AN AMERICAN SUCCESS STORY
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1977 Fleetwood Eldorado
The Cadillac Motor Car Division celebrated its 75th Anniversary in 1977, and the division's finest gift was setting a new production record for the year. Cadillac built its six-millionth car during the year, a Seville that had been ordered by a customer in California. It was a stunning year for Cadillac, which might also describe the look on the faces of some of Cadillac's traditional customers when they entered their local Cadillac dealer's showrooms in the fall of 1976 to view the new 1977 models.
Cadillac introduced its new smaller, lighter, more fuel efficient 1977 models as "The Next Generation of the Luxury Car." The new Cadillacs were eight to 12 inches shorter, almost 1,000 pounds lighter, and 3.5 inches narrower than the 1976 models they replaced. The Fleetwood Eldorado was the only model in the line that wasn't downsized, but it too would be smaller for 1979. This major downsizing program included every General Motors division, from Chevrolet to Cadillac. It was perhaps the biggest transition in the company's history up to that time. And the Cadillac Seville helped lead the way.
Any concerns Cadillac or GM executives may have had about the new smaller Cadillac had disappeared by the close of the 1976 model year. The Seville was a hit, and customers loved it. Dealers were delighted to accept luxury imports as trade ins on new Sevilles, and their used car lots were full of Mercedes-Benz and other similar cars.
The Seville verified that Americans would accept smaller luxury cars as long as they didn't have to give up anything except external dimensions. The new 1977 Cadillacs sacrificed nothing inside, with interior dimensions virtually the same as before. Outside, the new trimmer dimensions meant the cars were easier to handle and park.
The Seville received some important changes this year, despite being brand new the previous year. The grille was updated with a vertical texture a more pronounced chrome header, which was inspired by the after market grille modifications many Seville customers were making to their 1976 cars. The four segment front parking and signal lamps now had amber-colored lenses on them. Customers could now choose between a bare, painted metal roof or a padded vinyl roof at no extra charge. The imports didn't offer a vinyl roof at all, so this was an important change, although most still ordered their cars with the vinyl roof. Four wheel disc brakes were also made standard on the Seville for 1977, a considerable improvement in braking ability, regardless of conditions.
Seville's base price was increased to $13,359 in part to reflect the addition of the four wheel disc brakes, and customers didn't care a bit that the price had gone up, as sales increased as well. Cadillac created a special 1977 Seville show car for its New York International Automobile Show exhibit. The most notable styling touch was the two-tone paint treatment that featured the lighter shade on the hood, roof, and deck lid with the darker shade on the sides. This would preview a special Seville trim option for 1978.
After market customizers were in love with the Seville, and were busy stretching them, as Moloney Coachbuilders of Chicago did with their "EM" model. The car was literally cut in half so an additional four inches could be added between the front and rear doors. Others were going the other direction, turning the four door Seville into a two door, two passenger opera coupe, which Grandeur Motor Car Corporation of Pompano Beach, Florida did. The "Grandeur Opera Coupe" included a stretched hood with dual simulated side-mounted spare tires, and a shortened rear body. Another chopped the top off and created the "San Remo" Convertible. Coach Design Group of California was thrilled to modify a Seville for customers of Ogner Motors Ltd. of Woodland Hills, California. For just $46,000 the conversion gave you a two door, four passenger Seville convertible with horizontal taillights from an Eldorado. The wraparound Seville taillights were eliminated, and the rear fenders modified to accommodate this change. And more custom Sevilles would be coming for 1978-1979.
Actress Betty White was given a surprise gift of a 1977 Cadillac Seville from her husband, the late game show host Allen Ludden. Miss White said Ludden had been out of town in New York for a couple of appearances. She was upstairs putting on makeup awaiting his arrival home when she heard a car pull up outside. She looked outside, expecting to see a cab delivering Ludden home, as they normally did not try to meet at the airport. Instead of a cab, Miss White saw a pretty car upon which Ludden exited. White ran downstairs to greet her husband, and was presented with her new Seamist Green 1977 Seville! The car had a white padded vinyl roof and white leather interior. A car phone had been installed, and the stainless steel nameplate on the instrument panel had "BETTY" engraved on it.
Ludden died in 1981, and Betty White kept her Seville for years because she loved it so much. Finally, she decided to donate it to the Los Angeles Humane Society in 2002, as she has been a long time animal lover and knew the car would benefit the animals she loves so much. Miss White said she couldn't bear to watch the car being picked up, so on the day the humane society came to pick it up, she waited in the backyard. Miss White names all of her cars, and this one was Parakeet. A yellow one was Canary, and a gray one was named Seagull.
Cadillac advertised that Seville was "An American Success Story," in recognition of its high level of quality, standard features, and first year sales success. Truly one could purchase a Seville with no options whatsoever, and sacrifice nothing in the way of comfort or luxury. The new smaller "full size" Cadillacs for 1977 were a big success, and the Seville single-handedly paved the way and opened the door for them.
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