Top 10 Obscure Special Editions and Forgotten Limited-Run Models: Cadillac Edition, Part II

cadillac eldorado custom biarritz classic

In Part II of the Cadillac edition of this series, let’s take a look at 5 more Cadillacs: 2 luxury editions and 3 sporty editions. This quintet shows that while the basic ingredients of a sporty Cadillac didn’t change much over the years, the execution of an ultra-luxury model changed dramatically.

1986 cadillac deville touring sedan

Cadillac DeVille Touring                                  

Years produced: 1986-88; 1991-93

Total production: ?

The first downsizing in 1977 had brought more manageable dimensions to the Cadillac DeVille. Although the ’77 B and C-Bodies were dynamically superior to their predecessors, Cadillac must not have believed a “touring” edition could be made out of its new DeVille. It didn’t help that by 1982, the DeVille was saddled with the weak HT-4100 V8. With its second downsizing in 1985 and switch to front-wheel-drive, the DeVille lost 600 pounds and 26 inches in length. The HT-4100 that had been employed to poor effect in the RWD DeVille now had only 3,400 pounds to haul around. The stage was set for a firmer, more poised and more European edition of the new DeVille and for its sophomore season, the Touring Sedan and Touring Coupe were launched.

1986 cadillac touring interior

The Touring editions were a curious interpretation of a German luxury sedan, available for an extra $2,880 atop the DeVille’s MSRP. Unlike the Germans, the Touring retained a six-passenger set-up with a column-shifter and digital gauges. This was despite other “touring” GMs like the Ninety-Eight Touring Sedan featuring a buckets-and-console set-up. However, like the Olds, the DeVille’s interior was trimmed in gray leather. Exterior colors were limited to white, black, silver or gray, a very sparse color palette intended to mimic that of the Germans.

1986 cadillac deville touring coupe

Mechanically, numerous changes were made. There were firmer front and rear springs, revalved front struts and rear shock absorbers, a solid front stabilizer bar and a thicker rear stabilizer bar, firmer front and rear strut bushings, a 3.33:1 final drive ratio and a quicker power steering ratio.

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There was even PEP, Caddy’s cutesy acronym for the “Performance Enhancement Package”. This was simply a larger exhaust that extracted an extra 5 horses from the HT-4100, bringing the total up to 135 hp and 205 ft-lbs.

1987 cadillac touring sedan

To visually separate these from the regular DeVilles, there were 15’’ alloy wheels in Goodyear Eagle GT tires, front fog lights and air dam, rear spoiler, rear quarter window louvers on the coupe and Academy Gray lower body mouldings for a subtle two-tone effect. Visual changes were also made in 1987 to all DeVilles, with revised front and rear fasciae – including a bolder grille and wraparound taillights – intended to make the Caddy look larger and more prestigious. 

1988 cadillac deville touring sedan ad

For 1988, all DeVilles received an improved V8, now displacing 4.5 liters with 155 hp and 240 lb-ft, that returned the same fuel economy as the HT-4100.

1992 cadillac deville touring

When the DeVille was heavily revised visually for 1989, it gained 5-6 inches in (mostly overhang) length. However, it lost the Touring models. The Touring Coupe never reappeared, but the Touring Sedan was resurrected in 1991. Still following the same six-passenger format and receiving similar modifications to past Touring Sedans, the new sport model had a grille-mounted Cadillac crest and standard 16’’ forged aluminum wheels similar to those of the 1988-91 Seville STS.

cadillac deville touring 1991 1992 1993

Most importantly, the DeVille had seen a hefty jump in power since the last Touring editions. Cadillac’s V8 had been bored and stroked and was now much more reliable and powerful, with 200 hp and 275 ft-lbs of torque. Offering the Touring Sedan was a curious move, as Cadillac was heavily touting their Seville STS. The DeVille also appealed to an older and more conservative buyer, far less inclined to trade in an imported sport sedan.

cadillac deville and dts performance versions

Still, the revived Touring must have been at least somewhat successful, as the redesigned 1994 and 2000 generations of DeVille, as well as the 2006-11 DTS all had full-time ‘sport’ models: DeVille Concours, DeVille DTS, DTS Performance and DTS Platinum. There remains a sporty, full-size Caddy in the XTS VSport, with its twin-turbocharged 3.6 V6. And this tradition all started with the boxy, little ’86 DeVille.

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Cadillac STS Platinum                                      

Years produced: 2007-11          

Total production: ?

The Platinum series of Cadillacs were a step further upmarket for GM’s luxury brand, offering higher-quality interiors and unique trim. The first Caddy to receive the treatment was the 2004 Escalade ESV, and for 2007 it became available on the XLR, DTS and the featured STS.

Available with either the 3.6 V6 or 4.6 V8 and rear- or all-wheel-drive, the 2007 STS Platinum received a unique grille with a fine grid pattern, differing from the regular car’s grille with its thicker horizontal bars. There were also unique 18-inch chrome finish wheels and chrome-accented door handles.

In photos, the STS Platinum interior looks scarcely different from the regular STS. However, there was leather-wrapping almost everywhere. Seats were swathed in sumptuous Tuscany leather trim and the regular Eucalyptus wood was replaced with Olive Ash Burl wood trim. Other touches included unique sill plates, premium floor mats and a wood-accented, heated steering wheel. The interior could be selected in either beige or black.

2009 cadillac sts platinum black

With the 2008 facelift, the STS Platinum also received some tweaks. The interior received an Alcantara headliner, but the wheels and grille were now just regular STS items with a different finish. 

2009 cadillac sts platinum 2

Although the Platinum interior and the exterior revisions and more powerful V6 of 2008 were meaningful and timely improvements for the STS, they weren’t enough. The sexier, cheaper 2008 CTS had a cut-and-sew dash, with real wood trim, all-wheel-drive and ventilated seats as well as the STS’ new V6 as options. All the STS could boast was an optional V8, but the Northstar’s 320 hp and 315 ft-lbs was no longer impressive. Also unimpressive was the STS’ rear cabin space, scarcely more accommodating than the CTS.

cadillac sts platinum

The mid-size luxury segment has been dominated by the Germans for years now, and Cadillac needed a car that could really stand out. For all its basic goodness, like a great ride/handling balance and plenty of available features, the STS just didn’t have strong enough appeal or marketing to lure buyers over from German brands. A planned RWD replacement for the STS and front-wheel-drive DTS was axed during GM’s bankruptcy crisis, and so the STS/DTS were discontinued after 2011. Their FWD/AWD successor, the XTS, didn’t arrive until 2013. Carrying on the new tradition, the range was topped with a Platinum edition.

caddy eldorado custom biarritz classic 1

Cadillac Eldorado Custom Biarritz Classic      

Years produced: 1978               

Total production: 2000

Lincoln first introduced designer edition Givenchy, Gucci, Bill Blass and Cartier Continental Mark IVs in 1976, and in tandem Cadillac introduced an ultra-luxury version of its elephantine Eldorado. The Custom Biarritz debuted for 1976, featuring a brushed stainless steel and padded Elk Grain cabriolet vinyl roof with French seams and opera lights. Inside, there were Sierra Grain pillow-style leather seats. The Custom Biarritz returned for 1977, retailing for $1760 or a whopping $2777 when equipped with an Astroroof. The Custom Biarritz was the pinnacle of excess… That is, until the 1978 Eldorado Custom Biarritz Classic arrived.

caddy eldorado custom biarritz classic 2

Photos courtesy of eBay seller “autotown99” who currently has this Eldo listed here

The big Eldorado was going out with a bang. Next year’s model would shed a staggering 1,114 pounds as well as 12.3 inches in wheelbase. The big Eldorado needed a brash farewell, and no Eldorado was as brash as the Custom Biarritz Classic. Each of the 2,000 units produced were painted in two-tone Arizona beige and Demitasse brown with matching wheels. The two-tone treatment continued in the interior with light beige and dark saddle pillow-style seating, along with a leather-wrapped steering wheel. American Sunroof Corporation were contracted with applying the padded half-vinyl roof, sunroof/astroroof, and the brown paint. Total price for the option package? $2,466, or $3547 with the Astroroof.

caddy eldorado custom biarritz classic 3

While the numbers of this limited edition model were perhaps intentionally kept small, GM must have been disappointed to find the razor-edged Mark V outsell the Eldorado range by an impressive 25,000 units. With all those designer editions, plus the pricey Diamond Jubilee Mark V, perhaps Lincoln knew better than Cadillac how to make a personal luxury coupe buyer feel truly special.

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Cadillac Catera Sport

Years produced: 1999-2001

Total production: ?

It was the right idea at the right time but with the wrong execution. The Catera was a rebadged German Opel Omega that was introduced to rival compact sport sedans from the German brands and bring in new, younger, import-driving buyers to the Cadillac brand. While the Catera did pave the way for the vastly more successful CTS, a car that sold twice as well as the erstwhile Caddy that zigged, it failed on two fundamental fronts. Firstly, performance was nothing to write home about. Secondly, it suffered from the then patchy reliability of German Opels.

1999 cadillac catera sport

With rear-wheel-drive and an independent rear suspension as well as a double overhead cam V6, the Catera was a vastly more convincing sport sedan than the Cimarron. Alas, that 3.0 V6 mustered only 200 hp and 192 ft-lbs of torque and had to haul around a hefty 3,900 lbs. There was no stickshift available either, the only transmission being a four-speed automatic.

cadillac catera sport 1999 2

A Catera Sport arrived in 1999, offering a firmer ZJ1 suspension tune with stiffer springs, struts and shocks. Exterior colors were limited to Ebony, Ivory and Platinum, with an interior only available in Ebony with gunmetal trim; heated seats and side airbags also featured. Exterior changes included seven-spoke machined aluminum 16-inch wheels, rear spoiler and a matte grille. Alas, there was still no stickshift and no more power.

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A facelift for 2000 more closely aligned Catera and Omega styling, with the Caddy losing its unique full-width taillight panel. The Sport received new five-spoke 17-inch alloy wheels, aluminum interior trim and HID headlights.

2000 cadillac catera sport 1

Catera sales were in terminal decline and the facelift did nothing to stop the bleeding. For 2002, the CTS arrived. It featured a more powerful engine, an available stickshift and vastly more distinctive styling. The Catera was quickly forgotten.

holden vx calais

A better idea for an entry-level Caddy would have been this: the Holden VT/VX Calais. Based on a heavily re-engineered version of the Catera’s V-Car platform, the Calais was the most prestigious of the regular-length Commodore range. Engines included the venerable 3800 V6 and its supercharged variant, as well as (from 1999) a 5.7 LS1 V8. The Calais would not have matched German standards of build quality or refinement, but it would have far surpassed the Catera in reliability and offered an interior that was both plusher and more ergonomic. It could have held the fort more convincingly than the Catera until the edgy CTS arrived but instead, Cadillac sold an Opel Omega that burned buyers they could scarcely afford to lose.

1990 cadillac eldorado touring coupe

Cadillac Eldorado Touring Coupe  

Years produced: 1990-91

Total production: 3756

Cadillac had touted the improved handling ability of its downsized 1986 Eldorado from Day 1 and even offered a special Touring Suspension option. For 1988, the related Seville received a sporty, monochromatic STS which offered both visual and mechanical upgrades. In 1990, Cadillac extended this treatment to the Eldorado.

1990 cadillac eldorado 3

Arriving in mid-1990, the Touring Coupe was an option package with the code YP5 and a price tag of $2,050. Unlike the $155 Touring Suspension option that remained available, the Touring Coupe received a raft of aesthetic changes as well as performance tweaks.

1990 cadillac eldorado 5

Although it shared the 4.5 V8 with other Eldorados, boasting 180 hp and 240 lb-ft, there were various other performance modifications. A higher-performance rear axle ratio and 3.31:1 gearing improved the Eldo’s 0-60 time to 9 seconds flat, making it and the Seville STS the fastest Caddys in a long time. The suspension was retuned for a firmer, more controlled ride and more responsive handling, gaining a thicker rear stabilizer bar. There was also a quicker steering ratio, dual exhaust, and standard Teves anti-lock brakes.

1990 cadillac eldorado touring coupe ad

Visually, the Touring Coupe was differentiated by its 16×7-inch forged aluminum wheels with Goodyear Eagle GT tires. Taillights received amber turn signals, the Cadillac emblem was moved to the grille and front and rear fasciae and rocker moldings were painted body color. Exterior colors were, like the DeVille Touring, limited in number: two blacks, a gray, a white but, unlike the DeVille, there was also an eye-catching, bright crimson red. For 1991, gorgeous Polo Green paint was also made available.

1990 cadillac eldorado 8 dave s

Interior photos courtesy of Dave S

The cabin was only available in birchwood leather with bird’s eye maple trim, with special front seats that had six-way power adjustability and more prominent side bolstering. Unfortunately, only digital gauges were available.

1990 cadillac eldorado 7 dave s

The big news for 1991 was the bigger and more powerful 4.9 V8 that was made available across the Cadillac range. This 200 hp, 275 lb-ft engine brought the Touring Coupe’s 0-60 down to just 8.2 seconds and even obtained better highway gas mileage. The Teves ABS was replaced by a Bosch II unit, and there was a new four-speed automatic and adjustable damping.

1990 cadillac eldorado 6

Despite the low production numbers of the Touring Coupe, Cadillac saw fit to make the option package a fully-fledged trim level for the longer, sleeker next-generation Eldorado. The Eldorado ETC was offered right up until the discontinuation of the Eldorado line in 2002.


Once upon a time, Cadillac’s performance models were no more powerful than regular Cadillacs and their luxury models had loose-pillow seating. Now, the 2016 CTS-V has a 6.2 supercharged V8 with 640 horsepower while Talisman, d’Elegance and Biarritz are all long-defunct nameplates. After years of awkwardly juggling Euro-fighting sport sedans and plush Broughams, Cadillac now has its most cohesive brand identity in decades. The cars featured were, for the most part, important stepping stones in getting there.

 

Related Reading:

Top 10 Obscure Special Editions and Forgotten Limited-Run Models: Cadillac Edition, Part I

Curbside Classic: 1986-91 Cadillac Seville

Curbside Classic: 1978 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz

Future Curbside Classic: Cadillac XTS

Future Curbside Classic: Cadillac STS