Vellum Venom: 1992 Cadillac Brougham

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta
vellum venom 1992 cadillac brougham
Cadillac suffered no dearth of cultural relevance back in ’92, but mercifully today’s tone deaf marketing digs make way for a move back to Detroit. And while my heavily East Asian/European design influences at CCS were no harbinger of global platforms, inauthentic proportioning and ridiculous alphanumeric names, I [s]secretly[/s] wish Kanye’s CCS mic-drop coulda done me a solid and went there instead. No matter. The “ Without the Escalade, I don’t know where we would be” situation is proof that brand-relevant design must remain in modernization/globalization’s righteous quest.
Approach a Cadillac Brougham and there’s opulence, majesty, indulgence. But unlike the beveled, deeply sculpted negative area of the Town Car, the Brougham presents the world with a low slung, flat face, and imposing chrome-plated details.
Stand up and the Brougham’s flat face gets interesting: pointy grille that’s a natural extension of the creased/domed hood, and a bumper that matches said grille’s crease. And that domed hood? It literally carries the visual heft of the cabin, letting the rest of the front end swing low and hang loose.
The 1990 redesign included flush headlights: decades of design DNA ushered into the modern era, avoiding brand dilution. These were such a hit they influenced decades of quad-headlight conversions on other GM products, perhaps mostly in the American South: bridging that gap is contemporizing without losing soul!
Again, see how the flatness of the front clip contrasts to the long, gently curved, hood.
The hood bling accentuates the dome’s curvature, while the pointy end’s finish suggests this was a pricey addition.
The light bezel compliments the grille frame: three brutally blunt, remarkably low profile plateaus of luxury? Yet the lack of depth merely slapped on a flat facade looks…cheap.
Emblems tacked onto grille teeth? The original (1977) stamped chrome trim or 1978’s emblem on a painted surface were superior.
Cadillac shoulda never abandoned the wreath, never streamlined the crest and eliminated the cute duckies. He mighta been a scoundrel, but the crest of Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac takes new meaning here. Except what do they say about the sins and their shadows?
Ribbed plastic trim was a 1980s design hallmark. By 1990 the Brougham couldn’t resist: shockingly, it’s aged well.
Sadly, this bumper isn’t a single-piece aluminum casting: shameful slipshod construction.
Step back and the bumper components disappear, letting the imagination experience better build quality.
The bold, fender-mounted turn signal monitors retain their opulent 1970s-worthy size. With less real estate, they seem tacked-on but are still a welcome sight.
Euro-cladding can’t hide the Brougham’s unbelievably angular attitude and tacked-on chrome attachments. An odd, yet glorious thing.
Like Chevy trucks, the square-ish wheel arches are counter-intuitive, yet complement the low, horizon-hugging hood line. No such credit for the fender’s extra filler panel (white) and poorly-transitioned chrome arch trim: it’s a choppy flow.
Fake wire wheel “covers” aren’t easy to make, but their space constraints (from the steel wheel’s hard points) ensure they look cheap.
Appalling panel gaps, but there’s a logical line ending (starting?) the hood/fender/doors.
Jagged lines are not Cadillac’s finest hour.
But it’s inspiring to stare down that hood, Wreath and Crest at the end.
The chrome bits accentuate the elegant, speedy roof pillars.
The chrome and vinyl work harmoniously, credit due to the beautiful transition from hood chrome to lower DLO chrome trim.
The grill’s branding needed this stamped logo, giving the feeling of quality much like a finely-embossed business card.
See the boxy lines at the door-to-fender? 1977+ Cadillacs lost the aggressive curvature of the outgoing model’s fuselage bodysides, while this extra cladding ensures extra visual heft. Perhaps the boxy Brougham was a sign of things to come for today’s CUV-inspired sedans: tall, flat, almost no taper.
The already-thin B-pillar gets visually thinner with chrome paneling and a wispy coach lamp. Too bad the lamp isn’t centered on the B-pillar.
Branded door locks need to make a comeback.
Too bad the chrome B-pillar appliqué (the big center piece) can’t wrap around the sides (white paint behind it), but the window chrome makes a clean, expensive-looking design.
Up close the coach lamp looks beautiful. Step back and it’s still a shameful implementation.
The chrome window trim continues around the rear window, again hiding the mundane metal beneath perfectly.
The vinyl-covered vent window integrates the door and C-pillar: window dressing with jet plane cabin-like negative area. It’s no substitute for proper coachwork from the Fleetwood Series 75: utilizing the coupe’s C-pillar with integral quarter window is the right way to have “the limo look.” Put another way, don’t turn a door’s vent window into a quarter window for the C-pillar: visual cheating is still cheating.
The Brougham needs fender skirts to go with the push button handles and faux-limo top, why does the wrong-wheel drive Fleetwood get the glory instead?The dog leg door isn’t especially elegant and speedy, but it complements the square wheel wells.
Nothing out-charms a Cadillac Wreath + Crest nestled within a deeply padded, richly-grained vinyl top.
The color matched and chromed trim is suitably dressy, but fitment against the solid-white trim (running down from the C-pillar) is depressing.
If only every design element had the smooth transition of this white vinyl tucked into white/chrome retaining trim.
Case in point: the two-piece chrome above the gray cladding: why wasn’t this a single stamping?
Still, the look is neat and tidy from other angles, the perfect canvas for those traditional door handles.
Soaking up the side profile (sorry, I couldn’t photograph this on “my” car) the Brougham’s fitment inconsistencies are lost in the long sheetmetal and modest (yes, really) chrome accents. The wraparound front bumper with bling-reducing cladding truly modernizes Cadillac’s legacy: aside from the awful seat belts, this is how a vehicle should evolve over time.
Up close the dreaded body fillers (the part between the chrome cap and the Brougham emblem) rear their ugly head on another GM vehicle. Maybe collision/assembly constraints mandated fillers, but comically poor fit/finish is depressing.
Imagine the tail fins’ beauty if they were one piece of steel!
The rear window’s slick trimming gives an infinity pool feel to the glass against the roof: a wonderful transition for two automotive elements!
The overall shape (bumpers/trunk/reverse lights) shares Eldorado DNA, especially the 1978 version. Let’s jettison 2-4-6 year product lifecycles for something more…cohesive?
That trunk, with negative area creating/accentuating the tail fins, creates a “top hat” form. Also note the strong centerline crease.
The top hat is sharp, softened in enough places to form a complex styling element.
Miserable: body fillers truly ruined the Brougham.NOTE: this is an all original Bro-ham with 40,000 babied miles.
Insert Ball Bearing joke here.
The tail fin’s chrome aligns poorly with the bumper. The laid back tail light is close, but not the same angle as the decklid’s cutline: a slick implementation.
A better shot of the poor panel gaps.
Perhaps the exposed screw is better than forcing owners behind the light, under the body to change a mere bulb. As if Cadillac owners are supposed to work on their own car?
An iconic, unique and beautiful way to come to a stop since the late 1940s. But when new, my brother made the joke that the white lenses are cataracts: suggesting the Brougham’s age/outdated nature. Still funny, but I reckon he’d take it back to avoid Cadillac’s present reality.
The license plate’s chrome mustache is clearly tacked-on, the reverse lamps are off-center and too short (a la coach lamps) and there’s yet another superfluous chrome part atop the bumper. But props for promoting that biggest in class(?) 5.7L engine, and a nice hat tip to the 8.2L emblem.
Imagine this design with the minimalist construction of, say, any other luxury sedan from this vantage point.
There were plenty of trunk lock covers back then, but ain’t nothing like a Cadillac Wreath + Crest on it. The way light dances across this emblem! While I’m optimistic for the brand’s post-NYC future, what if it moved to one of the brand’s cultural strongholds? Because the American South would cordially work with today’s world-class Detroit: re-pop the Brougham’s style on a luxuriously-proportioned body, standard LSX-FTW power (V-series what?), sell at Escalade prices, and use a modern three-letter name: LAC. With every mack wanting a LAC, the CT6 and Cadillac’s checkered past shall become a memory. Marinate on that. Thank you for reading, I hope you have a lovely day. [Images: 2018 Sajeev Mehta/The Truth About Cars, Side shot: My Classic Garage]
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2 of 76 comments
  • Ponchoman49 Ponchoman49 on Mar 05, 2019

    I had a 1990 in grey with De'Elegance package and the Olds 307 bought for a measly 950 bucks 5 years ago with a little over 100K on the clock. The previous owner apparently never washed it and left it sitting under a tree where the sap ruined the paint after years of parking it there. Two of the wire wheel covers were replaced with Caprice Classic covers and it badly needed new brakes. A trip to the junk yard yielded 2 nice newer tires mounted on original 15" steel wheels and exact matching wire wheels for a price of just 62 bucks! The brakes were 12 bucks for front pads and luckily the rotors were still in good shape. A few bucks for brake cleaner and brake grease and she was on the road and drove beautiful. I even tuned it up and hopped up the carb a little so it would at least keep up with traffic. The fender gaps on this example raise a red flag if this car were perhaps in an accident. Mine had much tighter gaps by the fenders and trunk so either this car was made on a friday afternoon or was smacked at one point and straightened out.

  • Craiger Craiger on Oct 28, 2019

    Why does the link in this sentence (1978) go to a porn site? The overall shape (bumpers/trunk/reverse lights) shares Eldorado DNA, especially the 1978 version. Let’s jettison 2-4-6 year product lifecycles for something more…cohesive?

  • Aidian Holder I'm not interested in buying anything from a company that deliberately targets all their production in crappy union-busting states. Ford decided to build their EV manufaturing in Tennessee. The company built it there because of an anti-union legal environment. I won't buy another Ford because of that. I've owned four Fords to date -- three of them pickups. I'm shopping for a new one. It won't be a Ford Lightning. If you care about your fellow workers, you won't buy one either.
  • Denis Jeep have other cars?!?
  • Darren Mertz In 2000, after reading the glowing reviews from c/d in 1998, I decided that was the car for me (yep, it took me 2 years to make up my mind). I found a 1999 with 24k on the clock at a local Volvo dealership. I think the salesman was more impressed with it than I was. It was everything I had hoped for. Comfortable, stylish, roomy, refined, efficient, flexible, ... I can't think of more superlatives right now but there are likely more. I had that car until just last year at this time. A red light runner t-boned me and my partner who was in the passenger seat. The cops estimate the other driver hit us at about 50 mph - on a city street. My partner wasn't visibly injured (when the seat air bag went off it shoved him out of the way of the intruding car) but his hip was rather tweaked. My car, though, was gone. I cried like a baby when they towed it away. I ruminated for months trying to decide how to replace it. Luckily, we had my 1998 SAAB 9000 as a spare car to use. I decided early on that there would be no new car considered. I loathe touch screens. I'm also not a fan of climate control. Months went by. I decided to keep looking for another B5 Passat. As the author wrote, the B5.5 just looked 'over done'. October this past year I found my Cinderella slipper - an early 2001. Same silver color. Same black leather interior. Same 1.8T engine. Same 5 speed manual transmission. I was happier than a pig in sh!t. But a little sad also. I had replaced my baby. But life goes on. I drive it every day to work which takes me over some rather twisty freeway ramps. I love the light snarel as I charge up some steep hills on my way home. So, I'm a dyed-in-the-wool Passat guy.
  • Paul Mezhir As awful as the styling was on these cars, they were beautifully assembled and extremely well finished for the day. The doors closed solidly, the ride was extremely quiet and the absence of squeaks and rattles was commendable. As for styling? Everything's beautiful in it's own way.....except for the VI's proportions were just odd: the passenger compartment and wheelbase seemed to be way too short, especially compared to the VI sedan. Even the short-lived Town Coupe had much better proportions. None of the fox-body Lincolns could compare to the beautiful proportions of the Mark was the epitome of long, low, sleek and elegant. The proportions were just about perfect from every angle.
  • ToolGuy Silhouetting yourself on a ridge like that is an excellent way to get yourself shot ( Skylining)."Don't you know there's a special military operation on?"