My First Road Trip: 1973 Cadillac Sedan de Ville

A few weeks ago I wrote a story about a gorgeous 1950 Cadillac coupe and touched on how Cadillac had lost their way.  Well, I guess Cadillac’s problems were worse than they appeared.  An article appeared last Monday on Reuters alluding that a new electric powered Cadillac might be the last gasp for the marque if it fails.  Instead of focusing on the negative, reader J. Liu found for me a close facsimile of my grandparent’s fire engine red 1973 Cadillac Coupe de Ville mentioned in the 1950 Cadillac story.  While the car our friend found is a Sedan de Ville being sold on Auto Trader out of a Cumming, Georgia dealership, I appreciate the fact that so many of you enjoyed my reminiscing about my grandparent’s Cadillacs.  To say thank you, I thought I might tell all of you a bit about my most memorable trip in that Caddy.

I was just finishing fifth grade, and was crazy about cars in a big way.  Unfortunately, I hadn’t even left the state of Florida yet.  So when the prospect of going on a trip to Winterville, Georgia for my grandmother’s family reunion popped up, I really wanted to go.  My wish was granted, and I was to ride with my grandparents in the fire engine red 1973 Cadillac Coupe deVille that I previously wrote about.  Following along in a new Diesel VW Rabbit would be my great aunt and uncle, their 15 year old daughter Brenda, and my great grandmother.  Great grandma was a proud old southern woman that I loved very much.  Unfortunately, you knew quickly if she didn’t like you, and she played favorites with her children.  She didn’t like my grandfather, and my grandmother, who was the oldest of her five children, wasn’t exactly on her favorite child list for reasons I never really understood.

Not long after the trip started, it was obvious that a load of luggage and four bodies were too much strain on the VW.  First, they tried loading their luggage in the Cadillac to help speed things up, then cousin Brenda was added to the back seat.  I got along well with my cousin, so that made the trip much more enjoyable.  Mot soon after, the stiff ride, firm back seat, diesel fumes, and the constant drone of the VW’s powerplant drove great grandma into the confines of the Caddilac’s cavernous back seat.  She made nice with us kids by bringing some no bake cookies as snacks.  Never being shy about accepting a free cookie, I snatched one out of the container.  When I popped it into my mouth, I had to contain my surprise.  It had the texture, taste, and consistency of crepe rubber and the look of dog food that had already been processed through the dog.  Being in the middle, I had no place to spit it out and probably would have gotten a smack for the effort.  I tried to smile as I choked it down.  I don’t know what Brenda did with hers.  It might be still in the Cadillac (if it is still around…).

You also need to know two other things about great grandma.  First, I think she subscribed to the old person notion that a bath on Saturday was good enough for the week.  We didn’t leave on Saturday either.  Second, my grandfather didn’t take her thinly veiled antagonisms lying down.  The VW’s back seat must have been a hellish place for her to lay down her pride and ask for a ride in the Cadillac.  Gratitude, though, didn’t weaken her resolve.  She made all sorts of comments she knew would aggravate my grandfather, and probably instinctively knew that my grandmother told him to be on his best behavior.  Resistance took the form of constant cigar smoking, which she hated with a passion, and rolling down the window when she was talking.  Since he was old school, we took the whole trip on Highway 441, so this ended up being a two day battle on the way up.  No mercy for the weak in this Godzilla vs. King Kong level struggle.

To be fair, I idolized my grandfather.  I saw little fault in his actions, and enjoyed watching him battle his mother in law in this epic struggle as we hustled into Georgia with the VW gasping vainly behind.  I also noticed that it was his wallet that opened to pay for every tank of gas, of which there were many, and all of the food and lodging.  In the late seventies, the economy was a mess and the financial burden of a multi day trip was surely taxing.  He was a man who went to work for himself every day installing glass in cars and fixing power windows.  Despite this, I never saw him complain about paying or putting up with the trip for my grandmother.  He knew this trip was important to her, and he taught me by his actions that a man did what was necessary to care for his family’s needs.  Even if those needs included paying the way for a mother in law who didn’t hesitate to remind him that she was a notch above him socially and that her daughter had chosen poorly.

There is a lot more to the trip, but I think I’ll stop there for now.  I don’t want to bore you all, and I still have to say a few words about the car you see here.  As the pictures show, this beautiful Cadillac is incredibly well preserved.  Who could not love the brilliant red paint on this vehicle?  The leather interior is flawless, and the pictures of all the little Cadillac conveniences like the lights in the doors and the cubby holes in the passenger front footwell bring back a lot of memories.  It took me a while to gather myself up to type this up.  Every look at the pictures brings back a memory of my grandparents and their profound influence on my life.

I’ve talked about buying a Cadillac like this for many reasons.  I want my wife to see and feel the experience of riding in a true Cadillac, and I am beginning to wonder if I am subliminally trying to go back to that time and place in my life.  Deep down, I know returning is impossible, and I am trying to catch something that will never be again.  Maybe the Cadillac brand that made such an imprint on me might never return either.  All things must change, but change can be a melancholy experience.

Thanks again to J. Liu for giving me an opportunity to revisit a big experience in my life.  There is a lot more to the story, including a flooded motel toilet, a grocery sack full of shoes, and my first full encounter with rural Georgia.  If anyone else manages to find a similar Cadillac, then I might be tempted to continue the story.

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Comments

  1. M.Balmer Member

    Great story, Jeff. These big boats hold a special place in my 57yr.old heart also.My Dad was fond of the Caddies and Electras of the era.I would sit on the armrest between Mom and Dad.At that time it was called the “buddy seat”,lol.Simpler times. 😊

    14
    • Barry L Klotz

      My Granddaughter used the armrest in my cars for her Buddy seat. It was awesome for her to be able to see where we going. Thanks for the memory.

  2. Dave

    It’s so…red! In1975 my mother earned her real estate license, and worked long enough to buy a barn find 73 Coupe de Ville. Like everything else, my sister took it when Mom died in 2005. Mom played favorites too…while my sister hid in New York I walked away from my job of 17 years to take care of her. Sister got the house, everything inside, and the mutual fund. I got a 4 year old Ram 1500 and $20,000.

    • Greg

      She may have thought u we’re responsible and ok and your sister not and needed it .ore for that reason

      • Dave

        My mother hated hypocrites and in the end became that which she despised. She hated my wife, was more than willing to accept the help my wife gave her, and left a note asking that my wife be banned from her funeral. The will stipulated that I had to divorce her to get my half of the estate. My sister smugly claimed that the will was “compensation for how Mom treated her when she was a kid” . The house sold for $125000, the mutual fund was $315000, and the antiques were probably worth $50000. I expected this to happen because it’s a cliche. I made peace with it long ago. My sister may have the money but I have things she’ll never have.

        11
    • Mountainwoodie

      The whole family thing makes me want to…….well you know……Jeff ought to get a medal.

      Sweet Cadilliac……even though I’m not much of a post ’66 Caddy guy

    • Robert White

      The only thing worse than a money grubbing sister is an evil fraternal twin sister. Nothing in life is worse than having an evil Beelzebub twin sister I assure you.

      Bob

  3. Rex Kahrs Member

    For some reason, that shift lever looks wrong. It seems to be pointing straight up. What’s up with that?

    • Miguel

      Rex Kahrs, you have never seen one of these?

      That is how the shift lever is. In park it is almost straight up and in drive it is like it is in park.

      Maybe that gave the driver more room to move around.

    • Luxury_Lexus_Land-yacht

      I had a ’73 Coupe DeVille in the early-to-mid-90s, and this is the normal orientation.

      Some other odd things about the steering column area stuff…

      Believe it or not, these also had variable ratio steering boxes. There was a sizable ‘sneeze zone’, between about 10:30 and 1:30, after which point, the ratio tightened up significantly.

      Thankfully, mine still had the owner’s manual in the glove box, so my panic was short-lived. I could not figure out what would make steering behave so strangely, but it was also my first power steering-equipped car.

      That steering wheel had not only a tilt function, but also telescoping ability. It was remarkably well-optioned, which was mighty cool when I was 25 years old.

      Seeing the antenna switch on the dash reminded me of something else. The antenna would rise only about 12″, initially, to prevent multi-path reception funkiness on FM. Cadillac figured most of these cars would be in suburban areas, so no need for the full three feet, or however long it was, to rise.

      It was a long antenna, too.

      As a bonus, the factory put a mount integral to the bottom of the dash for an under-dash 8-track player. Mine had an in-dash, so I used the under-dash mount for a single disc, stand-alone CD player. It was a LONG way from the driver’s seat.

  4. M.Balmer Member

    That’s pretty much how they were back then, Rex.I know it seems goofy,but it’s better than having it pointing at your right knee while in Drive.

  5. j liu

    To Jeff Bennett, thank you for the great story!
    The memories make it all worth while.

  6. grant

    Great read Jeff. If you are able, you really should consider buying this car. It needs someone with a passion for it.

  7. Waltb31

    Wonderful Story! Love these big Caddys.

  8. KO

    Great party 1 of the story, Jeff! Looking forward to the next chapter!

  9. David Rhoces

    if you have to call for the price …you know it’s too high … beautiful machine though

  10. Del

    I am with David.

    Serious sellers always post a price.

  11. CrazyGeorge CrazyGeorge Member

    “ Jeff “ start writing that book now. You, Your good you ! I very much enjoyed your road trip … I’m sorry it ended so abruptly. I was really getting into it. You see , I had an opinionated family members too. Most of mine were uninformed and argumentative to say the least. But you had me waxing nostalgic for car rides with closed windows in cold weather and clouds from Cigars and Chesterfields and yellow film on door handles . Yes that’s nicotine and tar… YUCK ! Old People really didn’t clean when I was young !
    As far as writers go,
    Henry Gregor Felson would be proud !

  12. Djs

    Could never afford a caddy till age of 27 in 1981 found addfor a 77 coup that I could not pass up low miles 31,000 and was the best deal I could find .i was hooked the ride the power the look and feel of that car kept it for 4 years kept it even though had a work truck as well . Since then have driven them ever since Have SRX now but it’s not the same oh what a car it was .

  13. Kirt

    My grandmother drove the same car except her’s was most likely a Calais. Her’s was gold with a white vinyl top and that odd matching patterned cloth Cadillac used at the time. I remember the cool fiber optics in the front fenders and above the back window (indicators for burnt out bulbs). The car was essentially stolen from them when she mistakenly accepted a personal check for the car when she sold it. I’ve always loved the ‘73 models with their unique one year only lighting setup.

  14. John Kramer

    Y father had a 70 sadan DeVille blue and white with black and white interor white Leather split 8 way power driver and passenger seats. I took naps across back seat that was long enough for me. It weaghted5,300 lbs with no pasagers or luggage.With luggage and three people over 3 TON !! Replaced drive shaft at 75 thousand because just used for summer trips most freeway speeds .Sold to collector after father s death.I had no place to garage it.It had olny had 130,000 on it but conpresser failed and needed 134 conversion and had no rust.Garaged during winter .All controles worked even rear defroster and the472ci with Holly throtal body FIiss driving it!!!!

  15. woodley

    we had one just like that one but in cobalt blue. Your comments on Cadillacs future was a bit harsh, to say the least. I think it was very smart to separate from general motors and become its own company the new cars that they are coming out with are way beyond anything I have seen before and are much more marketable especially in Europe.

  16. Suttree

    I live just off Highway 441. I traveled it from South Florida all the way to East Tennessee. It’s a cool old road with lots of character.

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