1969-1970 Cadillac De Ville Convertible: Last of Its Breed
For decades, there was perhaps nothing more elegant, more dashing or more dripping with status than a Cadillac Coupe DeVille convertible. A DeVille convertible was the be-all, end-all aspirational car for several generations. It made a bold statement, yet largely wasn’t perceived as crossing over to the ostentatious side of the luxury spectrum.
That last statement is key to the appeal of the final DeVille convertibles, the 1969-1970 models. Cadillac designers managed to significantly transform the look from the 1965-1968 versions while maintaining the brand’s instantly recognized identity. Some feel they were the best looking of the series. In any case, the 1969-1970 DeVille convertibles occupy a special place in Cadillac history as the last of their kind.
A Design Classic
Lincoln revolutionized American luxury car design with the 1961 Continental, ushering in an era of clean, slab-sided form with minimal and tasteful decoration. Many luxury car buyers, however, were perfectly happy with the evolution of 1950s themes seen on the 1961-1964 Cadillacs. Yet, Cadillac already had its landmark slab-side 1965 design in development when the ’61 Lincoln came out. It was not a case of copycatting, but rather timing.
Cadillac evolved the ’65 design, canting the front end forward for the 1967-1968 version, which, along with the “banana” taillights, extended the car’s length, then seen as a competitive feature. The Cadillac’s vertical stacked headlights, however, were falling off trend by the late 1960s, and so designers aligned a 1969 restyle with the Eldorado flagship model.
The 1969 DeVilles accentuated the distinctive blade-like styling of their predecessors but switched to a new grille with horizontally arranged headlights. Out back, new “cathedral” style wraparound taillights were a new take on the vertical theme Cadillac would continue right up to the present. Bear in mind, those changes would have been on the drawing board several years prior; designers are of course ahead of consumers when it comes to sensing a shift.
Decline of the Convertible
These were BIG cars, built on a 129.5-inch wheelbase, stretching 225 inches bumper to bumper and pressing the Earth with nearly 5,000 pounds. With their tops down, the DeVille convertibles seemed to go on forever.
Power for all 1969-1970 DeVilles came from the 472 cu.-in. V8 that was new for 1968. As they did with vehicle length, luxury brands competed with engine displacement, and Cadillac topped Lincoln’s new-for-1969 460 cu.-in. V8 and the Chrysler Imperial’s 440 cu.-in. V8. Cadillac rated the 472’s horsepower at 375 (SAE gross), 10 more than the Lincoln.
Cadillac was alone among American luxury brands with a convertible in 1969 and 1970, but ragtop sales were shrinking. Cadillac made 16,445 DeVille convertibles for 1969, dropping to 15,172 for 1970. Base price was $5,905 for 1969 and $163 more for 1970. In both, automatic climate control, a Cadillac innovation a few years before, was a $516 option.
Inside, the DeVille’s tall front seats were comfy, but some felt they interfered with conversation between front and rear occupants. Conversation, in a car? What’s that? In today’s world of passengers isolating themselves with their phones, the tall seats would probably not be an issue.
In those years, Cadillac offered a dizzying array of paint colors and upholstery choices. Buyers could truly personalize a DeVille convertible to their tastes. It wasn’t all 10 shades of gray exterior paint, as today’s luxury cars seem to offer.
Continuity was Key
For 1970, Cadillac made detail refinements to the DeVille’s grille and changed the taillights to a recessed style, adding a corresponding smaller segment below the bumper. Some prefer one design to the other, but the difference shouldn’t get in your way to buying one from either year.
As Cadillac ended the DeVille convertible, it introduced the Eldorado convertible for 1971, when that model received a major restyle. Today, the 1969-1970 Cadillac DeVille convertibles could be considered quite affordable by a large swath of the collector world, and they essentially guarantee turned heads everywhere you drive one. So, why don’t you?
Why you’d want a 1969-1970 Cadillac DeVille convertible:
- It’s big, bold and beautiful.
- Just driving down the street, it’s a one-car show.
- Makes the perfect parade car.
- An affordable classic.