The Great American Land Barge. Once they ruled the plains, roaming from coast to coast, dominating the Interstate and the Trans Canada highways. They offered V8 power, endless torque, seating for six, and the ability to cruise for days. But starting in the late ’70s, tightening emissions rules and fuel crises meant that the era of the barge was starting to disappear. Vista Cruisers stopped cruising the vistas, New Yorkers wouldn’t fit on the streets of their namesake city anymore, and Continentals were no longer the size of a continent. But some cars continued to buck the trend and either remain full-size, or in some cases even claw their way back to the top.
People talk about the GM B-bodies as being the last of the full sizers. The Chevrolet Caprice and the Buick Roadmaster are becoming more popular than they were when they were new. But the one people seem to forget about is the top-shelf model of the day. The real king cruiser. The Cadillac Fleetwood.
If you remember the mid ’90s, you probably remember the Fleetwood as the car that was used by politicians and diplomats. It was the car that people got driven around in. Now that’s mostly a job for Lincoln Town Cars, but for a while the rear spats, chrome sides, and vinyl tops of the Cadillac Fleetwood ruled the day.
The Fleetwood name originated with a coach builder from Pennsylvania. The Fleetwood Body Company built high end car bodies until 1925, when they were purchased by Fisher and began making bodies exclusively for Cadillac. Fleetwood made bodies for Cadillacs for decades, originally for all models, then over the years becoming more exclusive. By the late 1930s, they were only making bodies for the Series 75 or 90, trying to stay more premium. Other Fleetwood body models included the 1963 Eldorado Biarritz and 65-75 Eldorado, Sixty Special and Series 75s. In 1985, the Fleetwood downsized and moved to the front wheel drive C platform. It was basically a de Ville with some fancier trim.
1993 is where the magic happened. The Fleetwood moved to the rear-drive D platform, and became a model by itself. It was the longest production car made in North America during its run. The new car was 5.7 metres long, had a 5.7L LT1 engine with 260 hp, and a four-speed automatic. It had half-hidden rear wheels, an available full padded vinyl top, and it could tow 3,200 kg. This was the kind of car your grand dad (or your dad, depending on which side of 40 you fall) drove. The kind of car that you can get in and drive all day long. Float along in it and hit potholes or frost heaves a foot deep without noticing. Sure there was a front-drive de Ville for a few more years, but a front-drive V8 just isn’t the same.
The Fleetwood sold from 1993 to 1996, before it was kicked out of the Texas factory to make more high-volume, high-profit Suburbans and Tahoes. Less than 100,000 were built over the four years, and many of them were used up, so there aren’t many left. That makes this low mileage 1996 a rare find.
This is a one owner Fleetwood with less than 60,000 km on the so very ’90s digital odometer. It’s the 260 hp LT1 V8, with dark cherry exterior and bordeaux red cloth interior. That means that inside there is acres of so very cushy purple cloth on the seats and soft touch purple plastic on every other surface. Trimmed with a whole fake forest’s worth of wood. There’s a power bench seat and column shifter, so your passenger can slide on over. There’s speed sensitive steering so you don’t have to flex a muscle to moor this land yacht. There’s even a cassette deck for your favourite music.
It’s equipped with the Brougham package, which means a full padded vinyl top, “specific cloth trim” (what?), and, even better, a “performance axle ratio. Really? 2.93:1 counts as performance? Ok, GM. And don’t forget, all that chrome. Everything under the door trim is GM’s finest chrome. Even better, it seems to be all there. The only thing letting down the side is that the rear tires aren’t white walls. But that’s fixed easily enough.
If you want the last of the real General Motors yachts, the big, floaty, rear-drivers, then you would be hard pressed to find one nicer than the one we’ve found here. For sale in Vermilion, Alberta, this 1996 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham is our autoTRADER.ca find of the week.
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