacht. It doesn’t transition well (no autocross!), and it won’t stop quick. But within it’s limits, it handles well. The front sway bar really helps.
    Second, build quality is overall very good. Mine has its original transmission (THM-400), and all it does is leak a bit at the tailshaft. The automatic climate control is mostly controlled by vacuum, with a thermistor chain controlling the vacuum. After undoing one of the prior owner’s screw-ups, mine still works. Look at the (standard) leather seats, The seat backs still look OK after a long stint in the elements. The leather is very thick.
    Third, they rust. Apparently even in Colorado. Here in the mid-atlantic, they’re worse. I will attest that the sheetmetal is very thick though. They are tanks.
    This car is in rough shape, but would be a wonderful parts car back east…it’s in better shape than most. I’d love to have the chrome and trim (my car is a driver).

    Murilee, you need to go back and pull the convertible top switch out of the dash if you can buy it cheap. If it works, it is worth about $150 right now on e-bay. These switches have a tendency to melt as they switch about 20amps to drive the hydraulic pump for the top. (better yet, let me know if you can get it cheap…I need a spare!)

  • avatar

    Maybe the plastic dash that looks cheap to us today looked modern and contemporary in 1970. Maybe the 1965 metal and chrome dash looked like a relic from the fifties by 1970. You can make plastic into shapes you can only dream of making metal do. Just throwing that line of thought out there …

    • 0 avatar

      Don’t forget too, that safety standards were in effect at this time.
      Plastic absorbs energy better than metal.

    • 0 avatar

      I thought about that. But why would GM believe that it’s Cadillac should have an appearance similar to a Rubbermade breadbox? What we also see here is an attempt to cover up all that plastic with fake wood trim and chrome paint. If it was all so modern, why cover it up? When was wood applique ever modern luxury?

      It would have cost more to create an IP with the real stuff, so GM went cheap to save a couple of dollars, and cynically made this plastic bordello headboard instead.

      Cadillac competitors did not do this, yet met safety requirements.

  • avatar

    Although the 69-70 models definitely are NOT the best of the breed, I’m still a little suprised to see one of these on the scrap heap.

    Full size American luxury convertibles from this era are normally highly coveted, even the less desirable ones.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    Kind of surprising to see one of these in the boneyard. 69-70 were quite nice and had decent quality. 71-76 models had quality issues such as rust, bad trim etc. My dad owned a 76 Eldo. Nice car but the paint and trim could have been far better especially for a premium luxury car.

  • avatar

    In fall of 1969 I rode in my friend’s dad’s brand new 1970 Cadillac DeVille convertible, the exact same color as this car. What impressed me the most about the vehicle was what a total P.O.S. it was. The cowl shake was unbelievable and even at low speeds the dashboard squeaked like a mouse sandwiched between two sheets of Styrofoam. My parents had a ’67 Olds 98 coupe and it was put together much better than that 1970 Caddy. Chrysler DQR was already well on the wane at that time and it was only a year or so that Ford quality really started to sink. I lived through that era and I can tell you that it was easy to see how the Japanese made such strong strides in the early 70’s compared to the American junk that was being turned out.

  • avatar

    I would like to have one of these. It was Cadillac’s last rear wheel drive convertible.
    I have a 70 Eldorado already. I love the monster-torque.

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