Design Notes: 1971 Cadillac DeVille

Something old, something new

Nineteen seventy-one was a big year for Cadillac, metaphorically speaking and in terms of size. The Eldorado and DeVille were fully redesigned, and the latter took style to new lengths — just shy of 19 feet worth.

Eldorados are always worthy of attention but let’s first examine the DeVille, Cadillac’s general purpose line of luxury land yachts.

DeVille or not DeVille
Cadillac De Ville logoCadillac’s iconic name is from the French language, meaning “of the city.” It harkens to a time when a smaller carriage (a coupé de ville) was used for local jaunts. Being two words, “DeVille” technically requires a space. However, spelling and grammatical rules don’t apply to car names. In fact, few rules apply to automotive names, particularly DeVille.

1971 Cadillac Coupe deVilleFor the record, Cadillac marketed the “DeVille” under several different spellings, including “deVille” and “De Ville.” One ad from 1971 makes use of each iteration. The spelling has varied since DeVille became a unique model in 1959, opposed to previously being a model trim.

But there does appear to be a hint of method to the madness.

Cadillac deVille logosI have no theories behind the intermittent usage of a space but it appears, certainly by 1971, that “DeVille” was used to reference the entire model line while “deVille” was used in actual model names (i.e., “Coupe deVille” and “Sedan deVille”). Yet, to confound my efforts at logic, the previous year offered a DeVille model that was distinctly capitalized.

In 1970, Cadillac offered its last ever convertible DeVille (having shifted parade duty to Eldorado in 1971). That open-top model wore the appellation “DeVille Convertible,” presumably capitalizing the “d” since it was the first letter in the name.

Anyway, I’m off course again.

The reason I wrote “something old, something new” for a subtitle is to reference Cadillac’s uncanny ability to draw on its rich styling heritage. While being big was a Cadillac constant until the 1980s, defining features would periodically pop up and some would stick (for example, fins and vertical tail lights).

Another is referred to as “fuselage” side panels or, what I tend to think of as, pontoons. If I’m not mistaken, it was the 1959s that pioneered the look at Cadillac (The portion I am referring to is highlighted).1959 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz fuselageThe styling element was present, in one form or another, until a brief stint with geometric symmetry during the 1965-66 model years (not shown). It seems Cadillac’s designers lost their French curves and worked with just two types of lines, vertical and horizontal.1967 Cadillac Sedan deVille fuselageBut in 1967 (sedan pictured above), the fever broke and blockiness again yielded to windswept lines, allowing the fuselage character to resurface (highlighted).

The look continued through the end of the third generation and became more pronounced in the fourth, which debuted for 1971 and ran through 1976.

I couldn’t find a good profile shot of a 1971 so I used a 1974 (coupe pictured below). It’s the same generation but that year was substantially enhanced, downplaying the feature as a result.1974 Cadillac Coupe deVille fuselageTo be frank, I am not all that fond of the fourth generation DeVilles and consider the fuselage/pontoons a redeeming factor.

But, in the end, it’s a Cadillac and my fondness will surely continue to grow as time passes. Now, let’s see a few pre-production models.

Continue to page 2, below.

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