The name "De Ville" is from the French term de la ville or de ville, meaning "of the town." In French coach building parlance, a coupé de ville, from the French couper (to cut) i.e. shorten, was a short four-wheeled closed carriage with an inside seat for two and an outside seat for the driver and this smaller vehicle was intended for use in the town or city (de ville). An (unshortened) limousine or (in the US) town car has a division between the passenger and driver compartments and if the driver's seat is outside it may be called a sedanca de ville or town car.
The first Cadillac "Coupe de Ville" was shown during the 1949 Autorama. It was built on a Cadillac Sixty Special chassis and featured a dummy air-scoop, chrome trim around front wheel openings, and a one-piece windshield and rear glass. The interior was black and trimmed in gray leather, including the headliner, to match the roof color. It was equipped with a telephone in the glove compartment, a vanity case and a secretarial pad in the rear armrest, power windows and highly decorative chrome interior trim. The prototype "Coupe de Ville" was used by GM President Charles E. Wilson until 1957 when he presented it to his secretary. At some time during this period it acquired a dark Vicodec roof. The prototype "Coupe de Ville" was still in use as of 1976.
The Cadillac Series 62 Coupe de Ville was introduced late in the 1949 model year. Along with the Buick Roadmaster Riviera, and the Oldsmobile 98 Holiday, it was among the first pillarless hardtop coupes ever produced. At $3,496 it was only a dollar less than the Series 62 convertible, and like the convertible, it came with power windows standard. It was luxuriously trimmed, with leather upholstery and chrome 'bows' in the headliner to simulate the ribs of a convertible top. In its first year the Series 62 Coupe de Ville only sold 2,150 units. But 1950 sales more than doubled to 4507, and in 1951 sales more than doubled again to 10,241 exceeding the sales for the Series 62 Club Coupe that year. Also, in 1951, Coupe de Ville chrome script appeared on the rear roof pillar for the first time, to further distinguish it from the Series 62 Club Coupe.
In 1956 the Series 62 Coupe de Ville was joined by the Series 62 Sedan de Ville, Cadillac's first standard production 4-door hardtop. Similarly to the Coupe de Ville, it was also more expensive and more luxuriously trimmed that the standard 4-door Series 62. With 41,732 sold, it also easily outsold the Series 62 sedan in its very first year. Given their sales success, it was only natural that the Coupe de Ville and Sedan de Ville were moved to their own separate series in 1959, the Series 6300, being joined by a De Ville convertible in 1964.
The 1959 Cadillac is remembered for its huge sharp tailfins with dual bullet tail lights, two distinctive rooflines and roof pillar configurations, new jewel-like grille patterns and matching deck lid beauty panels. In 1959 the Series 62 were moved from the Series 62 to their own series, the Series 6200. De Villes and 2-door Eldorados became the Series 6300 and Series 6400 respectively, though they all, including the 4-door Eldorado Brougham (which was moved from the Series 70 to Series 6900), shared the same 130 in (3,302 mm) wheelbase. Engine output was an even 325 hp (242 kW) from the 390 cu in (6.4 L) engine. The De Ville Series had script nameplates on the rear fenders. Standard equipment included power brakes, power steering, automatic transmission, back-up lamps, windshield wipers, two-speed wipers, wheel discs, outside rearview mirror, vanity mirror, oil filter, power windows and two way power seats. Plain fender skirts covered the rear wheels and 4-doors were available in either four-window or six-window hardtop configurations. Over 53,000 De Villes were sold in their first year as a separate series, accounting for roughly 37% of all Cadillacs sold.
The 1960 Cadillacs had smoother, more restrained styling. General changes included a full-width grille, the elimination of pointed front bumper guards, increased restraint in the application of chrome trim, lower tailfins with oval shaped nacelles and front fender mounted directional indicator lamps. De Villes were distinguished by special script nameplates on the rear fenders. Four-window and six-window hardtop sedans were offered again. The former featured a one-piece wraparound backlight and flat-top roof, while the latter had a sloping rear window and roofline. Standard equipment included power brakes, power steering, automatic transmission, dual back-up lamps, windshield wipers, two-speed wipers, wheel discs, outside rearview mirror, vanity mirror, oil filter, power windows and a two-way power seats. Technical highlights were finned rear drums and an X-frame construction. Interiors were done in Chadwick cloth or optional Cambray cloth and leather combinations.
Cadillac was restyled and re-engineered for 1961. The new grille slanted back towards both the bumper and the hood lip, along the horizontal plane, and sat between dual headlamps. New forward slanting front pillars with non-wraparound windshield glass were seen. The revised backlight treatment had crisp angular lines with thin pillars on some models and heavier semi-blind quarter roof posts on others. De Ville models featured front series designation scripts and a lower body "skeg" trimmed with a thin three quarter length spear molding running from behind the front wheel opening to the rear of the car. Standard equipment included power brakes, power steering, automatic transmission, dual back up lights, windshield washer, dual speed wipers, wheel discs, plain fender skirts, outside rearview mirror, vanity mirror, oil filter, power windows and 2-way power seats. Rubberized front and rear coil springs replaced the trouble prone air suspension system. Four-barrel induction systems were now the sole power choice and dual exhaust were no longer available. A new short-decked four-door Town Sedan hardtop appeared mid-season.
A mild face lift characterized Cadillac styling trends for 1962. A flatter grille with a thicker horizontal center bar and more delicate cross-hatched insert appeared. Ribbed chrome trim panel, seen ahead of the front wheel housings in 1961, were now replaced with cornering lamps and front fender model and series identification badges were eliminated. More massive front bumper end pieces appeared and housed rectangular parking lamps. At the rear tail lamps were now housed in vertical nacelles designed with an angled peak at the center. A vertically ribbed rear beauty panel appeared on the deck lid latch panel. Cadillac script also appeared on the lower left side of the radiator grille. The short-deck hardtop Town Sedan was moved from the De Ville series to the Series 6200, being replaced by a short-deck Park Avenue. In addition all short deck Cadillac models went from being 6-window sedans in 1961 to 4-window sedans in 1962 and 1963. Standard equipment included all of last year’s equipment plus remote controlled outside rearview mirror, five tubeless black wall tires, heater and defroster and front cornering lamps. Cadillac refined the ride and quietness, with more insulation in the floor and behind the firewall. De Ville sales as a separate series exceeded their sales level as a trim level for the first time ever at 71,883 units, or nearly 45% of Cadillac's total sales.
In overall terms 1963 Cadillac was essentially the same as last year. Exterior changes imparted a bolder and longer look. Hoods and deck lids were redesigned. The front fenders projected 4.625 inches further forward than in 1962 while the tailfins were trimmed down somewhat to provide a lower profile. Body side sculpturing was entirely eliminated. The slightly V-shaped radiator grille was taller and now incorporated outer extensions that swept below the flush-fender dual headlamps. Smaller circular front parking lamps were mounted in those extensions. A De Ville signature script was incorporated above the lower beltline molding near the rear of the body. A total of 143 options including bucket seats with wool, leather or nylon upholstery fabrics and wood veneer facings on dash, doors and seatbacks, set an all-time record for interior appointment choices. Standard equipment was the same as the previous year. The engine was entirely changed, though the displacement and output remained the same, 390 cu in (6.4 l) and 325 hp (242 kW).
It was time for another facelift in 1964 and really a minor one. New up front was a bi-angular grille that formed a V-shape along both its vertical and horizontal planes. The main horizontal grille bar was now carried around the body sides. Outer grille extension panels again housed the parking and cornering lamps. It was the 17th consecutive year for the Cadillac tailfins with a new fine-blade design carrying on the tradition. Performance improvements including a larger V-8 were the dominant changes for the model run. Equipment features were same as in 1963 for the most part. Comfort Control, a completely automatic heating and air conditioning system controlled by a dial thermostat on the instrument panel, was introduced as an industry first. The engine was bumped to 429 cu in (7 l), with 340 hp (253.5 kW) available. Performance gains from the new engine showed best in the lower range, at 20 to 50 mph traffic driving speeds. A new technical feature was the Turbo-Hydramatic transmission, also used in the Eldorado and the Sixty Special. A De Ville script above the lower belt molding was continued as an identifier. This was the first year for the De Ville convertible. De Ville sales reached 110,379 units, accounting for nearly two thirds of all Cadillacs sold.
As it had been since De Ville became a separate series, De Ville denoted Cadillac's mainstream model, falling between the Calais (which had replaced the Series 62) and the Sixty Special and Eldorado. The De Ville was redesigned for 1965 but rode on the same 129.5-inch (3,290 mm) wheelbase. The elevated tailfins were removed, with fins planed flat, and sharp, distinct body lines replaced the rounded look. Also new were a straight rear bumper and vertical lamp clusters. The headlight pairs switched from horizontal to vertical, thus permitting a wider grille. Curved frameless side windows appeared, and convertibles acquired tempered glass backlights. New standard features included lamps for luggage, glove and rear passenger compartments and front and rear safety belts. Power was still supplied by the 340 horsepower 429 cu in (7,030 cc) V8, which would be replaced by the 472 cu in (7,730 cc) for 1968. Perimeter frame construction allowed repositioning the engine six inches forward in the frame, thus lowering the transmission hump and increasing interior room. Pillared sedans appeared on the De Ville series for the first time, while six-window hardtop sedans were dropped. A padded vinyl roof was a $121 extra-cost option on the hardtop model. All four De Ville models had small "Tiffany-like" script nameplates on the ends of their rear fenders just above the chrome side molding.
In 1966 changes included a somewhat coarser mesh for the radiator grille insert, which was now divided by a thick, bright metal horizontal center bar housing rectangular parking lamps at the outer ends. Separate rectangular side marker lamps replaced the integral grille extension designs. There was generally less chrome on all Cadillac models this year. De Ville scripts were still above the rear tip of the horizontal body rub moldings. Cadillac crests and V-shaped moldings, front and rear, were identifiers. Cadillac "firsts" this season included variable ratio steering and optional front seats with carbon cloth heating pads built into the cushions and seatbacks. Comfort and convenience innovations were headrests, reclining seats and an AM/FM stereo system. Automatic level control was available. Engineering improvements made to the perimeter frame increased ride and handling ease. Newly designed piston and oil rings and a new engine mounting system and patented quiet exhaust were used.
The 1967 De Villes were extensively restyled. Prominent styling features were given a powerful frontal appearance with forward-leaning front end, long sculptured body lines, and redefined rear fenders that had more than just a hint of tail fins in them. The full-width forward-thrusted "eggcrate" grille was flanked by dual stacked headlights for the third consecutive year. The squarer cornered grille insert had blades that seemed to emphasize its vertical members and it appeared both above the bumper and through a horizontal slot cut into it. Rectangular parking lamps were built into the outer edges of the grille. Rear end styling revisions were highlighted by metal divided taillamps and a painted lower bumper section. Coupe de Villes got a new roofline, inspired by the Florentine show car created for the 1964 New York World's Fair, that gave rear seat passengers added privacy. As on that show car, the quarter window glass retracted rearward into a sail panel. Minor trim variations and slightly richer interiors separated De Ville from Calais. Tiffany style chrome signature scripts were again found above the body side molding on the rear fenders. New standard De Ville features included non-glare rear-view mirror, electric clock, Automatic Climate Controls, padded dashboard, Hazard Warning system, outboard seatbelt retractors and rear cigarette lighters in all styles. A slide-out fuse box and safety front seat back lock for two-door models were additional Cadillac advances for the 1967 model year. Technical improvements included a revised engine valve train, different carburetor, Mylar printed circuit instrument panel, re-tuned body mounts, and a new engine fan with clutch for quieter operation.
In 1968 grilles had an insert with finer mesh and step down outer section which held the rectangular parking lights just a little higher than before. Rear end styling was modestly altered with the deck lid having more of a rake. The most obvious change was an 8.5-inch-longer hood designed to accommodate recessed windshield wiper-washers, which now came with three speeds standard. Of 20 exterior paint color combinations, 14 were totally new. On the inside enriched appointments included molded inner door panels with illuminated reflectors and a selection of 147 upholstery combinations, 76 in cloth, 67 in leather and four in vinyl. New standard features included a Light Group, a Mirror Group, a trip odometer and an ignition key warning buzzer. The De Ville also gained a new 472 cu in (7,730 cc) V8 engine rated at 375 hp (SAE gross). 1968 was also the last year for the "stacked" dual headlights, which were replaced with side-by-side dual headlights in 1969. This was also the last year for vent windows.
In 1969 De Ville was restyled in the Eldorado image. An Eldorado-like front fender treatment evolved and helped to emphasize a stronger horizontal design line. Rear quarters were extended to give the car a longer look. There was an all new grille with dual horizontal headlamps positioned in the outboard step down areas of the grille. The hood was again extended, a total of 2.5 inches to add the impression of extra length. The roofline was squarer and the rear deck and bumper more sculptured. A new ventilation system eliminated the need for vent windows, which provided a longer sleeker look and improved visibility. New standard features included front and rear (except on convertibles) center seat armrests.
In 1970 a facelift included a grille with 13 vertical blades set against a delicately cross-hatched rectangular opening. The bright metal headlamp surrounds were bordered with body color to give a more refined look. Narrow vertical "vee" taillights were seen again, but no longer had smaller V-shaped bottom lenses pointing downward below the bumper. Wheel discs and winged crest fender tip emblems were new. Exterior distinctions came from a De Ville script above the rear end of the belt molding and from the use of long rectangular back up light lenses set into the lower bumper as opposed to the smaller square lens used on the Calais. A new feature was a body color border around the edge of the vinyl top covering, when this option was ordered. 1970 was the last model year for pillared sedans until hardtops were permanently dropped in 1977. It was also the last year the De Ville ever offered the convertible body style. A total of 181,719 De Villes were sold, accounting for 76% of all Cadillacs. Never again would Cadillac sales be dominated to such a degree by a single model.
As with all GM full-size lines, the De Ville was redesigned for 1971. The new GM full-size bodies, at 64.3 inches front shoulder room (62.1 inches on Cadillac) and 63.4 inches rear shoulder room (64.0 inches on Cadillac) set a record for interior width that would not be matched by any car until the full-size GM rear-wheel-drive models of the early to mid-1990s. Pairs of individually housed squarish headlamps were set wider apart. The V-shaped grille had an eggcrate style insert and was protected by massive vertical guards framing a rectangular license plate indentation. A wide hood with full-length windsplints, a prominent center crease and hidden windshield wipers was seen. A Cadillac crest decorated the nose and new indicator lamps appeared atop each front fender. A horizontal beltline molding ran from behind the front wheel housing, almost to the rear stopping where an elliptical bulge in the body came to a point and where thin rectangular side markers were placed above and below the chrome strip. The rear wheel openings were again housed in fender skirts. Taillamps were of the same type as before but were no longer divided by a chrome bar. Long horizontal back-up lamps were set in the bumper, on either side of a deeply recessed license plate housing. De Villes were set apart visually by thin bright metal rocker panel steps and signature script on the front fenders bearing the series name. The bottoms of the rear fenders were decorated with a bright metal beauty panel that was wider than the rocker panel strips and blended into the molding running along the bottom of the fender skirt. The standard engine remained the 472, still rated at 375 SAE gross horsepower and 365 lb·ft (495 N·m) of torque.
In November 1971, a showroom-stock 1971 Coupe de Ville placed third in the annual coast-to-coast Cannonball Run, posting the highest average speed of the event, 84.6 mph (136.2 km/h) (excluding stops) and averaging 8.9 mpg-US (26 L/100 km; 10.7 mpg-imp).
In 1972 a modest frontal revision placed more emphasis on horizontal grille blades. The parking lamps were moved from the bumper to between the square bezeled headlamps, which were now set wider apart. V-shaped emblems made a return on hood and deck lid. New standard features included a bumper impact system, automatic parking brake release, passenger assist straps and flow through ventilation system. New De Ville signature script was affixed to the sides of the rear roof panels. Sales reached a record 194,811.
New energy absorbing bumpers were seen on all GM cars in 1973 and it brought styling refinements to De Ville. Grilles were widened and had an intricate eggcrate design. Larger vertical rectangles housed the parking lamps between wide spaced headlamps ehich had square bezels but round lenses. Bumpers ran fully across the front and wrapped around each end. Vertical guards were spaced much further apart at a point outboard of the grille. The rear end had a bumper with a flatter upper section housing an angled license plate recess. Border outline moldings vertically "veed" paralleled the fender edge shape at the rear bodysides. Single horizontally mounted rectangular rear side marker lamps were placed over and under the rear tip of the thin beltline trim. Cadillac script was seen on the front fender sides below the belt molding behind the wheel opening. This was the final year for hardtop Coupe de Villes, an irony since it was their introduction of the hardtop that made them such a sensation in 1949. Sales set a new record at 216,243.
In 1974 a wide eggcrate grille was used. Dual round headlamps were mounted close together in square bezels. Further outboard were double deck wraparound parking lamps. Shorter vertical grille guards appeared in about the same position as before. Rear fendersides were flatter without the elliptical bulge. The thin beltline molding was positioned lower by several inches. The rear end had vertical bumper ends with the taillight built in. Both bumpers, especially the rear, protruded further from the body. Coupe de Villes were no longer hardtops, instead sporting large wide "coach" windows giving a thick center pillar look. A new curved instrument panel housed a digital clock. New standard features included an integral litter container. A Space Saver spare tire was standard when De Villes were ordered with optional white sidewall steel belted radial tires.
1974 also saw the introduction of the optional "Air Cushion Restraint System". Known today as airbags, this option provided protection for front seat occupants in the case of a frontal collision. One bag was located in the steering wheel, the other in the dashboard in front of the front seat passenger. The glove box was replaced with a lockable storage compartment under the dashboard. The option was unpopular and was discontinued after the 1976 model year.
A new option package was a fully padded Cabriolet roof treatment. It incorporated a landau style top with bright metal forward divider strip. Another new option package was the d'Elegance package. Similar to the Sixty Special Brougham's package of the same name, it featured velour upholstery, Deluxe padded doors, front seatback storage pockets, deep pile carpeting, floor mats, see-through standup hood ornament and vinyl tape accent stripes. The "d'Elegance" name remained with the de Ville series as a package through 1984. In 1997 it became a separate model designation for the sedan.
Styling changes for 1975 brought dual rectangular headlamp lenses flanked by rectangular cornering lights wrapped around the body. A new cross hatched grille also appeared. Sedan de Villes now featured slim triangular quarter windows that mimicked the coach windows that appeared on Coupe de Villes the previous year. New standard equipment included front fender lamp monitors, power door locks, high energy ignition, steel-belted radial tires. The 210 hp 500 V8 replaced the 472 as the standard engine. Electronic fuel injection became optional in March 1975. Another option was the Astroroof with sliding sunshade that permitted use as an electrically operated sunroof or a transparent closed skylight. An ordinary sunroof panel was also available.
In 1976 the grille saw a new finer crosshatching pattern. Cornering lamps got new horizontal chrome trim while taillamps gained a new bold look. Eight different color accent stripes were available. Vinyl tops were now integral padded Elk grain material. New trims included sporty plaids, plush velours, knits and 11 distinctive genuine leathers. Coupe de Villes had a new vinyl roof whose top molding served as a continuation of the door"belt" molding. A Controlled (limited-slip) Differential was included for extra traction. An optional illuminated entry and theft deterrence system was optional. A new Freedom battery never needed water. New turbine veined and wire wheel covers were offered. A new option locked the doors when the transmission lever was shifted to "Drive". Cadillac also offered Track Master, a computerized skid prevention system that automatically pumped the back brakes in an emergency situation to shorten stopping distance. New options included a push-button Weather Band built into the AM/FM stereo signal-seeking radio, loose pillow style seats for d'Elegance packages, plus power passenger and manual driver seatback recliners for 50/50 front seats. Of the 15 standard and six optional Firemist body colors, 13 were new this year. New standard features included map light, Soft-Ray tinted glass, spare tire cover, washer fluid level indicator, and steel belted radial whitewall tires.
1977 was Cadillac's 75th anniversary, and saw the introduction of the downsized De Ville coupes and sedans. These new cars featured a higher roofline, resulting in a vehicle that was over nine inches shorter, four inches narrower, and 1/2 ton lighter than the previous year, but with a larger trunk and more headroom and legroom. These were also the first De Villes ever to be marketed without fender skirts over the rear wheels. The 500 in3 V8 (which produced 190 horsepower) was replaced for 1977 by a 180 horsepower 425 in3 V8 variant of similar design.
For 1977, the line-up included the two-door Coupe de Ville ($9,654) and four-door Sedan de Ville ($9,864). The $650 d'Elegance package, an interior dress-up option carried over from the previous generation of de Villes, continued for both models. 3-sided, wrap-around tail lamps were a 1977 feature only (although they would re-appear in 1987). Coupe de Ville's popular "Cabriolet" option, priced at $348, included a rear-half padded vinyl roof covering and opera lamps. An optional electronic fuel-injected version of the standard 7.0 liter powerplant, adding 15 horsepower (11 kW), was available for an additional $647. Sales figures were 138,750 Coupe de Villes and 95,421 Sedan de Villes.
In addition to a redesigned grille and hood ornament, 1978 saw slim, vertical tail lamps inset into chrome bumper end caps with built-in side marker lamps (Cadillac would retain this "vertical tail lamp inset" design feature on de Ville through 1984, and again from 1989 through 1999). New for 1978, a "Phaeton" package was optional for de Ville. Available on both coupe and sedan, the $1,929 Phaeton package featured a simulated convertible-top, special pin striping, wire wheel discs, and "Phaeton" name plates in place of the usual "Coupe de Ville" or "Sedan de Ville" ornament on the rear fenders. Inside were leather upholstered seats and a leather-trimmed steering wheel matching the exterior color. The package was available in "Cotillion White" (with Dark Blue roof), "Platinum Silver" (with a Black roof), or "Arizona Beige" (with a Dark Brown roof). Coupe de Ville's popular Cabriolet roof package was priced at $369, while the d'Elegance package (for coupe or sedan) was available at $689. Electronic fuel injection, which added 15 horsepower (11 kW), was available at $744. Electronic level control - which used suspension-mounted sensors and air filled rear shocks - kept the car's height level regardless of passengers and cargo weight, was available for $140. Sales dropped slightly from 1977 to 117,750 for the $10,444 Coupe de Ville, and 88,951 for Sedan de Ville, priced at $10,668.
With bigger changes coming in '80, the 1979 models saw few alterations, one of which was a new grille design. The "Phaeton" package, now priced at $2,029, was still available in three colors, but with two new replacement colors: "Western Saddle Firemist" (with leather interior in "Antique Saddle") replacing the "Arizona Beige", and "Slate Firemist" (with leather interior in "Antique Gray") replacing "Platinum Silver". The d'Elegance package was back, at $725, which included Venetian velour upholstery (in four colors) with a 50/50 split front seat, overhead assist handles, Tangier carpeting, door pull handles, and "d'Elegance" emblems among other niceties. In addition to the $783 "fuel-injection" option, there was also the choice of a 350 in³ LF9 diesel V8 (built by Oldsmobile) for $849. Coupe de Ville's cabriolet package, priced at $384, was available in 17 colors. Production rose slightly to 121,890 for Coupe de Ville ($11,728), and 93,211 for Sedan de Ville ($12,093).
1980 saw a significant refresh, with a lower, more aerodynamic nose, higher tail end, and a heavier, more substantial appearance. The Phaeton option was discontinued, but the $1,005 d'Elegance package remained. The Coupe de Ville now wore full, bright side window surround moldings, whereas the sedan had body-color door frames with a thin chrome bead around the window opening (as used in 1977 - 1979). The chromed-plastic grille held a very diplomatic, Rolls-Royce inspired design, with thick vertical bars. The grille cast for 1980 was used again for the 1989 to 1992 Cadillac Brougham. Late in the 1980 model year, V6 power (in the form of a 4-bbl 252 CID engine manufactured by Buick) was offered as a credit option. Cadillac had not offered an engine with fewer than 8 cylinders since 1914. The standard engine for 1980 was a new 368 CID (6.0 L) V8. Unlike the pre-1980 models, the rear window glass for both two and four door models was now the same, as the two door models did away with the sporty slanted rear window and adopted the formal vertical look shared with the sedans. Pricing for de Ville was $12,899 for the coupe; $13,282 for the sedan. Sales dropped miserably for the 1980 model year, despite new sheetmetal and a multitude of improvements. Coupe de Ville was down to 55,490 (less than half of the '79 figures), Sedan de Ville was also down by nearly half at 49,188. Oldsmobile's 5.7 liter diesel V8 was still available at $924, as was the popular Cabriolet option for Coupe de Ville at $350.
1981's biggest news was the introduction of Cadillac's modulated-displacement 368 in³ V8-6-4 engine. Developed by the Eaton Corporation - with design elements that had been tested for over 500,000 miles (800,000 km) - allowed various engine computers to decide how many cylinders were needed to power the car for optimal fuel economy. The theory was 8 cylinders from a complete stop, 6 cylinders during usual driving, and just four cylinders at cruising speed. The changes in cylinder operation were seamless, and most drivers did not detect any difference in operation. However, in some cases, reliability and component failure led to customer complaints. Cadillac defended its micro-compressor controlled powerplant, and even offered special extended warranties to customers. Also available was Oldsmobile's 5.7 liter V-8 diesel engine. The 125 horsepower (93 kW) Buick V6, teamed with an automatic transmission, returned for '81 after a short initial offering in the spring of 1980. Coupe de Ville was priced at $13,450, while Sedan de Ville, priced at $13,847, now had the unique option of an available automatic seat belt system - the first offered on a GM vehicle. With the automatic shoulder/lap belt system (only for the outboard front seat passengers), the shoulder point was moved from the upper B-pillar to the upper door glass frame, and the belt reel was moved from the floor onto the door itself, installed in the lower corner. With this, you could theoretically leave the seat belt latched at all times, and simply get in and out of the vehicle without having to unfasten the belt. The $150 option (which would re-appear as standard equipment on the 1990 - 1992 Brougham), was available only on V6-powered Sedan de Villes. The V6 option itself was a $165 credit over the standard V8 in de Ville. A new grille design was made up of small squares, similar to the pattern from 1979. The egg-crate 1981 grille cast was used again for the 1987 and 1988 Cadillac Brougham models. A new Electronic Climate Control panel did away with the slide lever and thumb wheel in favor of a digital display which allowed the driver to set the interior temperature to a single degree - from 65 to 85 (or "max" settings at 60 and 90 degrees). Option groups included the $1,005 d'Elegance package (available on both models), and the Cabriolet package (for Coupe de Ville) at $363. Sales were up slightly from 1980–89,991 sedans versus 62,724 coupes (figures include de Ville and Fleetwood models).
Changes for 1982 were kept to a minimum, but still included a new grille design (which was used through 1986), revamped parking lamp / tail lamp ornamentation, and a new standard wheel cover design. Cadillac introduced a new aluminum-block 249 cu 4.1 liter HT series V8 engine to replace the V8-6-4. The new power plant featured a closed-loop digital fuel injection system, free-standing cast-iron cylinders within a cast-aluminum block, and was coupled with a 4-speed automatic-overdrive transmission. Other engine options included the Buick V6 or Oldsmobile's diesel V8. Inside, the Electronic Climate Control had an updated fascia that now included an "Outside Temperature" button. Previously, the outside temperature was available through an illuminated thermometer mounted to the driver's outside mirror. With the new front-drive Cadillac Cimarron taking over as Cadillac's entry-level model, the $15,249 Coupe de Ville was now a step-up. Sedan de Ville was priced at $15,699. Sales totals for 1982 included 50,130 coupes and 86,020 sedans (figures include de Ville and Fleetwood models).
For 1983, slight reworkings under the hood added 10 horsepower (now rated at 135) to the standard 4.1 liter powerplant. Meanwhile, the Buick V6 credit-option was dropped. The biggest visible change was hardly noticeable - while the grille design was a carry-over from the previous year (and would be through 1986), the Cadillac script moved from the chrome header onto the grille itself. Coupe de Ville's popular Cabriolet roof package added $415 to its $15,970 sticker price. While both models, including the $16,441 Sedan de Ville, could be ordered with the $1,150 d'Elegance package. 1983 was supposed to be the last year for the rear-drive De Ville, as new front-drive models would take over for 1984. However, numerous developmental delays caused De Ville to stay in rear-drive form for another year. Sales figures looked healthy, with a total of 109,004 sedans and 65,670 coupes (figures include de Ville and Fleetwood models).
Because of a delay in production of the new front-drive De Villes (which were now going to be 1985 models), 1984 was a re-run for the rear-wheel drive Coupe de Ville ($17,140) and its four-door companion, the popular Sedan de Ville ($17,625). It would also be the last time De Ville used the "V" emblem below the Cadillac crest, as 1985 models and on would use the crest and wreath emblem - formerly a Fleetwood exclusive. Visible changes included body-color side moldings, and gold-tone winged crests on the parking lamps up front and tail lights in back. Hidden changes included a revised exhaust system with a revamped catalytic converter. The diesel V8 was now available at no additional charge. While the optional d'Elegance package remained at $1,150, the Cabriolet option for Coupe de Ville went up to $420. For 1984, sales figures show a total four-door production of 107,920 units, and an additional 50,840 two-door units (figures include de Ville and Fleetwood models). These figures are somewhat deceiving though, as this was a very short model year for the rear-drive Coupe and Sedan de Ville. The rear-wheel drive model sales figures - impressive for such a shortened production run - showed that buyers were not quite ready for smaller Cadillacs just yet. The new front-drive 1985 Coupe de Ville and Sedan de Ville arrived in Cadillac showrooms during the Spring of 1984, about six months earlier than most new-car introductions, so both the 1984 rear-drive and 1985 front-drive models were selling at the same time for nearly half a year. Cadillac sold 45,330 units of the new 1985 front-drive models during the 1984 model year (35,940 four-doors and 9,390 two-doors.
In 1985, Cadillac's standard models - the de Ville and Fleetwood - switched to GM's new front-wheel drive C-body platform. The front cover of the brochure advertised the new cars as the "Cadillac of Tomorrow". These new models were smaller externally yet kept almost identical interior dimensions as their predecessors. This change also brought nearly the entire Cadillac line of cars to front wheel drive - leaving only the Fleetwood Brougham as the rear wheel drive hold-out. Cadillac's HT-4100 V8 remained the only engine, mounted transversely and coupled with a 440-T4 automatic.
Of GM's front-drive C and H bodies, Cadillac was the only line to offer a V8 engine. Other GM vehicles were equipped with a Buick-derived 3.0 or 3.8 V6 engine, or - for 1985 only - Oldsmobile's 4.3L V6 diesel powerplant.
The 1985 de Ville was still available in sedan or coupe form. The d'Elegance package - an optional interior dress-up package featuring assist handles and button-tufted seating among other niceties - was no longer available on de Ville, but now only offered solely on the Fleetwood sedan.
Lower gas prices pushed luxury car buyers towards larger vehicles, and as a result, the mildly restyled 1985 Lincoln Town Car (introduced in then-current form in 1980) was soon out-selling de Ville, despite Cadillac's front-wheel drive, newer technology, and contemporary design.
For 1986, few changes marked the new de Ville's second year in production. An anti-lock braking system, developed by Teves, became available. A factory-installed cellular telephone joined the option list at an astonishing $2,850. The standard space-saver spare tire now sat horizontally in the trunk, doing away with the small covered storage cubby in the spare tire well from last year. The optional aluminum wheels had new flush-fitting center caps (last year's design featured exposed capped lugs), and bumper rub strips changed from black to gray. Borrowed from the front-wheel drive Fleetwood line, the narrow lower body side molding from the 1985 de Ville was replaced with a considerably wider one, and the trim surround from the rear window gave the formal appearance of a smaller window opening. Inside, a more tailored look was applied to the seat trim. Coupe de Ville's popular cabriolet option, featuring a padded vinyl covering over the rear half of the roof, was priced at $698. Pricing for the Coupe de Ville was $19,669, with Sedan de Ville at $19,990. The transverse-mounted Cadillac 4.1 liter V-8 continued from the previous year, but with 5 more horsepower.
The 1986 Cadillac had: Type: 90-degree, overhead valve V-8. Aluminum block and cast iron heads. Displacement: 249 cu in (4.1 liters) Bore & stroke: 3.47 x 3.31 in Compression ratio: 8.5:1 Brake horsepower: 135 hp (101 kW) at 4200 rpm Torque: 200 lbf·ft (270 N·m) at 2200 rpm Five main bearings Hydraulic valve lifters TBI VIN Code: 8
Introduced in 1986, Cadillac's Touring Sedan and Touring Coupe were based on the standard de Ville but included extras such as a subtle rear deck lid spoiler, body-color tail lamp bezels, front air dam with fog lamps, rear seat headrests, leather upholstery, and a performance enhancement package among other features. The package was available for $2,880. In addition, the Touring Coupe had removable decorative louvers on the rear edge of the side opera windows.
In an attempt to win back customers, 1987 saw a new front-end design. Revised cornering lamps in front and one-piece composite headlamps flanked a trapezoid-shaped grille with a bold egg-crate texture. Elongated fender caps were in back - upping the overall length by an inch and a half, but much more dramatic in appearance with new wrap-around tail lamps. This new 3-sided tail lamp style was inspired by a design used on the 1977 de Ville. Unlike the new one-piece headlamps, the changes to the rear-end in 1987 had little to do with engineering, but rather, feedback from Cadillac's customer base who felt the 1985 car looked too short. Although the '87 revamp was still quite similar to the 1986 model (so much in fact that it still used the previous year's deck lid), the design was more in-tune with the look that traditional Cadillac buyers were used to.
Pricing for 1987 included Coupe de Ville at $21,316, and Sedan de Ville at $21,659. Fleetwood d'Elegance at $26,104, and the new Fleetwood Sixty-Special was available for $34,850. The Touring option, priced at $2,880 over de Ville's base cost, also included aluminum wheels mounted on 15" Goodyear Eagle GT tires. At the end of the '88 model year, Cadillac discontinued the slow-selling de Ville-based Touring Coupe and Sedan, although the 4-door would return in 1992.
In 1988, Lincoln's Town Car sold about 212,000 units (in just one 4-door body style), versus Cadillac's sales of 152,513 (with five different full-size models - Coupe de Ville, Sedan de Ville, Fleetwood d'Elegance, Fleetwood Sixty Special, and Brougham). Cadillac's decision to enlarge de Ville/Fleetwood for '89 (to be closer in dimension to Town Car) meant that cosmetic changes would be kept to a minimum for 1988. To mitigate the nearly $2,000 price jump this year, several previously optional items were made standard equipment this year, including tilt steering column, telescopic steering wheel, power trunk release, split-bench front seating, cruise control, and variable delay windshield wipers. Under the hood was a new 155 hp 4.5 L V8 and heavy-duty battery. Pricing rose to $23,049 for Coupe de Ville, and $23,404 for Sedan de Ville.
Cadillac's main competition in this time frame continued to be Lincoln, which, alongside their successful Town Car, was now fielding an all-new front wheel drive Continental (based on the Ford Taurus).The Continental went into production with a six cylinder engine so as to be considered a larger front wheel drive alternative to the Acura Legend that appeared in 1986, with a front wheel drive platform and a V6 engine.