Way back in 2007, I kicked off the Down On the Street series (which was supposed to be a one-time reference to the title of a Stooges song beloved by me and the late Davey J. Johnson) with the first of what would turn out to be hundreds of interesting street-parked cars: a 1984 Cadillac Cimarron d’Oro. That led to something of a Cimarron obsession, and I’ve spent the past 15 years documenting every semi– intact Cadillac J-Body I find during my junkyard adventures. You’d think they’d all have been crushed by now, but such is not the case; I found this loaded Brown Overload Edition ’85 in a yard near Pikes Peak earlier this year.
1972 ended up being the final year for the postwar era of mainstream American car shoppers buying big, cheap sedans with few misgivings about fuel economy (though, if you want to get picky about it, you could say the 1973 Oil Crisis began while 1974 models were already in showrooms). Full-sized Fords sold very well in 1972, with close to a half-million Customs, Galaxies, and LTDs sold that year (plus better than 75,000 units of the Marquis and Monterey), and these cars were commonplace on American roads well into the 1990s. Today, the 1971-1972 big Fords and their distinctive snouts have all but disappeared, so I was happy to find this extremely green example in a Denver-area yard last month.
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.
For better than three decades, Chevrolet sold Americans full-sized sedans with angular lines and — in most cases— V8 engines. Beginning in 1959 (or even earlier, depending on how strict you are about the definition of “angular”), a big rear-drive Chevy box sedan was the most mainstream American motor vehicle… and that came to an end in 1990, after which the Caprice got a new cetacean body on the old 1977-vintage chassis.
These late Box Caprices have become very tough to find in junkyards, so I decided to document this picked-over example in Colorado before they’re all gone forever.
Cadillac had become by far the top luxury car manufacturer in North America by the early 1970s, with the all-time pinnacle of Cadillac production reached in the 1973 model year: 304,839 ’73 Cadillacs purred off the assembly line. Then, well, the Yom Kippur War pissed off OPEC’s most important members, European luxury cars gained more than just a minor foothold, and Cadillacs became so commonplace that their prestige value sank for the rest of the decade.
Here’s a big, plush Sedan DeVille, from the final year of Cadillac’s undisputed reign over the American road, photographed in a Denver self-serve car graveyard earlier this year.
Ford really set the standard for designer-edition luxury cars during the late 1970s, with the Lincoln Mark V available with Superfly-grade styling by Bill Blass, Givenchy, Emilio Pucci, and Cartier. The competition scoured the world for competing designers, with even AMC getting into the act, and Chrysler signed up Mark Cross for some glitzed-up luxury cars based on stretched variants of the aging K Platform.
Here’s a 1989 Mark Cross Edition New Yorker Landau, spotted in a Denver self-service yard a couple of weeks ago.
Back in 2011 we admired a discarded example of the last of the true Buick Electra land yachts: a 1976 Electra Park Avenue Limited four-door hardtop found in a Northern California wrecking yard. What happened in 1977? General Motors, suffering from plummeting sales of thirsty big Buicks in the wake of events beyond its control, shrank the Electra, ditching the pillarless hardtop in the process.
Here’s one of those downsized Electras — a Limited, spotted in a Denver self-service yard.
The first-generation Cadillac Seville was a sibling — or maybe first cousin — to the proletariat rear-wheel-drive Chevrolet Nova, selling well while also cheapening the Cadillac brand. The second-generation Seville, introduced for the 1980 model year, moved to the Eldorado’s front-wheel-drive platform and gained a bold “bustleback” rear body design.
Here’s an example of a Bustleback Seville I spotted last week in a Phoenix self-service wrecking yard.
Here’s a well-banged-up Fleetwood Sixty Special Brougham, spotted in a San Francisco Bay Area self-service wrecking yard last month.
Whether the 2017 Cadillac CT6 is the Cadillac you want, surely the CT6 is what you want Cadillac to be.
It’s not unreasonable to consider yourself a candidate for the Cadillac you can most easily afford: the ATS. But what does the ATS say about Cadillac; what image does it present?
Odds are the SRX-replacing Cadillac XT5 is the Cadillac you’re most likely to buy, the Cadillac that will earn more than one-third of the brand’s U.S. sales, but the XT5 is already popular enough to be decidedly mainstream. Cadillac sold more XT5s in the final six weeks of 2016 than the CT6 managed in nine months.
There’s always the Escalade, the upper-echelon Cadillac that’s far more likely in this SUV-crazed world to capture the well-heeled Cadillac buyer’s attention — but shouldn’t a big Cadillac have a properly big back seat? Shouldn’t it be properly long, low, and wide? Shouldn’t it have the streetside presence of a much more costly car, rather than the silhouette of its $49,000 Chevrolet sibling? And don’t you want to have a barrel of fun hustling your big Cadillac down your favourite Nürburgring-impersonating road?
There’s the rub, of course. You may not want, need, or expect your 17-foot-long Cadillac sedan to be enjoyable to drive — not just to be in, but to drive. Moreover, even if that’s what you want, it may not be possible for the CT6’s endearing on-road behavior to counteract a number of Cadillac idiosyncrasies.
There remains a select group of American car buyers who are actually buyers of cars. In fact, there are still American car buyers who want American cars. Indeed, there are still a number of American car buyers who want American luxury cars.
As an example, consider the all-new Lincoln Continental.
It’s not a hot seller — at least not in the conventional sense of the word. The new Lincoln Continental isn’t topping the sales charts. Indeed, given the fact, in November, the Continental was America’s 17th-best-selling premium brand car, it may not even be a warm seller.
But there are a couple of indicators that suggest the 2017 Lincoln Continental is over-performing; that it’s exceeding Ford Motor Company’s expectations. That’s not bad news for America’s remaining handful of American luxury car aficionados, especially with the measure of success being enjoyed by a cross-town Continental rival.
Cadillac built the tenth and final generation of the Eldorado for the 1992 through 2002 model years, and one of the trim levels had a maddeningly irritating acronym that could have come only from a large organization with many, many 14-hour airless meetings under soporifically humming fluorescent conference-room lights: ETC!
Yes, from the Volaré to the Troféo, Detroit marketers of the 1970s and 1980s knew that an accent in the car’s name meant “no need to buy one-a-them fancy imports with no pushrods in the engine, we got your class right here!” to American car shoppers. Unfortunately for General Motors, the Cadillac Allanté cost much more to make than those other accented cars, what with flying the bodies (on customized Boeing 747s) between the Pininfarina shop in Italy and the Hamtramck assembly plant in Michigan, and the Mercedes-Benz S-Class-grade price tag on the Allanté scared off most buyers.
That makes this car one of those Holy Grail Junkyard Finds, so it’s a stop-the-presses moment when I find one. Here’s a snazzy gold ’90 I spotted over the winter in a Denver yard.
Because General Motors felt that the world — or at least Michigan and maybe Wisconsin — needed a small, affordable personal luxury coupé with a digital instrument cluster, rackety pushrod four-cylinder engine, and a name that started life as the designation for an early-’80s Regal trim package, the 1985-87 Buick Somerset, sibling to the N-Body Pontiac Grand Am, was born. I have an unexplainable fascination with The General’s attempts to compete with high-end German sporty luxury in the 1980s and 1990s, so I was drawn to this California Somerset like a personal-injury attorney scenting an Accord driver with Takata airbag fragments embedded in his flesh.
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