Cadillac Fleetwood Series Remains The Luxurious Car of Choice
By Greg Morgan
All Cadillac owners upon opening the car doors, are familiar with the door sill plate which reads: Body by Fisher, Interior by Fleetwood. But here is the real story behind the Cadillac with the dignified presence. This was the quintessential unsurpassed luxury sedan; it was immediately identified at any gathering of fine automobiles. The respect and admiration in the luxury car arena made the Cadillac Fleetwood the true flagship of the line. This was the "Cadillac of Cadillacs."
The Cadillac Fleetwood series were the most luxurious Cadillacs in the model year line up. Fleetwood did all Cadillac interiors, but they crafted the entire car in this most eloquent and revered series. The formidable stance and its individually longer wheelbase made its custom crafted body panels augment the sweep of the taller roofline for added roominess; this was not your everyday Cadillac.
Custom Wood Crafters
Long before acquisition by Fisher Body division of General Motors, The Fleetwood Metal Body Company had established their preeminence as custom crafters in wood and aluminum auto bodies. The Fleetwood Body Company of Fleetwood Pennsylvania was founded by Harry Ulrich in the nineteenth century. They began as a small community of craftsmen headed by Henry Fleetwood Esq. of Penwortham, near Lancaster England. Their "build to suit client taste" could be compared to that of the famous HJ Mulliner/Park Ward design studios for Rolls Royce in the UK. Fleetwood's made to order endeavors were sought after, around the globe. For example, in Europe, one could purchase a rolling chassis/engine configuration from Isotta Fraschini, Rolls Royce, Bentley, Mercedes, and Fiat. And in America, Duesenberg, Packard, Stutz, Pierce Arrow, and of course Cadillac were among the few who could request a car as unique as its owner's finger prints.
The purchased rolling chassis was shipped to Fleetwood, while the client met with the designer, usually in New York where the actual design of the car was decided upon then drawn up after client scrutiny, and sent to Fleetwood where the mounting of this custom crafted body was married to the chassis and finished, again, ala carte by the proud to be owner, from an array of colors, upholstery, and other amenities. The Fleetwood Metal Body Company began business April 1, 1909, and continued custom crafting bodies. Coachwork by Fleetwood was built for a variety of luxury makes through 1924, until acquired in 1925 by The Fisher Body Company of General Motors, exclusively for the Cadillac brand. Fleetwood continued to manufacturer in Fleetwood Pennsylvania until 1931 when the entire operation was moved to Detroit Michigan.
Four Of Seven Fisher Brothers
Four of seven Fisher brothers organized The Fisher Body Company in 1908. It was Lawrence Fisher known as Larry that was more involved with Cadillac when he joined in 1916. Larry helped to bring Fisher under the GM umbrella in 1919. In May 1925 Larry was appointed head of General Motors, an office he retained through 1934. Larry Fisher went to work immediately introducing new exclusive custom Fleetwood bodies to the Cadillac brand. (Would you believe...a custom bodied Fleetwood ordered for Rudolph Valentino was recently on sale a few years ago for $1,600,000!!?) By 1929, General Motors had purchased the remaining stock holdings from both Fisher and Fleetwood, now owning both companies.
Cadillac offered Fleetwood bodies as an option from 1927 through 1934. Cadillac became more selective for the Fleetwood name and by 1938; the only way to get a Fleetwood was by purchasing the Series 75 or Series 90. Even the Sixty Special had a Fisher body the year it debuted 1938, and this was a Bill Mitchell design, for the archive. It was a four door sedan designed to look like a convertible. Here the Cadillac Sixty Special showcased these trendsetting features the rest of the industry eventually caught up with: completely integrated trunk lines, lack of running side boards, and four front hinged doors. It was built on a 127 inch wheelbase which was 3 inches longer than the standard Series 60. It had a rigid "X" frame which gave it the stiffest chassis, making it 3 inches lower.
The Sleek Cadillac - Removing The Running Boards
The disappearance of running boards and void of belt line trim made this beauty even lower and sleeker looking. Total production for the first Sixty Special was limited to 3,703 priced at (you're not going to believe this) $2090!!! This new model outsold every Cadillac model its first year accounting for 39 percent of all sales! In addition to the four door sedans 2 custom four door convertibles were made for GM execs, and one Sixty Special coupe...the only one of its kind! Find that today!
The Sixty Special was Fleetwood bodied from 1939 on, and to be known as the most luxurious owner driven Cadillac until the 1976 model year. The "Fleetwood" script would not become visible until 1947 when it appeared on the rear deck lid. By 1952 it appeared on the deck lid of the Series 75. In 1963, the Cadillac Eldorado joined the Series 75 and the Sixty Special as "unique" with the Fleetwood bodies, sporting the wreath and crest on the rear quarters, along with chrome rocker panel moldings. The 1963 Eldorado was the first Fleetwood bodied convertible since the departure of the old two and four door Series 75 convertibles of the forties.
Integrating Flletwood Into The Lineup
In 1977, Fleetwood became a more integral part of the line up with the Fleetwood Brougham and the Fleetwood limousine replacing the Fleetwood Sixty Special and Fleetwood Series 75 respectively. Massively down sized due to the rising energy costs, these new generation Fleetwood's were really a Sedan deVille with a different padded vinyl roof and different sew style to the interior. Gone were the individually longer wheel base and the carpeted rear floor foot rests and nearly a foot chopped off its overall length. (and my heart right along with them too....) The Fleetwood limousine came as a standard nine passenger sedan then a formal limo with glass partition separating the rear seat passengers from the driver.
Separate Fleetwood Series
In 1985 Fleetwood became a separate series. (Boo- hiss) A new front wheel drive C-body was introduced and shared the identical 110.8 inch wheel base platform with the Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight and the Buick Electra. (This was the beginning of the demise of the Cadillac kingdom. Why couldn't GM see a Cadillac owner did NOT want to drive an Olds or a Buick, if they wanted that, they would have purchased them respectively, thank you) Thank goodness they left the rear drive Fleetwood Brougham which was designated as the D-body sedan. The illustrious Fleetwood series was so identical to the DeVille it was merely an "option package" for the DeVille series. The engines to power this "next generation of the luxury car" was an aluminum 4.1 L HT 4100 which was bumped up to 4.5 L HT 4500 in 1988, and upped to 4.9 L HT 4900 for the 1991 model year. The eighties were lackluster years for Fleetwood. The traditional Fleetwood owner demanded a unique Cadillac in which Cadillac was failing miserably. The result, the Cadillac buyer went to the Lincoln.
In a last minute effort to win Cadillac Fleetwood buyers back, the Fleetwood was again a separate series beginning in 1993. However, it shared its platform with the Buick Roadmaster and the Chevy Caprice. This was a refreshing change to the chop chop look that GM had cloned, giving the car its large appearance back, made the car impressive with its length and capacious demeanor. The rear drive Fleetwood came as two models; the Fleetwood sedan and the Fleetwood Brougham sedan. Even though the nomenclature read "Fleetwood" it still had the flavor of a Roadmaster and a Caprice, it just wasn't quite what the public wanted. Sadly enough.....the 1996 Cadillac Fleetwood was a farewell to a legend with an undaunted heritage. Cadillac used to be the luxury car of choice because it had a model to suit the most discriminating taste.
Among the world's finest cars, none were more respected than the Fleetwood series. With its magnificently dignified styling, famed Cadillac luxury, and the remarkably smooth ride due to its individually longer wheelbase, made this series the superlative presence in all of motordom. Whatever the occasion, there was no more gracious way to arrive. The Cadillac Fleetwood was luxury on the grand Cadillac scale, in the grand Cadillac manner. Ok GM....you're needed! The traditional Cadillac buyer wants their luxury ride back! When are we going to get it?
Greg Morgan is the internet equivalent of the quintessential bad boy, dedicated, with indomitable drive and spirit, who will research and investigate to provide you with accurate, precise, and unadulterated facts, & re-boot your brain. How's that for an accountant turned journalist? So ... you love to read ... Greg loves to write and everyone is entitled to the real deal! Check him out regularly and feel free to contact him via NewsBlaze for feedback or just to say hello. Read more stories by Greg Morgan.
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