When I think classic luxury the immediate picture that pops into my head is an overload of chrome, dramatic wings, and a boat-length body – You guessed it, I award the prize for the most iconic classic-luxury vehicle goes to the Cadillac de Ville. In 1959, Cadillac won the Motor Trend of the Year award for their innovation of the overhead valve V8 engine, the engine used in the prototype Cadillac de Ville. Read on for more classic-car history!
Cadillac is a U.S.-based General Motors division that’s primary markets are the United States, Canada, and China. It is the 2nd oldest automobile brand in the world, just following its brother-brand, Buick. Cadillac’s first vehicles were actually horseless carriages. Although beautiful, the Runabout and Tonneau had a modest single-cylinder engine with just 10hp.
It wasn’t until 1949 that the first DeVille was produced, at the time it was marketed as the Coupe de Ville. It was the very first mass-produced hardtop coupe. The Coupe de Ville sat at the top of Cadillac’s most sold cars for many many years, it was even the one-millionth car they produced! The Deville was a model of the Cadillac Series 62, as well as the Calais, which cost just $3,496, 1 dollar more than the fancy convertible Deville. The original Cadillac de Ville had standard power windows, leather upholstery, and plenty of chrome – it flashed “luxury”. The ’50 model got major style changes. It was lowered, came with standard Hydra Matic transmission, and given a longer hood and a one-piece windshield. In 1951, upgrades included “Coupe de Ville” badges on the rear roof pillars. Coupe de Ville sales made up 74% of Cadillac’s sales this year.
In 1952, in celebration of Cadillac’s 50th anniversary, the DeVille’s hood and deck emblems were gold casted. This year’s model was also given a higher rear deck lid to provide more room for luggage. Other updates included a dual exhaust system, the Cadillac emblem over the standard “V”, glare-proof mirrors, self-winding clocks, and back up lights became standard with this model. In 1953, all of the Series 62 models got hardtops. The grille was redesigned and chunky, chrome bumpers and bumper guards were added. Most people recognize the ’53 model as the first to have a non-divided rear window, non-louvered rear fenders, and both hood and deck ornaments.
From 1954-1956 the major changes to the Coupe de Ville included the famous inverted gull-wing bumpers and “Flourentine” style rear windows, “Coupe de Ville” script added to the corner pillars of their hardtops, golden script nameplates near the upper body belt and eventually on the sides of the front fenders, parking lights below the wing guards, and tubeless tires.
There were a handful of minor updates made from 1957-1958. First, the DeVilles were given additional nameplates on the front fenders as they began to uphold a status of luxury. Shark style fins that pointed backward were a distinguishing characteristic of the ’57 models, while the ’58 was recognized by its dual headlamps and small chrome fins on the front fenders. The tailfins were also less dramatic and the DeVilles were given special solid metal trim on the lower half of the conical projection flares, while other models retained thin ridge molding. There was also a 4-door hardtop, Sedan De Ville added to Series 62.
In 1959, the Coupe de Ville and Sedan de Ville, along with the Eldorado, became their own series – Series 63 and Series 64 were born. The 1959 Cadillac is recognizable by its oversized, sharp tailfins, dual bullet tail lights, two distinctive rooflines, and new jewel-like grille pattern. The DeVille Series had script nameplates on the rear fenders as well. In their first year as a separate series, DeVilles accounted for around 37% of all Cadillacs sold. Fun fact: One ’59 Coupe de Ville became famous when it was used in the movie “When We Last Spoke”. It’s known as Pop’s 1959 and is on display in the Miles Through Time Automotive Museum in GA. General changes to the 1960 model DeVille were a full-width grille, non-pointed front bumper guards, shorter tailfins with oval nacelles and front fender blinkers. DeVilles were specifically distinguishable by rear-fender script nameplates.
Cadillac restyled completely in ’61. Now, the top and bottom of the grille slanted inward, the windshield was flattened, the backlights were given more “crisp” lines, and DeVille models were given scripts near the headlights. The ’62 model had minor revamps such as a thinker horizontal bar across the grille, removal of series badges, while Cadillac script was added to the lower left of the radiator grille. The most prominent change made to the ’63 model was that the front fenders were nearly 5 inches longer and the tailfins were shortened. The DeVille didn’t differ much either. The most notable detail added was the chrome stripe that wrapped around the body sides, extending from the main horizontal grille bar. This was also the first year of the DeVille convertible.
The 1967 DeVille – the model of our MHCC DeVille – was extensively different from the 1964-1966 models. The front of the car was given forward-tilting lines, it now had double-stacked headlights and rectangular parking lights, and the roofline was updated with sail-like panels that gave backseat passengers more privacy.