1977 Cadillac Fleetwood Eldorado
1977 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: 6L47S7Q100001
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.
ST = Style (77 - Model Year; 6 - Cadillac Division; EL - Eldorado Series;
47 - 2-Door Coupe Body Style)
The Beginning of the Final Chapter
Above: 1977 Cadillac Fleetwood Eldorado Cabriolet Coupe in Desert Rose Firemist with padded White Cabriolet vinyl roof and White Sierra grain leather interior.
Production of the 1977 Cadillac Eldorado was down slightly from 1976, but when you factor in the additional sales generated in '76 by demand for one of the last American-built convertibles, and make the comparison based solely on the Coupe model, 1977 was a record year, with more Coupe models being sold in a single model year than ever before. The Custom Biarritz trim package contributed to this sales figure, as it was very popular with Eldorado buyers seeking something more distinctive. The Custom Biarritz had a customized look straight from the factory, and offered features never before available, so it attracted a lot of attention.
1977 was Cadillac's 75th Anniversary, and would be one of the biggest years for change in the division's history. Every single standard car was redesigned, restyled, and reconfigured to meet the demands of the time. Consumers were looking for smaller, more fuel efficient cars, but didn't want to give up any of the interior room, luxuries, or amenities to which they were accustomed. And Cadillac met those needs. When compared to the 1976 models, the new 1977 Cadillacs were eight to 12 inches shorter overall, and the new bodies were 3.5 inches narrower, but sacrificed virtually nothing when it came to interior space. The average weight reduction per car came in at more than 950 pounds. Computers were used to create designs that would reduce weight while maintaining a strong body, and new lightweight materials were substituted wherever possible.
Cadillac Division became the oldest, continuous automobile manufacturer in Detroit, and set a new production record of 358,487 cars. The six millionth Cadillac, a Seville that was to be shipped to fill a customer's special order in California, was built during the year.
As good as things were for the Eldorado in 1977, they were even better for the competition. The new Continental Mark V debuted this year, and the luxury car buying public went crazy over it. An incredible 80,321 were sold, marking a new record for the Mark series. The Ford Thunderbird was down sized in 1977, moving to a 114-inch wheelbase. Many luxury features that had been standard were moved to the options list, which also resulted in a big reduction in price. This was offset by a huge increase in sales, with a record 318,140 built for the year. Mid-year, in response to demand for a more luxurious model, Ford introduced the Town Landau, which included many luxury features as standard, as well as special exterior styling touches unique to the model. It was priced nearly $3,000 more than the base two door hardtop model.
The Buick Riviera also went on a diet for 1977, losing 5 inches in length and nearly 700 pounds in weight. It was transitioning into a smaller, front wheel drive car for 1979, and had a new suspension system that provided good road holding and handling characteristics. In keeping with the improved handling focus, optional four-wheel disc brakes were a $186 option, and provided superior stopping power. The Riviera hadn't been selling well during much of the seventies, and Buick was desperate to turn the tide. This redesign wasn't the solution, however. That would have to wait until the next restyle which would come in 1979. Of interest to Riv collectors during this time was the LXXV Riviera, a $586 trim package to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of Buick. Featuring two tone black on top of silver paint jobs, just 1,400 were built.
With the T-bird and Riviera both smaller cars, that left just the Eldorado, Mark V, and the Oldsmobile Toronado in their traditional dimensions. The Toronado sold better than the new Riviera, so size alone wasn't the only consideration, however most knew these cars were dinosaurs, and were about to become extinct. And that may have been what had the biggest impact on their sales. Knowing the time was short to buy one of the big ones, many replaced older models sooner than they might have normally, out of not knowing what would be available in a few years. To be certain, some were no doubt turned off by the new Thunderbird and Riviera, but they were a snapshot of what was in the future.
Because the standard Cadillacs were so different, the Eldorado got its own separate brochure for 1977. It had a burgundy cover with "1977 Eldorado by Cadillac" in silver foil lettering. Inside were color images of the new 1977 styling, with a two page spread of a Cotillion White Eldorado Custom Biarritz as well as another page devoted to that option.
Behind the scenes, the new smaller Eldorado for 1979 was taking shape, and it had become the focus of styling and engineering personnel, as it would be the next major announcement from Cadillac. To its credit, Cadillac allowed the last of the full-sized Eldorados to enjoy their final moments in the sun with dignity. While everyone knew that it would not be long before the Eldorado entered the next phase of its existence, Cadillac still updated it during its final two years, with options such as the Custom Biarritz and other improvements and new options that were made available to other Cadillacs as well.
Cadillac referred to the Eldorado as a legend in 1977, and as a classic in both 1977 and 1978. A discreet way of reminding people that it would not be around for long in this form. And as the classic Eldorado was about to become a leaner, trimmer car, Cadillac had one more surprise ready to go. One that would provide an appropriate send off for one of Cadillac's most admired and respected motorcars.
If good performance is of importance to you, you might be happier with one of the earlier Eldorado models with the bigger engine. The new 425 cubic inch V-8 introduced for 1977 was adequate, but did lack the response of the engines used earlier in the decade. In fact, with each progressive year, horsepower and performance were reduced until 1975, when Cadillac was able to retune the engine for better performance due to the addition of the catalytic converter, which helped clean up emissions.
Areas to check on the 1977 models are as before. Look for signs of rust around the vinyl roof and body moldings. Check for lumps under the vinyl roof. Check the underside and bottoms of doors, the lower front fenders, the edges of the hood and deck lid. The softer leather used in the late seventies can deteriorate quickly if it hasn't been cared for, or if exposed to the sun for much of its life. Mechanical components are easy to find, as most were shared with other GM divisions. Unique trim items are still rather plentiful as so many of these cars were built. With original owners often purchasing them with the intent of keeping them longer, many were better cared for during their lifetimes than they otherwise would have been.
The Custom Biarritz cars are about as comfortable and luxurious as anything ever made, as a few moments sitting in the leather upholstered, contoured pillow style seating interior will prove. Other classics may be worth more, but none of them can provide the style and respect that a Cadillac can, and when it comes to classic, full-sized personal luxury cars, the Eldorado is hard to beat.