While the 1961 Cadillac looked entirely different from its 1960 predecessor, it remained very similar mechanically. The biggest change was a new front frame, which lowered the tubular X-member chassis to give more seat height and head room.
The 1961 Cadillac engine was basically the 331-cid ohv V-8 of 1949 bored and stroked to 390 cubes. The 345-bhp Eldorado powerplant of 1959-1960, with three 2-barrel carburetors and dual exhausts, was no longer offered.
The only available 1961 engine delivered 325 bhp at 4,800 rpm with a 10.5:1 compression ratio; the sole available transmission was General Motors' four-speed Hydra-Matic. A 2.94:1 axle ratio came standard, but equipping a Cadillac with optional air conditioning mandated a 3.21 differential. The Series 75 limo used 3.36 and 3.77 axles, and limited-slip was also optional.
Cadillac's pillowy ride was a function of ball-jointed front A-arms, helical coil springs, rubber-mounted strut rods and rubber bushings to absorb impacts and isolate road noise. The rear suspension likewise used coil springs.
Vacuum-boosted drum brakes gave 221.8 square inches of lining area (233.7 in the limo), and power steering had an 18.2:1 ratio. Additional standard equipment in all series included turn signals, windshield washers, two-speed wipers, a vanity mirror, an oil filter, and backup lights.
The 1961 Cadillac arrived in dealer showrooms on October 3, 1960, in seven body styles: hardtop coupe, convertible, long- and short-deck six-window four-door hardtops, four-window cantilever roof four-door hardtop, blind-quarter Fleetwood Series 60 Special four-door hardtop, and the Fleetwood Series 75 sedans.
Neither of Cadillac's domestic competitors had anything near the breadth of that range. The outrageously face-lifted Imperial was offered as Southampton two- and four-door hardtops, a convertible, a formal LeBaron four-door hardtop, and a rare Ghia-built limousine. The dramatically redesigned Lincoln was confined to only a pair of four-door body styles: a sedan and a unique convertible.
Cadillac model choices began with the Series 62. Base prices -- without a radio or heater -- started at $4,892 for the coupe, the only Cadillac that listed for under $5,000. Also available in the Series 62 were a convertible and four- and six-window four-doors, including a most unusual "short-deck" sedan. Basically it was a six-window four-door, but with the trunk shortened seven inches for a total length of 215 inches.
Some Cadillac owners had complained about difficulty parallel parking and fitting previous models into their garages. The Town Sedan was intended to answer those concerns, but prices were the same as for the full-bodied Series 62 and sales were sluggish.
The next step up was the De Ville in coupe and full-length sedan forms. The sporty Eldorado quietly surrendered its own series designation and was folded into the De Ville range. With the Seville coupe dropped from the line, the Biarritz convertible became the lone Eldorado offering. Furthermore, it was no longer easy to tell a Biarritz apart from the Series 62 ragtop at a glance.
Next came the Fleetwood Series Special formal sedan, the top of the so-called owner-driven cars. At the very top stood the 149.8-inch-wheelbase Fieetwood 75 limousine and nine-passenger sedan, the former with a partition window between the driver and passenger compartments. Series 75 prices began at $9,533 for the nine-passenger sedan, a considerable jump over the 60 Special, which listed for $6,233.
Standard equipment in most upmarket series included power seats, power windows, a remote trunk lock, and five whitewall tires. However, amenities like tinted glass, power windows, power door locks, power seats, cruise control, an automatic headlight dimmer, and fog lamps all cost extra in the Series 62, and some of these items were optional even on De Villes and the Eldorado Biarritz.
To follow the evolution with the 1962 Cadillac, continue to the next page.
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