By on June 12, 2015

24 - 1974 Cadillac Fleetwood Junkyard Find - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

So many rusty Junkyard Finds lately! We had the Krusty Kressida earlier this week, and then a whole week of corroded Coloradans before that. Now we’re returning to San Francisco, where cars parked close to the ocean dissolve in strange top-down fashion thanks to the constant salt spray and chilly fog. I found this once-luxurious Fleetwood sedan in a Bay Area yard a few weeks ago.
22 - 1974 Cadillac Fleetwood Junkyard Find - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

472 cubic inches, 205 horsepower.

16 - 1974 Cadillac Fleetwood Junkyard Find - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

The hood rained salty rust flakes for decades.

09 - 1974 Cadillac Fleetwood Junkyard Find - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

The interior is still Whorehouse Red and doesn’t look as bad as the outside, but the mildew/seaweed smell is off-putting.

04 - 1974 Cadillac Fleetwood Junkyard Find - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

I think losing most of a quarter-panel is a car’s way of telling you that its driving days are just about over.

This car is from the era when Cadillac was trumpeting sales figures rather than exclusivity. This didn’t work out so well in the long run.

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57 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1974 Cadillac Fleetwood, Terrifying Ocean Rust Edition...”

  • avatar
    Mr Imperial

    I’ve never set foot in California, Washington is the closest I’ve been-this “top down” rust approach on West Coast cars just doesn’t compute to me-I’ve spent my life in Michigan-our cars fall apart from the bottom-up, thanks to MDOT “Fender Dissolver” ;)

    Just wild.

  • avatar

    Ughhh!!! My eyes!! I think I’m now blind.

  • avatar

    See now if they had covered the whole car in vinyl it would still be intact…

    Hey, this is that top of the line Talisman edition. I was just reading about it on Curbside Classics last week. Note the bathtub-sized consoles in the front and back.

  • avatar

    I’ve seen cars with rusted-away rear quarters still running in Upstate NY, where there are no body laws and people buy junk to drive over winter – 4-wheel drive is most preferable – as a “winter rat”.

    • 0 avatar

      Yes, that much rust yet the rear inner fender liners are still intact and with that the trunk floor too.

      I’d seen cars of this vintage in NJ with just half of the inner fender liner intact allowing the trunk to catch all of the road spray and muck. I had also seen cars with the rear spring mounts pushed through the rusted and rotting trunk floor…

  • avatar

    Imagine buying an expensive car today without leather seats.

    • 0 avatar

      Mercedes and BMW will gladly help you with that.

    • 0 avatar

      It’s actually somewhat common in hotter areas of the world — hot and squeaky leather is replaced by wool cloth. Though it looks somewhat better than this Caddy or the beach towel upholstery in older Mercedes.

      • 0 avatar

        Wealthy Japanese customers of dignity and taste would never hear of leather in their personal motorcar. Grey or black wool cloth only.

    • 0 avatar

      I just did, and very happy about it. Dead cow skin is a terrible thing to put in a car.

      • 0 avatar

        You ordered a BMW with SensaTec, right?

        I actually really like that material. I’ve had cars with both that and VW’s V-Tex.

        • 0 avatar

          Old-school MB-Tex is an excellent material as well.

          I can only assume modern MB-Tex is as good.

          • 0 avatar

            My only experience with MB-Tex is my wallet. It seems to be very durable.

          • 0 avatar
            Roberto Esponja

            MB-Tex may be durable, but it’s horrible in hot weather. I will rather sit in the blackest leather seat as opposed to sitting in a light-tan MB-Tex seat after both have been exposed to the sun. And before anyone starts, I speak from experience. My wife had a MB with beige MB-Tex interior, my car had real leather black seats. I dreaded my wife’s car on a hot day.

        • 0 avatar

          Yup. Was going to get Oyster leather, but for 2016 Oyster Sensatec became an option. That saved me $1450 while giving me a better, much more durable material. Win-win.

          Though I would have infinitely preferred the cloth that Europe gets as the base choice on the M235i.

          • 0 avatar

            Back in 03 I was able to ask for and get a black cloth interior in my 330i. The prior car was leather and it was cold in winter and sticky in summer. It must be cheap to buy, I’d rather plastic or cloth-no moral objections, it just isn’t what it is cracked up to be.

            Amazingly unworn looking after 300k and no garage. I am truly amazed. It is a microfiber of some sort and probably mil spec indestructible.

            I paid a $625 upcharge for this.

            I think it is now called BMW Individual

          • 0 avatar

            You are a lucky guy! No Individual for the 2-series. And even for the cars that do have that now, no cloth of any kind available.

            I do wonder what would happen if you did ED on a 2-series, and swapped a leather interior for somebody’s cloth interior while in Europe. Would customs etc. pitch a fit? Of course no warranty coverage on the swapped bits at a minimum.

    • 0 avatar

      Some people still want luxury cars without leather due to devot religious tenents or followings about animal products.

      And the ironic thing is that, while the followers of two of these unnamed religions are at a virtual war with eachother, the very pious and wealthy in both still demand the cloth seats in luxury cars…

      • 0 avatar

        Isn’t hating how leather feels on bare skin sufficient reason without slinging accusations of religiosity? Or don’t you ever wear shorts and a tank top?

  • avatar

    When I worked in Hawaii 20 years ago, there was an abandoned 70’s car right by the ocean where tourists rarely ventured. Somewhere I still have photos of it. It was a flattened collapsed heap of rust with an engine block, the massive early 70’s style bumpers (why they did not corrode, who knows?) remnants of the seats and the plastic bits such as the washer fluid tank.

    I mentioned that to my boss, and she replied that place is where her dad would take old cars and roll them off into the ocean to discard them.

  • avatar

    Raul took nostalgia to the extreme.

    Finally, the young couple gave a finishing sniff of the home on Wray Ave, and left. Raul went outside and brought in his sign announcing the estate sale, locking the door behind him. He counted the till, and went over the figures with the old bitty. “This is the total sales, this is my fee, and this is your cut.” The white-haired woman’s peepers flicked behind thick glasses, now longer wise to the world. “Oh dear, I thought it would be more than that.”, she told him. Raul added a shot of charm to regain her trust, nearly shouting, “Oh! I almost forgot about the hats! So you have fifty coming from me.” This did nothing to alleviate the woman’s concerns.

    Raul and his trio of helpers carried their kit out to the Talisman jammed in the steep, tight hillside drive. “Gonna be tough to get the dually back here for the rest of this shit.”, he told one of them. “The shit” being the rest of the old woman’s worldly possessions, scored in the negotiations to soften his exorbitant fees. Raul carried the big score, designer headwear that once belonged to an old man, to the trunk. He sat the hat boxes on the ground, and fished out his massive key ring. As the trunk lid opened, it rained rusty debris unsurprisingly. “How much you think those are worth?”, one of the guys asked before climbing across the rear console in order to circumvent the worthless rear door. Raul downplayed the massive profits from his off-the-books Ebay store. “Probably not much.”, he replied, watching the trunk lid motor down, crunching rust as it made the final two clicks of it’s mechanism.

    Now that everyone was settled into the velour, Raul adjusted his pork pie hat, and twisted the decorated key in the chrome. “RRrrrrrrrRRRRrrrrrrRRRRRrrrrrr…” “Come on old girl.”, Raul chirped, thumping his foot to the floorboard. “rrrrrRRRRRrrrrrrRRRRR-WHOOOM” Now that the 472 was alight, the man held it to, presumably, 4000rpm for a few seconds to ensure that it wouldn’t stall. He pulled the shifter into gear, and all four occupants lurched forward as it came off the parking pawl. Raul twirled his index finger in the shattered tiller, making the power steering belt scream like a rudderman being keelhauled. The big block let it’s presence be known through the rusty shards of metal that composed what was left of it’s vintage Meineke exhaust system, and the behemoth thudded like a locomotive as it pulled away.

    The occupants of a Prius gawked in abject horrific amazement at the rusty barge sailing in the next lane over the bay. Raul felt the thump in his seat that could only mean that his rear passenger had deployed his footrest. The 472’s clappy note echoed of the girders of the Golden Gate. Raul glanced up at the mirror to find his back-seater swaddled in comfort, squinting in the swirling mildew breeze toward Alcatraz. “This is real motoring.”, Raul reminded himself, watching the expanse of fluttering sheetmetal before him. He pointed the crumpled ornament to the exit, and reclined to the center, while he rode out the waves.

    The thumping Cadillac waited for the garage door to roll up, and then blasted it’s charm for all to hear as it pulled into the small warehouse. Raul silenced the beast, and stepped out. The door hinge was a beater symphony in itself, and the extravagant mirror fluttered briefly on it’s vestigial attachment point. Raul opened the trunk to take a more in-depth look at his score. He brushed the rust flakes off one of the hat boxes, and rubbed road debris off the side facing the rust hole with slight ire. He examined the vintage camel Churchill fedora within, struggling to contain his delight. He brushed the fur felt with his hand. The condition was remarkable. “Gonna pull a fu–in’ preemie with this one. Motherfuuu…”, he said softly.

    The Caddy thudded past the home of it’s previous owner of decades past down El Camino Del Mar, and then into Little Russia with it’s rusty trunk load of treasure. Paul’s Hat Works would take care of the minor defects with this lot. The Caddy’s filletless bumper stuck out into Geary Blvd, prompting passing cars to steer clear as Raul once again swept off rust specks in the trunk.

    Raul thumped the floorboard repeatedly, but there was no “Whooom” this time, only “RRRrrrrrrRRRRRrrrrrr…” He finally accepted defeat, and summoned Jimbo with the dually and tow strap again.

    Fiber optic indicators on the fenders worked perfectly, flashing in tune with the hazards. Sweat dampened Raul’s hat, and he removed the pork pie. Steering was quite arduous without power assist, and the missing segments of plastic offended his palms as he struggled with the wheel. The dually gave the ‘Lac one last tug through the slackened yellow nylon strap. It pretzelized the front bumper further, and nearly gave poor Raul whiplash. “Jesus!”, yelled the man.

    The carburetor-less Fleetwood had been taking up valuable warehouse space for nearly three months. Raul finally got a call back from his car guy regarding the malfunctioning part. The word was “non-serviceable”. Raul walked over to the open hood, and stared at stuff he knew little about. He knew it was the end. Using the huge rust hole in the front as a handhold, he tugged down on the massive hood. It finally fatigued completely at it’s attachment points and fell away into a cloud of red dust and ferrous chips. “Shit.”, was all there was to say about that.

    Following the best Craigslist ad ever crafted for the worst car, the reaper arrived with a rather large tow truck.
    The two men took a long look at the car once it was loaded, and shared laughs.
    “Well…she was a good ship. Thanks!”

  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    A rare Fleetwood Talisman, wow. Even though 1974 is my least-favorite year for 1970’s decade Cadillacs, it’s still a shame that this one ended up like this. Only 1,898 were built for the 1974 model year, and the “base” Fleetwood Brougham’s price was $9,537. The Talisman package in velour was an extra $1,800, and leather would have been $2,450!

    “The Fleetwood Talisman featured 40/40 split front seats with a center console. A separate rear console was provided for rear seat passengers, who also enjoyed carpeted foot rests, seat back pockets, assist straps, and individual reading lights. The front console included an illuminated writing pad with pen and pencil, a lockable storage compartment for safekeeping of valuables, and an engraved nameplate featuring the owner’s initials. The rear console featured a handy storage bin, as well as a holder for a vanity mirror. Even a matching robe and pillow were available for $85!

    Very few Talismans were ordered with leather, making them extremely rare today.”

  • avatar

    The body may fade but how many millenia would it take to dissolve that 472?

  • avatar



    Phil sat alone on the beach, the gentle ocean breeze caressed his wrinkled face while his aged lungs took in a fresh taste of salty air. The sun had begun its slow decent beneath the waves as Phil dug his hands into the soft sand and felt the crystals coarse against his elderly skin. Phil grew up on a Iowa farm and until he turned twenty he had never seen the ocean, let alone the sand. Now, many decades later he couldn’t get enough of it. Watching the waves crash down and retreat on the nearly empty public beach gave him solace. When a man gets to the end of his life, he wants to know it was for some purpose. The majestic beauty of the Pacific ocean gave him solace and ever since he first saw the miracle of the ocean he wanted to be near it. His right hand raised pulling a clump of sand close and he took in its sweet aroma. Every beach always smelled different he thought. But none of the beaches he’d visited in his later years had the unique aroma of courage and death as did Utah Beach, June 6, 1944.

    * * *

    The initial landing had already taken place by 09:30 and the job of the 299th Combat Engineer Battalion was to clear the beach obstacles before the tide came in. The Sherman Dozer tanks rolled onto the beach and 2nd LT Phil Dawson’s platoon landed just behind the dozer tanks. Phil took a deep breath of Atlantic Ocean air before he leapt out of the LST followed by his troops. German machine gun fire rained down all around him as he signaled his men to take cover behind the Dozer tank. Phil couldn’t see much but from the side of the tank he observed most of the cliffs were smoldering from naval artillery fire. The tank slowly inched forward pushing away much of the barbed wires protecting the French beach. The closer they inched toward the cliff, the closer sand danced up around them being sprayed from machine gun fire. Phil’s troops returned fire but it didn’t seem to have any effect on the remaining pillbox positions. The tank’s turret began to turn and Phil tried to cover his ears before the loud report of the cannon deafened him. Disoriented, Phil peeked his head above the Sherman seeing the concrete sea wall a dozen feet ahead of him. He motioned to a sergeant behind him to come closer.

    “Orders, sir?” Sergeant Jacobson cried over the machine gun fire.
    “We have to blow the wall” Phil said to Jacobson and cried to the group “Cover fire!”
    “Yessir” Jacobson replied, motioning the troops behind him with a hand signal forward.

    Jacobson followed by several sappers ran out in front of the Sherman and laid firmly against the wall where the pillboxes could not accurately reach. The cry of a man behind him caused Phil to turn from observing the wall and he leaned in to pick up a wounded private as blood gushed from the young man’s chest.

    “Medic!” Phil cried out as the loud report of the wall’s explosion nearly knocked him over. The Sherman tank stopped and fired another round up at the pillbox shooting at them. His chest now covered in blood from leaning over the private in the chaos, he looked right into the teenager’s bright green eyes just as the private’s breathing stopped. He laid the private down in the sand feeling the coarse crystals mix with the blood on his hands. Laying his right hand over the boy’s face, he covered his eyes and said a very quick prayer to himself.

    “Advance to the wall!” Phil ordered the rest of the men. The immediate machine gun fire ceased as Phil led his men around the tank to Jacobson and the sappers.
    “Jacobson, lets check that pillbox” Phil said to the sergeant as Jacobson nodded and headed with him and two men up the side of the cliff. Smoke bellowed from an artificially carved entrance to the cave as the other two privates took positions to the left of the entrance. Phil nodded “no” when Jacobson pointed to a grenade on his belt. Jacobson slowly stuck his barrel around the side of rock for a clear shot inside, he and the privates fired their M1 rifles into the entrance of the cave. Not receiving any return fire, they entered the pillbox.

    Morning light shone in the thin machine gun opening of the pillbox and covered the corpses of three German conscripts. Jacobson attached a bayonet to his rifle to inspect the corpses near the now silent MG34 machine gun. Phil walked in behind Jacobson and was startled to find a conscript half crushed in rock still apparently breathing. The blonde conscript observed Phil approaching him and waved his free hand wildly.

    “Mercy!” the blonde conscript cried.

    Jacobson now startled, turned to aim his rifle which was caught by Phil as it was raised.

    “Sergeant, the pillbox is secure. Take the men back to the wall.” Phil said in a monotone voice. Jacobson bit his lip and complied, leaving the bunker. Phil stood over the crushed man as a strange calm seemed to descend over the man’s face.

    “Mercy, bitte!” the man cried out in a weak voice.

    Phil pulled his chrome plated Colt 1911 from its holster and held the barrel in his left hand as he looked at the blonde conscript. Sunlight shined off of the chrome finish onto Phil’s face as he noted the blood on the Heer uniform and the conscript’s bright green eyes. The man’s eyes seemed to say “Danke” as Phil took a deep breath of salty ocean air, raised the pistol, and squeezed the trigger.

    * * *

    Phil found himself back in the public parking lot a block from the beach as he slowly approached his well worn Fleetwood. Salty sea air coursed through his white hair as he passed young children riding bikes on the sidewalk. One stopped to observe elderly Phil approach his car and waved hi. Phil returned the wave and noted the child’s bright green eyes as began to tear up opening the car’s door. Sitting comfortably in the plush but torn seat, Phil tried to ignore the unpleasant smell emanating from a combination of heat and age. The rusty Fleetwood’s 472 sluggishly roared to life and Phil drove his battle worn Cadillac out of the parking lot, heading home a few blocks away. He noticed a small black hatchback in his driveway as he pulled the scrap heap Cadillac onto the concrete. The rear of the hatch said “SRX” and said “Cadillac” on the trunk chrome which puzzled Phil in his dementia as Cadillac never produced a hatchback.

    “Dad, dad its Marty” a man said approaching Phil as he stepped out of the Fleetwood “Where have you been?”
    “Who the hell are you and what are you doing on my property?” Phil demanded of Marty.
    “Dad, I’m your son. Martin. Martin Dawson. Remember Dad?” Martin said slowly in a monotone voice “I grew up here. I’m your son”.
    “I ain’t have no damn son!” Phil said loudly into Marty’s face as he slowly limped toward the entrance to his house.
    “Dad we have to talk; Dad, you’re too old to be living by yourself. Dad its time for help” Marty said as Phil kept walking.
    “Help?” Phil mumbled as he turned around to face Marty. “I know you. You’re death come to take me.” he said as he pointed at Marty angrily. Phil’s eyes lit up and his mind was now sharp and focused.
    “Dad, what?” Marty replied confused and now irritated as Phil closed the distance between them.
    “You’ve come to take me.” Phil cried. “Well then do it, I’m ready. I’ve *been* ready. I’ve seen enough of *this* world, of *this* life” Phil said staring into Marty’s eyes as he tossed the Fleetwood’s keys away.
    “Mercy” Phil repeated as Marty hugged him.

  • avatar

    Of course it had only 205 horsepower – it’s missing 5 of the spark plug wires!
    As a kid growing up in the ’70s, these bloated, gas-guzzling land yachts got nothing but disdain from those of us who were looking forward to driving and buying our first cars.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX


      Of the 16 cars I’ve owned since getting my driver’s license in 1979, only one has been an 8-cylinder.

      • 0 avatar

        Wow, I’d never even thought to count this.

        I’m 43 years old, have owned 17 cars since 1988, and not a single one has had more than 6 cylinders. Guess I’m not a very good ‘Murican.

  • avatar

    My dad drove a 1974 Cadillac Sedan de Ville for a number of years. It never felt luxurious and was certainly not fast. In one of the photos, just above the inside rear window you can see a small vinyl-covered box, which covered a pair of red Terminator eye-like brake lights, which served to alert the driver (in the rear-view mirror) when he/she pressed the brake pedal. Older Caddies had this brake light coming out of the package tray like a periscope.

    That brake light vinyl cover could never stay on no matter what kind of glue we used, and whenever my dad went over a bump, my sister and I risked it falling on our heads. Good times.

  • avatar

    How come they show a different logo at the beginning, which looks modern but does not have the wreath?

  • avatar

    OMG, these cars were so beautiful new. Would love to own a decent one now. Cadillac needs a large sedan…not sure if the upcoming one will be what they are saying – the CT6. They need to give it a real name….all this ats cts, blah, blah, no one knows which is which. Same with Lincoln. Bring back the Fleetwood name – but definitely not DeVille, which was a turd for too long the last 30 years.

  • avatar

    My folks briefly owned a ’75 Fleetwood from the late 70s through the early 80s. It had a 500 4barrel and a catalytic converter – the first year for that. It was green with a green vinyl top. The seats were green with deep cloth.

    It was one of the first cars I ever drove after getting my learner’s permit at 15 and I certainly floored it several times while merging onto the interstates – for safety of course, and to enjoy the Rochester moan. The 500 was underwhelming, but the single exhaust with a 1st generation catcon (high restriction), muffler, and resonator, and the air intake muffler certainly didn’t help that 500 breathe well.

    A friend of mine in high school drove his parents’ 75 Olds 98 Regency with a 455, and we used to drag race the cars up and down city streets from light to light. They were both about the same with neither one quicker than the other.

    The Fleetwood didn’t do anything particularly well, but was big, plush, bouncy, lumbering, comfortable, and had presence. Mileage was single digit in town, maybe low teens on the road. I often felt self conscious in it, especially when driving, because it seemed so out of touch with what was considered “cool” in the early 80s. Kind of like watching Lawrence Welk – it was embarrassing, schmaltzy, and yet had a peculiar kind of appeal and gave me a feeling of safety and isolation from the outside world.

  • avatar

    I grew up in my parents 73 Brougham. First car I ever drove by myself. I recall the one collision that my mother ever had, when a Reliant K ran a stop sign. Broken signal light, and bent the front bumper and fender a bit. Dodge was totaled. I miss that car.

  • avatar

    I’ve owned two big-block Cadillacs, and the “wheezy 190 horsepower” ’76 500 was a lot bigger than it sounds on paper. It ran away on me twice. The first time the accelerator pump post broke and I nearly rear-ended my friend’s Tech-4 powered Chevy Celebrity before I got the ignition switched off. The second time I had rebuilt the motor with Maximum Torque Specialties parts and a lumpy cam. I put the stock Q-Jet back on it but didn’t notice the secondary linkage was missing. On a Q-Jet, the secondaries are opened by vacuum and closed by the linkage. I took the car for a test run and it started running away on me. I stood on the brakes with both feet and it kept accelerating – on just the back barrels of the carb. I switched the ignition off and coasted to a stop.

    I *LOVE* these motors.

  • avatar

    I think I remember when the last owner of this was still trying to sell it as a restorable car.

  • avatar

    “Whorehouse Red”? Haha no. That color is Victorian Amber.

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