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      Car History: Car History Year 1976
    Posted on Monday, September 27 @ 13:10:28 UTC by Cars
      Cars This being the bicentennial, marking 200 years of American independence, the fourth of July took on an extra special significance and there were countless celebrations across the country to commemorate the occasion. But, as well as all the fireworks and parades, there were also quite a few departures in 1976: Oil tycoon J. Paul Getty died, as did eccentric billionaire Howard Hughes and film director Busby Berkeley. The death of Chinese leader Mao Tse-tung in September sparked off a power struggle in that vast nation. Meanwhile, in one of the closest elections of the century, Republican Gerald Ford was ousted from the White House when Democratic nominee Jimmy Carter was elected as President.

    As far as the auto industry was concerned, there was one type of model that was due to become a thing of the past in '76 - the convertible. The demise of the ragtop had been widely predicted as a consequence of the increasingly vocal demands from consumer pressure groups for improved safety in car design and proposed federal roll-over strength regulations. Indeed, only one major manufacturer, Cadillac, still listed a convertible in their catalog, and the company declared that the 1976 Eldorado would be the last such model to be built. This generated a huge amount of publicity and speculators clamored to buy the car, convinced it would become an instant "classic" that they would be able to sell on at a big profit. Some people did make money from buying and selling the Eldorado convertible, particularly Cadillac, who sold 14,000 of them over 5,000 more than they produced the previous year. If the Eldorado ragtop wasn't exactly rare in 1976, it wasn't the last convertible either. A number of specialists soon began offering to chop the roof off an Eldorado coupe and Cadillac themselves would bring the model back in 1984. Today the convertible can be found in just about every dealership. And although the Eldorado still sat on a full-size 126 inch wheelbase, stretched to more than 18 feet 8 inches in length, tipped the scales at well over 5,000 pounds and was powered by a 500 cu.in. V8 (the largest car engine in production), there were signs that the days of the mammoth Cadillac were numbered. The most obvious indication that things were changing at Cadillac was the arrival of the Seville, introduced mid-year as a '76 model and on sale in the showrooms from May 1975. A thousand pounds lighter, 27 inches shorter and 8 inches narrower than a Sedan deVille, the Seville was designed to take on European luxury cars such as Mercedes. Despite being more expensive than the full-size Cadillacs (it was nearly $1,500 more than an Eldorado convertible) the Seville 4-door sedan ! found plenty of customers, with over 44,700 built during '76. It helped to establish a new annual record total for the marque. Based on the GM corporate 'X' platform and using an Oldsmobile-designed 350 cu.in. V8 equipped with electronic fuel injection, the downsized Seville was a refined package that offered European-style ride and performance combined with the luxury expected in a Cadillac. Acceleration time from zero to 60mph was 11.5 seconds, and it had a top speed of 115mph, but of almost equal importance was the fuel mileage statistic of 15-17mpg. Virtually all '76 Sevilles came with a vinyl-covered padded roof because it was easier to cover up the modified Chevrolet Nova panels on the assembly line rather than spend a lot of time getting the sheet metal smooth enough to be painted. No doubt many of the bicentennial celebration parades included a new 1976 Eldorado convertible somewhere in the lineup and they will probably continue to appear in lots of future pageants. But the reality is that the only way this Cadillac could be considered as "the last convertible" is if it is positioned at the very rear of the motorcade. Specification CHEVROLET CORVETTE Z37 COUPE Engine V8 - cast iron block Displacement 350 cu. ins Bore and stroke 4.0x3.48 ins. Horsepower 180-210 Body styles Coupe No. of seats 2 Weight (lbs) 3,445 Ibs Price $7,605 Produced 46,558     Specification CADILLAC ELDORADO CONVERTIBLE Engine V8 - cast iron block Displacement 500 cu. ins Bore and stroke 4.3x4.3 ins. Horsepower 190-215 Body styles Convertible coupe No. of seats 5 Weight (lbs) 5,153 Ibs Price $11,049 Produced 14,000  
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