As the 2nd half of the 1960’s got underway, Cadillac found itself not doing much wrong. The most premium General Motors offering had long banished American luxury rivals to the lower rungs of the sales charts, if not into the grave. However, this swagger combined with swelling size would eventually be the sword The Standard of The World would nearly mortally wound itself on.
The 1966 Model year represented perhaps the pinnacle of substance, style and snob appeal that would be eventually whittled away from copious Caddies for more than 2 decades. This knight in shining white armor droptop tells a rather peculiar tale of being laurel crowded, yet resting on said laurels at the same time.
Cadillac had done major revisions with their 1965 models. Ditching the X-Frame of 1957 through 1964 was a far more solid perimeter frame base not unlike one that had anchored Oldsmobiles and Pontiac since the late 50’s. Previous advances included the gutsy expansion to 429 cubic inches, giving 340 willing horses to prod the finest of Detroit to 60 in the Mid 8 second range for lighter body styles. 120 miles per hour and beyond top ends were a Cadillac competency well mastered by the Mid Sixties as well.
It did come at the expense of Cadillac’s surprising reputation for relative economy compared to rivals though. While transition of the decade 390 equipped Cadillacs were praised for being able to eek out close to 16 miles per gallon in steady highway cruising, Mid 60’s models featured mileage barely out of the single digits.
That no longer gave Cadillacs a marketing advantage over guzzling Lincolns with their massive 430 V8s long know for knocking back high octane beverages like a bored, lonely housewife.
Cadillac did maintain a remarkably diverse line-up to its advantage though. Three lines, the base Calais, middle trim DeVilles and exquisitely tailored Fleetwood models served duty compared to the smaller spreads of diverse offerings of Lincoln in particular, and Imperial less so. In fact, the already Fat Fancy DeVille Convertible was the lesser of the two Cadillac Convertibles in showrooms. There was always the more opulent, wood-trimmed interior with an even deeper list of upholstery options Fleetwood Eldorado convertible to select. That doesn’t take into account the Hardtop Coupes, Sedans in pillared and hardtop guises, and various wheelbases either.
With all this greatness, where was it starting to go wrong, you may ask. For one, some standards around the world were being constantly updated. One place Cadillac was woefully out of place was in braking and handling. Although competent enough for the easy life most Cadillacs saw in exclusive suburbs around the United States, for hard driving enthusiasts, the drums at all corners found themselves lacking against disc brake competition from Lincoln and Mercedes Benz in particular. Worth note, even the boundary busting Ford Thunderbird was offering Disc Brakes in 1965.
When it came to handling, the new 4-Link Solid Axle was located well enough, and Cadillacs of this era weren’t as soggy as associated with vintage land yachts. However, the tuning did favor silent splendor without requesting much towards emergency poise and athleticism. Most contemporary reviews said that stiffer shocks would add an air of grace and dignity to Cadillac motoring when the going got tough, without any consequences to the ride.
Decontenting that came with the 1967 restyle, combined with some clamoring about the expressive size of Cadillacs started showing the tide was shifting against these boats. The conditions eventually would nearly sink the brand as Cadillac struggled to maintain its core identity in a changing world for the better part of 3 decades.
It’s not anyone’s fault but Cadillac and GM’s however. Cadillac had long shared the best technology its large siblings over at Buick and Oldsmobile offered, and as time progressed, the boundaries blurred even further, making all 3 brands an interchangeable barrage of banality. Even Prince Charmings like this convertible offered you something from more common admirers of your gaze. That however, doesn’t negate the fantasy of getting swept off your feet. Sometimes, that old Cadillac magic masks a few niggling flaws.