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1976 Fleetwood Brougham by Cadillac

So many memories in this car.  I can still smell the interior, mom’s chiclet gum, her perfume, the fabric on the seats, the smooth ride, as well as the easy listening songs playing on the radio.  This was the last of the big ones, the final year.  The world was such a different place.  At least my world was.

 

They should have done taken pictures like this more often, uncle “A” is missing in this photograph.  I keep saving pictures as I come across them.  Eventually I hope to get a matching one for each car, in each colour, for each uncle.  They had really big motors and very smooth ride.  In fact, they had the largest production engines that Cadillac ever offered, 500 Cubic Inches.  The cars weighed in at 5213 pounds.  Cadillac built 24,500 of these Fleet Broughams and they sold for an original price of $10,985.  Taken at par, that is more than a third of what my parents bought their house for brand new, just seven years earlier.

 

Gerald Frank Berladyn’s car, (mom’s car).   Looking from the family photo above, combined with a bleak memory, this was our exact car.  At some point, he had it repainted a shade or two darker than factory, the top was changed to white and we had different factory wheels (I believe).  We took many trips to Seattle in this car, weddings, family gatherings, everything in this car.

The Cadillac Crest.  We never had a problem, but people seemed to have liked to steal these off the cars.  Our’s was always there, unmolested.  Believe it or not, I think having this crest mounted was an option that you paid extra for.  Which is probably why that trim it is mounted on is so short.  Short and small to make it easily interchangeable from one not having the crest option, to one having the crest option.

I would have been about this tall when I came home from school and I would stop in the garage before heading into the house.  I remember I would look at this car and I would study all the emblems, noting details within them that likely not many others do.  As a boy, I even had Cadillac wallpaper on my bedroom walls.  Which is something I kind of wish I embraced a little more.  On the front corners here you see the cornering lamps which helped light the way into a turn, and on top the fibre-optic indicators telling the driver that each lamp is working properly.   Further back, is the power antenna.  Common on cars in these years.

I remember my oldest brother commenting on spokes years back regarding this car.  I am glad we did not have them, what a pain that would have been to wash the times that I did wash this car. I am almost certain that we had had the factory alternate option for wheels.  They probably remember that better than I do, but I am certain we had had the other wheels.  I seem to remember painted discs.

This Cadillac was a heavy car and if you accidentally closed a door on your little fingers…  it really hurt.  Wow, the pain.  It really smarts.  I did it.  My sister did it.  I am surprised that we never broke bones.  She might have broke a finger doing that, but that was maybe a different incident.  I think she did something one time that was relatively common to do and she broke her finger.  You would have to ask her.

Speaking of washing this car, I remember a certain incident with my younger sister in this car while dad was washing it.  I am not sure that I should repeat the story, but I have never seen my father move so fast as I did that day.  A rather easy thing for someone have happen as a parent looking back at it.  As a luxury feature, the parking brake automatically disengaged when you shifted from park into gear.  Add a child, keys and a gently sloping driveway.. you get the idea.  5200+ pounds of un-powered weight freely rolling away.

Miles per hour.  According to my cousin who was allowed to drive (while his dad slept in the passenger seat), you could bury the needle and it didn’t even feel like you were moving.  He says he still remembers that feeling seeing the needle buried wondering just how fast he could that car to go all while still having so much more power available left at the throttle.  He told me that he didn’t know how his dad knew how fast they were going, but as he was pushing further and further into the unknown his dad suddenly gave him an “ahem”, clearing his throat.  In other words, I know what you are up to son and just remember whose car it is, ease off.

When you fold that front arm rest down it makes for a good booster seat.  At least it doubled as a viable booster back in the day for us.  That is where I used to sit.   On the front arm rest.  Dad on my left.  Mom on my right.  Then, when my sister was too big to ride in my mother’s arms, she sat there and I went to the back.

Once delegated to the back I would sit on that rear arm rest with each older brother at each side.  That is of course unless we had to pack grandma in there.  If that was the case we probably sat four abreast.  At times perhaps I would be on her lap, she liked that, being with me that is.  I was always her favourite, it was our secret.  From the booster seat I remember that I could see the little LED lights in the rear view mirrors, which may have actually been fibre-optics like the front lights had had.  Little high tech indicators of the time telling the driver that the lights were working properly.

Naturally at some point I outgrew the booster seat.  At this point I was a big boy like my older brothers, except I still got squished in the middle between them.  Even with the space of a big car like this I still remember being kids, the attitudes and a few elbows.  These photos with the extra plush seats here, this was what we had actually had.   I have to see the back of the front seats to know for sure, but this is what we had most likely.  In fact I know it is.  Only the best would do.

I cringe at the dirt because our car was always so clean.  Mom kept the interior absolutely immaculate.  Even with four kids.  No food, no drinks, no snot.  Keep mom’s car clean.  She might say otherwise but I think we were all pretty respectful that way.  I remember one day my sister vomiting from car sickness.  It was a bit upsetting for me because I remembered immediately thinking you just wrecked the car.  I really liked this car.  It was us in so many ways, it was a defining family car.  It was our family car.  In the better years, dad had a GMC Suburban to go along with it.  As a family of six, or seven with grandma, we could all pile into either quite comfortably.

I am going to have to look through some photographs because I keep thinking this was our car.  Our exact model.  Fleetwood Brougham Sixty Special d’Elegance.  I have continually thought there was something missing in most of the photographs I see since following a Facebook Group dedicated to Cadillac.  That is probably what it is.  We had probably had this specific model; this trim level.  I swear I remember reading that word on ours; d’Elegance.  Big long complicated words for kid, but they seemed to imply class and a certain presence.

I know dad searched high and low to find this car.  He wanted this specific car.  This car immediately in the photo above is what ours looked like, except with a white top after it was repainted.  I like the way it looks with a black top.

Trunk space.  You have never seen a car with so much trunk space.  You have to be a friend of the Family to know what it meant when the guys where together with open trunks and the ladies were busy elsewhere with each other at W16th and Ash Street.  Or anywhere family gathered really.  I can still hear Auntie Jean’s comments.  All their comments.  All the women would mutter something.  Those were good times that I would love to revisit if I only could.  We were very lucky in so many ways.  Well, they worked hard for it.  Especially in their early years I am sure.  I believe that they worked very hard in their early days actually.  Of course, it all helps if you are pulling as a team.  As a Family.  That was the most important thing that I am grateful for.  Family.

 

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I am just reminded of this by hearing Neil Diamond begin playing by chance over YouTube.  This is just one the songs that reminds me of driving around with mom and my sister.  This particular song keeps bringing me back to one particular day on Broadway Ave, not too far from home here.  Trips to grandmother’s, Coquitlam Center, Lougheed Mall, and our Doctor’s Office all the way into Vancouver were what was usual if we were out with mom.  She might not appreciate me sharing this, but she has always had this “thing”.  She does not drive on the Freeway and she does not drive across Bridges.

 

Uncle Peter Berladyn’s car.  Except he had the factory sunroof on his.  His might actually have been a Talisman.  Which is a very rare car with only 3000 or so built.  I will have to study some pictures again.

That license plate, for those of you who do not know, it is the gas door.  If you pull the top of that plate forward you will find the gas cap.  Hidden right there in plain sight.  That is where you put the gas.  Right behind that plate.  Love the photo Mr. President.  We had the same car, same year, same make, same model.

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