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Image: 1976 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham



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Image: 1976 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham

This was it. The very last time. The final opportunity to purchase a brand new Cadillac as the world had known Cadillacs for 74 years. Those big, flashy, stylish motorcars that told the world you had achieved financial success were about to undergo one of their biggest changes ever. Yes, they would still be flashy and stylish, and by some standards they would still be big, but not as big as they had been in the past.

Styling for the 1976 Cadillacs was a refinement of the styling updates from last year. Changes included the front grille, which had a crosshatch theme which had a smaller, finer crosshatch grille in the background. Two new horizontal chrome lines decorated the wrap-around turn signal and cornering light lenses. Holding up the rear were new chrome bezels around the tail lamps, which gave them more prominence. New paint and vinyl roof colors updated the color schemes, and new accent stripe colors were available as well, now on an optional basis so any Cadillac could have contrasting accent stripes.

A nice styling touch for the Calais Coupe and Coupe deVille when equipped with an optional padded vinyl roof was the continuation of the door belt molding into the vinyl top molding. This gave the cars a very distinct look that was quite minor in nature, but made a big difference subliminally. And, this year, the Opera Lamps became available for both 2-door models, allowing even the most affordable Calais Coupe to be dressed up more than ever before. (It is reported that a few Calais Coupes also left the factory with the Cabriolet roof option, but we haven't verified that.)

The vinyl roofs on most Cadillacs used a new Elk Grain vinyl material which had a texture that looked more like genuine leather (the Seville and Fleetwood Nine-Passenger Sedan still used the cross-grain material of years past).

Fleetwood models now incorporated the Fleetwood name in block lettering set against a color-coordinated background plaque. These plaques were mounted on the lower front fenders behind the wheel openings and on the right side of the deck lid. The plaques made identification of the premium Fleetwood models easy, especially from the rear where one had to normally look for the presence of the wreath under the deck lid lock cover crest for identification. The Fleetwood rear glass was also unique in size and shape, but not everyone would think to check that area.

Inside, there were new interior colors and simulated Rosewood replaced the simulated Distressed Pecan vinyl appliques on the instrument panel, doors, and rear quarter trim. The Morgan Plaid introduced for 1975 in the Calais models would return in 1976, and the Metamora Plaid previously used in the DeVilles was updated to Merlin Plaid, but only came in two colors, a Blue-Green and Firethorn. The Fleetwood models offered new Minoa Ribbed Velour or Mansion Knit upholstery. Mansion Knit was also included as part of the Brougham d'Elegance option, which introduced Cadillac Contoured Pillowed Seating in 1976. Inspired by the Oldsmobile Ninety Eight Regency interiors, these soft, thickly pillowed seats looked more comfortable than just about any seat ever installed in a motorcar. A similar seating configuration, upholstered in Magnan Ribbed Knit material, was included with the DeVille d'Elegance option, and was also available on both the Coupe deVille and Sedan deVille optionally, without all the additional d'Elegance accoutrements.

Standard equipment remained about the same for 1976, although the digital clock was now a quartz digital clock, and the white stripe radials now featured a wide stripe (except Limousines).

A few new options were introduced, including a Weather Band Radio that was exclusive to Cadillac. Incorporating an AM/FM signal-seeking stereo radio as well, it provided 24/7 weather reports in locations with weather transmitters at the touch of a finger. Power Door Locks were standard, but a new Automatic Door Lock option locked the doors automatically when the transmission shift lever was moved to any forward drive position. The Recliner Seat introduced last year for the passenger side was now power-operated, and a manual driver's side recliner could be ordered separately as well. Dress-up extra cost wheel discs included a new Turbine-vaned wheel cover with black center hub, and a Wire Wheel Disc.

Cadillac marketed 10 models in four series for 1976. The cars were grouped according to size in 1976, as the "family size luxury" Calais Coupe, Calais Sedan, Coupe deVille, and Sedan deVille; the "personal size luxury" Fleetwood Eldorado Coupe and Convertible; the "international size luxury" Seville; and the "executive size luxury" Fleetwood Brougham, Fleetwood Nine-Passenger Sedan and Limousine.

1976 would break the former record for sales and production set in 1973 with 309,139 Cadillacs built. This was just 4,300 units higher than the old record, but it was very much a milepost as 1974 and 1975 had both been tough years for the auto industry.

The Calais series would not return for 1977, nor would the 500 cubic inch V-8 engine. 1976 would also be the last year for the Fleetwood Eldorado Convertible. The 1977 model year changeover would be one of Cadillac's most extensive in recent history, and there was a degree of concern among Cadillac's traditional customers that the new cars would be too small for their tastes. Cadillac, too, was concerned and had its ad agency working overtime to ensure the message got out that interior dimensions would be the same or increased in most cases, and that efficiencies in space utilization were on the exterior only. Only two models, the Seville and Eldorado Coupe, would retain their 1976 dimensions. The Seville was Cadillac's first smaller car, so it was ahead of the curve, and a new smaller Eldorado was planned for 1979.

Like it or not, things were changing, and they would never be on such a grand scale as they were in 1976 again. Whatever you wanted in a luxury car for 1976...Cadillac had it. But if you wanted full-sized, traditional luxury, this was the end of the road.


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