I’ve talked about the weird things I want to do to some newer-vintage Cadillacs in the past, and I’ve also mentioned here that our family’s daily driver is a 1983 Cadillac Sedan Deville purchased new by my wife’s grandfather. It’s a really great car and I’m coming to like it a lot just as it sits. That said, I could envision giving into my tinkerer side with any number of Ford Panther or GM B-body cars from the 1980s—the Cadillac included.
Because I can’t lavish all that attention on ours (for both financial and sentimental reasons), I can at least use this 1986 Cadillac Brougham in our classifieds as a basis for outlining how I think someone really ought to build
Frame, Steering, Front Suspension and Brakes
The 1987 Cadillac Brougham isn’t technically a B-body. It’s a D-body, which is nearly the same thing but longer. Before 1985, this same platform was called C-body, but then General Motors decided it needed the C-body designation for one of its new front drivers, but couldn’t retire the actual C-body cars, so it resurrected the old D-body name for them.
It’s a great system, all designed for the 1977 model year and a well-engineered combination of handling, comfort, ease of operation, and safety. I’d be tempted to play with stiffer shocks, and perhaps a thicker roll bar (Chevrolet Caprice 9C1 pieces, perhaps) because I prefer a bit more handling at the expense of some luxury, but I could be equally happy with things simply as-intended.
The brakes, a typical front-disc/rear-drum setup with power assist, work especially well right out of the box and would have plenty of margin for more power.
Overall, the chassis needs nothing except a thorough inspection to ensure that everything is in spec and fastened securely. It’s one of the outstanding features of the car
Wheels and Tires
Typically, this ’87 wears whitewall radials and steel wheels with wheel covers—in this case wire-spoke wheel covers. That’s fine and appropriate, but I find myself called in a slightly different direction.
I’ve really gotten to enjoy the look of black-wall snow tires on our ’83 Cadillac. Those tires seem to lend a dignified, ’40s air to it. While changing out the whitewalls for snows, I also made two discoveries. First, I discovered the wheels are equipped with hubcap nubs to fit a standard 10.5-inch hubcap. Second, the brake dust also made the black steel wheels look body color, making me think that this car would look good with the wheels exposed and also sprayed Light Chestnut Metallic.
I found myself wondering how the Cadillac might look with dog dishes. Then I further discovered that some Pontiacs in the ’70s came with blank hubcaps that otherwise have a much more appropriate shape for the Cadillac body than a regular baby moon. I figure if GM itself condoned un-marked hubcaps, they’d be perfect in the absence of ‘caps bearing an actual Cadillac crest.
Engine, Transmission and Rear Axle
The factory engine from 1986 to 1990 was a 5.0L V-8, known to most enthusiasts as the “Oldsmobile 307” after the division that designed it and its displacement in cubic inches. It’s interchangeable with other low-deck Olds V-8s, including 350- and 403-cu.in. versions, but given that the ubiquitous LS swap has already reached the GM B-bodies, it seems ridiculous not to use the hardware that already exists to use the newer engine and all the hardware that has developed around it.
If this were our Cadillac, which has the 4.1-liter High Technology engine, I’d be tempted to go no further than the 4.8L LS that was installed in countless half-ton pickups and barely rates a glance from power addicts hunting for 6.0L engines. But because this was already a 5.0L car, it seems more fitting that the 5.3L used in heavier pickups and SUVs be installed here along with its associated 4L60E four-speed automatic.
The biggest challenges would be a matter of packaging: You can’t build a Cadillac and not have air conditioning, power steering, and power brakes all on board. Also, I’m unclear if the stock intake setup from a pickup truck will fit under the hood or if something from an F-body, a Corvette, or the aftermarket would be required to keep everything looking externally stock.
The rear axle is the strong GM 10-bolt. It should hold up just fine behind a mild LS and an automatic with stock-sized tires. If you really had to mess with it, you could consider adding a limited-slip differential.