General Motors invested heavily in downsizing its lineup during the second half of the 1970s. With CAFE targets to meet and the potential threat of another oil crisis, the corporation saw its future inextricably entwined with smaller, front-wheel-drive vehicles. The industrial juggernaut undertook an ambitious plan to transform its lineup to FWD, starting the 1980s with two FWD platforms in the North American market and ending the decade with 15 separate FWD platform codes. Let’s decipher GM’s sprawling FWD lineup.
To make sense of it all, let’s go in descending order of size and positioning.
Sold as: Buick Riviera; Cadillac Eldorado; Oldsmobile Toronado, Buick Reatta
Wheelbase: 114 inches (1979-85); 108 inches (1986-93); 98.5 (Reatta, 1988-91)
The first front-wheel-drive E-Body, launched in 1966 as the Oldsmobile Toronado, was GM’s first front-wheel-drive platform. The Toronado was joined by the Cadillac Eldorado in 1967; Buick’s Riviera also shared the E-Body designation despite being rear-wheel-drive. This was an early example of GM’s confusing platform designations, where cars could switch designations, use a different one despite being mechanically identical, or use the same one despite being mechanically dissimilar.
The E-Body was downsized in 1979 for its third generation and the Riviera belatedly switched to front-wheel-drive like the others. All three ’79 E-Bodies used a 114-inch wheelbase, perimeter frame and four-wheel independent suspension with transverse torsion bars up front and semi-trailing arms, coil springs, and an anti-roll bar at the back. The Toronado and Eldorado were massively lighter than their predecessors by upwards of 1000 pounds and lost 12 inches in wheelbase length.
A further downsizing occurred in 1986 when the E-Bodies lost around 15 inches in total length, around 400 pounds in curb weight, and a lot of buyers. The downsizing was much less radical than the ’79 downsizing and yet undistinguished styling made it seem all the more shocking. Wheelbase was down by 6 inches to a total span of 108 inches and V8s disappeared from the Riviera and Toronado lineups, while convertibles disappeared entirely. Suspension was four-wheel independent once again, although the E-Body now used unibody construction instead of body-on-frame. Coil springs were used up front, MacPherson struts were used front and rear, while a transverse leaf spring spanned the rear (à la the Corvette).
Even after the ’86 redesign, the E-Bodies were still notably larger than the N-Bodies they were often derisively compared to. However, the more compact dimensions and appearance yet premium price pushed the once prestigious E-Bodies towards a fleet of similarly-sized vehicles including the perennial RWD G-Bodies. After a couple of years of disastrous sales, Cadillac launched a revised Eldorado that looked bigger; Buick and Oldsmobile followed in 1989 and 1990.
The Buick Reatta was also considered an E-Body despite a shorter, 98.5-inch wheelbase and only two seats. The basic chassis was carried over, however, as was the Riviera’s powertrain and dashboard.
Sold as: Cadillac Seville
Wheelbase: 114 inches (1980-85); 108 inches (1986-93)
GM continued the K-Body platform code of the first Seville despite the move to front-wheel-drive. The first K-Body had been a revised RWD X-Body, while the second K-Body was identical to the E-Body and shared its 114-inch wheelbase. The Seville’s engines were the same as the Eldorado’s, a veritable grab-bag of GM’s worst powertrains: the flaky V8-6-4; the disastrous 5.7 Oldsmobile diesel; and the weak HT-4100 V8.
When the E-Body Eldorado was revised in 1986, the Seville followed suit and continued to share a platform with the Eldorado. Again, engines were the same. Well, “engine”. The diesels were gone and the old credit-option Buick 4.1 V6 was no more, leaving just the HT-4100 (later replaced by 4.5 and 4.9 V8s). GM continued to call the third-generation Seville a “K-Body”.
Sold as: Cadillac Allanté
Wheelbase: 99.4 inches
The Allanté, like the Buick Reatta, used a shortened version of the E-Body floorpan. However, the Allanté’s wheelbase was slightly longer than the Reatta at 99.4 inches and it received its own platform designation.
As Cadillac’s flagship, the Allanté was given some exclusive hardware to justify its hefty price premium. A specially-tuned, multi-port fuel-injected version of Cadillac’s HT-4100 was the only engine available in the Allanté at first, producing 40 more horsepower and 35 more pound-feet of torque than the regular HT-4100 for a total of 170 hp and 235 ft-lbs. From 1989, the two-seater Cadillac offered a computer-controlled suspension system with adjustable dampers.
The Allanté hung in there for a few years despite disappointing sales. However, its unique selling points were sacrificed along the way—from 1989, it used the same 4.5 V8 as in other Caddys and the computer-controlled suspension was introduced to the Eldorado line in 1991. The Allanté was one of the first Caddys to use the Northstar V8, introduced in what would prove to be the roadster’s final year.
Sold as: Cadillac DeVille, Cadillac Fleetwood, Buick Electra, Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight
Wheelbase: 110.8 inches (all except 1989-92 Cadillac DeVille/Fleetwood sedan); 113.8 inches (1989-92 Cadillac sedans)
The full-size C-Body platform commenced development in 1980 in the aftermath of a second oil crisis and soaring gas prices. The C-Body cars were around two feet shorter than their predecessors, around 600 pounds lighter, and now used unit-body construction with a separate front subframe. Suspension was now fully independent with MacPherson struts and stabilizer bars front and rear, and electronic level control at the rear.
GM’s sweeping redesign of the C-Body was a risky gambit for a platform that was popular with older, more conservative buyers. The Cadillac, in particular, was a dramatic change from its predecessor, although it was the only C-Body to retain V8 power. That carryover HT-4100 made the new FWD DeVille and Fleetwood much more sprightly – relatively speaking, that is – than the RWD models which continued to be sold alongside. Although sales remained steady, GM still ordered an extensive mid-cycle enhancement for the DeVille in 1989 that stretched the sedan’s wheelbase by three inches.
Tastes had changed by the 1980s and coupes were falling out of favor. The C-Body coupes in particular haemorrhaged sales. However, each of the C-Body lines continued to sell in the same overall volume in the second half of the 1980s as their RWD predecessors had in the first half, making this one of GM’s more successful downsizings.
Sold as: Buick LeSabre, Oldsmobile Delta 88, Pontiac Bonneville
Wheelbase: 110.8 inches
The H-Body was introduced one year after the launch of the FWD C-Body. The platform code had previously been used on a completely unrelated RWD subcompact platform, used by the Chevrolet Monza and axed after 1980. The new FWD H-Body shared the more modern unit-body construction and suspension set-up of the C-Body with no major mechanical differences. The C and H-Bodies were instead distinguished from each other visually—the H cars employed a more rakish roofline that was a pleasant change from GM’s obsession with formal rooflines in the 1980s.
Although buyers of LeSabres were typically older, more conservative buyers, the downsized H-Body LeSabre continued to sell quite well, as did the Bonneville. This was despite the trimmer dimensions and the lack of a V8. The FWD Delta 88 saw sales dip, but this was unfortunately a pervasive problem in the ‘80s at Oldsmobile.
Sold as: Buick Regal, Chevrolet Lumina, Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme, Pontiac Grand Prix
Wheelbase: 107.5 inches
The first W-Body sedans didn’t arrive until MY1990 – two years after the coupes – and this was one of the main reasons the W-Body’s launch was so bungled and disappointing for GM. Three of these models carried over nameplates from RWD G-Body cars, meaning these were GM’s second attempt to replace that perennially popular Regal, Cutlass Supreme, and Grand Prix.
As covered in greater detail earlier, the W-Body’s development was plagued with delays, huge production costs, and all-round mismanagement. When they finally arrived, they didn’t represent a quantum leap forward for GM and this was reflected in the mostly unenthusiastic press coverage. More troubling for GM, buyers were also apathetic.
Early models used the carryover Chevrolet 2.8 V6, while the four-wheel independent suspension was quite similar to the existing E-Body, down to the transverse leaf spring (it’s unclear whether there was any parts commonality). That was more modern than the set-up in the A-Body these cars sort of replaced and by most accounts these cars rode and handled better, if not quite as well as the Taurus. But the GM-10 cars also weighed upwards of 500 pounds more than the A-Body, which meant GM had to introduce stronger engines after a couple of years simply to keep them as quick off the line as the outgoing 2.8 A-Bodies. Also, despite riding a 1.5-inch longer wheelbase than the Taurus, the interior was no more spacious.
Although the Grand Prix and Lumina effectively replaced the A-Body Pontiac 6000 and Chevrolet Celebrity, respectively, the Regal and Cutlass Supreme continued to be sold alongside their A-Body Century and Cutlass Ciera predecessors. But let’s save the tangled web of FWD GM platforms in the ‘90s for another time.
Sold as: Buick Century, Chevrolet Celebrity, Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera, Pontiac 6000
Wheelbase: 104.9 inches
The A-Body got off to a slow start, sales-wise, but quickly turned out to be perhaps the most successful of GM’s new front-wheel-drive platforms. Contrast that with the GM X-Body of 1980, enormously successful out of the gate but collapsing once its reliability problems became known. GM had worked out most of those reliability issues by 1982, which was fortunate as the A-Body was simply an X-Body with a longer, more formal body.
That extra length was not found in the wheelbase but, rather, in the overhangs. This allowed for a larger trunk and a larger engine compartment, which in turn lead to the introduction of larger engines like Oldsmobile’s 4.3 V6 diesel (available in all four lines) and Buick’s 3.8 V6 (available in the Olds and Buick).
The A-Body platform proved to have a lot of life in it. It was used as the basis for the U-Body minivans of 1990, and the Century and Cutlass Ciera were sold all the way until 1996 by which time the diesels, coupes, 6000s and Celebrities were long gone.
Sold as: Buick Skylark, Chevrolet Citation, Oldsmobile Omega, Pontiac Phoenix
Wheelbase: 104.9 inches
Development of the FWD X-Body started in 1974. Although this coincided with the fuel crisis, GM had been planning since 1972 on developing a smaller, more efficient replacement for the RWD Chevy Nova (and its X-Body cousins). This new Nova would be sized similarly to the German Opel Rekord. The fuel crisis did shake up GM’s product plans, however: they decided to downsize their entire lineup, and also opted to make the Nova replacement just a smidgeon smaller. The FWD X-Cars ended up being sized almost identically to the Rekord, with a difference of just a couple of inches in most dimensions. How funny: GM “downsizes” their compact models and they still end up being equivalent in size to a full-size car in Europe.
GM designers did their best to make the new X-Body Buick Skylark and Oldsmobile Omega look like their bigger RWD siblings, offering them only as two- and four-door notchbacks, while the Chevrolet Citation and Pontiac Phoenix received a two-door notchback but also a clean, almost European hatchback design. Although the new X-Cars were six inches shorter in wheelbase, their cabins were more accommodating and space-efficient than that of their predecessors. V8 engines were gone – replaced with four- and six-cylinder engines – but the new cars’ sizeable weight savings (over 500 pounds) meant performance was just as good.
These were GM’s first non-luxury FWD cars and set the blueprint for many of GM’s FWD platforms in the 1980s. Suspension up front consisted of McPherson struts with lower a-arms and an anti-roll bar; out back was a beam axle with an integral anti-roll bar, trailing arms, and a Panhard rod. Coil springs and tube shocks were featured front and rear. It wasn’t as cutting edge as some of the imports but these were sized right, looked good and were destined for success.
If only GM had paid more attention to quality and reliability. Sales of the Citation cratered once consumers learned of the many recalls and issues, while the Omega and Phoenix were never particularly popular. Only the Skylark stayed steady. Once the J-Body and A-Body arrived in 1982, the X-Cars were awkwardly situated in their division lineups—although the J-Cars were a couple of inches shorter in most dimensions, they were priced virtually identically to the X-Cars. Only the Citation – renamed Citation II – and Skylark survived until 1985, with the slow-selling Omega and Phoenix axed after 1984.
Sold as: Buick Somerset/Somerset Regal/Skylark, Oldsmobile Calais/Cutlass Calais, Pontiac Grand Am
Wheelbase: 103.4 inches
The X-Body was replaced, somewhat indirectly, by the slightly smaller N-Body and related L-Body. As their original names suggest – Somerset Regal, Calais, Grand Am, all formerly used by the RWD A-Body – these were designed to replace the RWD G-Bodies and development began in 1980. GM’s dire predictions of a future of high gas prices proved to be off-base, leaving the RWD G-Bodies to sweep up sale after sale long after GM had intended to euthanize them. That left the N-Body cars to slot into the B-O-P model ranges as premium compacts, filling the space between the “subcompact” J and mid-size A cars and therefore serving as de facto replacements for the X-Cars.
Although these were nominally larger than the J cars, underneath they were much the same. This meant the same suspension set-up: MacPherson strut suspension up front and a twist-beam axle out back with trailing arms. There was hope that these would be effective competition for the hordes of sporty compacts from Japan and Germany, but they turned out to be little more than J-Cars in fancier duds. Buyers had a choice between the uninspiring Tech IV 2.5 four or the Buick 3.0 V6. Sadly, the latter was not available with a manual transmission. In 1986, sedans joined the N-Cars lineups while Oldsmobile’s modern (if thrashy) Quad 4 became available in the Calais in 1987 and later on the other N-Cars. A turbocharged 2.0 four was also available briefly in the Grand Am. Of the three cars, the Grand Am was the strongest seller; it was also the only one that had a consistent name, as the Somerset Regal coupe became Somerset in 1986 and then was renamed Skylark like its sedan counterpart in 1988, and the Calais became Cutlass Calais for 1988.
Sold as: Chevrolet Beretta, Chevrolet Corsica, Pontiac Tempest (Canada only)
Wheelbase: 103.4 inches
It’s not clear if there were any major differences between Chevrolet’s L-Body and the B-O-P N-Body. Both platforms used the J-Body’s suspension set-up and while some sources report the L-Body used a mixture of J- and N-Body components, those two platforms already shared a lot. The J-Body’s MacPherson strut front suspension was retained, as was the twist-beam axle at the rear.
Interestingly, Pontiac of Canada received a rebadged Corsica badged Tempest despite the presence of the Grand Am in their showrooms. Pontiac’s popularity up north had also seen the arrowhead badge applied to the Suzuki Swift (Pontiac Firefly) and Suzuki Sidekick (Pontiac Sunrunner).
Sold as: Buick Skyhawk, Cadillac Cimarron, Chevrolet Cavalier, Oldsmobile Firenza, Pontiac J2000/2000/2000 Sunbird/Sunbird
Wheelbase: 101.2 inches
Much like the 1973 T-Car platform used by the Holden Gemini, Chevrolet Chevette and Opel Kadett, among many others, the J-Car was designed as a global platform. When development commenced in the mid-1970s, the plan was for the J-Car to be sold by Holden in Australia, Isuzu in Japan, and Opel and Vauxhall in Europe. In 1977, GM North America decided to join the project, which by now was pooling talent and resources of GM engineers from around the world.
Cadillac had very little to do with the development, having joined the project just 11 months prior to the J-Cars’ arrival in showrooms in 1981—this explains why the Cimarron ended up being little more than a Cavalier with nicer trim.
The suspension set-up was largely similar to the X-Body’s, with MacPherson struts and coil springs and an anti-roll bar up front and coil springs, trailing arms and interconnecting torsion beam at the back.
As with many “world cars” that wind up in the US, the North American J-Cars ended up being considerably different from their cousins in Europe and the Asia-Pacific region. Instead of using the Family II four-cylinder engine like the global J-Cars, GMNA fashioned a 1.8 four-cylinder from the 90-degree V6 engine.
Although the J-Cars used a new unibody, to keep costs down GMNA cribbed the larger X-Body’s front suspension, steering system, CV joints, wheel bearings, starter motor, transmissions and various other parts. As these parts were beefier, intended for use on a vehicle 400-500 pounds heavier, the American J-Body ended up overweight for its class—a base Cavalier weighed in around 300-400 pounds heavier than the target Accord. This stifled performance, already underwhelming from the wheezy 1.8, and lead to the introduction of more powerful four-cylinder engines (including the Family II, albeit only in the J2000) and even Chevy’s 2.8 V6. Still, GMNA got plenty of mileage out of this platform and after a rocky start, sales of the Cavalier and J2000 (later Sunbird) soared; the Buick, Olds and Cadillac versions wouldn’t survive into the new decade, however.
Sold as: Pontiac LeMans
Wheelbase: 99.2 inches
While GMNA continued to foist the hoary, outdated Chevrolet Chevette and Pontiac T1000 on American and Canadian buyers, GM of Europe moved on and developed a front-wheel-drive replacement, the Opel Kadett D and Vauxhall Astra, which launched in 1979. By the time the Chevette and T1000 were finally being euthanized, the Kadett D had been replaced by the Kadett E (launched in 1984). North American consumers eventually received it in 1988, and it was keenly priced.
Suspension set-up wasn’t anything too unfamiliar for North American buyers: MacPherson struts up front and coil springs, trailing arms, and a semi-independent torsion beam out back. The modern, overhead cam Family II engine was available in either 1.6 or 2.0 displacements. Sadly, the Pontiac LeMans was manufactured by Daewoo of Korea and, although it looked the same as the Astra from which it was derived, the driving excitement had been sucked out of it and the build quality was no better than that of a Hyundai Excel.
The LeMans continued as Pontiac’s bottom-feeder price-leader until 1993 when it was axed, although it continued to be manufactured in South Korea, Egypt, and Uzbekistan for many years thereafter.
Sold as: Chevrolet Spectrum, Geo Spectrum, Isuzu I-Mark, Pontiac Sunburst (Canada)
Wheelbase: 94.5 inches
Although Isuzu and Opel had both participated in the global RWD T-Car project, GM’s European arm and Japanese partner went their separate ways. Isuzu (as well as Holden) continued with the honest RWD T-Car into the mid-1980s, known in most markets as Gemini. The subcompact and compact segments had rapidly shifted to majority FWD so for 1985 the Gemini would move to a new FWD platform. This new Isuzu would be sold not only as an Isuzu I-Mark in North America, but also as a captive import in Chevrolet showrooms.
The Spectrum was priced between the Suzuki-sourced Sprint and Toyota-sourced Nova. Confusingly, Chevrolet sold numerous subcompacts and compacts alongside each other in a cluttered lineup. The antediluvian Chevette opened the Chevy lineup, undercutting the smaller Sprint. The Spectrum was priced above the Sprint and right at the low-end of the larger Cavalier’s price range, while the Nova was priced slightly above the Spectrum but below top-spec Cavaliers. The Spectrum range was trimmed for 1989, gaining a Geo badge in the process, but by 1990 it was gone.
Sold as: Chevrolet Sprint, Geo Metro, Pontiac Firefly (Canada), Suzuki Forsa (Hawaii, U.S. territories), Suzuki Swift
Wheelbase: 88.4 inches/92.3 inches (Sprint 3-dr/5-dr), 89.2 inches/93.2 inches (Metro 3-dr/5-dr)
The first Suzuki Cultus/Swift was born from the ashes of GM’s aborted M-Car project. GM had realized during development that production costs would have been too high to ensure profitability and sold the blueprints to Suzuki in exchange for a 5% share in the Japanese automaker. Another term of the agreement was GM would have access to the Swift as a captive import in North America, Australia, and other global markets.
This agreement continued with the Swift’s successor, and by then GMNA was selling captive imports under the Geo banner. In a market generally bereft of true subcompacts, the Metro ended up becoming one of the most well-known small cars because of its size, maneuverability, and terrific fuel economy. Although the second-generation Swift had no GM involvement in its design, the corporation continued to refer to the car internally as being an M-Body.
Sold as: Chevrolet Nova, Geo Prizm
Wheelbase: 96 inches (Nova), 95.7 inches (first-gen Prizm)
It appears GM may have internally referred to the Chevrolet Nova (and its Geo Prizm successor) as the GM S-Body although GM had no involvement in the development of the fifth-generation Toyota Corolla that spawned it. However, the corporation partnered with Toyota on a joint venture – New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. – to manufacture it and a rebadged derivative, dusting off the Chevrolet Nova nameplate. The aim of NUMMI was to learn about lean manufacturing, a practice widespread among the Japanese automakers. With four-wheel independent suspension (MacPherson struts all round), overhead cam four-cylinder engine, and impressive levels of fit and finish, the Nova and Prizm were rather different from other small cars bearing the Chevrolet badge.
There we have it: all 15 of GM’s FWD platform codes in the 1980s, a tangled web of interrelated platforms (J, N, X, L), platforms with different names for no reason (K, H), and platform codes given to products not even developed by GM (S).
With the rise of modular platforms and greater manufacturing flexibility, GM now uses just five separate platforms for its front-wheel-drive vehicles in North America (six if you count the moribund Delta platform underpinning the Buick Cascada and Verano). Those platforms are Gamma, D2XX, E2XX, Epsilon II, and C1XX.
That’s much more simple.
Jason Shafer’s seminal Curbside Classic Comprehensive Chronology of the Chrysler K-Car Family Tree
This is the perfect piece for a platform-code ignoramus like me. I’ll have to keep this bookmarked so I can keep up with the conversation on these models.
And this is just the FWD models! For RWD (possibly the subject of a future article from William?), you also have:
A – mid-size models (Malibu, Monte Carlo, Grand Prix, Cutlass, Regal, etc.); redesignated as G in 1982 so new FWD models intended to more-or-less replace them could take over the A designation.
B – standard full-size models (Caprice, Delta 88, LeSabre, etc.); partially replaced by the H’s, but some models remained in production clear through the end of the decade.
C – luxury full-size models (Ninety-Eight, Electra, DeVille, etc.); redesignated as D in 1985 so their FWD replacements could take over the C designation; the Cadillac Brougham was the only survivor after the redesignation.
D – long-wheelbase full-size models (certain long-wheelbase Cadillacs); dropped after 1984; from 1985 on, used for what had been the C’s; Cadillac Brougham was the only model from 1985 on.
F – Camaro and Firebird; continued through entire decade.
G – used for what had been the A’s from 1982 on; dropped after 1988.
H – used for Vega-derived RWD subcompacts through the 1980 model year, after which they were dropped; the H designation was later recycled for use on an unrelated FWD design.
P – Fiero, produced from 1984-88.
T – Chevette and (T)1000; dropped after 1987.
Y – Corvette, at least from 1984 on (before that, I’m not sure if the Corvette had a letter code).
Likewise, here. Thank you for the explanation.
Now, do you have any aspirin for the headache you just generated?
Not due to the exhaustive article. I just realised how bad it was in the 1980s and 1990s with so many bungled up cars from GM as well as bad flashbacks of unreliable 1982 Buick Skylark and disasterous 1986 Chevrolet Celebrity that I owned.
Thanks Will for this wonderfully comprehensive guide.
I was a rabid GM fanboy in the 80s and there’s even a few in there I didn’t know.
Even more challenging I suspect would be to document all the engines GM was using at the time and how much overlap there was there. (2.8 V6 vs 3.0 V6 etc.)
You may have just given me an idea there…
No worse than the overlap in V-8 engines from the mid-1950’s onward. At one time there was a different 350ci OHV 90 degree cast iron V-8 from Buick, Chevrolet, Oldsmobile and Pontiac.
Although there is a case to be made that the 4 engines being made an identical 350 cid (or multiple versions at 400 or 455) was part of a plan to eliminate Division-specific engines. The platform jumble was kind of the opposite of a plan.
Surely GM must have considered rationalizing its platforms and engines if not discontinuing some marques pre-1973 Oil Crisis?
Having lived through this mess of GM platforms, it is mind-boggling so many existed. It didn’t make sense then and it still doesn’t.
Thank you for this; tackling and harnessing this isn’t an easy thing to do.
Thanks Jason. It wasn’t and there’s still some questions I have. For example, did the W-Bodies have ANY parts commonality with other platforms? How different was the L-Body to the N and the J? etc etc
Plenty of books and articles have been written on GM’s problems at the time. Of course the platform mess does not make sense, but were a result of the many internal conflicts and competing interests in GM at the time compounded by myriad poor management decisions at the upper levels.
This is wonderful — there are several codes in here (V-body Allante, M-body Sprint) that I’d never heard of before.
Funny that you should include a picture of the L-body Tempest. I just returned from two days in Canada, and was really hoping (for some odd reason) to see a Tempest that I could photograph and write up. On the last day, I saw an L-body sedan in a supermarket parking lot… but disappointingly, it turned out to be a Corsica. Better luck next time…
No Waves, Pursuits, Sunbursts, Passport Optimas, Asunas, Fireflies, or Sunrunners either?
For some reason, I had my mind set on a Tempest. More my type of car, I guess. And rarer, too – which is why I didn’t find one.
I did see several Waves, but none of the others that you listed (none that I know of, any way).
Other highlights of my brief visit was a Mitsubishi Delica van (driving the opposite way on a highway), and a late-model Nissan Micra (parked curbside in Ottawa). Still can’t compete with a Tempest, though!
I learned of the Tempest’s existence when I spotted one in the parking lot of a public library in Greensboro, NC in the mid 90’s. It had Canadian plates, so I figured it was a model specific to the great white North, though at that pre-internet (for me at least) time I had no idea of the whole parallel automotive universe that existed in Canada.
I also may have seen one in Richmond, though I can’t tell with any certainty. Could have been a two tone Corsica wearing Grand Am alloys–at the distance I was at, it was impossible to discern whether the center divider in the grille was present or absent.
As long as they were willing to recode bodies (RWD A becoming the G-body) they should’ve recoded the E-body personal luxury coupes to S so they could use the E-body code on the NUMMI Nova.
Why? Bring it in line with Toyota’s body coding which has used E to indicate a Corolla or derivative all along.
Yeah, when the E-body had its last hurrah as a transverse (rather than longitude) FWD platform for 1986-1993, that would’ve been a good time to re-name it.
The japanese and Korean cars are quite familiar having worn both their own and various GM badges here but the rest of this alphabet soup is good info for foreigners like me.
Great morning reading!
The then new A body wagons in 1984 were big hits at the time. I’ve read about the fwd Isuzu?,, that was to be built in Spain that was stillborn. Was intended for 1981-ish. Was the the Chevette replacement & smaller than the Chevette. I recall Roger Smith was worried back in the first couple years of the J Body. cheers!
Great overview William, now I know them all. But what a soup it was, so many different FWD platforms in that era for one globally operating automaker.
Regarding the 1980 X-Body. I wouldn’t say that the contemporary Opel Rekord E was a European full-sizer. The Rekord was what the Germans call “Obere Mittelklasse”, which fits right between the smaller “Mittelklasse” and bigger “Oberklasse”. Sounds very logical.
The Mercedes-Benz W126 S-Class and BMW E23 7-series were typical Oberklasse cars back then. Euro full-sizers, in other words. Arguably the Opel Senator A (overall length 4.84 m, essentially a stretched Rekord E) was also a full-sizer.
Interesting that you should use the word ‘arguably’ about the big Opels. Though they may have measured up in size, I can’t imagine your average S-class or 7-series customer being swayed by an Opel. Ober-obermittelklasse? 🙂
Opel Senator: “Untere Oberklasse”… 🙂
The older Opel Admiral and Diplomat models were Oberklasse, absolutely. The Senator A and B are questionable.
I just found this neat picture on autobild.de. From the late seventies, and from left to right: Mercedes-Benz 280 SE, Volvo 264 GLE, BMW 728i, Audi 200 5T and Opel Senator (A) 2.8 S. Three of them are powered by an inline-6.
The Benz still stands out, even as it was about to be replaced by the W126. The Opel looks like it just happens to be there by coincidence.
The Opel and Audi definitely look a generation newer than the Volvo and Benz. The BMW’s something in between due to that company’s extreme styling conservatism.
Growing up in an era where GM offered an A, B, C, D, E and X, the 80s was sort of like a mind boggling acid trip when it came to trying to keep the lineup straight and in context. You have now given me a sort of flashback. What a mess. The kind of mess that can only come from too much money and too good of a market position as was the case in the late 1970s when all this got started. Lots of good ideas here, but not all were very well executed (or conceived).
You are to be commended on your summer project. 🙂
Too many platforms, lots of big plans rolling down from the 14th Floor, but insufficient resources allocated to do it right, half-assed execution and bean counter corner-cutting. So many missed opportunities to produce good quality cars instead of heavily-marketed cynical crapmobiles reeking with contempt for the customer.
“The kind of mess that can only come from too much money and too good of a market position.”
Well, these sure took care of both of those situations in a hurry.
Wasn’t this kind of platform multiplication what nearly killed Nissan?
My father never understood why I once bought a Pontiac instead of a similarly sized Chevrolet as the cars were pretty much the same underneath. Me? I never understood why GM had all these different platforms for what were often very similar cars.
You have to wonder if there had been fewer platforms there would have been more money for better engines, better engineering, or styling that was a bit more distinctive from 1 division to another.
GM alphabet soup. Contains no preservatives, hence it has a short shelf life.
Of all the platform letters and numbers, I really don’t care what my car is based on. Who really does? I do find this article rather interesting, just the same.
I do know our 1981 Reliant was a K platform, and that the Cavaliers were well known as J cars from advertising back then, and thanks to TTAC and CC, I realize my 2012 Impala is a W body.
If all the previous W bodies that went before mine were so much different and not so special, I’m thankful I have the best and the last!
THAT’S what I do care about.
Tell me again…why did they go broke?
Why did GM look at developing the M-Body / M-Car that became the Suzuki Cultus / Swift instead of using GM Europe’s GM4200 platform that became the Opel Corsa?
Maybe it was cheaper to build/import?
That did not stop GM from producing their own versions of GM Europe’s J-Body and T-Body cars, it is also likely that GM would have been more successful with a model derived from the Opel Corsa instead of the M-Body / M-Car let alone Ford’s short-lived attempt to sell the original Ford Fiesta in the US.
Especially as the original Opel Corsa was available as a 5-door hatchback unlike the original Ford Fiesta as well as 2/4-door saloons unlike the M-Body / M-Car, which might have been better received in North America at the time.
The Opel Corsa could also be fitted with GM Family II engines as in the J-Body Pontiac Sunbird / Buick Skyhawk (particularly the 1.8-2.0 Turbo) along with more potent versions of the engines from GM Europe.
Great article, William! I learned a lot reading it.
I am particularly curious about the U body minivans now – can you recommend any further reading as to how they modified the A body platform for that use? I’d never heard that before, but I suppose it makes sense given that they used a twist beam rear axle.
Good question. I had always assumed that the U vans were GM10/W derivatives, especially considering the Lumina APV designation of the Chevy variant.
GM’s push for FWD is what turned me off of GM back in the day.I think there was somewhat of a feeling that the motoring public was having FWD shoved down our collective throats courtesy of GM and Chrysler. I believe the disappearance of RWD V8’s had more to do with the elevation of the humble pick-up, than any other factor.
Mileage and efficiency is why FWD was so heavily invested in. It is a much more efficient drivetrain. As for its faults of having everything under the hood and more complex, oh well…
That’s your problem, not the OEMs.
It’s their problem when they put out cars that are troublesome AND hard to work on, as inflated service costs will eventually drive away customers, which they did.
As for being more efficient, V8s were eliminated during the switch in most models, body on frame changed to unibody, and tires were narrowed, as this switch was in conjunction with downsizing. So efficiency gains seem huge, but it’s erroneous to credit FWD for it.
FWD 95-02 Lincoln Continentals don’t get any better mileage than the RWD Lincoln Mark VIII, in fact highway is worse on the Continental by 1 mpg. These cars are both powered by the same basic 4.6 DOHC, use a 4 speed automatic and weigh about the same.
That’s an excellent example Matt.
FWD may have superior packaging efficiency (albeit not always) but it doesn’t always have superior fuel efficiency. Look at the V6-engined Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger against their rivals as another example.
Great article, but you know I gotta point out some things, especially on the N-Body tip:
1) Quad 4 was ’88 in the Cutlass Calais, that was the introduction to the standard issue “LD2” DOHC Quad 4. The High Output “LG0” was introduced in late ’89 in the facelifted 3rd gen Grand Am SE, carrying the Quad 4 HO to ’94 and the standard DOHC into ’02, including the “LD9” 2.4 Twin Cam ’96 revamp and the short lived ’92-’94 “L40” Quad (S)OHC.
2) L-Body Corsica/Beretta has been confirmed of being a mix of J-Body/N-Body parts from owners of all three platforms (I have owned a ’94 Beretta Z26 in the past, and currently have a ’95 GAGT sedan)
3) ’87 models of the L-Body were fleet only, and apparently the “Hot Ticket” Berettas (’88 and ’89 GTU, ’90-’93 GTZ, ’94-’96 Z26) were left out
And while some models came near the end of the decade, these platforms carried WELL over into the ’90s, I want to sit here and describe all the N-Body, L-Body, and J-Body changes but I know I can’t…
Good point about the Quad 4. I got model year and calendar year mixed up, I’ll fix that shortly.
You’re commenting on an article about esoteric GM platform minutiae. Trust me, you’ve found the right audience for your knowledge. 🙂 If you want to share some of it, go right ahead here in the comments. You sound like you know your stuff about the J/N/L-Bodies!
That’s another wonderful thing about this site–you can actually learn things in the comments!
“3) ’87 models of the L-Body were fleet only, and apparently the “Hot Ticket” Berettas (’88 and ’89 GTU, ’90-’93 GTZ, ’94-’96 Z26) were left out”
As I understand it, the Corsica and Beretta first went on sale as 1987 models late in calendar year 1986 (after the 1987 model year had started), but only for fleet sales. In January 1987, 1988 models were released, and these cars were now available to the general public for the first time.
So, there was a very short 1987 model year (no more than two or three months at the end of CY1986), which was fleet only; followed by a very long 1988 model year (all of CY1987, and CY1988 up to the point of the normal changeover to the 1989 model year in the fall), which was the first model year sold the general public.
I don’t know why GM decided to put these out as fleet models before they were sold to the general public. I believe there is a regulation that forbids manufacturers from selling cars of a particular model year any earlier than the start of the previous calendar year, so 1988 models could not have been sold earlier than January 1987. That may have played a role in why GM rolled these cars out the way they did – the cars sold prior to 1/1/1987 couldn’t be titled as 1988 models – but it doesn’t really entirely explain the “fleet first” strategy.
I didn’t know there was no ’87 GTU (or equivalent), but it would make sense that there was no GTU until the cars went on sale to the general public.
The idea behind putting a car in fleets before selling them to the general public is a way of beta testing the cars. It was something that the Europeans and Japanese did years ago before they released their cars on the US market.
While I get the idea, it seems to me that if the car isn’t ready for retail sales, it shouldn’t be tested out on unwilling subjects, i.e. rental customers.
The photo of the attractive swimsuit model with the Daewoo LeMans is the textbook definition of cognitive dissonance. Or something … just wrong.
It’s such a shame because the Kadett/Astra and, in turn, the Pontiac LeMans were both attractive vehicles. But you show a photo to an American or Canadian or Australian, they’ll say, “Ugh, I remember those cheap crappy cars.” You show a photo of one to a European and they’ll probably say, “Oh yeah, I remember those. They were alright.”
It’s like buying a knock-off Armani suit that frays and tears with each wear.
Yeah, I agree that the styling was not bad, though a little pudgy looking compared to previous global GM shapes in that size class. But since I didn’t have any first-hand experience with Daewoo quality or lack therof, I think what was hard for me to swallow was the LeMans name. Not even a Tempest, but a LeMans. Call it an Astre, call it a Phoenix, but not LeMans.
The Kadett E was alright alright, but gen D was better. The Kadett E and contemporary Ascona C just didn’t reach the overall-quality level of the previous Kadett D and Ascona B. Because those were quality cars at a fair price for Blue Collar Average Joe.
The result of cost-cutting kicked in at Opel in the early and mid-eighties, big time. Rust, for example, suddenly became a major problem.
My sister tested a new Pontiac Le Mans here in NZ(OZ didnt get any) loved it so much she bought a new Corolla that same day, European car built in Korea what could go wrong, apparently everything, she’d recently returned from Europe and had driven a few Vauxhall Astra rentals, the Daewoo version was rubbish.
You know, I just thought of something.
Since GM had all these sometimes overlapping platforms for their cars, I recall back in the mid-1980s, when VCRs became very affordable – that is, $400.00 for a 2 head VCR with a WIRED remote – that with all the brands available, there were only FOUR manufacturers of them!
The various brands, Panasonic, Sony, etal, just put different faces for all the nameplates with very few distinguishing differences.
It took a bit longer, obviously, for GM, with 6 brands, to get the hint.
This makes sense to me, but I hope it makes sense to those reading this! Hope I worded it right.
I get it. Panasonic also made Quasar. Magnavox, Phillips, Philco, and Sylvania were all the same thing. GE, RCA, ProScan in the ’90s, and maybe one or two more were all Thompson Electronics. I honestly think that’s part of why Zenith ended up going down in the ’90s-they had Zenith, and that was it. Zenith went from being an American corporation to the research arm of South Korean LG.
Heck, in the ’90s, if you had a remote from one of the expensive brands, you could activate the same “features” on the cheap brands. GE TVs all had commercial skip-you just needed an RCA remote that had the commercial skip button to activate it! On some of the bigger TVs you could even activate the picture-in-picture if you had the right remote.
Difference between electronics companies with brand new products and car companies that had been around for 80 years is customer confusion. A customer in the 1980s didn’t really know the differences between one VCR to the next unless they were really really interested in the topic. So, it was easy for the electronics companies to make a couple different faceplates, different rubber inserts for the remotes, call one “high-end,” and let the customer figure it out. The monied snobs would buy the Sony or Panasonic because it was the expensive one. The cheapskates would buy the Quasar or GE and figure it was “good enough.” And, they’d ALL be happy because they didn’t know enough of what was happening inside to make a difference.
I honestly wonder if GM honestly thought car buyers were similar-they just knew the style and name, but nothing of what was going on inside.
Even in GM’s “glory days”, they used Alphabetic body codes. The 1964 Chevelle and GTO are A bodies, etc.
But, with the new FWD cars, auto press and makers promoted the letter codes instead of names. First was X and then Chrysler’s K, etc.
GM didn’t just suddenly invent the “alphabet soup” as if they never used them before.
And regarding “FWD forced down our throat by GM and Chrysler”.
Well, some other car makers managed to switch to FWD cars and gain customers: Toyota, Honda, Nissan, etc…
Domestic apologists like to blame issues on “being forced to switch to FWD”, Bob Lutz whined about it. But Big 3 of Japan had no issues. And today’s CUV’s are based on these “wrong wheel drive” cars.
GM brass just threw stuff at wall and went home to cash pay checks.
That’s quite an epic. History thanks you for making the definitive record.
I just hope none of the foregoing is on the CC end of term exam!
I was inspired by Jason Shafer’s excellent K-Car Chronology which was a bloody good read.
Great write up, William! I lived through this era and spent plenty of time in these cars. I even learned a thing or two about the captive imports, too!
Such a mess . What a lot of mash ups. It seemed GM had put their logos to whatever machine coming from development’ s countries, no matter the genuine brands of origin, for all GM divisions their aim was not to sell vehicles but to make profit .
A very useful article. Now if GM had simply replaced old cars with new, instead of hedging their bets by keeping both in production – no wonder I got confused. It would’ve been confusing to be a GM-inclined car buyer in America during this time. Many thanks for this research.
I find it fascinating that the A body and X body were the same wheelbase. I drove an 81 Citation and an 83 6000 and I would have bet money they were two completely different cars.
They sure felt like two completely different sizes!
As sad as this is in retrospect it was sadder watching it all unfold in real life. Part of this sadness was that we American car buyers were really getting a showroom full of lousy junk with few alternatives.
The end of the 1970s saw GM absolutely nailing it on the product front with the X-cars and the E-Cars where the product just hit all the marks dead on. Well, except for quality with the X-cars as America learned later.
I’m convinced that if GM had gotten the quality right on the X-cars there would have been no 1980s for Chrysler and even Ford might have become a memory. Those cars were that right for the market.
And then came 1980 when someone pushed some button at GM and product design, the desirability of their product and anything resembling best product planning practices just went out the window. A GM engineer told me the Aztek wasn’t a failure because it hit all its points in design and function and there wasn’t one GM employee who would argue with the accounting jerks that it was a POS from BOC. This exemplified GM after 1980.
Was there anyone sober during 1980s GM?
No. The liquor cabinets were always full of top shelf product, and the call girls were always of the highest caliber.
I vaguely remember that Roger Smith cancelled the domestic “S car”, which was to replace the Chevette in early 80’s. But wonder, as someone else posted, if this would have been from Isuzu or Opel? Or maybe the money went into Saturn?
I’ve had a few of those platforms in my family’s car history, an 84 J-bird, an 86 A-body 6000-STE, a 92 H-body LeSabre, an N-body 94 Achieva (has style, but no substance) and a U-body 04 Rendezvous.
The A and H were roomy, and competent cars – and quiet. the STE was reasonably quick with the 2.8 and was easily the fastest of the bunch – top speed of 125mph! The J-body Sunbird was a rattle trap and noisy with the Brazillian OHC 1.8 four- and slow but a fairly sturdy car.
The N-body Achieva was a total pile with the Quad OHC engine, and material quality inside was miserable. It looked like crap at age 6 than my 24 year old Chevy did, and the constant issues with the engine didn’t help matters. Towards the end of its life it had a bad habit of cutting out at random, and with my sister being 8 months pregnant, her husband and I both said that that pile has to go… she was about to inherit either the 6000, or a 95 Ford Explorer just to get the junk pile that loosely resembled a car out of our lives. She traded it off for a brand new 04 GMC Envoy and got $250 for it – about 10 times what I thought she’d get for the Sneeze.
Thomas Murphy, Roger Smith’s predecessor, supposedly said, “General Motors is not in the business of making cars. It is in the business of making money.”
Nothing seems to exemplify that more than GM’s myriad confusing and overlapping FWD programs during the eighties, the start of which began during Murphy’s tenure.
He’s right, in a way. The textbook mission of every corporation is the same–maximize shareholder value.
The problem with this view is when it leads to short-sighted decision-making and ill-placed cost-cutting, both in full view here.
With regard to the early FWD E-body, it’s worth mentioning that the way GM originally used this “n-body” terminology was not to refer to platforms the way we now use that term, but rather body shells.
When GM’s North American divisions started sharing body shells in this way in the ’30s, their cars were all body-on-frame, so “body” and “chassis” engineering were very distinct things. Each division designed and either bought or manufactured its own chassis frames and usually all the suspension and drivetrain stuff as well. What they shared were the complicated inner stampings, like the cowl structure and inner fenders. Tooling for that stuff is seriously expensive, especially in steel, so if you can share the same presses and dies across different lines, it can save you a lot of money even if everything else (and everything the customer is gonna notice) is completely different. (If you told a Buick buyer of the ’50s that his car shared its body with a Pontiac, he might not have believed you — they looked different, they had different engines and transmissions, and if you crawled under the car the frames and chassis were visibly different too.)
So, the fact that the RWD, BOF ’66–’70 Riviera shared the E-body designation of the contemporary Oldsmobile Toronado and FWD Eldorado isn’t weird or puzzling, it’s not confusing or even all that odd if you look at what the body designation actually meant at that time.
The meaning ended up shifting more in the “platform” direction in the ’70s and ’80s because of (more or less in order) relentless corporate bean-counterism, the push for downsizing, and the move to unit construction.
Kyree posted a very similar and even more detailed comment about this but he appears to have deleted it. It was quite a thoughtful post too.
I’ll admit my 1960s GM platform knowledge isn’t as detailed as my 1980s knowledge. You make a good point and I suppose why it puzzled me was I was looking back at that era through the prism of 80s and 90s GM platform world, when the definition had changed. But I also noted that E-Body point as a segue into my point about the Reatta and Allante being derived from the unibody E-Body platform but only the Allante receiving its own platform designation, as well as the confusion about N and L-Bodies.
GM really didn’t go away from body designations and to platform designations until very recently. So the reality is that the X/A are essentially one platform as are the E/K, C/H and J/N/L. As noted many shared the same wheelbases, despite the different body designation, meaning that most likely the entire floor pan stamping and frame rails are shared.
If you go to someplace like Napaonline.com and look up some chassis parts for one of those vehicles and then click on the buyers guide. Here is a strut that fits the J/N/L cars. https://www.napaonline.com/en/p/NS_71809 and here is a lower control arm that fits the J/N/L https://www.napaonline.com/en/p/NCQ2606006
Yeah, this is why I sort of hedged and said they moved “in the direction of” rather than “switched,” since it wasn’t that cut and dried. Unit construction is, however, generally more platform-like than body-on-frame by its basic nature.
I’d say that while most people think of unibody vehicles when they hear the word platform in an automotive context I’d say it is appropriate for BOF vehicles as well. To me a platform is the basic structure and suspension of the vehicle.
So I’d argue that before 1965 GM had both platforms and bodies and it was mix and match, same sausage, different length, depending on the rung of the Sloan ladder. Paul’s, excelent article on the X frame here: https://www.curbsideclassic.com/automotive-histories/automotive-history-an-x-ray-look-at-gms-x-frame-1957-1970/ also shows all of the platforms used by the various brands under the same body designation. Then depending on what rung of the ladder they made them in the length(s) of their assigned body shells. So Chevy just had the B, while two steps up at Olds they had the B and C while the top rung started at C with the D exclusive to Cadillac. Of course the reality is that the B/C/D bodies really were same sausage, different length, with a lot of the front half in common.
I’ve always referred to the GMs and Chryslers as “-body”, but to the Ford “Fox-platform”.
Even back in the RWD body-on-frame days, certain GM body designations were obviously closely related to others, and it was debatable whether some really merited their own designation.
As an aside, there was once a loose logic to the letters than GM used. When the letter codes were first used in the 1930s, there were four “standard-sized” bodies, lettered A through D from smallest to largest. In the late ’50s, due to the increasing size of low-end full-size models, the A was folded into the B, leaving just B through D. When intermediates were introduced in 1964, they had a similar size relationship to the others as the original A’s, so the A designation was revived for them.
Meanwhile, GM had begun producing compact cars. At first, they used letters that worked backwards from the end of the alphabet: Z (Corvair), Y (1961-63 B-O-P “senior compacts’), X (Chevy II/Nova).
After 1962, as new lines of any size were added, they picked up where the original A through D sequence had left off: E (full-size personal-luxury coupes), F (Camaro/Firebird), G (1969-72 Grand Prix), H (Vega).
For the mid-’70s onward, the letters seemed to become random.
Beginning in 1949, the “D-body” became very much a stretched C. The Cadillac limo used the front half of a four-door and back half of a two-door “regular” Cadillac, and after a certain point I think they were welding roof pressings together as well.
I began losing track of the GM letter codes in the ’80s. Reading this article it is no wonder. I am puzzled about how the GM-10 and GM-20 nomenclature both came about originally, seemingly abandoning the letter codes, only to drop that and return to letters (W and N) later in life. Looking at all of the models from the perspective of today I suppose it is not surprising how GM got into such trouble later. The corporation was so big it was largely unmanageable. And of course, what we see here is only the FWD product line – they also had RWD models during this period.
One thing about the earlier RWD letter-code bodies in the ’60s and ’70s: even though there was sharing of under-the-skin components, not everything there was the same either. A friend restoring an Olds A-body discovered that rust had damaged an inner reinforcement at the front of the roof near the windshield. Thinking that all the A-bodies shared such components he found a Chevelle in a wrecking yard but to his dismay found that the Chevy had a much less substantial and lighter-weight piece doing that job. Divisional autonomy ran deep in those days and apparently Olds engineers wanted a beefier piece there. All that later went away when engineering was removed from the divisions.
We owned an 85 Citation that served us well many years, despite all odds. Every other FWD GM in our GM family fleet was an utter disaster.
This well written piece must have been painful to do; these years, to me, marked the nadir of GM design and engineering. I have driven imports ever since.
Hey William; your article is famous; I seen it on Hemming’s Sunday “Four-links”
I didn’t know that but thanks for letting me know!
As a kid looking from afar I liked the look of pretty much all of these (not the imports – I wasn’t aware of those), and now 30 or so years later, considering the styling we are served up these days, I think they look great.
I only ever got to drive a rental 90s cavalier though and that felt like a wreck.
General Motors in the ’80s was like a restaurant with WAY too many things on the menu. I much prefer a place that has 8 dishes on the menu and does them well, instead of 48 and does them all below horrible. Any place with a tri-fold menu means RUN!
Is it any wonder GM got into so many quality troubles by juggling this many platforms? Geez. What were they thinking?
A very minor point, but the 113.8-inch wheelbase continued through MY1993 for the C-body Sedan deVille and Fleetwood.
However, it does show you why GM lost so much market in the 80s. These cars could have been great dynamically, but they still wouldnt have sold well. This was one of the worst proportioned, generally ugly set of cars available in the 80s.
I do not have a clue what they were thinking. Horrific.
I never knew what people were talking about when they mention letter bodies. So glad I never learned.
Could you modify the content by putting the end date next to the launch date?You mention this in the body of the content, but it would provide some type of acknowledgement of the life span of the body type. As an example, the J series lumbered on for many, many years and I’m not sure when GM finally pulled the plug.
I have a feeling that your analysis will be used as a reference in future CC articles.
One of the big three motor magazines did a big write up on the GM A-bodies. The article indicated that GM milked this series to the point that it diluted the Oldsmobile brand (way too many Cutlass) and also starved development of worthwhile replacements in the GM umbrella.
I’ll attempt to find and make a link.
I agree, keeping the A bodies added to Olds/Buick’s the “old fogie” image. Even the name ‘Oldsmobile’ with word o-l-d in it was lost on younger buyers.
Must ‘Boomer’ RWD Cutlass owners simply said “I drive a Cutlass”. They traded in for imports or trucks down the line. Maybe would have been better to rebrand division as such? But that is a whole other story.
The 4.5 liter Allante engine did have a tuned port injection system producing 200 HP while the standard 4.5 for the rest of Cadillac’s was rated at 180 HP.
Regarding GM’s RWD platforms, what stopped GM North America from replacing its many RWD platforms with the 1966 RWD V Platform that underpinned many an Opel / Vauxhall and Holden?
Sure there was the Opel Omega-based Cadillac Catera and the Holden Monaro-based Pontiac GTO, yet the RWD V Platform could have been used for many a US market Chevrolet, Buick, Oldsmobile, Cadillac (pre-Catera) and Pontiac (pre-Monaro GTO) in many different sizes as well as establish commonality of components across the GM empire.
Excellent and informative article! I have some more interesting Canadian badge- engineering to add here. Regarding the T-body, in 1993, G.M. Canada sold this car as the Passport Optima, from 1988-1992. Passport was a Dealership network created to sell imports in Canada including various imports, Isuzu and SAAB. Then, G.M. Canada cancelled the Passport dealership network, and created the very short-lived Asüna marque, to sell some of the GEO imports at Pontiac-Buick dealerships. Asüna lasted 1 1/2 years. The above mentioned Pontiac Le Mans was marketed as the Asüna SE or GT, without a model name. It was offered in 3-door hatch or 4 door sedan. Here’s a nice photo of a 1993 Asüna GT. Note the unique grill. I think this was the last time G.M. tried a Canadian-only marque, and, as a Canadian, I think that is a shame!
Is it known whether on top of using the same Isuzu-sourced engines the platform of the Lotus Elan M100 was derived from a modified GM R-Body (or P-Body) platform as used in the Isuzu Impulse, Isuzu I-Mark / Stylus and Geo Storm?
Also do any images exists of Giugiaro’s original design for the Gemini II / I-Mark before GM ruined the design by ordering a number of detail changes to them without ever consulting the designer?