Don’t you dare call the 1987 Cadillac Brougham a “Fleetwood”

In 1987, Cadillac finally stopped offering two very different kinds of Fleetwood. For the past four model years, the company’s showrooms had featured both the front-wheel drive Fleetwood d’Elegance and the rear-wheel drive Fleetwood Brougham. This slightly awkward state of affairs had come to pass courtesy of a sharp decline in fuel prices during the early ‘80s. Had the “energy crisis” continued past the Carter Administration, GM would have been sitting in the catbird seat with space- and fuel-efficient C-body luxury sedans while Ford struggled with the still-too-big Panther-platform Lincolns.

Alas, it didn’t go quite that way. Although the FWD Cadillacs were still remarkably popular, there remained a contingent of buyers who saw no need to downsize their cars, or their lifestyles, during a time that certain politicians would come to call “Morning In America.” Cadillac’s response to this problem was simple: they simply never stopped building the new-for-1977 C-body sedans. 

Which led to a bit of a Brougham boondoggle. Through 1984, the Fleetwood Brougham was full-sized, rear-wheel drive, and V-8 powered. A d’Elegance package was offered as well; a lusher, button-tufted velour or leather interior was the primary upgrade. Had the FWD C-body been a direct replacement for that car, it would have been the Fleetwood Brougham as well — but it wasn’t. That, in turn, raised a different question: Should the “old” car be more expensive, or less expensive, than the new ones? There was no psychological barrier to charging more for a smaller car, as any Seville buyer could attest.

1987 Cadillac front 3/4
Thomas Klockau

GM could have easily chosen to make the new FWD model the Fleetwood Brougham and left the de Ville name for the old RWD cars, along with a lower price. Or they could have resurrected another name for either, such as the recently-departed Calais model. In the end, the Standard of the World chose a strategy that was safe, if a bit confusing: All nameplates would transfer to the FWD car, except for Fleetwood Brougham, which would be retained on the RWD platform. Which left Fleetwood by itself as an upscale take on the de Ville. The Fleetwood d’Elegance was the top-trim standard wheelbase front-driver, but there was also a livery-wheelbase Fleetwood limousine and an in-between Fleetwood Sixty Special on that new platform. 

Naturally, this caused confusion when the cars were new. When a well-heeled customer came into a Cadillac showroom and asked to see a Fleetwood, the salesman would have to ask, “Which Fleetwood?” So for 1987, the rear-wheel drive Fleetwood Brougham became, simply, the Cadillac Brougham. The cars themselves were only slightly different in appearance and equipment from their 1986 versions. But it did end the confusion among new Cadillacs.

For a while, anyway. Today, I frequently see 1987–92 Broughams listed as “Fleetwood Broughams” in classified ads and elsewhere, despite the fact that no Cadillac carried that name during those years. It’s easy to poke fun at this scheme in retrospect, but was it truly any worse than the meaningless alphanumerics of today’s luxury cars? The Mercedes E300 has been a straight-six diesel, a normally-aspirated V-6, and a turbo four. At least there’s some pleasure in saying “Brougham.”

The 1987 Brougham, model W69, had a base price of $22,637 and weighed in at 4046 pounds of sheer Cadillac style. All were powered by the Oldsmobile 307-cid V-8, which had replaced the 4.1-liter Cadillac-exclusive engine in Fleetwood Broughams starting in 1986. With a 3.80 bore and 3.39 stroke, the 5.0-liter engine produced 140 horsepower with its various and sundry emissions equipment. But it was still a V-8. And although it was not the luxury hot rod that, say, a 472-cid-powered 1968 Coupe de Ville was, the 307 provided decent, if not exciting, power.

1987 Cadillac badge
Thomas Klockau
1987 Cadillac steering wheel
Thomas Klockau

1987 Cadillac profile
Thomas Klockau

All 1987 Broughams came with a five-year, 50,000-mile limited warranty. 65,504 Broughams and Broughams d’Elegance were built for the year. Changes to the exterior were minor compared to 1986 Fleetwood Broughams. Red rectangular reflectors were added to the trunk lid, flanking the license plate opening, and there was some reshuffling of available exterior colors. The Fleetwood Brougham coupe had already disappeared after 1985, leaving the four-door sedan the sole offering.

Today’s featured car was owned by my friend Anthony Gozzo at the time the pictures were taken, and had only 57,000 miles on the odometer. It has since gone on to a happy new home. 

The color, Autumn Maple Firemist, is my favorite 1980s Cadillac color, though it’s sometimes hard for me to decide between that color and the buttery pastel yellow that had been offered on various Cadillac models since the late 1970s!

The matching red leather interior is just icing on the cake. Not to mention, it is a d’Elegance, with those oh-so-clubby button-tufted leather thrones! The standard Brougham interior was plenty nice, but those d’Elegance seats are in a completely different category. I love them.

Other d’Elegance extras included a six-way power passenger seat, power trunk release, deluxe Tampico carpeting (and matching carpeted floor mats), accent striping, adjustable rear reading lamps, d’Elegance embroidering on all four door panels, and d’Elegance script on the sail panels.

Turbine-vaned wheel discs were also standard, unless you ordered the extra-cost wire wheel discs, as seen on today’s car. I estimate approximately 99.7 percent of Broughams had these wire wheel discs. I rarely saw them back then with the standard wheel covers.

1987 Cadillac front seat
Thomas Klockau
1987 Cadillac badges
Thomas Klockau

1987 Cadillac rear
Thomas Klockau
1987 Cadillac back
Thomas Klockau

1988 Broughams were virtually identical, and 1989s got a new, more vertically-oriented grille. 1990 brought a modest facelift, with composite headlamps, side cladding, and a revised instrument panel. Through 1992, it remained essentially the same.

Starting in 1993, the front-wheel drive Fleetwood became the Sixty Special and lost its Fleetwood nomenclature for its final year. That same year, the Brougham was redesigned with a much swoopier body, and became, once again, the Fleetwood, with a flossier Brougham option group that included lacy-spoke alloys, a padded vinyl roof, and plusher seats. Restoring the Fleetwood name, once more, to the biggest, baddest Cadillac. Confusing? You bet! 

And now, as the late, great Paul Harvey often said, you know the rest of the story. Go forth and tell others, so that they might also be able to properly identify, and cherish, the Fleetwoods in our midst.

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