From the beginning, Cadillac
had been nearly synonymous with luxury. People spoke of countless
products as "The Cadillac of (whatever)." Through the
tailfinned postwar years, Cadillacs had been poshly (sometimes
gaudily) appointed, gargantuan in size, powered by some of the
biggest V-8s around. Owning one was viewed as a milepost, a
demonstration that one had "arrived."
As the 1976 model year began, signs were already appearing that
change was imminent; that Cadillac's position might even be in
jeopardy one day. For the moment, though, little had changed.
Only Lincoln competed in the domestic luxury market, as Chrysler
had abandoned its Imperial. Beneath all full-size Cadillac hoods
was the biggest V-8 of modern times: a 500 cu. in. behemoth,
fully appropriate for the car's enormous length. On the other
hand, during the '75 model year a much different kind of Caddy
had emerged: the compact Seville, powered by a comparatively
tiny, fuel-injected 350 V-8. Unlike the soft American ride and
slushy handling typified by big Cadillacs, Seville delivered
control more appropriate in a European sedan.
Amid massive publicity, the final front-drive Eldorado
convertible came off the line in '76, selling for astounding sums
to speculators before levelling off. The bottom-ranked Calais was
in its final year, soon to leave only Fleetwood and DeVille to
attract full-size coupe/sedan devotees. Luxury-minded customers
had plenty to choose from, however, included three special
Yet this was the final season for the mammoth Seventy-Five limousine and
nine-passenger sedan. Led by Seville's popularity, Cadillac set
records for both sales and production.
Even though 1976 was a year of refinement rather than major body
or engineering change at Cadillac, it signalled the end of
several eras. GM's last convertible was in its final season. This
would be the final year for the low-rung Calais (after a dozen
years in the lineup), and for the traditional mammoth Cadillac.
Full-size Cadillacs retained the same ample dimensions as in
1975, but the new international-size Seville (introduced in
mid-year) was 27 in. shorter, 8 in. narrower and a thousand
pounds lighter than a Sedan DeVille. New grilles on all models
carried on the traditional Cadillac crosshatch theme, though with
a tinier pattern than in 1975 (actually crosshatching within
crosshatching). Cornering lamps on Calais, DeVille, Brougham,
nine-passenger and limo got new horizontal chrome trim, while
taillamps gained a new bold look. Standard wheel discs kept the
three-dimensional Cadillac crest on the hub (except Eldorado).
Cadillac's ten models came in four size categories:
Family: Calais & DeVille
Executive: Fleetwood Brougham and Seventy-Five
Full-size Caddies stretched as long in wheelbase as 133 inches and 233.7
in. overall (limos, 151.5 and 252.2 in. respectively). They still
carried a monstrous 500 cu. in. V-8. The smaller Seville,
however, actually cost more than bigger Cadillacs. It was powered
by a more reasonably sized 350 cu. in. V-8 with electronic fuel
injection. (Fuel injection was optional in all models except the
Eight different color accent
stripes were available, and seven convertible top colors for the
Eldorado. Vinyl roofs now were integral padded Elk Grain material
except on Seville and Seventy-Five, which had cross-grain padded
vinyl. Interiors were essentially the same as in 1975 with
rosewood grain trim, plus bright wreath/crest and script plaques.
New trims for full-size models include sporty plaids, plush
velours, knits, and distinctive genuine leathers. Calais and
DeVille coupes had a new vinyl roof, whose top molding served as
continuation of the door "belt" molding.
All full-size Caddies except
Eldorado included a Controlled (limited-slip) Differential for
extra traction. All had lamp monitors atop each front fender to
show status of front and rear lights. All could have optional
illuminated entry and theft-deterrent systems. The new Freedom
battery never needed water. All but Eldorado offered new-look
turbine-vaned and wire wheel covers. A new option locked doors
when the lever was shifted to "Drive." Cadillac also
offered Track Master, a computerized skid-control system that
automatically pumped the back brakes in an emergency situation to
shorten stopping distance.
Of special note on the option
list was the Air Cushion Restraint System, announced for all
models except Eldorado convertible and Fleetwood 75. This was a
forerunner of the air bags that received so much publicity a few
years later. Another option was the Astroroof, introduced in
1975, with sliding sunshade that permitted use as a
electrically-operated sunroof or a transparent closed skylight.
Both it and the "ordinary" sunroof panels could give
safety along with an open-air feeling, now that the convertible
was about to disappear.
Three full-size special
editions with new refinements were offered this year: d'Elegance,
Talisman and Cabriolet. New options included a pushbutton Weather
Band (exclusive to Cadillac) built into the AM/FM stereo
signal-seeking radio; loose-pillow style seats for d'Elegance
packages; plus power passenger and manual driver seatback
recliners for 50/50 front seats.
Of the 15 standard and six
optional Firemist body colors, 13 were new this year. The list
For extra cost, buyers could order any of six Firemist colors:
Vinyl roofs came in
dark brown metallic
All Cadillacs had as standard:
automatic climate control
bumper impact strips
automatic glove box light
High Energy Ignition
inside hood release
remote-control left-hand outside mirror
automatic trunk light
power six-way front-seat adjuster (not on Calais or 75 series)
power front disc brakes (four-wheel on Eldorado)
power door locks
AM/FM radio including power antenna
Soft Ray tinted glass
spare tire cover
Turbo Hydra-matic transmission
washer fluid level indicator
steel-belted whitewall tires.
For 1976, there were six models:
Calais: two-door coupe and four-door hardtop sedan
DeVille: two-door coupe and four-door sedan
Fleetwood Brougham: four-door sedan
Fleetwood Seventy-Five: four-door sedan, four-door limousine, and commercial chassis used in hearses and
Eldorado: two-door hardtop coupe and two-door convertible
Seville: four-door sedan
I. D. DATA
Cadillac's 13-symbol Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) was located on the forward edge of the
windshield trim molding, visible through the windshield.
The first digit is "6," indicating Cadillac division.
The second symbol indicates series:
"B" Fleetwood Brougham
"F" Fleetwood 75
"Z" commercial chassis.
Symbols 3-4 show body type:
"47" 2-door coupe
"49" 4-door hardtop sedan
"69" 4-door sedan
"23" 4-door sedan with auxiliary seat
"33" 4-door limousine with auxiliary seat and center partition window
"67" 2-door convertible
"90" commercial chassis.
Symbol five is the engine code:
"R" V8-350 FI
"S" V8-500 4Bbl. or FI.
The sixth symbol indicates model year ("6" = 1976).
Symbol seven is for assembly plant:
"Q" Detroit, MI
"E" Linden, NJ.
The last six digits show the sequence in which the
car was built:
100001 through 400000 for "C" series made in Detroit and all Eldorados
600001 through 690000 for "C" models built in Linden.
An engine unit number is on the block behind the left cylinder head
a nine-digit VIN derivative that shows model year, plant and sequence number is on the block behind the
Engine number of 350 V-8 is stamped on the front left
side of the block, below the head.
A body identification plate on
the top right surface of the shroud under the hood, near the
cowl), reveals style number, trim number, body number, paint
number, and date of assembly (month 01 through 12, week A through
E) followed by codes for factory-installed options.
V-8 Overhead valves. Cast iron block
500 cubic inches (7.7 litres)
500 cubic inches (8.2 litres)
350 cubic inches (5.7 liters)
Bore and stroke
4.300 x 4.304 in. (109 x 103 mm)
4.300 x 4.304 in.
(109 x 109.3 mm)
4.057 x 3.385 in. (103 x 86 mm)
Brake horsepower (net SAE)
210 @ 3600 rpm
210 @ 3600 rpm
180 @ 4400 rpm
380 ft. lbs. @ 2000 rpm
380 ft. lbs. @ 2000 rpm
275 ft. lbs. @ 2000 rpm
Rochester four-barrel Quadrajet Model 4MV
GR78 x 15B
x 15/B white sidewall bias belted
L-78 x 15/B black sidewall bias
Controlled differential (except Eldorado)
Rear window defroster, standard on 75s
Automatic Level Control
Eldorado reclining seat
Air cushion restraints
Coupe DeVille Cabriolet, without sun roof
Eldorado Cabriolet Coupe, without sun roof
Brougham d'Elegance Group
DeVille d'Elegance group
Dual Comfort Six-Way passenger seat
AM/FM stereo with tape
Padded roof on 75s
Introduced: September 12, 1975 (in showrooms Sept. 18).
Model year production (U.S.): 309,139, which set a record.
Calendar year production (U.S.): 312,845.
Calendar year sales by U.S. dealers: 304,485 for a 3.5
percent share of the industry total, down from 267,049 (3.8
percent) in 1975.
Model year sales by U.S. dealers: 299,579.
This year beat the all-time record (set in
1973) for sales and production, with 309,139 Cadillacs built.
Seville was the shining star of the sales rise. After a brief
1975 model run, production zoomed upward for full-year 1976. At
$13.000, Seville was the most costly standard domestic production
car built by the Big Four automakers. It also offered a foretaste
of what was coming soon as GM downsized all its models. Most
Cadillacs, including all Sevilles and Eldorados, were built in
Detroit; but 42,570 vehicles emerged from the Linden, New Jersey
Full-size "standard" Cadillacs continued to sell well,
defying the market conditions of the mid-1970s. Exactly 14,000
Eldorado convertibles were built in their final season (compared
to just 8,950 in 1975). Cadillac promoted them as the "Last of a
magnificent breed," The actual "last" American
convertible was driven off the line at Cadillac's Clark Avenue
plant in Detroit on April 21, 1976, by general manager Edward C.
Kennard and manufacturing manager Bud Brawner. Passengers for
this major media event included several production workers and
Detroit mayor Coleman Young. Just 60 years before, the first
Caddy to use the name "convertible" had appeared. For the past
five years, Eldorado had been the only luxury American
convertible; and for 1976, the sole survivor of the breed.
Reasons cited for the loss of ragtop popularity included
widespread use of air conditioners
sunroofs and vinyl roofs
improved audio qualities of stereo radio/tape systems, which couldn't be appreciated fully in an open
Actually, Cadillac produced 200 identical "final"
convertibles, dubbed "Bicentennial Cadillacs" by Mr. Kennard. The
one and only last example was kept for the company's collection.
All 200 were white with white top, white wheel covers, and white
leather upholstery with red piping, dash and carpeting. A dash
plaque confirmed the fact that it was one of the last--at least
until the ragtop mysteriously re-emerged once again in the early
'80s. Speculation sent prices way UP. Their original $11,049
sticker price meant little as some "collectors" quickly began to snap up
open Eldos at prices approaching $20.000. But before too long, prices fell almost as swiftly.
Convertibles never really disappeared. Within months various
conversion manufacturers were slicing metal roofs off Caddy
coupes to create custom convertibles. But the next regular
production ragtop would be Chrysler's LeBaron in 1982. In most
recent years, over 2,000 Fleetwood commercial chassis had been
produced annually, for conversion to hearses and ambulances. Most
of those conversions were done by three companies: Superior,
Miller-Meteor, or Hess & Eisenhardt. In addition, stretch
limousines were built on Cadillac chassis by Moloney (in
Illinois) and Wisco (in Michigan), among other specialty firms.