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History of the 1976 Cadillac Fleetwood Eldorado
 Bicentennial Edition Convertible
Contributions by Automotive Mileposts, Bob Williams, Cadillac Motor Car Division, Grumpy's Garage, Lewis Schwartz, Peter Luthcke and Tom Smart

 



1976 CADILLAC FLEETWOOD ELDORADO BICENTENNIAL EDITION CONVERTIBLE
 

AT A GLANCE

Years Available: 1976 only
Number Built: 200 (199 replica cars plus 1 actual last car)
Paint: Cotillion White (Paint Code 11)
Convertible Top: White (Top Code A)
Interior Trim: White Sierra Grain Leather with Dark Firethorn Seaming Laces (Piping on Seats) (Trim Code S072)
Accent Striping: Blue (Color Code 26A) and Red (Color Code 76A)
(Red accent stripe is the lower stripe and continues on door; Blue stripe is upper stripe and is only on hood)
Price: $85.00 (Accessory Code E45 SR Last Convertible Replica Decor Package)
Body Plate Notes: Number listed before BDY should range from 13801-13999 (14000 was actual last car retained by Cadillac Motor Car Division; see example at right)
Special Notations on Build Sheet:

  • SPEC FIRETHORN SEAMING LACES
  • SPEC TWO COLOR ACCENT STRIPES
  • SPEC INSTRUMENT PANEL PLAQUE
  • SPEC WHITE WHEEL DISCS
 

While much of the nation was preparing for the bicentennial events to be held on July 4, 1976, other notable dates were taking place in the months before the nation's big birthday celebration. Wednesday, April 21, 1976 was a sunny spring day in Detroit. A Cotillion White 1976 Cadillac Fleetwood Eldorado was proceeding down the assembly line at Cadillac's Clark Avenue plant, as many convertibles had done in the years before. But this one was different. All along the way, plant workers were posing to have their picture taken with the car. And as it came off the final line shortly after 10:00 AM, Cadillac Motor Car Division General Manager Edward C. Kennard sat behind the wheel, with Manufacturing Manager Bud Brawner, Detroit Mayor Coleman Young, and several Cadillac assembly workers coming along for the ride.



View press release


 

 

 

 

 

 

What made this particular convertible special was its status as the last production American-made convertible built by a major U.S. auto manufacturer. It was the last of 200 identical "last" models built to commemorate the occasion. At the time, this was big news because the convertible model—no matter the make or model—was always the model that seemed to depict the American way of life better than any other. And its day had sadly come to an end.

The popularity of the convertible body style peaked in the early sixties, then began a rapid descent as more hardtop models were introduced with vinyl tops, factory air conditioning systems, and more elaborate sound systems. Sunroofs were more mainstream by the late sixties, and there was the potential of new roll-over legislation being enacted which would make it too costly to build a convertible model that could meet the standards. All of these things came together to put an end to the convertible body style.

The demise of the convertible shouldn't have been a huge surprise to anyone paying attention, as convertible models had been dropping out of production for years. Luxury convertibles were particularly hard hit, and that happened early on as pampered luxury car buyers were more than willing to give up the glamorous looks of a top down model for factory air conditioning, stereo radios, a quiet interior environment, and arriving with hairdos intact, no perspiration, and dust-free clothing.

The first luxury convertible to go was the Oldsmobile Starfire, which offered its final convertible in 1965, a year before the model itself passed into oblivion after 1966, to make way for the new personal luxury Toronado. The Ford Thunderbird was next, with its last open air model coming off the line in 1966. Lincoln Continental followed the next year, with its last four door convertible being made for 1967. Chrysler Corporation's flagship Imperial model still built a Crown Convertible in 1968, but that was the end of the line for that body style. That left only the Cadillac DeVille to represent the interests of luxury car buyers who still wanted a convertible at that point.

Convertibles elsewhere where being discontinued as well. 1969 would be the last year for a Chevrolet Camaro or Pontiac Firebird Convertible. Ford built its last full-sized convertible in 1972, as did Mercury. The Ford Mustang and Mercury Cougar would build their final convertibles in 1973. Chevrolet, Pontiac, Oldsmobile, and Buick would all assemble their final convertibles in 1975. The majority of convertible models dropped out of production in a relatively short period of time, from 1970-1975, just six years. 

So when Cadillac served notice—rather discreetly at first—that the Eldorado Convertible was the only convertible now built in America, and it would not be repeated for 1977, everyone knew they only had one chance to get a new convertible. Speculators saw an opportunity to profit from this announcement as well. Even Cadillac was a bit shocked when it saw the orders for Eldorado Convertibles escalate to 156 percent of 1975 production. A total of 14,000 Eldorado Convertibles were built for the 1976 model year, and Cadillac likely would have built more if they had been able to obtain more of the necessary components.

There were many requests for the actual last convertible to be built. Cadillac had already determined that it would keep the actual last car for its historical collection, so the decision was made to create a trim package of identical last convertibles. Since Cadillac didn't want to appear to be taking advantage of this situation, the package they created was named the Eldorado Bicentennial Convertible, in recognition of that year's most significant date. The base price on a 1976 Cadillac Fleetwood Eldorado Convertible was $11,049, and the Last Convertible Replica Decor Package was a mere $85! Only 200 would be built with 199 for sale to the public.

Production of the replica cars began late in the model run, after all of the "standard" convertibles had been built. Assembly of the actual last car was delayed slightly for some unknown reason. There doesn't appear to be any particular significance to the April 21st date, so its uncertain why the actual last car was built on that particular date. One accounting is that a critical convertible top part was either damaged or lost, and a replacement had to be obtained in order to finish the last car. We haven't verified that, so it's only hearsay at this point. However, it would explain why the last few replica cars were built almost a week prior to the last one coming off the line. Cadillac needed that extra time.

The Bicentennial Edition cars are based on regular production models, and differ only in a few details. In fact, any car ordered in all-white could almost be made to look like one of the last replica cars. But there are several things that would not be easy to duplicate, and we'll point those out to you so you'll be able to identify a real replica. The paint finish was Cotillion White (Paint Code 11), a color used for many years on Cadillacs. The convertible top is white as well (Top Code A), as is the Sierra Grain Leather interior. The Dark Firethorn carpeting, instrument panel, steering column, steering wheel, and seat belts are typical of interior trim code 072. The accent stripes on a car with this color combination would likely be red (Code 76A), but this is where the details make the difference.

HOW TO IDENTIFY A GENUINE BICENTENNIAL EDITION CAR

First of all, locate the Body Plate, which is mounted under the hood on the cowl near the passenger's side hood hinge. It will indicate a series of six numbers at the end of the second line. (The second line ends with BDY.) The six numbers will be between 013801 and 013999. If they are, you've likely identified a genuine car. Also check the third line down. It begins with TR and must have the numbers S072 immediately following. That indicates a special interior trim code.

The replica car interiors differ from other production models with the use of Dark Firethorn Seaming Laces. Also known as piping, it is used where two pieces of leather hide are attached, typically along the edges of seats and where a pattern ends and joins a part of the seat without a pattern. Normally, this piping would be white in color, to match the seats. Of course, a trim shop could duplicate this design, but it would be costly for them to do so.

The exterior accent striping on the replica cars uses two colors, instead of the typical single color striping. Details of the accent striping are listed below.

EXTERIOR ACCENT STRIPES

Only the 200 convertibles equipped with the Last Convertible Replica Decor Package have the distinctive two color accent stripes, as shown here. What's confusing is the stripes are in the same location, and of the same configuration as the accent stripes found on every 1976 Eldorado, except on other Eldorados, the stripes would all be the same color. The dual red stripes are located on the forward/lower edge of the hood, and continue back to near the rear edge of the doors, where they come to a point and end.

The dual blue stripes are mounted further back on the hood or above the red stripes, and end near the rear edge of the hood, where they also come to a point. The blue stripes are the extent of the red, white, and blue bicentennial theme, as there's nothing else on the car that's blue as part of the trim package.

Note in photo left, the two thinner stripes are facing each other, with the thicker stripes on the outside edges.

UNIQUE INTERIOR WITH FIRETHORN SEAMING LACES

The interior of the 200 last replica convertibles is a stock White Sierra Grain Leather interior with Dark Firethorn carpeting, instrument panel, steering column, and steering wheel, and seat belts. The difference is the piping on the seats, which Cadillac referred to as "seaming laces" is firethorn also, instead of white to match the seats.

Additionally, the last 200 replica cars included a plaque mounted on the instrument panel in front of the passenger seat. The plaque was designed to be installed in the holes normally used for the Cadillac wreath and crest and Eldorado script. It stated, "This 1976 Fleetwood Eldorado is one of the last 200 identical U.S. production convertibles."


The instrument panel plaque (shown left) was not attached to the car when it left the factory. All cars left the factory without the production Cadillac wreath and crest emblem and Eldorado script on the woodgrain panel in front of the passenger. Any dealership taking delivery of a replica convertible received a letter in the mail that included the plaque, and a post card that was to be filled out with the customer's information and returned to Cadillac. The letter advised that the special plaque was to be "snapped into the right side of the instrument panel in the holes provided for the wreath and crest and the Eldorado script. Barrel nuts are affixed to the studs of the plaque for retention. (Be sure to use the proper holes). For added security, you may wish to use an epoxy type adhesive on the back of the plaque to ensure its retention as a deterrent to petty thievery. There are no replacement parts for this commemorative plaque." (Underlined words per original document; not intended to be a link.)

Returning the completed post card to Cadillac would generate a parchment scroll which would be sent to the dealer, to be presented to the customer authenticating the car as one of the 200 replicas of the last convertible. (Actually, it would be one of the 199 replicas, as the last car wasn't a replica, it was the real thing!)

Shortly after production ended, prices for 1976 Eldorado Convertibles jumped two to three times the manufacturer's suggested retail price. However, because so many 1976 convertibles were built, and because so many of them were placed in storage for their investment potential, clean, low mileage, original cars were plentiful. Before long, prices came down to more reasonable levels, and as a result many nice examples are still available today.

EPILOGUE:

The American-made convertible did not die in 1976, but rather took a brief hiatus before coming back with dozens of new models across all U.S. automakers. In 1982, Chrysler and Lee Iacoccoa brought back the convertible with the LeBaron. Cadillac itself brought back an Eldorado convertible for 1984-85 and continued to build a luxury convertible with the Allanté model from 1987–93. Cadillac then built the XLR convertible from 2004-09. Chevrolet convertibles returned in 1987 with the Camaro model, which lasted to the end of Gen-Three production in 1992.  The Gen-Four Camaro added a convertible in 1994, which ran through 2002, and the Gen-Five version added a convertible in 2011 which continues in production to this day on the Gen-Six model. Chevrolet also built a Cavalier convertible from 1983–2000 and reintroduced a Corvette convertible model on the C5 in 1988 that continued over the years with the C6, C7 and current C8 Corvettes. The Chevrolet SSR was a retractable hardtop convertible produced from 2003-06. Pontiac offered a Firebird convertible from 1987–92 and a Sunbird convertible from 1983–94. Ford brought back a convertible Mustang in 1983 after a nine-year hiatus and has offered one every year since then. Oldsmobile offered the Toronado convertible from 1982–85 and built the Cutlass Supreme convertible from 1990–95. Buick built the Riviera convertible from 1982–86 and the Reatta convertible in 1990–91. They also offered the Cascada convertible from 2016–19, although production was outside the U.S. In addition to the LeBaron, Chrysler has also built many convertible models since 1982 including the Chrysler Sebring, the Dodge 400, 600, Shadow, Stratus and Viper and the Plymouth Prowler and Sundance convertibles. It should also be noted that the American Sunroof Corporation built some of these convertibles off-line for the Big Three automakers, which were then sold through the normal dealer network. Many of them were built on the normal production lines including the present Mustang, Camaro and Corvette convertibles.

 

Vehicle Owner Registry
Recreated on April 21, 2021 after being dormant for years
 Email additions, changes, etc...
Thank you!

 

Car Number
Out of 200
Body Number VIN Number City, State Country Miles
5 013805 6L67S6Q261683 Warren, NJ USA

588

10 013810 6L67S6Q261561 Plymouth, MN USA 45,547
12 013812 6L67S6Q261246 Ecquevilly, Yvelines France

30,000

15 013815 6L67S6Q261581 Kent, OH USA

49,500

16 013816 6L67S6Q262205 Newark, DE USA

99,064

21 013821 6L67S6Q261788 Newport Beach, CA USA

36,888

26 013826 6L67S6Q261872 Montebello, NY USA

6,100

33 013833 6L67S6Q262125 NJ USA

1,287

35 013835 6L67S6Q262158 Riviera Beach, FL USA

18,500

38 013838 6L67S6Q263421 Atlanta, GA USA

44

40 013840 6L67S6Q262321 Greenville, SC USA

23

46 013846 6L67S6Q263102 Myrtle Beach, SC USA 5,287
48 013848 6L67S6Q264853 Munster, IN USA 126
57 013857 6L67S6Q262621 Elk Grove Village, IL USA 232
62 013862 6L67S6Q262564 Ocala, FL USA 63,701
64 013864 6L67S6Q262600 Danville, CA USA 2,500
76 013876 6L67S6Q262893 Torquay, Devon UK

76,000

78 013878 6L67S6Q262919 Durham, NC USA

21,000

79 013879 6L67S6Q262768 Newport Beach, CA USA

3,300

85 013885 6L67S6Q263142 Kensington, MD USA

69,909

96 013896 6L67S6Q263212 Moers, Wesel Germany

164

100 013900 6L67S6Q263162 New Port Richie, FL USA

21,000

102 013902 6L67S6Q263147 Gillingham, Dorset UK

27,380

103 013903 6L67S6Q263317 Newport Beach, CA USA

31,496

105 013905 6L67S6Q263172 St. Louis, MO USA

5,433

108 013908 6L67S6Q263471 Greenville, SC USA 2,169
113 013913 6L67S6Q263562 Greenbelt, MD USA

6,000

123 013923 6L67S6Q263542 Palm Springs, CA USA

36

127 013927 6L67S6Q263724 Brooklyn, NY USA

135

129 013929 6L67S6Q263784 Mundelein, IL USA

44,000

135 013935 6L67S6Q263689 Chicago, IL USA

13,200

137 013937 6L67S6Q263794 Helena, MT USA

14,341

140 013940 6L67S6Q263846 East Syracuse, NY USA

61,865

145 013945 6L67S6Q264010 Peruwelz, Hainaut Belgium

10,000

148 013948 6L67S6Q264735 St. Louis, MO USA

61,579

159 013959 6L67S6Q264508 Unknown USA

1,900

162 013962 6L67S6Q264227 The Woodlands, TX USA

53,333

171 013971 6L67S6Q264848 Apex, NC USA

68,000

173 013973 6L67S6Q264555 Williamsville, NY USA

3,415

175 013975 6L67S6Q264350 Seattle, WA USA

1,273

178 013978 6L67S6Q264570 Pittsburgh, PA USA

700

180 013980 6L67S6Q264513 Naperville, IL USA

88

183 013983 6L67S6Q264438 Greenville, SC USA

4,300

186 013986 6L67S6Q264453 Newport Beach, CA USA

89

193 013993 6L67S6Q264920 Wichita, KS USA

525

195 013995 6L67S6Q264941 Backnang (near Stuttgart) Germany

4,200

196 013996 6L67S6Q264794 Greenville, SC USA

1,023

200 014000 6L67S6Q269948 Sterling Heights, MI USA

120

Unknown Unknown 6L67S6Q262286 Grand Rapids, MI USA

6,700

Unknown Unknown

6L67S6Q264458

Fort Lauderdale, FL USA

40

Unknown Unknown

6L67S6Q264544

Unknown Saudi Arabia

??

Unknown Unknown

6L67S6Q262357

Las Vegas, NV USA

8,920

Unknown Unknown

6L67S6Q264747

Tarpon Springs, FL USA

34,524

Unknown Unknown

6L67S6Q263949

Fairview, PA USA

11,400

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