1974 CADILLAC VEHICLE IDENTIFICATION NUMBER
GM changed its serial numbering system somewhat for 1972 to incorporate an alphabetical series code and engine type code. This new numbering system was used on the serial number tag and the body number plate under the hood in 1974.
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: 6D47R4Q100001
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 (74 - Model Year; 6 - Cadillac Division; CD - DeVille Series;
47 - 2-Door Coupe Body Style)
Magical and Miraculous Cadillacs for 1974
Above: 1974 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham shown in Terra Cotta Firemist paint with a Terra Cotta padded vinyl roof. Note new white-on-gray bumper impact strips and wrap around parking/turn/cornering lights.
Cadillac customers heading to dealer showrooms in the fall of 1973 to see the new 1974 models were no doubt delighted with what they saw. Attractive styling updates to the front and rear of the cars gave them a fresh, new look. The rear quarter panels were toned down, and if one wanted a bit more distinction, several new Special Edition trim packages were available.
Cadillac's early buyers benefitted from lower prices, as some very hefty price increases were levied mid-year. Cadillac's least expensive car, the Calais Coupe, had an introductory price of $6,153, which was $267 higher than the previous year. That was a fairly normal situation, as new safety and emissions requirements (as well as inflation) during this time were adding to the base price of cars almost yearly. However, at mid-year, the base price of the 1974 Calais Coupe increased by a whopping $1,218, to $7,371. Note that this price was just $394 shy of a 1973 Fleetwood Brougham! So Cadillac buyers who purchased their new cars early could be thankful that they avoided the higher prices that late year buyers were paying.
But not so fast. Some customers may have regretted their decision to buy early, as a gas crisis developed soon after 1974 model introductions. A conflict in the Middle East resulted in an oil embargo against the United States, leading to higher gas prices and shortages. That meant some people couldn't drive their new Cadillacs because they couldn't buy gas for them!
Fortunately, the crisis came to an end after a few months, and things returned to normal quickly...at least for the time being. We had not heard the last of the bad news when it came to importing oil from other countries. But once again, the early buyers could again be thankful that they bought early, avoiding the price increase that surely shocked even a few of Cadillac's wealthy customers, especially considering those who were trading in two year old Cadillacs were confronted with an almost 27 percent increase!
Why the big price increases? There are several reasons for that. Inflation started out in January of 1974 at 9.39%, and increased to a high of 12.34% in December of that year. It exceeded 10% for most of the year. New mandatory safety items added to the price as well, for instance the starter interlock system. Since sales were hit early on by the gas crisis, Cadillac had to make up for the lack of sales by increasing prices later in the year, and the 1975 models would be equipped with an expensive new catalytic converter, its cost being added to the price of the car. The 1975 Calais Coupe would have a base price of $8,184 at introduction, then jump twice during the year to $8,197, then to $8,613! That's almost a $3,000 difference in just three years! And consumers who considered waiting for prices to come down would have a surprise waiting for them. By 1977, the base price of a Coupe deVille, Cadillac's most affordable model at that time since the Calais series ended after 1976, would be $9,654. With replacement costs running so high, is it any wonder that even Cadillac's affluent customers joined the trend to keep cars longer than before?
Above: 1974 Cadillac Coupe deVille d'Elegance. Shown in Antigua Blue with an optional White Cabriolet padded vinyl roof and White Leather interior with Dark Blue carpeting.
Perhaps one of the most notable sales statistics from 1974 was the drop in popularity of the Sedan deVille model, which lost 41.5% of its production, going from 103,394 units in 1973 to just 60,419 in 1974. After years of leading the line, and losing its number one status just last year, the Sedan deVille would continue to trail the Coupe deVille. It appeared that Cadillac's customers liked the new fixed quarter window styling, which really gave the Coupe deVille a sophisticated appearance. This same basic roof line would continue on the Coupe deVille through 1976.
Another interesting statistic bears mentioning. Despite sales of just 242,330 cars in 1974, a decline of 62,509 units from 1973, Cadillac actually picked up market share in 1974. Cadillac went from 30.3 percent in 1973 to 34.5 for the 1974 model year. More than anything, this shows how much the American auto industry was effected by the gas crisis, as Cadillac's sales certainly weren't strong for the year, but were strong enough to pick up that much market share. Things would improve later in the decade, but first Cadillac had to make it through 1975, a recession year.
Readers interesting in locating a 1974 Cadillac to collect should seek out examples in the best condition they can find. Values don't support a high dollar restoration at this time, and there are still many clean examples for sale. Areas to be concerned about include corrosion under the vinyl roof and around the vinyl roof moldings. Also check other moldings carefully, such as the mid-body molding. Hoods and deck lids can harbor rust as well, so raise both and look at their undersides carefully.
The color-keyed urethane bumper fillers deteriorate due to time and exposure, and replacements are available, although some aren't a perfect fit. Painting to match original colors can be a challenge, so be certain to replace these fillers before you paint the car.
Interior upholstery during this era was often used only one year, and most were susceptible to fading from sun exposure. Check carefully for signs of fading or the cloth drying out, especially on the upper outboard seat cushions, where sun light streams through the door glass. Many interior plastic components can fade badly as well, but most can be refinished acceptably if they are prepped and painted properly.
The 1974 models are a mixture of older, early seventies styling in front, and newer, mid-seventies styling in the rear. Some don't like the rectangular headlamps that debuted for 1975, so keep that in mind as you're searching. Also, you'll find the cars built during 1974 can have the worst performance of the decade, due to emission controls and the lack of a catalytic converter, which became standard in 1975 and allowed engines to be retuned for better performance.
Among the seventies Cadillacs, the 1974 models in particular seem to have a following, as the wrap around front parking and signal lights are a favored design among some collectors. Also worth seeking out are cars finished in some of the new colors offered in 1974, such as Mandarin Orange, Persian Lime, Cranberry, or Terra Cotta. These bright hues often came with matching interiors and vinyl roofs, and are stand out colors that truly represent the era.