Junkyard Find: 1988 Cadillac Fleetwood D'Elegance

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin
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junkyard find 1988 cadillac fleetwood d elegance

1988 was an interesting year for The General’s Cadillac Division. The Cavalier-based Cimarron was in its final year of sales, the Hamtramck/Turin-built Allanté was in its second year (and priced about the same as a Mercedes-Benz S-Class), and the “traditional” rear-wheel-drive Brougham sedan shared showroom space with the front-wheel-drive De Villes, Eldorados, and Sevilles. The old Sixty Special name was still being used, along with such slightly newer titles as Elegante and d’Elegance. While the Allanté lived at the top of the GM prestige pyramid for ’88, the Fleetwood was the car of choice for those very wealthy Cadillac shoppers who insisted on four doors and zero Pininfarina nonsense. Here’s one of those cars, found in excellent condition in a Denver yard last spring.

The Fleetwood came in two flavors for 1988: The $28,024 d’Elegance and the $34,750 Sixty Special (that’s about $67,320 and $83,480, respectively, in 2021 frogskins). Both lived on the same platform as the ordinary De Ville (not to mention the Olds Ninety-Eight and Buick Park Avenue), but the Sixty Special had another half-foot of wheelbase.

The Northstar V8 was still a few years off, so the Fleetwood (as well as the De Ville, Eldorado, and Seville) got the 4.5-liter version of the High Technology V8, rated at 155 horsepower in 1988. The Allanté had a 4.1-liter version of the HT with 170 horses, while the Brougham received an Oldsmobile 307 with just 140 horsepower but a mighty 346 pound-feet of torque (the venerable Olds V8 continued in production all the way through 1990).

All the doors were locked (a common tactic by junkyard shoppers who wish to prevent others from buying interior parts before they can sell a few pints at the blood bank and come back) and I didn’t feel up to coat-hangering a lock at that time, but you can see through the glass that this car’s interior was close to mint when its career ended. There’s a bit of torn upholstery plus some tape on the driver’s armrest, and that’s about all the damage.

One owner? Probably.

The padded vinyl landau roof shows some sun damage, but nothing too severe.

The “wire wheel disc” hubcaps came as standard equipment on the Fleetwood d’Elegance, with aluminum 15″ wheels available for an additional $435. Real wire wheels could be purchased for 940 bones; those are much sought-after today by owners of Houston-style SLABs.

Yet another junkyard example of the Rare But Not Valuable phenomenon.

This is your life and you’re the only one who’s livin’ it. The Cadillac owners shown in this commercial appear to be one-third to one-half the age of your typical Cadillac buyer of the immediate pre-Escalade era.

The 4.5-liter HT engine was so revolutionary that it got its own TV ad.

The state of the art in six-passenger luxury, as seen on Matlock.

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Murilee Martin
Murilee Martin

Writer d'Elegance Brougham Landau.

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3 of 26 comments
  • Akear Akear on Jan 04, 2022

    This was from a time when GM cars were all basically boxes on four wheels. This was the era of the GM look-likes, which was parodied by Ford at the time. Still GM was twice as large back the than it is now.

    • Jeff S Jeff S on Jan 04, 2022

      True and GM is losing even more market share. This Cadillac looks to have been well maintained but it is not much different except the V8 and being a Fleetwood from the Buick Electra and Olds 98 of the same year.

  • Ponchoman49 Ponchoman49 on Jan 14, 2022

    For a car series that is often dismissed it's surprising how many of these are still on the road some as daily drivers and some as Summer driven machines. They worked quite well in the snow belt areas such as Upstate, NY where I live with 14" tires and FWD and the V8 did give this car a smoothness and torque edge over the less smooth Buick 3.8 when the 4.5 debutted. We were selling these cars at our dealership right up until around 2017/2018 but now they are very thin on the ground at the auctions. Its more Devilles from 00-05 and DTS's these days. And yes we still occasionally have folks coming in looking for these types of cars but not as much as years back.

  • MaintenanceCosts I've worked 4-day weeks in previous careers. Unfortunately, my current business requires responsiveness to clients on all five business days, so it's not really an option for me right now.But 4-day weeks are outstanding. The longer weekend leaves you with a true day of rest after you complete all of the errands and chores that we all have to do throughout most of our weekends. I, at least, felt so much better during the work week when I had that third day off. Based on my own experience, I'm fully prepared to believe the studies and anecdotal reports that say employers are experiencing no drop in productivity when they move to a 4-day schedule.
  • FreedMike Pour one out. Too bad FCA let this get stale - I was always a fan of this car.
  • Theflyersfan I'm still trying to figure out the meaning of the license plate. This'll be the hill I'll die on, but I think this was truly the last excellent E-class model (W124). In 1995, for 1996, the W210 "radical front" quad headlight model was released and all signs pointed to this being the first model being built to a price point and not to engineering excellence, cost be damned. Future models were nice looking and had all of the latest tech, but for those of a certain age (read: older), the upright, wood-lined interior with the clickty-click buttons and the aroma of the old leather Mercedes used - that is the Mercedes that some of us remember. For $2,500, this Benz could be an interesting project car for someone with deep pockets and infinite patience. It's cheap enough to where if you get started and then realize that this will nuke the budget, you'd still be able to sell it and recoup something.
  • Tassos These cabrios, while mechanically identical to the sedan Es of the time, were incredibly expensive, $80k when the sedan was barely $40k, in 1990s money. This does NOT mean an $80k car today, but an $160k car or MORE.AND with $160k today, you can get the most wretchedly excessive E class AMG version.(Not the S class AMG 65 tho, this will set you back $250k worthless Biden dollars).Back to this cabrio, it's a great, timeless design that looks and feels solid, yet when you sit in the cabrio, and I did, it does not feel half as safe as in the Sedan or Coupe.The engine is way underpowered compared even to the one in the Es of 10 years later, gas or diesel.They are also smaller and lighter (the sedans) than their 'kids' and 'grandkids"This may make a good COLLECTIBLE 10 years from now. As a daily driver, it is rather spartan today, except for the luxury interior.Again, this is yet another one of Tim's collectibles misposted as daily drivers.PS the Great Bruno Sacco designed this E class series, as so many other iconic Mercs. But you need to have TASTE to appreciate the smooth design.
  • Lorenzo The 300 sedan was the last of the RWD American freeway cruisers. Even the somewhat decontented later year models were still the most comfortable rides on 200+ mile freeway trips. It was also formidable to smaller car drivers: I rented one for two weeks, and not one driver in a Corolla or Civic tried to cut me off! That was a constant occurrence with my Buick Verano.