The Cadillac Deville is one of Cadillac’s full sized sedans, with a history that goes all the way back to the early 40s. The name Deville means “of the city” in French, and was given to the car due to its unique body styling, which had an open chauffeur’s compartment and a closed passenger compartment. This design turned a car from the 1920’s into a status symbol, and was first used by Lincoln and Their “Town Car” brand that was being developed for Henry Ford at the time.
Cadillac picked up the name Deville in 1949, with their Coupe De Ville. A 4 door hardtop version followed 7 years later in 1956. The vehicles were based on the Series 62, an earlier Cadillac model, produced in the 40s. Starting in 1965, the mainstream Deville settled in between the Calais and Fleetwood full sized vehicles. In 1968, Deville’s were slightly modified on the exterior which complied with new safety regulations. A new engine rounded out the changes, and gave an impressive 375 hp output.
In November of 1971, a stock 71′ Coupe De Ville managed to make it to third in the annual Cannonball Run race, which was a coast to coast race. It also managed to post the highest average speed in the race at 84.6 mph. The vehicle also became a symbol in pop culture and was used by many celebrities and politicians. 1977 saw the first generation of down sized Cadillac models. These included the similar under the hood Deville’s and Fleetwood’s.
The Fleetwood’s still remained the top vehicle in Cadillac’s lineup. There were some minor differences in the interior and exterior of the cars that kept them separate. The 1977 Deville was the first to be offered without fender skirts over the rear wheels. The 500 in V8 engine that powered the car in the past was ditched in favor of a 425 engine, which was again replaced by a 368 V8-6-4 in 1980. Cadillac also offered the 350 LF9 diesels V8 as an option on the DeVille.
There were problems with the V8-6-4, which prompted a rush delivery of the new HT series engine for the 1982 model. 2 Models of Deville were offered in 1977, the two door Coupe DeVille and the four-door Sedan DeVille. Both versions outsold the more expensive Fleetwood, with the coupe selling a whopping 138,750 compared to the Fleetwood’s 28,000. The sedan also did incredible, selling 95,421 vehicles.
The grille was redesigned for the 1978 Deville, slim, vertical tail lamps were also added to the chrome bumper found on the car. A special Phaeton package was available, which featured a simulated convertible top, pin striping, and wire wheels. The interior received a boost as well, with a leather trimmed steering wheel. The Phaeton package was made famous in the film GoodFellas by Martin Scorcese. The lead character drove a 1979 Coupe Deville Phaeton. 1980 saw a major redesign. The interior and the wheelbase were virtually untouched, however an entirely new set of metal was used for the exterior, in addition, the Phaeton package was discontinued.
The Fleetwood Brougham coupe was introduced to Cadillac’s lineup, which had a vinyl padded top. This option was not available on the Coupe DeVille. Both models did feature full, bright side window surround moldings. The four-door Sedan DeVille had body colored door frames and a thin chrome bead around the window opening.
1981 saw the Deville being setback by the unreliable and very disappointing V8-6-4 engine. Cadillac continued to use the engine and stick behind it, however it simply did not attract customers. The Cadillac Cimmaron also was released as Cadillac’s new entry-level model, this put the Coupe Deville in the role of step up, with a price point of $13,450, the sedan weighed in at $13,847. The sedan was the first GM vehicle to offer an automatic shoulder belt system, and a new grille was designed for the vehicle.
1982 was a much better year for the Deville, which remained largely unchanged, however improvements were made to the rear lighting arrangement. The biggest modification was the option of a 4.1L V8 engine to replace the floundering V8-6-4. The engine was a success, however the price point of the car went up about $2,000.
1985 was the first year that both the Deville and the Fleetwood switched to the new C-body platform. This platform was a front wheel drive wheelbase, however the cars kept almost identical interiors to the earlier models of the past few years. The HT4100 4.1 liter, transversely-mounted V8 from previous years was still available on the DeVille, which kept the car reliable.
Cadillac did lose sales to the Lincoln Town Car in 1985 despite the DeVille’s newer technology and reduced size. In an attempt to win back customers, the 1987 Deville returned to a more classic Cadillac style, yet still remained very similar to the DeVille model of 1986. Touring models of both the coupe and sedan were also added to the Deville lineup, featuring enhanced performance, interior upgrades, fog lamps, as well as other improvements.
1989 saw another body change, which made for a larger trunk, longer wheelbase, and other changes. In fact, the dashboard and doors were among the few items that were carried over from the outgoing DeVille. The line continued to evolve through the early 90s, until it replaced the Fleetwood as Cadillac’s highest priced full sized vehicle.
In 2006 the DeVille was renamed the DTS, which continues the DeVille legacy into the present. The DeVille is another Cadillac vehicle that innovated and developed over decades, and its endurance and appeal are still there today. As far as full sized luxury vehicles go, it really doesn’t get much better than the Cadillac DeVille.