Story of the Week

Posted: 11.27.2017
1961 Cadillac models truly created a new inspiration
By Robert Tate, Automotive Historian and Researcher
Images courtesy of Robert Tate's collection


Cadillac sought to turn heads and increase sales with its newly styled and engineered 1961 line of models. The 1961 Cadillac models offered a great appearance and look of Cadillac's traditional style and precise quality.

Engineering advances for the interior of the models greatly increased comfort in such important areas as headroom, legroom, ease of entrance and exit and seating comfort. It should also be noted that the Fleetwood Sixty Special models became the number one selling Cadillac in the line of Cadillac models for 1961.

The 1961 Cadillac models offered a stylish headlamp design that was integrated into its expansive grille design that most consumers admired. For 1961, the iconic sweeping tail fin design was lowered slightly compared to the previous 1959 and 1960 Cadillac models. Today, automotive enthusiasts look back at this style as a hallmark not only for Cadillac but for all of General Motors.


The 1961 Cadillac designs was virtually unlimited. Designers took pride in the crisp, sculptured design of the front, rear and sides of the 1961 line. Some automotive historians have said this line represent one of the finest automobiles ever created, and are a major part of our automotive heritage.

Cadillac featured 12 models in three standard series; the Sixty, Sixty-Two and the Seventy-Five Series. The 1961 Cadillac models also offered important advancements in riding comfort, handling ease, quietness of operation and braking. The 1961 Cadillac interior was improved with greater chair height with additional legroom and a better seating position. The interior styling was all new for 1961.There were 113 upholstery combinations - 24 more than in 1960. The color range and harmonization of interiors was the finest ever offered by Cadillac and was admired by many consumers. The materials chosen by Cadillac ranged from the latest developments in synthetic fabrics to the greatest looking leathers and broadcloths material.


The 1961 Cadillac models went on sale Oct. 3, 1960. Walter McCall, the author of “80 Years of Cadillac La Salle” stated, “Many of the great styling features were taken from the 1959 Cadillac Cyclone experimental show car.” The XP-74 Cadillac Cyclone was a show car designed from the science fiction movies from the 1950s.

The 1961 Cadillac models were designed under the direction of the great Bill Mitchell (1912-1988) along with the Cadillac Design studio who were some of the most talented and admired General Motors designers working through the 970s. The late Dave Holls, who was the assistant chief designer at Cadillac in 1961, said the model’s accessory road lights were among his favorite details. He once said, “They look like Marchal or Lucas lamps: clear lenses, bullet in the center, floating vertical struts, and arear projection into a mirror-like parabola.”


For 1961, Cadillac offered great advertising material with beautiful artwork to promote Cadillac's standard of the world tradition that many consumers thoroughly enjoyed.

The late Harold G. Warner, who was Cadillac’s general manager and vice president of General Motors, once said of the 1961 line, “We have complete new styling while retaining the traditional Cadillac appearance. Remove the identification symbols and the design says, this automobile is a Cadillac. Never in our 59 years of building the finest of automobiles have styling and engineering been blended so skillfully in achieving important advancements in comfort, convenience, performance and appearance.”


The Eldorado Brougham and Eldorado Seville nameplates were dropped from the Cadillac line for the model year in 1961. The 1961 Cadillac models also offered many great accessories such as cruise control that contributed for a safer driving experience especially for the open highways. Other accessories included power windows and seats, the Cadillac Guide-Matic, power door locks, Cadillac air conditioning and the Cadillac E-Z Eye glass. The E-Z glass material reduced eyestrain by eliminating annoying glare. In conclusion, the 1961 Cadillac models were very stylish automobiles. Today they are very collectable and are a part of our automotive heritage.


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