Above: 1976 Cadillac Sedan deVille was as durable as it was beautiful, capable as it was serene, and a possession to be prized forever. A Cadillac is timeless.
1976 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: 6D49S6Q100001
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 (76 - Model Year; 6 - Cadillac Division; CD - DeVille series;
49 - 4-Door Hardtop Body Style)
One Last Reason To Buy A 1976 Cadillac
Above: 1976 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham in Amberlite Firemist with White padded vinyl roof. Note the new stand-up wreath and crest hood ornament, a new standard feature for 1976.
1976 presented itself to luxury car buyers as the final opportunity to purchase a brand new, full-sized Cadillac motorcar. The American luxury car had been a tradition for decades, and identified its owners as among the fortunate few who had "made it." Successful in business, investments, or just lucky enough to be born into a wealthy family, driving a large luxury car was one of the benefits of having money. A status symbol, for certain. But also a luxury conveyance that provided the appropriate atmosphere for those who appreciated the finest in everything they purchased.
The Cadillac motorcar had long established itself as one of the world's finest automobiles, and it was deemed to be the ultimate expression of achievement in America. Some identified Cadillacs with older, established people, yet the fact remains that many a young entrepreneur, upon realizing financial success and independence, went out and purchased a Cadillac as one of their first expenditures. Joining the Cadillac club was never exclusively for the retired set.
It wasn't just the sheer size of a Cadillac, or the luxurious interior appointments, or the elegant styling that spoke eloquently of the owner. It was all of these things together, plus its economy of use, with minimal scheduled maintenance trips, its fuel efficiency, and its retained value when traded in. And yes, the knowledge that you and your family traveled in one of the world's finest cars. All of these things combined made Cadillac a good value.
One of the aspirations of many was to eventually be able to afford a new Cadillac. Some strained to achieve this goal, and once exposed to the joys of Cadillac ownership, decided that it was worth cutting back in other areas if necessary. They could sacrifice and forego other niceties, but not with their choice of cars.
But this was about to change. The days of hoods long enough to serve as a pool table were about to end. The oil embargo of 1973, which resulted in gas shortages and closed gas stations across the country, sent a message to the public. And to the American auto manufacturers. Inflation during the seventies and an economic recession during the middle of the decade enforced the consideration that new car purchases should be made with an eye toward efficiency. Cadillac got this message loud and clear, and began designing its first smaller car in late 1973. The result was the 1976 Seville, which was announced in April 1975 and appeared early in dealer showrooms on May 1, 1975.
At first, Cadillac was concerned that the luxury car buying segment of the population wouldn't accept a smaller Cadillac, but growing western demand for luxury imports indicated there was indeed such a market. The Seville was an immediate success, and reinforced Cadillac's plans to down size the rear wheel drive models for 1977, followed by a smaller Fleetwood Eldorado in 1979. Knowing people were resistant to change, Cadillac cleverly introduced the Seville beforehand, and priced it at the very top of the line, between the Fleetwood Brougham and Fleetwood Seventy-Fives. This allowed Cadillac's repeat customers to compare the new smaller car with the full-sized cars. When the new smaller Cadillacs were introduced in 1977, the public loved them and set a new sales and production record for the second year in a row.
In addition to 1976 being the last year of the traditionally-sized Cadillacs, it was also the last year for the Calais series. Introduced in 1965 as a replacement for the 62 Series, which dated back to 1952 and had identified Cadillac's lowest-priced models, the Calais was named after the northern French town known for its picturesque scenery. Slow sales doomed the Calais, as GM's customers preferred to purchase a top of the line Oldsmobile or Buick, or spend the extra $450 or so to move up to a DeVille model. Beginning in 1977, Cadillac's most popular series, the DeVilles, would also be its lowest-priced, or most affordable line.
The massive 8.2 Litre, 500 cubic inch V-8 engine, first introduced on the 1970 Fleetwood Eldorado, would also enter its final year of production in 1976. Cadillac's new bodies for 1977 would not require this huge displacement engine, and it would be retired quietly. To this day, it remains the largest production engine ever provided in a Cadillac.
Cadillac's competitors hadn't changed much for 1976. The Lincoln Continental carried over the same basic styling it had introduced a year earlier, and 1976 would be the first year for a new Chrysler New Yorker Brougham, which looked just like the 1975 Imperial, which had been discontinued. With a lower level of standard equipment and a lower price tag to match, Chrysler's customers were delighted to drive home in a New Yorker, which was selling in record numbers. Oldsmobile customers were buying the popular Ninety Eight Regency Coupes and Sedans, helping to make Oldsmobile the number one selling make in America in 1976. The Buick Electra Limited Park Avenue offered a sumptuous interior with extra thick cut-pile carpeting and velour upholstery covering everything, including the headliner and executive center console, which was approaching the Fleetwood Talisman level of opulence.
Above: The 1976 Cadillac line. Clockwise: 1976 Cadillac Calais Sedan in Claret with a Mahogany vinyl roof; Fleetwood Eldorado Cabriolet Coupe in Cotillion White with a White vinyl roof; 1976 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham in Chesterfield Brown with a White vinyl roof; 1976 Cadillac Coupe deVille d'Elegance in Crystal Blue Firemist with a White vinyl Cabriolet roof; and the 1976 Cadillac Seville in Innsbruck Blue with a Silver Blue Metallic vinyl roof. For 1977, only the Seville and Eldorado would retain their same basic configuration. The rest of the Cadillac line would undergo one of the biggest changes in the division's recent history.
Many of Cadillac's customers, not knowing what to expect with the upcoming down sized Cadillacs of 1977, decided to replace their current Cadillacs earlier than they normally would have. For instance, a long-time Cadillac customer named Kilby decided on a new 1976 Sedan deVille in Claret with a White vinyl roof and White Leather interior because she knew she liked the current models, and she said she didn't feel safe in a smaller car, no matter how well built it might be. Kilby pampered her car, planning on keeping it much longer than anything she'd ever owned. And when we say Kilby pampered her car, that's almost an understatement. Her cars were always garaged, washed weekly and waxed monthly. If the weather was bad and she didn't absolutely have to get out, she didn't. By the time the 1977 models debuted, Kilby's Sedan deVille was barely broken in, and still looked brand new. In fact, her local dealer invited her to come look at the new models, and she did. Kilby was impressed with them, especially with the interior dimensions which seemed just a little smaller to her. But she said she'd keep her '76 Sedan deVille for a while, just the same. Kilby used to buy a new Cadillac every three years. By 1982, she was still driving—and pampering—her Claret '76 Sedan deVille.
With customers like Kilby, and an improving economy, 1976 was a record shattering year for Cadillac, which was led by the new Seville, with sales in excess of 60,000 copies by the end of its longer than normal model year. Things were good in 1976, the big Cadillacs decorated America's finest homes just as they always had, Elvis Presley was still thrilling his fans, disco was putting a spring in everyone's step, and our country was celebrating its 200th birthday.
Things would change in 1977. Some for the better, some for the worse. The 1977 Cadillacs still decorated America's driveways and disco was still gaining in popularity, but Elvis had left the building for the last time and the big birthday bash was over. We had entered a new period of awareness and responsibility. Things were still the same in many ways, but some of the fun was gone. Families were still thrilled at that first ride in the new Cadillac, but it wasn't really the same as it had been in the past. The image of the big American luxury cars had been a part of American culture for a long time, and it would take some time to get used to the new reality of smaller, more efficient, luxury cars.