1970-1979 Cadillac Image Gallery
 1970-1979 Cadillac Image Gallery

The 1970 Cadillac Eldorado had a massive 500-cubic-inch V-8. See more pictures of the 1970-1979 Cadillac.

1970-1979 Cadillac Overview

Cadillac was among the few automakers up to the demands of the 1970s, Detroit's most challenging decade since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Consumer tastes changed radically, federal safety and emissions regulations multiplied, and an unprecedented energy crisis suddenly made improved fuel economy a top priority by 1974.

American carmakers also had to contend with a sales-blunting "stagflation" economy and increasing import-brand competition. In all, it was a pretty rough time.

Cadillac coped with these difficulties better than most of Detroit, largely because its moneyed clientele was less affected than mainstream consumers by "sticker shock," record gas prices, and other unpleasant jolts to the wallet.

This enabled Cadillac to keep doing business pretty much as usual through 1976, after which it adroitly changed course to meet buyer demands for smaller, more fuel-efficient cars. Unlike rivals Lincoln and Imperial, Cadillac anticipated this market shift well in advance, another secret to its continuing success.

But bigger was still better as the decade opened, and the 1970 Cadillac Eldorado was in step with a new V-8 of historic proportion.

Sized at a massive 500 cubic inches, and signified by badges reading "8.2 litres," the new-design powerplant was the world's largest-displacement production-car engine. It developed 400 horsepower and a monumental 550 pound-feet of torque.

Other 1970 Cadillac models retained the 375-horsepower 472-cubic-inch V-8.

Styling was touched up across the board. The 1970 Cadillac Eldorado received a narrowed grille separate from the headlamps, plus slimmer taillamps. The balance of the 1970 Cadillac line sported a new grille with bright vertical accents over a cross-hatch background. Also new was horizontal bright trim on parking lights, winged crests instead of V's on the 1970 Cadillac De Ville and 1970 Cadillac Calais hoods, and new taillamps.

New touches for the 1970 Cadillac Sedan de Ville included a new grille and a winged crest on the hood.

Every 1970 Cadillac got new integral steering knuckles, fiberglass-belted tires, and a radio antenna imbedded in the windshield.

Production results for the 1970 Cadillac line were mixed. Though model-year volume rose to almost 239,000 units, Cadillac again finished 10th in U.S. car production. On a calendar-year sales basis, Cadillac was 11th, behind Chrysler and AMC. Still, in a generally quiet Detroit year, Cadillac outproduced Lincoln by 3-1 and Imperial by no less than 15-1.

Cadillac overhauled its entire line for the next model year. Read the next page for details on the 1971 Cadillac.

For more information on Cadillac, see:

  • Cadillac: Learn the history of America's premier luxury car, from 1930s classics to today's newest Cadillac models.
  • Consumer Guide New Car Reviews and Prices: Road test results, photos, specifications, and prices for 2007 Cadillacs and hundreds of other new cars, trucks, minivans, and SUVs.
  • 1960-1969 Cadillac: See how Cadillac maintained its hold on the premium market by adroitly addressing changing consumer demands.
  • 1980-1989 Cadillac: America's top luxury brand was in crises in the 1980s. Learn about how it weathered the storm.
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All of Cadillac's models were completely redesigned for 1971. The interior of the 1971 Cadillac Coupe DeVille is shown here.

1971 Cadillac

The 1971 Cadillac lineup was completely redesigned, a wholesale turnover that would come to be an increasingly rare occurrence for a modern automaker.

The 1971 Cadillac Eldorado gained a convertible version and moved to a new platform shared with the Buick Riviera and Oldsmobile; learn about the 1971 Cadillac Eldorado on the next page.

The other members of the 1971 Cadillac lineup were redesigned around a larger new General Motors C-body. It had curved "fuselage" flanks and contours smoother than those of its immediate predecessors.

Wheelbase grew only half an inch, to 130 inches, but that was its first alteration since was back in 1957. Weight and most other dimensions didn't change much, either.

The 1971 Cadillac roster started with the Calais series, though the Calais models weren't that much cheaper than the better-equipped DeVille models. Perhaps because of this, Calais sales declined to below 10,000 units by 1974, and Cadillac dropped the entry-level line after 1976. The Calais series consisted of two- and four-door hardtops listed in these years, with the two-door becoming a fixed-pillar style after '73.

The money-spinning 1971 Cadillac DeVille lineup was also reduced to two- and four-door hardtops. Its convertible was judged superfluous now that Cadillac had a revived Eldorado convertible. The pillared Cadillac De Ville four-door was put on hold until 1977.

This 1971 Cadillac Coupe DeVille exhibits two of the aesthetic changes for 1971: curved "fuselage" flanks and smoother contours.

Though still low-volume specialty items, the premium 1971 Cadillac Fleetwood models got a new GM D-body and thus fresh styling for the first time since 1966. It remained a four-door sedan on a unique 133-inch chassis, but there was only one version now. Called Fleetwood Sixty Special Brougham, it shared the Series 75's new roof styling with more distinctly separate side windows. It, too, would see little appearance change through 1976.

The main reason Cadillac styling evolved so slowly in this period is that engineers and designers were tied-up with the more-pressing concerns of the day: fuel economy, tailpipe emissions, and occupant crash protection.

As it was very difficult to reconcile those last two with the first, Cadillac's engineering emphasis fell on the emissions side with both of its V-8s. For example, exhaust-gas recirculation was added for 1973 to reduce oxides of nitrogen (NOx) emissions, while the air-injection pump and engine pulleys were altered to lessen noise.

On the next page, we'll focus on the Cadillac Eldorado -- the 1971 and 1976 models.

For more information on Cadillac, see:

  • Cadillac: Learn the history of America's premier luxury car, from 1930s classics to today's newest Cadillac models.
  • Consumer Guide New Car Reviews and Prices: Road test results, photos, specifications, and prices for 2007 Cadillacs and hundreds of other new cars, trucks, minivans, and SUVs.
  • 1960-1969 Cadillac: See how Cadillac maintained its hold on the premium market by adroitly addressing changing consumer demands.
  • 1980-1989 Cadillac: America's top luxury brand was in crises in the 1980s. Learn about how it weathered the storm.
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The 1971 Cadillac Eldorado convertible was Cadillac's first Eldorado convertible since the 1966 model.

1971 Cadillac Eldorado and 1976 Cadillac Eldorado Convertible

The 1971 Cadillac Eldorado not only was redesigned, but also served to introduce the first front-wheel-drive Cadillac Eldorado convertible.

The 1971 Cadillac Eldorado was built on a new General Motors E-body platform also used by corporate siblings Buick Riviera and Oldsmobile Toronado. Though it was bulkier overall, the 1971 Cadillac Eldorado retained a 120-inch wheelbase and wasn't drastically heavier.

The 1971 Cadillac Eldorado convertible was the first open-air Eldo since 1966, and provided Cadillac with a body style not offered by its corporate cousins. In fact, by 1976, eroding ragtop demand and high attrition throughout Detroit left the Cadillac Eldorado convertible as the only factory-built convertible on the market.

Seeking to cash in on its exclusivity, Cadillac did a special run of 2,000 1976 Cadillac Eldorados, all white ragtops it billed as "last convertibles." Cadillac promised to build no more. Rabid opportunists bid 1976 Cadillac Eldorado prices to the skies in hopes of making a killing on the collector market.

It looked like a gilt-edged investment, and Cadillac kept its word, but only for a while. As time would prove, the droptop's demise was temporary, and the 1976 Cadillac Eldorado convertible was not Detroit's "last" convertible. By the mid-1980s, it wasn't even particularly worth keeping.

Cadillac produced a limited number of the 1976 Cadillac Eldorado, which was originally billed as its "last convertible."

Still, the basic design introduced with the 1971 Cadillac Eldorado would continue through 1978 with only modest interim changes. Prices escalated each year, ultimately passing $12,000, reflecting period inflation and government-mandated safety and emissions measures.

Though not the svelte, good-handling cars that were the 1967-1970 Cadillac Eldorado, the 1971-1978 Cadillac Eldorado brought in upwards of 40,000 annual sales, fair going under the circumstances.

Up to this time there was still one area of the luxury car market that Cadillac had not yet capitalized on. Continue to the next page to find out how Cadillac finally cashed in with a noteworthy addition to  its lineup.

For more information on Cadillac, see:

  • Cadillac: Learn the history of America's premier luxury car, from 1930s classics to today's newest Cadillac models.
  • Consumer Guide New Car Reviews and Prices: Road test results, photos, specifications, and prices for 2007 Cadillacs and hundreds of other new cars, trucks, minivans, and SUVs.
  • 1960-1969 Cadillac: See how Cadillac maintained its hold on the premium market by adroitly addressing changing consumer demands.
  • 1980-1989 Cadillac: America's top luxury brand was in crises in the 1980s. Learn about how it weathered the storm.
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The 1975 Cadillac Seville was much smaller -- and costlier -- than any other model in the lineup.

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1975 Cadillac Seville

The 1975 Cadillac Seville was carefully planned for the one area of the luxury market that Cadillac had yet to exploit: the quality intermediate-sized sedan typified by Mercedes-Benz.

Big-car sales slipped badly with the 1973-74 oil embargo imposed by the Middle Eastern oil-producing countries. The OPEC embargo triggered a national energy crisis.

Cadillac was hurt along with the other "gas guzzlers," but it recovered smartly by 1975, though only through an unexpected innovation.

Every 1975 Cadillac got the Eldorado's huge 500-cubic-inch V-8 (by now emissions-detuned to a measly 190 horsepower net) as standard, with one exception.

That exception marked a big departure from Cadillac tradition. It was a brand-new four-door sedan not only much smaller than anything else in the Cadillac line, but also more expensive. In fact, the only costlier '75 Caddys were the regal Cadillac 75 sedan and limousine.

This noteworthy new Cadillac arrived in the spring of 1975 was the 1975 Cadillac Seville.

The Seville badge revived a late-1950s Cadillac moniker. Cadillac had considered naming the new car "Leland," to honor its founder, but decided most buyers were too young to make that connection. "LaSalle" was also in the running, but ultimately rejected for the same reason, and because Cadillac's 1930s companion make was still felt by some to have a "loser" image.

How did buyers -- and critics -- respond to the Seville? Find out on the next page.

For more information on Cadillac, see:

  • Cadillac: Learn the history of America's premier luxury car, from 1930s classics to today's newest Cadillac models.
  • Consumer Guide New Car Reviews and Prices: Road test results, photos, specifications, and prices for 2007 Cadillacs and hundreds of other new cars, trucks, minivans, and SUVs.
  • 1960-1969 Cadillac: See how Cadillac maintained its hold on the premium market by adroitly addressing changing consumer demands.
  • 1980-1989 Cadillac: America's top luxury brand was in crises in the 1980s. Learn about how it weathered the storm.

The 1976 Cadillac Seville's smooth ride and brisk performance made it a hit with consumers.

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Cadillac Seville Reviews

The 1975 Cadillac Seville bowed to mixed reviews. Proportioned smartly on a 114.3-inch wheelbase, the 1975 Cadillac Seville compared favorably with German rivals for interior space.

Styling of the 1975 Cadillac Seville though clean and dignified, struck some as unimaginative. More important, it was an open secret that this "baby Cadillac" was actually a heavily reengineered version of GM's workaday X-body compact, in other words, a Chevrolet Nova. This was considered a serious deficit in the prestige class.

But the driving left little to criticize. Power came from a 350-cubic-inch V-8 built by Oldsmobile to Cadillac specifications. It included a new Bendy electronic-fuel-injection system exclusive to this model. The 1976 Cadillac Seville had 180 horsepower and weighed 1000 pounds less and was 27 inches shorter than a 1975 Cadillac DeVille.

The result was brisk, turbine like performance, with typical 0-60 mph acceleration of 10-11 seconds and a top speed of over 110 mph. Just as striking, ride quality of the 1976 Cadillac Seville was as cloudlike as buyers expected. To be sure, it didn't glide over washboard surfaces with the disdain of a big Mercedes, but it didn't cost nearly so much either.

Moreover, it was the best-handling Cadillac since the 1967 Cadillac Eldorado, and much closer in road manner to Mercedes and BMW than those makers might have admitted.

Buyers responded with enthusiasm to the 1975 Cadillac Seville. Sales totaled 43,000 in 1976, its first full model year. That was a healthy 15 percent of net Cadillac output.

The 1975 Cadillac Seville signaled that American buyers would respond to luxury in a tighter package, and made it clear that American automakers would from here on need to compete in this "international-sized" premium category.

The future was looking bright for Cadillac. Read about the 1976, 1977, and 1978 Cadillac -- and record sales figures -- on the next page.

For more information on Cadillac, see:

  • Cadillac: Learn the history of America's premier luxury car, from 1930s classics to today's newest Cadillac models.
  • Consumer Guide New Car Reviews and Prices: Road test results, photos, specifications, and prices for 2007 Cadillacs and hundreds of other new cars, trucks, minivans, and SUVs.
  • 1960-1969 Cadillac: See how Cadillac maintained its hold on the premium market by adroitly addressing changing consumer demands.
  • 1980-1989 Cadillac: America's top luxury brand was in crises in the 1980s. Learn about how it weathered the storm.

Cadillac's 1976 offerings sold well. Pictured here is the 1976 Cadillac Fleetwood sedan.

1976, 1977, 1978 Cadillac

While the 1976 Cadillac Seville got the spotlight, buyers responded well to the rest of the 1976 Cadillac line, even though these traditional-sized luxury cars were little changed for the model year.

Indeed, improving energy supplies and a reviving economy spurred sales of every 1976 Cadillac, and the division broke 300,000 units for the first time since 1973.

Cadillac would set yet another sales record for 1977, proving that perhaps it alone had what it took to change its cars as drastically as it did for 1977 while sustaining remarkable popularity. 

Except for the 1977 Cadillac Seville, every other 1977 Cadillac was not only fresh from the ground up, it was visibly smaller. Compared to the 1976 models, the typical full-size 1977 Cadillac was 8.5 inches shorter and nearly 1000 pounds lighter.

Despite the trimming, designers of the 1977 Cadillac managed to preserve a formal "big car" look. They wisely retained traditional Cadillac hallmarks, such as a domed hood, broad eggcrate grille, slim vertical taillamps, and plenty of brightwork inside and out. They also managed to preserve most all the interior space of the old behemoths.

Although shorter and lighter than its predecessors, the 1977 Cadillac Sedan DeVille still boasted a roomy interior.

The more rational new 1977 Cadillac was among the first fruits of a corporate "downsizing" effort begun in the early 1970s, after GM concluded that its biggest cars had grown too big.

The 1975 Seville was a faint hint at the new direction. In time, GM would also downsize its intermediate and compact cars, but it decided to shrink full-size models first, because that's where gains in space- and fuel-efficiency would be most apparent.

The results in Cadillac's case were wheelbases of 121.5 inches for the 1977 Cadillac DeVille and 1977 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham, and 144.5 for the 1977 Cadillac Fleetwood limousine.

Complementing the smaller package was a cleaner, more-efficient new engine: a fuel-injected 425-cubic-inch V-8 with 180 horsepower; a 195-horsepower version was optional except for the limos. Upmarket "D'Elegance" trim options continued for DeVilles, along with new pseudo-convertible "Cabriolet" roof coverings.

With annual sales of about 350,000, the picture was bright for Cadillac in 1977 and 1978. This health came despite cancellation of the Cadillac Calais series and the demise of the Cadillac Eldorado convertible.

The Cadillac Seville and the full-size Cadillacs received mainly detail changes through decade's end. A minor exception was the arrival of the 1978 Cadillac Seville Elegante, a higher-cost alternative to the standard article, with upgraded furnishings and available two-tone paint.

New options were on tap for 1979 Cadillac models. We'll discuss these next.

For more information on Cadillac, see:

  • Cadillac: Learn the history of America's premier luxury car, from 1930s classics to today's newest Cadillac models.
  • Consumer Guide New Car Reviews and Prices: Road test results, photos, specifications, and prices for 2007 Cadillacs and hundreds of other new cars, trucks, minivans, and SUVs.
  • 1960-1969 Cadillac: See how Cadillac maintained its hold on the premium market by adroitly addressing changing consumer demands.
  • 1980-1989 Cadillac: America's top luxury brand was in crises in the 1980s. Learn about how it weathered the storm.
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The downsized 1979 Cadillac Eldorado sported new options like remote-control door mirrors and a CB radio.

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1979 Cadillac

With Cadillac settled into its new life as a downsized premium car, a successful change that began with the 1977 model year, it turned its attention in 1979 to its personal-luxury flagship, the Eldorado.

The redesigned 1979 Cadillac Eldorado lost 1,100 pounds, 20 inches in length, and 12.3 inches in wheelbase. Corporate siblings Buick Riviera and Oldsmobile Toronado were similarly slenderized on the same new 114-inch E-body platform.

The 1979 Cadillac Eldorado also shared with its cousins an unusual touch for an upmarket domestic: independent rear suspension. This setup was more compact than the previous beam axle, and helped make it possible to trim wheelbase without losing much passenger room.

Every 1979 Cadillac was available with several new linewide options. These included dual electric remote-control door mirrors, plus an integrated 40-channel CB radio (reflecting a period fad).

Another new option available on every 1979 Cadillac was Cadillac's Tripmaster on-board travel computer. First offered on the 1978 Cadillac De Ville, Tripmaster provided digital readouts for average miles per gallon and speed, miles to destination, and estimated arrival time. It also displayed engine rpm, coolant temperature, and electrical system voltage. This basic system would evolve with newer technology, but has been a Cadillac staple ever since.

A second energy crisis erupted in spring 1979, damaging car sales and slowing the national economy. That energy crisis helped depress calendar-year volume for the 1979 Cadillac line, but Cadillac kept its usual 2-3 percent of the total American auto industry, the share it had claimed for many years

Perhaps equally distressing was another 1979 development, the introduction of the Cadillac diesel V-8 as a linewide option. Learn about that debacle on the next page.

For more information on Cadillac, see:

  • Cadillac: Learn the history of America's premier luxury car, from 1930s classics to today's newest Cadillac models.
  • Consumer Guide New Car Reviews and Prices: Road test results, photos, specifications, and prices for 2007 Cadillacs and hundreds of other new cars, trucks, minivans, and SUVs.
  • 1960-1969 Cadillac: See how Cadillac maintained its hold on the premium market by adroitly addressing changing consumer demands.
  • 1980-1989 Cadillac: America's top luxury brand was in crises in the 1980s. Learn about how it weathered the storm.

This 1979 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham sedan was available with an optional diesel V-8.

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The Cadillac Diesel V-8

The Cadillac diesel V-8 debacle was one of several mistakes that contributed to the weakening of Cadillac's stature and sales that began in the late-1970s.

The Cadillac diesel V-8 was America's first production passenger-car diesel engine. It was an option on every 1979 Cadillac, which otherwise used a gasoline V-8 of, depending on model, 350 cubic inches and 170 horsepower or 425 cubic inches and 180 or 195 horsepower.

Initially offered for the 1978 Cadillac Seville, the Cadillac diesel V-8 was basically a "dieselized" version of Oldsmobile's familiar 350-cubic-inch gasoline V-8. It was rated at just 125 horsepower, but had a credible 224 pound-feet of torque. Olds built it for all GM brands, itself included. Smooth and quiet for a diesel, it gave Cadillac a direct reply to diesel Mercedes-Benz models.

More important, it helped Cadillac contribute to GM's compliance with the corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) mandates that took effect with model-year 1978. That's because diesels use up to 20 percent less fuel than comparable gasoline engines.

As time passed, however, it became clear that some people bought a diesel Mercedes not for fuel economy or a diesel's renowned longevity, but for the prestige of the three-pointed star.

That was understandable. Less comprehensible was the damage the GM diesel did to Cadillac's image.

The Olds engine suffered early and persistent reliability problems that GM never could seem to fix. With all this, Cadillac diesel sales were never significant, even once a second energy crisis erupted in spring 1979 to upend the car market and the national economy.

For more information on Cadillac, see:

  • Cadillac: Learn the history of America's premier luxury car, from 1930s classics to today's newest Cadillac models.
  • Consumer Guide New Car Reviews and Prices: Road test results, photos, specifications, and prices for 2007 Cadillacs and hundreds of other new cars, trucks, minivans, and SUVs.
  • 1960-1969 Cadillac: See how Cadillac maintained its hold on the premium market by adroitly addressing changing consumer demands.
  • 1980-1989 Cadillac: America's top luxury brand was in crises in the 1980s. Learn about how it weathered the storm.