Cadillac’s last traditional sedan maintains strong following
One does not drive a Cadillac Fleetwood; he commands it. Nor does a passenger simply ride in a Fleetwood; he experiences it.
Few cars had the completely restyled 1993-1996 Cadillac Fleetwood’s presence at speed or rest. It was America’s largest new car during that period at 225.1 inches long — a sure-footed 18 feet, 9 inches. By any measure, it was a large car in dimension and personality. The design was heavily inspired by Cadillac’s sleek 1988 Voyage sedan and 1989 Solitaire coupe concepts. Variations of these concepts’ shield grilles, composite headlamps, skirted fenders, brightwork around the entire lower perimeter and even the Voyage’s profile all made it to the production 1993-1996 Fleetwood. For Cadillac customers, that meant a handsomely updated Fleetwood that beautifully blended traditional Cadillac luxury with the sleekness expected by 1990s auto buyers.
The new 1993 Fleetwood debuted at Cadillac’s 90th anniversary, but quietly so. The company was still riding the wave of mainstream popularity of the European-styled Seville and Eldorado, which were completely new for 1992. Then 1993 brought the new Northstar engine, which further stole the spotlight from the new Fleetwood, and it could have used some light shone on its name since it had been shuffled over the previous years.
The 1993 Fleetwood replaced the 1992 Brougham, the full-size, rear-wheel-drive Cadillac with styling that basically dated to 1977 with a moderate facelift in 1980 and a minor facelift in 1990. From 1987 to 1992, the Fleetwood name was only used on the front-wheel-drive Fleetwood Sixty Special model based on the deVille.
Early factory photos of the new full-size, rear-wheel-drive 1993 Cadillac show a“Brougham” script on the doors indicating the big Cadillac may have continued to be called the Brougham into 1993. However, when the car hit showrooms, it was officially a Fleetwood again. The front-wheel-drive model was then simply called the Sixty Special for 1993, completely giving the Fleetwood name back to the big, traditional rear-wheel-drive Cadillac.
The 1993-1996 Fleetwood would be Cadillac’s last traditional full-size, rear-wheel-drive luxury sedan. This final Fleetwood would also be America’s last passenger car to be fitted with chrome-plated metal bumpers. It also continued Cadillac’s traditional vertical taillamp theme and tombstone-type grille. Even though Cadillac’s rear-wheel-drive model had been the most dated-looking Cadillac since the deVille became front-wheel drive in 1985, the 1993 Fleetwood actually predicted the styling of the restyled-for-1994 DeVille.
Not only did the last Fleetwoods have the look, they had the go. Only the 185-hp 5.7-liter V-8 was available in 1993 (it had been optional in 1992), and in 1994, a new 5.7-liter V-8 was the only engine offered. This Gen II 5.7-liter V-8, a variation of the Chevrolet Corvette LT1 engine, significantly boosted horsepower to 260 hp for 1994. The Gen II 5.7-liter didn’t make the Fleetwood a race car, but one magazine drag raced a new Buick Roadmaster, which shared its chassis with the Fleetwood, and produced great tire-spinning action at the Christmas tree.
Fleetwoods may not have been as popular as their rival Lincoln Town Car, but they have a following today. (The Town Car outsold the Fleetwood almost 4 to 1 in 1993 and more than 6 to 1 in 1996.) Collectors and fans prefer their Fleetwoods dressed with the Brougham package, which added different aluminum wheels, a vinyl roof covering (which could be deleted), and a slightly more plush interior along with a different rear axle ratio. The 1996 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham is the most desirable of all, partly because it was the last Fleetwood and partly because of the refinements made over the model’s four-year life. Late Fleetwood Broughams with the chrome-plated wheels are especially sought.
As a whole, the final Fleetwood is a reliable machine. The Fleetwood chassis was not only shared with the 1991-1996 Roadmaster but also the Chevrolet Caprice, and 5.7-liter-powered Caprices dutifully survived the rigors of police duty with flying colors. GM touted its Fleetwoods with the Gen II 5.7-liter as not needing a tune-up for 100,000 miles, partly due to their new Opti-Spark angle-based spark delivery system. It sounded great and definitely worked beyond 100,000 miles, but at about 150,000 miles, the Opti-Spark brain usually needs replacement. This requires removing the water pump and installing a GM-sourced Opti-Spark replacement as aftermarket units often lead to more issues. There can also be an occasional electrical gremlin, sometimes with the PassKey theft-prevention ignition, that frustrate owners. The cars also suffer a bit from typical GM cost-cutting (quality-cutting) measures, especially in the interiors. However, these cars are famous for going well beyond 200,000 and even 300,000 miles, even without strictly following maintenance schedules.
As with any car, especially a late-model collectable, finding a low-mileage example is preferable to a project car. Fleetwoods and Fleetwood Broughams in the 50,000-mile range can be found priced around $10,000. We’ve seen some dreamers with time-capsule Fleetwood Broughams sporting fewer than 1,000 miles priced at more than $100,000 —but the cars were still for sale last time we looked. Fleetwoods and Fleetwood Broughams in the 50,000-100,000-mile range are generally priced from $5,000-$7,500, but don’t be afraid of an example that has crossed the 100,000-mile mark. These cars are just broken in and are bargains in the $3,500-and-up range.
As a postlogue, the Fleetwood name did return to a Cadillac after 1996, but it was on a front-wheel-drive DeVille with its wheelbase extended by coachbuilder Superior. These Fleetwood Limiteds were built for the 1998 and 1999 model years and while interesting and rare, do not have quite the same following as the rear-wheel-drive Fleetwood models that immediately preceded them.
*As an Amazon Associate, Old Cars earns from qualifying purchases.