Finned and Fancy, Cadillac seemingly could do little wrong in the early 1960’s. Recognizing continuity as a cash cow and cementing a legacy, Cadillac style and substance found itself setting in stone a luxury legacy that still stands 50 years later.
Improvements under the skin, the best that General Motors would offer buyers, gave many luxury buyers possibly the best bargain on the globe. Effortless, peerless performance, seductive silence and still swanky style kept these jewel boxes on 4 wheels interstate royalty envied globally.
Although tail fins were a dated concept by 1964, Cadillac, as the pioneer of the styling trait, took the longest time to flatten and fold it’s flamboyant feathers. Although extending beyond the drop of the decklid for 1965, the new horizontal fins that tailored the ass of Cadillacs didn’t stick out with the tempting lure that had pioneered beauty from behind with American cars.
The 1964 was a perky, pert but not full figured end to an all-American styling trend. Refinements compared to the basic design introduced in 1963 brought a more cohesive facade to the 1964 models, not dissimilar to the transition from the iconic 1959 models to the sophisticatedly detailed 1960 models.
In reality, the 1963-64 models did a bit of time traveling to deliver more visual continuity connected to the already iconic 1959 (and less so 1960) models. Advertisements touted that the second wisest buy on the car market after a new Cadillac was a used Cadillac.
The influence of the 1961 Continental was all over the market, including the minimal trim and “privacy” rooflines on Four Door Hardtops and Hardtop coupes at Cadillac. However details that may seem gaudy today were seen as Tiffany jeweled level detail on Cadillacs. Buyers chose Cadillacs at a rate that is bewildering to our over-saturated everyday luxury market today.
It was a time when your basic Chevrolet Impala was still equipped with a Manual Transmission with roots in the depression, with flimsy drum brakes and a barely adequate inline six before you started piling on the options. Cadillac offered the newest and smoothest of automatics in their non-commercial chassis cars for 1964. The Turbo Hydra-Matic transmission was paired with a Cadillac V8 back from the gym.
Now 429 Cubic inches large, the 340 horsepower mill brought 0-60 times down to the 8.5 second range, with top speed skills within a breath of 130 mph. Nevermind this needed more than just drum brakes, overly soft shocks and bias-ply tires to fully exploit the capabilities of the drivetrain. Nevermind the gas mileage that saw either side of 10 miles per gallon either. Cadillacs could stay competitive with basic Corvettes in a straight line.
It lead to Cadillac being at the peak of the pack in so many ways. Cadillac sold just shy of 40,000 4 window Sedan DeVilles alone in 1964. For comparison purposes, that’s not far from double the number of Imperials that were sold in total for 1964.
It’s hard to image once upon a time, 50 years ago how dominant Cadillac was king. Here’s a quaint classy reminder with the splendor of this shining silver knight burbling along the streets of Summertime Oakland.