Front end hiccup

It almost seems as if designers went out of their way to emphasize bulk up front for 1959. Adorning the heavy shapes was intricate jeweled detailing. This being from the era that cars started looking wider than tall, the thrusting light clusters and clam shell fender caps served to widen the car’s stance.

The 1960 model (not shown) was for the most part carryover but, as with the rear, more finely finished. The trim’s commotion was toned down and the grille’s horizontal bar was eliminated.

comparison of 1959 vs 1961 Cadillac fronts

For 1961, a new generation brought big, or should I say smaller, changes to the front. The former car’s apparent mass was gone, in favor of a clean, chic design. Replacing the bulky, undulating hood was one that folded over the headlights and front fenders, as if to blanket the mechanical components neatly contained below. Attractive, sure, but it seems to lack something. I struggle to see “Cadillac” in it.

After very mild enhancements up front for 1962 (not shown), 1963 saw a substantial refresh. Resurrected were the heavy shapes, thrusting clam shell fender caps and horizontal split grille of only a few years prior.

1963 Cadillac front

At least learning the proper sequence finally explained the confusion I’d usually run into when trying to pinpoint the model year of Cadillacs from this era. But possibly more enlightening yet was another rudimentary fact I’d somehow always overlooked.

What else did they make?

1963 Cadillac ad "A Dozen Reasons"
You may have sensed a broadness in the way I’ve referenced Cadillac’s historic designs. For example, I describe “the” design of the 1959 Cadillacs, yet there were 14 distinct models that year. Same with saying “the” design for the 1963 Cadillacs, despite having 11 distinct models. Apart from the famous icons, have you ever wondered what their other models looked like during those years?

Odd I’d not previously sorted this out.

The answer is: when you’ve seen one model, you’ve essentially seen the design for all models for that model year. Apart from a few exceptions, which I’ll cover momentarily, Cadillac’s lineup was historically comprised of models utilizing a singular design, offered in a variety of configurations. By 1959 the entire standard lineup was utilizing not only the same design but with the same wheelbase and, regardless of body style, they were all of equal lengths.

At least as incredible, after the V16 option went away in 1940, Cadillac took up the practice of using a single engine across its entire model line. Apart from some years that offered an optional bump in horsepower, if you bought a Cadillac, any Cadillac, it was powered by their motor du jour. (That changed in 1970.)

1957 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham

Quickly circling back, I mentioned exceptions in Cadillac’s appearance monotony, and there were some exceptional exceptions. For instance, the ultra-elite Eldorado Brougham, produced from 1957 (above) through 1960. The 1959 Pininfarina-designed version even influenced the updates to the 1960 standard lineup.

There were also the Series Seventy-five Sedan/Limousine and chassis models which rode on an extended wheelbase with obviously longer bodies; these sometimes varied from the standard models (often with carryover features due to delayed updates). Another example is the Park Avenue variant of the Sedan de Ville, which I had not previously heard of. It was exactly the same as the standard model, except the body measured about eight inches shorter, which was taken from the rear deck, to increase maneuverability.1967 Cadillac Eldorado rear1975 Seville and 1982 Cimarron

Cadillac’s curious monotone styling prerogative continued until 1967 when Eldorado became its own model line and was shifted to a platform shared with Buick’s second generation Riviera and Oldsmobile’s Toronado. It wasn’t until 1975 that the next unique-looking model was added to Cadillac’s offerings, when the Seville bowed. And next, in 1982, was Cimarron. By the mid-1980s, Cadillac had a truly diverse-looking lineup that continued expanding.

Strange to think that until relatively recent times, Cadillac had such uniformity and product concentration in their portfolio. Their historic struggles with adapting to the world of shrinking cars and international competition comes a little more into focus.

I hope this mini exposition helped set the stage for Cadillac’s 1963 brochure. And if anyone would like to add to or clear up anything on the topic, please be my guest.

Now, with all that off my chest, onto the subject material.


Continue this story on page 3, below.

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