1971 CADILLAC VEHICLE IDENTIFICATION NUMBER
A 13-digit number appears on top of the dash on the driver's side of the
car, and can be viewed through the windshield. A second number appears
on a tag on the rear upper portion of the cylinder block behind the intake
manifold. The digits resemble: 683471Q100001
BODY NUMBER PLATE
Complete vehicle identification is determined by the Body Number Plate, which is located under the hood on the cowl, near the top. The body plate illustrated would identify the car below:
ST = Style (71 - Model Year; 6 - Cadillac Division; 83 - DeVille Series;
47 - 2-Door Coupe Body Style)
Exclusivity—And An Elegant New Look
Above: 1971 Cadillac Fleetwood Sixty Special Brougham in Sable Black. Note the elegant new styling and Opera Lights, a new option exclusively for the Fleetwood series.
When the all new 1971 Cadillacs hit dealer showrooms in the fall of 1970, customers loved the new look. The side panels had curves, and there were softly rounded corners where there were none before. Everything was new, from the inside out. New grilles, new taillights, new instrument panels.
Perhaps the most impressive model was the Fleetwood Sixty Special Brougham, which received special styling for 1971 that really made it stand apart. A new contoured roof line featured gently rounded top edges for the door glass, and a thick "B" pillar that became part of the overall design. A padded vinyl roof was standard, and for that extra special touch of class, Opera Lights could be specified for the roof sail panels, to emit a soft glow at night. Soon, many other makes and models would offer similar lights, but the 1971 Fleetwood Brougham was the one that started it all, and the lights look very dignified on the car.
The entry level Calais models also came across as especially distinctive in 1971. Calais models didn't offer an optional vinyl roof, and the beautiful new lines looked especially elegant without the vinyl to cover them up. Inside, a shimmery, satin-like upholstery called Darlington Cloth featured wide pleats with a horizontal vinyl insert in the upper seat back cushion. Available in six colors, Darlington Cloth was an especially rich-looking offering for the most affordable Cadillac series. The DeVilles were more popular, but came with only polished rocker moldings, rear cigarette lighters, a rear seat center armrest, door courtesy lights instead of reflectors, and a two-way power front seat. Other than that, the cars looked the same. The full array of options was available on the Calais, except for the Power Sunroof and the Dual Comfort front seat. It's too bad they didn't sell better, as even today they still look especially nice with their painted roofs.
1971 production fell to its lowest level in six years, due to a nationwide United Auto Workers strike that hit General Motors on September 14, 1970, just weeks before announcement day. The strike lasted 67 days, and the Union eventually prevailed, winning a 13 percent pay raise for its members and other concessions from the auto maker. Even though production was back in full force by the end of the year, just 188,537 cars were built by the close of the model year.
Advertising for 1971 included full color ads of the various models posed in unusual angles, such as being photographed from the rear, to show off the new rear end styling. Above the car was a styling detail, such as a close up of the new grille, or the Opera Lamps on the new Fleetwood Brougham. The ads were "misty" looking, with backgrounds coordinated with the color of the car. Some ads were two page ads, with one page a full color image of the car, and the other page including text and line drawings of specific features unique to the Cadillac. It was all very well done, of course, and Cadillac would continue this theme in some of its advertisements in the years to come.
Cadillac's competitors weren't fielding any new designs for 1971, as Lincoln had just undergone its first major restyle in a decade for 1970. The Imperial was all new for 1969, so it was in its third year. The styling touches that made the Cadillac (as well as other GM vehicles which utilized the same basic platform,) so distinctive were the thin windshield pillars, large glass areas and crisp upper roof styling. The Buick Electra 225 and Oldsmobile Ninety Eight were beginning to siphon off some Cadillac sales, as their cars became more and more luxurious. Cadillac would respond in a couple of years with special edition trim options that would provide more luxuries to Cadillac buyers.
These cars are big, comfortable, roomy, and handle remarkably well considering their size. This was the last body style where one could lower all the side windows and experience that true hardtop look. Cadillac would retain this basic body through 1976, after which the new down sized models would appear.
Areas to look for when buying a 1971 Cadillac include rust around and/or under the vinyl roof. Check very closely around and below the rear window and the lower vinyl roof moldings, as these areas are very prone to corrosion, and some say the 1971 models are especially rust prone in these areas. Also check the bottom area of the front fenders and rear quarter panels, as well as the lower portions of doors. Raise the hood and deck lid and check those panels as well as the openings for signs of rust.
Electrical wiring that runs between the door and the car can break after years of flexing as the doors are opened and closed. Signs of a problem include courtesy lights that flicker when the door is being moved, or power windows or door locks that don't always work if a door is open. This is not a difficult fix, but will take some time to repair.
The 472 engine and Turbo Hydra-Matic transmission are real work horses, and can take a lot of abuse with no indication of wear. Gas economy is not great, but depends more on driving habits than you might think. Driven carefully, you can get reasonable fuel mileage from these cars.
For sheer roominess and stretch out luxury, you will not find a more comfortable car to take a trip in. The large glass areas provide a wide vista to enjoy passing scenery, and the seats are supportive and comfortable, even for trips that last all day long. Once you take a trip in a 1971 Cadillac, you'll never want to use any other vehicle for such a trip again. They're that comfortable. Just set the Climate Control for the temperature you prefer, lock in the speed limit with the Cruise Control, press the search bar to find the FM stereo radio station that suits you, and you're off! You'll see why people loved these big cars for so long. Really, there's nothing else like them for long trips. They do spoil you, and 70 mph for eight hours or longer is nothing for that big Cadillac engine.
Above: 1971 Cadillac Coupe deVille in Adriatic Turquoise with optional Aqua vinyl roof. Note the flow-thru ventilation system air-outlet louvers located on the rear deck. This system ensured a continuous movement of air through the passenger compartment. The louvers were a one year only item, as new one-way valves were used for 1972, and were relocated to the front (2-door models) or rear (4-door models) door lock striker area.