1993-1996 Fleetwood Bio

What’s with the Speroses’ car?

The author’s choice to use a 1996 Cadillac Fleetwood as the star car in Lanie Speros & The Omega Contingency was an easy one. With a rough plot for the story already in mind early in 2021, Chris Contes knew that the Speros family would need a car that was large enough to fit a family, yet elegant enough to be Mr. & Mrs. Speros’ date night vehicle. It had to be powerful, because it would be used later in the story as a hero vehicle. Since the Speros family drives only historic and modern classics, the car also had to be older. The vehicle also had to reflect the spirit of confident individuality that is a core theme for Lanie in the story.

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Powered by the legendary Chevrolet small-block 350 cubic-inch V8, the last of the big rear-drive Fleetwoods has plenty of power. From 1994-1996, the Fleetwood benefitted from the Corvette’s more powerful small block V8, identified as GM Regular Production Option (RPO) LT1. The addition of the LT1 in 1994 turned the Fleetwood into a tire smoking sleeper that was just as capable of running at the Friday Night Drags as it was floating along the interstate.

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Those attributes made the 1993-1996 Cadillac Fleetwood an obvious choice. Historically, the Fleetwood has been at the top of the luxury hierarchy in the Cadillac model range. Originally, the Fleetwood designation meant that the coachwork had been fitted by the historic Fleetwood body factory in Pennsylvania. However, after 1931 Fleetwood’s coach works was relocated to the Cadillac plant at Clark Street in Detroit. Fleetwood’s original Pennsylvania operation (established in 1909) provided coachwork for other manufacturers as well—primarily Packard. But after the move to Michigan, Fleetwood production was devoted to General Motors.

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Twenty-five years later, the Fleetwood (as well as the higher-spec Fleetwood Brougham) is an appreciating classic with a growing cult following. But, because the last big Caddy is relatively modern, it can still safely & comfortably be used as a daily driver and road trip car—even for families that want a more familiar driving experience. Modern safety features such as dual airbags, traction control and anti-lock brakes kept the Fleetwood (mostly) competitive with other large luxury cars on the market at the time. General Motors was in a tough position when it came time to reintroduce the Fleetwood as a large, RWD car.  Modern fuel efficiency, crash protection and aerodynamics requirements meant that the car would be a significant departure from the outgoing Brougham. The 1988 Cadillac Voyage concept (shown at left) clearly was the origin of the car introduced in 1993.

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Designed by legendary GM stylist Chuck Jordan, the ’93-’96 Fleetwood would be the last full-size, V8-powered rear-wheel-drive Cadillac to use body-on-frame construction. In fact, much of the chassis and layout of the Fleetwood were derived from the GM B-platform vehicles dating back to 1977. The Fleetwood shared this final version of the RWD platform with the Chevy Caprice and Impala SS, Buick Roadmaster, and the awesome station wagon variations of those two brands. While the Chevy kept its B-body designation, the longer Cadillac was code-named the D-body, consistent with GM tradition. The outdated rear-drive 1992 Brougham (which had been in service since 1977) was very overdue for replacement, so GM invested significantly in a new body—despite carrying over much of the chassis and running gear.

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At 225 inches in overall length, the Fleetwood and Fleetwood Brougham were the longest production cars in the United States at the time. Initially, for its introductory 1993 model year, the Fleetwood sold modestly. But—despite its comfort and strong performance—it sold nowhere near the volume of its closest competitor, the Lincoln Town Car.  In fact, during the Fleetwood’s last two model years, the Town Car outsold it more than 5 to 1. These relatively low production volumes mean fewer pristine examples of the Caddy remain, contributing to the recent surge in values.

Despite its conservative (some would say uncompetitive) configuration at the time, the Fleetwood demonstrated GM’s exceptional engineering skill in powertrain and packaging. Decades of development on the small-block V8 meant that the Fleetwood benefited not only from excellent power output, but exceptional fuel economy.

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An LT1-powered Fleetwood will quietly cruise at 70mph and still return over 23mpg—which is a testament to the car’s mechanical engineering as much as its modern aerodynamics. Even though Cadillac had pioneered large V8-powered front-drive luxury car development during the 1980’s, the Fleetwood and Brougham returned (in part) because Cadillac’s dealers insisted that their customers wanted the option of a more traditional large sedan. In fact, the customer base had been so vocal, they’d even demanded the traditional wire-type wheel covers that Cadillac had used for years. These were heavy, noisy and impractical—so Cadillac responded by offering the cross-lace alloy wheel that was available on the base Fleetwood.

Catering to Cadillac’s aging customer base made sense, since the similarly traditional Town Car was selling so well. Additionally, there was a definite need for a robust, body-on-frame luxury vehicle to support the important livery industry (limousines & funeral cars).

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