By on January 3, 2022

1988 Cadillac Fleetwood d'Elegance in Colorado junkyard, RH front view - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars1988 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.

1988 Cadillac Fleetwood d'Elegance in Colorado junkyard, side glass - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe 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.

1988 Cadillac Fleetwood d'Elegance in Colorado junkyard, decklid badge - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe 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).

1988 Cadillac Fleetwood d'Elegance in Colorado junkyard, interior - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsAll 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.

1988 Cadillac Fleetwood d'Elegance in Colorado junkyard, interior - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsOne owner? Probably.

1988 Cadillac Fleetwood d'Elegance in Colorado junkyard, vinyl roof - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe padded vinyl landau roof shows some sun damage, but nothing too severe.

1988 Cadillac Fleetwood d'Elegance in Colorado junkyard, wheel cover - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe “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.

1988 Cadillac Fleetwood d'Elegance in Colorado junkyard, front view - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsYet 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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26 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1988 Cadillac Fleetwood d’Elegance...”


  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    True luxury driving requires a 60/40 split front bench and a column shifter. Anything else is a compromise. Really wish that Murilee could have confirmed the mileage on this Caddy.

  • avatar
    ajla

    “Oldsmobile 307 with just 140 horsepower but a mighty 346 pound-feet of torque”

    That is not accurate. The 307 was rated at 255lb-ft of torque in ’88 when installed in the Cadillac. I believe 346 would be the Newton-Meter conversion.

    • 0 avatar
      CaddyDaddy

      The 4.5L was a big improvement over the gasket eating and underpowered HT4100. Nice condition Deville. Never liked the fact they called this upper option level “Fleetwood Brougham”, as this belonged to the B-Body. Sadly, Caddy was going up against S Classes and Lexus’ with this model. A Standard of the World, it was not. GM did well with this car, 89′ got the redesign and 90′ got the 4.9L.

      GM used their pawns in MI Govt. to bulldoze the last decent remaining neighborhood in Urban Detroit. Hamtramck / Pole-Town. This was after abandoning Clark Street Assembly.

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    Another car who’s owner died and the siblings didn’t want to deal with it, so here it sits. Sad. Not that this is anything so special but I like seeing old mint cars on the road. Thirty years from now my garage will probably be emptied out and the contents scrapped.

  • avatar
    wjtinfwb

    I had the ’87 version of this same car… triple white over a red dash and carpets. It was my dad’s former company car, when the lease expired I bought it from the leasing company. Mine had the 4100 V8 which was extremely pokey, but smooth and pretty economical thanks to the Automatic Overdrive transmission. I ran mine to about 100k miles, never had any trouble but I did have it serviced by the book at Cadillac. My understanding of the 4100’s was they didn’t suffer neglected maintenance well, particularly the cooling system. A great car for a 500 mile Interstate run; smooth, quiet and those seats are as plush and comfortable as they look. I don’t really miss it but as with many of my past rides, I do wish I still had it.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Opulence!

  • avatar
    namesakeone

    Unless there is something mechanically wrong with it, I’m surprised that the yard wouldn’t try to sell it as a running, drivable car before cancelling its title. Even if it isn’t worth much as a collectible or something, this Cadillac would almost certainly bring more as a running, drivable–and actually pretty nice–car than with the few scattered parts it’s likely to sell, and then as scrap metal.

    • 0 avatar
      Mad Machine

      There isn’t much demand for 30+ year old American sedans that get probably 15mpg in real world driving. This car’s target demographic was old back then, and they are probably all dead now.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    There was a lot of, “all show and little go” with Cadillac at the end of the 80s. Cimarrons, Allante’s and little front drive DeVilles were not going to cut it against the MBs and didn’t

    GM’s “good enough” philosophy on auto design and build may have worked in the 70s, but by the 80s people were catching on to the con. Cadillac can pinpoint this time in history as being where they shot themselves in the foot one too many times and with few exceptions have been in a steady downward spiral ever since

    I don’t have a lot of hope that their new EVs are going to change anyone’s perception of Cadillac

  • avatar
    dal20402

    The tufted upholstery from the d’Elegance package is the bomb. I suspect your door-locker wants all of the seats.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      My family room (or garage) wants all of the seats. I can confirm the buckets are bolted into the seat base and can be removed from it as a (heavy) standalone bucket.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    A great uncle of mine bought a new 1988 Sedan DeVille similar to this one in light blue with dark blue cloth interior.
    He was a lifelong Oldsmobile 98 owner going back to the post war era, purchasing a new one every few years.
    He purchased the DeVille because he didn’t like the downsized C-body 98 and thought the Cadillac had a bit more heft, plus the V8. He drove it until age 100 when it went to a relative who had some issues with it particularly leaking oil from the engine.
    GM’s mistake with these wasn’t so much the downsizing of the C-body it was going to front wheel drive. With the independent rear suspension and rear wheel drive it could have been a better more competitive vehicle like a larger sport sedan.

  • avatar
    Russycle

    I can’t help wondering if those spoked hubcaps would fit on my Scion…

  • avatar
    Heino

    I love how optimistic the old Motorweek reviews are for the FWD Cadillacs.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Did anyone else catch the “Matlock is sponsored by” at the beginning of the last video?

    • 0 avatar
      MRF 95 T-Bird

      If anything Cadillac knew their demographic. Same with the Lincoln ads that would mock the sameness of GM’s full-size cars.
      Back when Murder she wrote and Matlock were in its heyday my grandfather’s lady friend down the block from him in Florida happened to be a Nielsen rating member. She even had the set top box, one of a few thousand in the country. When I saw it I thought “oh yeah so that’s why Murder and Matlock pull in decent ratings”

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    There might have been nothing wrong with this Cadillac except the original owner died or was put in a nursing home and relatives probably donated this car to a charity such as Goodwill or St Vincent de Paul where salvage yards go to their auctions to bid on cars. A 33 year old front wheel drive American luxury car is not going to bring that much in an auction and would not be worth the time for most salvage yards to sell for what they would get for it. If this were a truck it would be more desirable. This is the kind of car that if you don’t have much money you might get lucky and find one with low mileage at an estate sale. I would say the shape that this Caddy is in that it was a runner with very little if anything wrong with it.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Sadly with the 4.5 this likely should have been made available to someone in need but my guess is other than age/appearance, most of the low end buyers don’t understand “what this is” and wouldn’t take it for free.

      • 0 avatar
        Jeff S

        I would agree with you assessment that low end buyers wouldn’t take this Caddy for free even if it were in perfect condition. If it is not a Toyota, Honda, pickup, or crossover most would not be interested especially with the age and it being a Cadillac. Not all Cadillacs were bad but past reputation makes an old Caddy a turnoff to many.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          I wish things were different with regard to it, so many good people struggling right now. Even “free car” and it lasts a year for someone would be better than waste.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Agree but it is surprising how many who cannot afford rent are picky about a car even if it is given to them. I doubt this Caddy will be totally wasted in that the interior and body parts are worth more than the car itself. The leather interior is in excellent shape and the body appears to be in excellent shape. Having bought parts off of many junkyard vehicles many of them were trade ins or bought at auctions just for the parts which bring many times the price than the vehicle would sell for especially for older vehicles that are mostly depreciated.

  • avatar

    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.

    • 0 avatar
      Jeff S

      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.

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    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.

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