The 1964 Caddy marked the end of an era that began in 1961 when the design team took a close look at the division and decided change was needed. First and foremost, the 1960/61 Caddy still had the huge 1950s-style fins with dual "aircraft" style lights about two-thirds of the way up the fin.
Early 60s excesses gone
The body panels were pushed out and styled so that the overall impression one received was a vehicle of excess. The body panels were rounded and flared; the hood was too large as was the overhang, the front end was too bright and there was no cohesion to the design. It seemed like there were three different beltlines starting and stopping at the end of each door; the quarter panels, and the front fenders. The dual headlamp clusters hung under each fenders overhang and the brightwork front end was overpowering.
The design team at Caddy made two key decisions. The first was to get rid of the excess baggage and return the body to a leaner configuration and the second was to develop and engine that could handle the stresses of a 500-cubic-inch powerplant that was scheduled to appear later in the decade. It was once of the quietest engine overhaul decisions made as the new engine, which made its debut in 1964,included a new block that was an in lower than the existing 390; that was 1.25 inches shorter and was four inches narrower. In addition, the engine was also sturdier and lighter.
Smoother lines and new beltline
That was quite a tall order for the design team but they pulled it off while, at the same time, making the new generation a vehicle that featured smoother lines and that also made the fins, which had grown to Great White size, smaller and easier to handle.
The front end was more integrated into the design and while there was still bright work involved, the front end featured quad headlights and a small overhang that established a bright work beltline about midlevel on the vehicle. The simplified lines carried through the doors and on through the rear where the lines were integrated into a nicely finished rear panel.
Aside from the new engine, the 1964 boasted another industry first; the first set-and-forget climate control system where the temperature was chosen and you could then forget it.
Because very little was changed on the exterior of the 1964, the key way you can tell whether you are driving a 1963 or 64 is the setting of the parking lights. If the parking lamps are small rounded units sitting under the headlights then it's a 63. If, on the other hand, they are flat panels that are integrated into the fender design then it's a 64.
For the record, the new Cadillac lines proved incredibly popular as sales climbed to nearly 166,000 for 1964. This was up from about 163,000 in 1963 so it was obvious the changes that were quietly implemented worked well.