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Image: 1974 Cadillac Coupe deVille d'Elegance



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1974 Cadillac Fleetwood Eldorado



Image: 1974 Cadillac Coupe deVille

With two record shattering years behind it, Cadillac was expecting another strong year for 1974. But it would not have it. Events across the world would have a strong impact on sales of all large cars during the 1974 model year, and there was nothing Cadillac could do but ride it out.

After building more than 250,000 cars for the first time ever in 1972, and more than 300,000 in 1973, things were looking quite good for 1974 as well. But a war in the Middle East would attract U.S. involvement, and in retaliation an oil embargo was placed on all shipments from that region to the United States. (Read more about the 1973 Oil Embargo and Gas Crisis in MILEPOSTS Garage - The Online Classic Car Magazine.) Soon, a gas shortage developed in the U.S., and measures were taken to conserve supplies as long as possible. This created panic among the public with full-sized cars, as they were limited as to how far they could travel on a tank of gas.

Almost overnight, sales of large cars crashed, and a concerned public was looking for smaller, more fuel efficient cars instead. The price of a gallon of gas began to increase at this time, although even at inflated prices, it seems inexpensive compared to today's prices. Of course, the issue wasn't that a luxury car owner couldn't afford to fill their gas tank, it was being able to fill it, as gas stations across the country began to run out of fuel, and had to shut down for periods until their tanks were filled again.

The nightly news often had the gas crisis as the lead story, showing long lines of cars waiting to buy gasoline, and all too often signs posted stating the station had run out of gas. Cars like Ford's Mustang II which was newly down sized for 1974 exploded, the Mustang alone enjoying sales over twice what they had been a year earlier. Fortunately, the oil embargo was relatively short lived, and the flow of oil to the states was soon restored. Once gas shortages were no longer an issue, Americans began buying the big luxury cars they'd always loved so much, although the return to big cars didn't happen soon enough to save Cadillac's 1974 sales. Just 242,330 cars were built in 1974, compared to 304,839 in 1973, or a drop of 21 percent for the year.

Cadillac's new 1974 styling was bold and more extensive than it had been over the last couple of years. A bold new egg crate grille really stood out and the new cornering, parking, and turn signal lamps now wrapped around the corners of the front fenders, which placed the headlamps together for the first time since 1970.

The Calais Coupe and Coupe deVille both received new fixed rectangular quarter windows that gave both cars a distinctive and sophisticated appearance. The rear quarter panels were restyled, and lost the elliptical point near the rear bumper. Flexible, color-keyed urethane rear fender extensions filled the gap between the rear fender and bumper, allowing the rear bumper to retract slightly on minor impact. This change added 2.2 inches to Cadillac's overall length. Chromed vertical bumper ends were restyled and no longer contained the taillights. A new slender upright rectangular rear side marker light was incorporated into the side of the bumper ends, and vertical taillights were positioned within the bumper filler, and sat at a slight angle below the deck lid and above the rear bumper. The back-up lights were located inboard of the taillights. A full-length mid-body molding was part of the front wrap-around parking light design, and literally ran from the ends of the headlights all the way to the rear urethane bumper filler, interrupted only by the front wheel opening.

Front and rear bumpers now included new white on gray full width impact strips, an attempt to make them less visible since they were apparently going to be a styling concern going forward. Wheel covers were also restyled, in part due to a redesign to accommodate the increased use of steel-belted radial ply tires, which had sidewalls that flexed more than bias ply tires, which could possibly cause the loss of a wheel cover under certain driving conditions.

Inside, a sweeping new instrument panel flowed all the way across the car. This new design was very functional, and included a row of warning lights across the top, as well as the fuel gauge and new digital clock. The speedometer was deeply recessed above the steering column, and along the top of the instrument panel face were the windshield wiper/washer controls on the extreme left, and four air conditioning registers spread out for maximum air volume. Below the air registers were controls for the headlamps, Climate Control, and Cruise Control to the left of the steering column, and controls for the power antenna, rear defogger, sun roof, and radio to the right. This new panel was much slimmer in appearance, and gave Cadillac interiors a new feeling of spaciousness and organization.

New options for 1974 included the controversial Air Cushion Restraint System, or "air bag" which was available on all Cadillac models except the Eldorado Convertible and Fleetwood Seventy-Fives. A high energy ignition system provided improved spark control, a stronger spark, more stable starting, improved performance, and offered less maintenance. A Space Saver Spare Tire took up less room in the luggage compartment, allowing more room for passenger items. A welcome and popular new option was the Controlled Cycle Wiper, which could be set to delay wiper action for up to 10 seconds, a very convenient item when driving in light mist or road splash conditions. And for the first time ever, a factory-installed padded vinyl roof was available on the Calais models, which also meant they could be ordered with the Electrically Operated Sunroof for the first time.

Cadillac introduced a premium trim package for the Fleetwood Brougham during the 1973 model year. Called the "Brougham d'Elegance" option, it was very popular with customers and led to the introduction of several more trim options in 1974. DeVille buyers could choose the "d'Elegance" or "Cabriolet" options to give their cars added distinction. The d'Elegance option included Mardi Gras Velour upholstery inside, the first use of velour in the DeVille series. It also featured upgraded carpeting with matching floor mats, deluxe door panels, storage pockets in the front seat backs, hood, body side, and deck lid accent striping, and a see through standup hood ornament.

The Cabriolet option for the Coupe deVille included a padded vinyl roof on the back roof section only, bordered by a sheer chrome strap with vinyl welts. The Cabriolet was available with or without the d'Elegance option.

The Brougham d'Elegance option continued for the Fleetwood Brougham, and a new ultimate luxury trim option was introduced—the Fleetwood Talisman. Cadillac noted that Webster defines "Talisman" as "something producing apparently magical or miraculous effects." With that in mind, Cadillac set about creating its most exclusive, most luxurious car since the Eldorado Brougham. Front and rear individual seats provided room for just four. Center consoles front and rear provided arm chair comfort, and contained storage compartments, along with special amenities. Upholstery was Medici Crushed Velour, in a European shirred sew style. Other Talisman touches included special wheel discs, a reclining front passenger seat, additional assist straps, and more. You can get more details on our special Fleetwood Talisman page.

There were a few important standard equipment changes for 1974. Not really a standard item perhaps, but almost so as most cars were equipped with a radio, one of the most appreciated changes was the inclusion of the automatic power antenna with all radio installations, finally doing away with the windshield antenna. While the embedded windshield antenna was a good idea initially, as it eliminated the possibility of vandalism, it never pulled in remote stations as well, an issue for owners in the western United States, where radio stations at the time could be few and far between.

Additionally, new gold on silver instrument panel knobs dressed up Cadillac interiors, and the precision digital timepiece was included on all Cadillacs as well. 1974 was the year of the starter interlock system, which required front seat outboard occupants to buckle their seat belts before the engine could be started. This was a very unpopular design, and didn't last long, thankfully. Most 1974 models had this system disabled within the first year, as even those who buckled up as standard procedure didn't like having to do so before starting the car dictated to them. Cadillac didn't advertise this feature, and in fact buried it in any literature for the year.


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