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That’s No Aircraft Carrier: Take A Closer Look At The 1980 Cadillac Limo That We Drug Home!

That’s No Aircraft Carrier: Take A Closer Look At The 1980 Cadillac Limo That We Drug Home!

We drove through a Halloween scene set in the middle of Nowhere, Kentucky to get it, we drove it nearly a hundred miles back home, and we lived to tell the tale. If you missed the story on how I managed to get involved in a partnership deal over this long black Cadillac, then I suggest that you catch up by clicking HERE. Now that we’ve had enough time to make sure that it won’t catch fire, hasn’t breathed it’s last breath and have taken a pressure washer to shocking amounts of bird crap that night photography hid well enough, it’s time for a proper introduction to the car that will either be built up into something interesting and maybe even kitch-cool, or will be punished for it’s affront to humanity at King of the Heap next winter.

The car itself is interesting enough. It’s a 1980 Cadillac Fleetwood Formal Limousine, one of about 1,600 built that year. It’s packing a 368 cubic inch Cadillac block that was good for 165 horsepower and 265 ft/lbs of torque way down low on the tach. The power goes through a TH400 automatic and out to a highway-flyer gear that I’ve yet to determine. Can a 425 or 500 Cadillac mill drop in here? Absolutely! The engine itself is an absolutely dismal-looking unit…there’s hints of the light blue paint under decades of gunk and buildup, and underneath that trash can of an air cleaner setup is a Quadrajet M4ME four-barrel that is pitch-black dark. And before you cue up the jokes, this is one year before Cadillac’s best worst idea, the V8-6-4 system. None of that exists here. The drivetrain, for the most part, actually is decent. The car fires right off, comes down off of high idle just fine, and when just cruising at modest speed, is a dream. It doesn’t have the grunt of it’s older bretheren, but it isn’t embarrassing itself by any means.

The Formal Limousine was twenty-three inches longer than a standard four-door Caddy for a grand total of 244.1 inches from stem to stern…that’s well over twenty feet of fine motoring, folks. The front seat occupants get the El Camino treatment: a leather-covered 50/50 bench that has a rearward limit thanks to the partition wall and sliding clear plastic divider that separates the workers from the passengers. The rear passengers are treated to the standard rear bench in the far back, and enough legroom to make a first-class airline passenger jealous. Or you can flip up the jump seats and seat two more people for a short trip somewhere…though we’d recommend not doing that.  Take note of the factory service manual in the backseat. You can beat a good-sized man to death with that book! It’s also one of the best service manuals I’ve ever seen…the wiring diagrams are detailed drawings that show how it’s laid out in the car, not just lines going from A to B.

The wheels are a set of American Racing billet wheels that I haven’t seen the likes of since a 1993 copy of Sport Truck magazine. Given that the Caddy uses the 5×5 bolt pattern that GM trucks use, it’s very likely that’s where these wheels came from, some poor derelict Chevy that was slammed in the weeds. Instead, they now suffer the indignity of being put onto a limo that has probably been driven through the woods a time or two. We did find a set of Appliance basket-weave mags on Craigslist pretty cheap in 15×8…do we stay 1990s or do we embrace the 1970s? Hmm…tough choices!

The roughest part of the limo is from the rear door rearward. The vinyl top was removed and ditched and more of the car is wearing flat black paint rather than the Sable Black it came from the factory with. All of the bumper fillers and the taillight fillers are long gone, no shock there, and the trunklid emblem was raided.

So there you have it, twenty feet of questionable decision making. But here’s the rub…it’s well known that between 1980 and 1982, Cadillac stepped on their Johnson with cleats on. They ditched the 472 for the 368, brought out the V8-6-4 which really hurt their reputation for a quality product, threw in the 350 Diesel just to compound that trouble, threw in the Buick-sourced 4.1L V6 for a quick attempt at meeting CAFE regs, and then just to add icing to a chocolate cake made out of bad things, the HT4100 V8 and the Cimarron compact appeared. Cadillac went from being the World Standard to a guy who soiled himself in a rented tuxedo. Even for being a dirt-cheap beater (we paid somewhere between $500-$800 for the car, and we aren’t admitting the final price), the one nice thing that you can say is that a Cadillac Fleetwood looks the part. I really dig Cadillacs from this era visually…they are upright, angular and unrepentant. We aren’t going to restore this car by any means, but the more we dig into it, the more we are finding that it’s a lot better than we gave it credit for when we first saw the Craigslist ad. We need to do more cleaning…a shampooing of the carpets will do wonders for the surprisingly straight interior and will ease our minds about blacklight tests. The 368 might be a smog mill, but it ran and drove fine and isn’t leaving a fluid trail…not so much as one drop was on the ground. We can get the bumper fillers cheap enough and at that point, the only thing left to address is the lack of a radio and the non-functionality of the HVAC system, which might just be a blown fuse. I don’t think we will be fixing the non-op opera lights, but hey…who knows?

My role in this car is going to be off to one side. I pried out the wedged-in battery for a properly-fit one, put new wipers on the car, and have taken the lead on cleaning it up. After that, whatever happens, happens. If we race it with nitrous spraying, you’ll know. If we find a way to take this thing on one of the LeMons Rally events, you’ll know. If we get to a point where we rallycross this battleship at King of the Heap next winter, you will certainly know, and if it somehow survives that torture test…eh, who knows. Maybe we’ll get the Roadkill guys to drag out that Cummins-swapped Cadillac they did and challenge them to a long-distance jump contest. But whatever happens, fun is going to be had…we’ve got a dirt-cheap limo. If we can’t have some kind of  fun with this tank, we have failed.

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5 thoughts on “That’s No Aircraft Carrier: Take A Closer Look At The 1980 Cadillac Limo That We Drug Home!

  1. Brian Cooper

    I can totally see that replacing my wife’s Crown Vic as our new family prime mover. Don’t kill it, I can make this work.

  2. Scott Liggett

    I hear the bumper fillers are now available in fiberglass not rubberized plastic. Not that you care.

    You could get factory repair and wiring manuals for Caddy’s back then. My dad had them for his 79 Fleetwood and mom’s 80 Eldo.

    If the AC system is empty, it may not allow the compressor to turn on. If it doesn’t have the rear mounted AC system in the trunk that runs off the original compressor, it may be fixable. Otherwise new hoses front to rear will cost more than the car. You can get that system to run on 134.

  3. aussie351

    I think the wheels actually suit this.
    Just swap out the engine and…. did somebody say DRAG WEEK

  4. C.M. Bendig

    Aftermarket Chevy Ralley wheels. Aftermarket Smooth center ‘highway patrol’ flat ralley caps (GM ones have the bow-tire stamped in the center). Paint the wheels body color. Use trim rings.

    I had aftermarket 15×8 ralleys with GM highway patrol centers & 265/75/15’s on the back of my 1979 Coupe DeVille with a 425ci Cadillac V8. It would light them up and smoke ’em. If I recall I had a 225/75/15 or a 235/75/15 on the front.

    If your going to swap engines go for the 500. Remember 501 on the engine decals is the Black/Engine type. 472’s have that on the decal. Make sure the CI says 500. Make sure you can hear it cold start and warm up before buying a 500. If the seller just revs and revs it, walk away.

    For some reason in my mind I hear ‘4150’s were made for 500 inches’ (that’s a big flange Holley carb)

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