1989 Cadillac Coupe DeVille

While I see junkyard trawlers from other parts of the country get excited about old Cadillacs and Mercedes sometimes, to the Floridian explorer they all kind of merge into a big sludge. It's the state of retirees and snowbirds after all, and with that high population of aging retirees comes a decent amount of once prized, now discarded Cadillacs to the point they're just a blur. Still notable enough for me to take pictures of sure, but never a real find. However I did manage to find one rarer Cadillac that ended up tipping me off to a marquee I'd never even heard of- this 1989 Coupe DeVille.

1989 is probably one of the later years for Cadillacs I'd bother photographing- as Cadillac entered the 90s they started going blobby instead of boxy, and they start to blend into the general 90s genericar shape. But for 1989, the DeVille was still a hunk of square General Motors glory. 1989 was also a notable year for the DeVille- featuring a 6-inch longer, up-engined, and lightly tail-finned refresh that aimed to improve the brand's cratered reputation. The most curious thing to me though, was the (mostly) intact dealer plate, which listed a marquee I'd never heard of.

The weathered plastic fastened to the front reads "BRAMAN CADILLAC * STERLING". Braman is a still extant dealership in Miami, now operating out of a multi-lot setup in downtown Miami, with a centerpiece multistory glass and concrete modern tower. Today they sell just about every luxury or semi-luxury brand you could think of, from Bugattis and Rolls Royce down to Minis and Hyundais. But in the late 80s, they sold two brands- Cadillacs, and one short lived marquee forgotten to time- Sterling.

Cadillac's reputation in the late 80s was rough to put it lightly, a series of underpowered, bad handling cars that shipped with shoddy build quality and a bucket of electrical gremlins heavily tarnishing the once jewel of American luxury. And if there was a match made in hell for that level of quality, it'd be Sterling. Formed in the mid-1980s by the oddball partnership of Austin Rover and Honda, they created the 825- a British luxury sedan for the American market and twin split at birth and rasised by an estranged parent to the much more successful Acura Legend. While I someday hope to find one of these European wrecks in a junkyard to tell their full story, I'll in the mean time direct you to Motortrend's coverage of the vehicle which retells Automobile magazine's experience which included a sunroof that failed thrice and a fuel gauge that gave out an eye-popping SIX times, all within 25,000 miles of cracked trim and warning lights.

Cadillac faired much better in the late 80s and into the early 90s, with the 1989 refresh complimented by the 1988 introduction of a 4.5L V8 over the previously offered 4.1L, badging for which can still be seen on the rear here, on the edge of the newly expanded trunk. The luxury's pretty hard to see from this end though, with it's peeling paint and trunk full of junkyard detritus. For that, we must step inside.

Navigating the beige sea, we can see it's pretty intact, save for the creeping but damning march of mold on the passenger side. It's a full suite of 1980s standard package luxury, dyed leather and bits of wood trim around a column mounted automatic and an auto-reverse tape deck on top of dual ashtrays. For some reason, my favorite part of the interior is the yellow Trunk button inside the glovebox.

However I can't ignore the "Symphony Sound" factory tape deck, kitted out with auto-reverse and a button to support the higher quality "Type II" cassettes (labelled CrO2 here). Additionally, next to the CrO2 toggle is a button labelled Am-St, to enable support for AM Stereo- a semi-successful but largely abandoned standard for stereo audio over AM airwaves. And we can't forget the his and hers ashtrays with a centrally mounted cigarette lighter.

Finally we'll come to the pilot's seat, showing off it's telescopic, airbag-less steering wheel in it's final year, as well as the now quiet and blank Information Center. One of these days I'd love to see a modern electric car dash inspired by these 80s vacuum-fluorescent displays.

This post was written on May 11th, 2023 and published on May 12th by an amateur junkyard hunter, doing their best to chronicle the final days of a once luxurious car