Cadillac Fleetwood Castilian – Classified of the Week

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By Dale Vinten

Yesterday’s feature on the Intermeccanica Murena 429 GT sent us down a rabbit hole of obscure, American estate cars which is why today’s Classified of the Week is this Cadillac Fleetwood Castilian and what an absolute beast it is too. When we think of Cadillac we think of absurdly wealthy oil barons, wafting around in ten gallon hats and reinforcing stereotypes – basically J.R. Ewing from Dallas. And that is exactly the target market Cadillac had in mind when they produced, in conjunction with Traditional Coachworks LTD, the Fleetwood Castilian station wagon.

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Cadillac has been the luxury arm of US car giant General Motors since 1909 and is renowned for designing and building opulent automobiles, even before being bought out by GM, and the Fleetwood, debuting in 1976, was just a continuation of that theme. Not content with having the biggest engine at the time, the quite frankly ludicrous 500 cubic inch, 8.2-litre V8, Cadillac also wanted the biggest car and so they got it into their heads to build a station wagon. Unfortunately they lacked the facilities to produce such a vehicle but they didn’t let a silly little thing like lack of tooling and production methods stop them, instead they simply outsourced the work to someone else.

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Enter California-based Traditional Coachworks LTD who were commissioned and endorsed by Cadillac to take a handful of the current, factory Fleetwood sedans and convert them into estate cars. They set to the task with aplomb, reworking the body whilst endeavouring to retain the recognisable aesthetic of the original Fleetwood. Achievement unlocked. The Castilian featured a long, sloping roof that swept back into the rear tailgate via a tasteful spoiler but it was still discernibly a Fleetwood, and it’s certainly an arresting sight. At over 2,400kgs never has the term ‘land yacht’ been so apt but with such a huge car comes huge responsibility – to power the thing – and as such Cadillac opted to drop their aforementioned 8.2-litre V8 into the car, which produced a distinctly mediocre 190bhp through a three-speed Turbo Hydra-Matic gearbox. Emissions regulations would have certainly played a part but how they managed to achieve such a paltry figure from that absolute behemoth of an engine is anyone’s guess.

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The Cadillac Fleetwood Castilian wasn’t built for speed though. It was built as a statement piece so that owners could flaunt their wealth and success, basking in all of the reflected glory of such an exclusive and opulent machine and boy did it attract the rich and famous, with celebrity owners Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr of Rat Pack fame being among the lucky few to pick up a brand new Castilian station wagon in 1976. With an options list as long as your arm (if you have freakishly long arms that is) the interior featured Cadillac’s d’Elegance trim package which included, among other things, carpeted footrests, pillowed leather seats, an AM-FM stereo, outside temperature gauge and power-everything.

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All of this self-indulgent swank doesn’t come cheap though and the cost of the conversion on top of the original purchase price of the Fleetwood pushed the retail on a Castilian to around $30,000 which certainly would have contributed to the car’s low volume production run. It’s difficult to pinpoint exact numbers but it’s thought that only 11 Castilian wagons were built by Traditional Coachworks in 1976 and today that means a genuine exclusivity factor that many classic car enthusiasts hanker after – the knowledge that you’ll not likely see another one on the road whilst drawing confused and admiring glances both on the street and at shows.

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This left-hand-drive Cadillac Fleetwood Castilian currently for sale on Car and Classic is one such model. Presented in its original colour scheme of Innsbruck Blue over Ivory White leather interior with plush, Navy Mouton carpeting it’s quite the spectacle. Having covered just over 20,000 thought-to-be-original miles from new it is a beautifully preserved representation of the marque and while $50,000 (around £36,000) is a lot of money, you really are getting a lot of car for your clams. The original build sheet is also included so you really can see the absurd list of options that this car came with from the factory.

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Europe got the Volvo 240 estate while our friends across the pond got the Cadillac Fleetwood Castilian, and with the rear seats folded flat could probably accommodate the boxy Swede in its entirety. You can’t drive your house but you can live in your car and this particular slice of exclusive, luxury Americana would make quite the bachelor pad.

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