Cadillac had become by far the top luxury car manufacturer in North America by the early 1970s, with the all-time pinnacle of Cadillac production reached in the 1973 model year: 304,839 ’73 Cadillacs purred off the assembly line. Then, well, the Yom Kippur War pissed off OPEC’s most important members, European luxury cars gained more than just a minor foothold, and Cadillacs became so commonplace that their prestige value sank for the rest of the decade.
Here’s a big, plush Sedan DeVille, from the final year of Cadillac’s undisputed reign over the American road, photographed in a Denver self-serve car graveyard earlier this year.
Because I always like to bring an old film camera with me when I hit the junkyard, I took a photograph of this car with my 1916 Kodak No. 00 Cartridge Premo, the smallest box camera Kodak ever made. I had to roll up some unperforated Orwo UN54 35mm film on homemade backing paper for this camera, because film photography is more fun if you make it more difficult. A couple of months later, I used this camera and three others from the era of the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic to document Denver in the early stages of the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic lockdown.
Rickenbaugh Cadillac has been in Denver since the 1940s, and that’s where this car was sold new. Its final resting place is less than eight miles from Rickenbaugh; I’m not sure if that makes its demise better or worse.
I found registration paperwork in the car, showing that its five-year Colorado antique plates has been valid until late 2019. From the street address on these papers, I tracked down the car on Google Street View. This photograph was taken in 2012, when this Cadillac’s paint and vinyl roof were in much better condition.
The last half-dozen or so years were not kind to this car.
Did I buy the dash clock? You know I did! It doesn’t work, but I’ll open it up and see if it can be revived without too much hassle.
Cadillac engine power numbers were down for 1973, thanks to both the Clean Air Act of 1970 (signed into law by that notorious freedom-slaughterin’ eco-fanatic, Richard M. Nixon) and the switch from gross to net power numbers. This 472-cube (7.7-liter) V8 had a rating of 220 horsepower and a still-impressive 365 lb-ft of torque. Looks like someone grabbed the Quadrajet carburetor, just as I did back in the 1990s when I needed a good Q-Jet for my hot-rod Impala sedan.
The interior is pretty well destroyed, so there was never much chance of this car getting put back on the street. A sad end for a machine that sold for the equivalent of $39,500 when new. Actually, that price seems like a steal for this much car.
This 1974 Cadillac ad boasts about that high-water sales mark from 1973.
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