Saturday, August 11, 2012

Car Of The Day: August 11, 2012

Today's car of the day comes from craftymore's collection and is Yat Ming's 1976 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham.

The Fleetwood Metal Body Company began business in Fleetwood, Pennsylvania on April 1, 1909 and continued as an independent automobile body builder until acquired in 1925 by the Fisher Body Company, a division of General Motors. The company continued in Fleetwood until 1931 at which time General Motors moved the entire operation to Detroit.

Long before acquisition by Fisher Body Company, the Fleetwood Metal Body Company had established its reputation as a builder of fine wood and aluminum auto bodies. Its built-to-order product was sought after by many notable people in the U.S. and abroad, some of whom were royalty from India and Japan, presidents of Poland and the United States, and well-known American movie idols. One specimen, built for silent screen star Rudolph Valentino, was recently on sale for $1,600,000.00.

"Unique" was the magic word that attracted the wealthy. One could purchase a chassis with wheels and motor from the best builders abroad, Isotta Fraschini, Bentley, Mercedes, Rolls-Royce or Fiat. American makers were Duesenberg, Packard, Cadillac, Pierce-Arrow or Stutz. There were also Reading makers of the S.G.V., the Chadwick and Daniels. The purchased chassis with engine and wheels was shipped to Fleetwood while the purchaser met with one of the company’s designers, usually in New York, to put onto a drawing the customer’s ideas of what the finished design should be. Once accepted, the plans were sent to Fleetwood where the body would be created, mounted on the chassis and finished in the colors, upholstery, and appointments chosen by the new owner. The car was “unique” to the likes of the proud possessor.
Eventually, under Fisher’s directives, the company also made production models with the celebrated Fleetwood name. General Motors most notable Cadillac model was the “Fleetwood” until it was recently discontinued.

The Fleetwood name was used on the top of the Cadillac line since 1927. In 1946, Cadillac created a special version of the Series 60 Special called the "Series 60 Special Fleetwood". The Fleetwood name was then used to designate the top of the line trim of the Series 70 and Sixty Special models through 1976.
In 1972, Cadillac refocused the Fleetwood name. The Fleetwood Limousine carried on from the Fleetwood Seventy-Five, while the Fleetwood Brougham took over where the Sixty Special was positioned.

The beginning of the end of the largest of all GM production cars was realized with the introduction of the 1971 B/C/D body cars. Cadillac remained exclusive to the D body for the Deville and Fleetwood with a wheelbase stretching to a lengthy 130 inches (3,300 mm). Engines grew to cubic inches not seen since the end of these massive cars, displacing 472 (7.7L) and finally 500 (8.2L) cubic inches. Unfortunately hp and torque levels plummeted with ever increasing EPA restrictions on tailpipe emissions and grams per mile emissions requirements, forcing gear ratios to taller and taller ratios, dropping to as low as 2.41:1.
1971 also saw the consolidation of the GM full size car lines to a new common frame/suspension design, shared by the Chevrolet Caprice/Impala/Bel Air, Buick LeSebre/Electra, Oldsmobile 88/98, Pontiac Catalina/Bonneville, and the Cadillac Sedan Deville/Coupe Deville and Fleetwood. While the other GM divisions used a front-steer setup (steering linkage in front of the engine crossmember), all Cadillac RWDs retained the 1961-vintage front suspension (rear steering linkage, eccentric cams in the steering knuckle in lieu of shims, strut rods attached to the framerails for caster adjustment). Rear suspsensions were now driven by the Pontiac designed 8 7/8" (8.875") ring gear 10 bolt salisubury live axle.

A new trailer towing package was added for the 1971-1976 model run allowing larger than ever trailers to be towed by Cadillac owners. Coupled with heavy duty cooling, 3.23 gearing, high output 80 amp large frame alternator and Heavy Duty THM400 transmission, the long wheelbase was ideal to pull trailers weighing up to 7,000 lb (3,200 kg).

If you needed a 5,000 pound car with a 133" truck like wheelbase and four doors, the '76 Caddy Fleetwood was your ride to destiny. This was the longest and biggest mainstream production car that was ever sold by Cadillac as 1977 would introduce the down sized full size models from GM across the Chevrolet, Buick, Oldsmobile, Pontiac and Cadillac brands.

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