(first posted 11/20/2015) Henry Leland founded both Lincoln and Cadillac, and both brands’ vehicles quickly established reputations for quality workmanship after their introductions. For many years, both marques shared the same mission: to offer the plushest, most luxuriously-appointed and prestigious American cars. In recent years, the two marques have gone in different directions: Lincoln is re-establishing a reputation for luxury and technology above all else, while Cadillac is offering more aggressive styling and sports sedans with world-class dynamics. But even in the decades leading up to now, when the lineups of the brands Leland founded featured DeVilles and Town Cars, these crosstown rivals differed in another way. Lincoln was quite fond of offering special editions, whether they be designed by fashion icons or as tie-ins with sporting events and personalities. Cadillac, meanwhile, was much less inclined. That’s not to say there weren’t some obscure special editions and forgotten limited-run models over the years, however.
Cadillac SRX Sport
Years produced: 2007-09
Total production: ?
Sometimes, automotive journalists and consumers are at odds when it comes to deciding what car to buy. Mediocre cars panned by critics often sell well, while there have been critically acclaimed cars that have never lived up to their makers’ expectations. The 2004 Cadillac SRX was a hit with critics, winning comparison tests and receiving rave reviews despite some noticeable flaws (so-so fuel economy, an unusual interior). Alas, sales never reached GM’s expectations. Some theorize it was the striking styling which was perhaps too station wagon-esque for a market that was hungry for bluff, trucky-looking SUVs like the Cadillac Escalade or slippery, svelte crossovers like the Infiniti FX and Nissan Murano. For 2007, the SRX was given an entirely new interior, addressing its chief flaw, and yet there was no uptick in sales. This was also despite the availability of a new Sport package that spruced up the styling.
The Sport package added some visual aggression to the tall-boy, long-roof Sigma platform crossover. While the elegant, leather-wrapped new interior was unchanged, the exterior featured numerous enhancements. The grille was body-color with mesh backing reminiscent of the V-Series Cadillacs. Front and rear fascias were redesigned, the latter accompanied by 4-inch polished exhaust tips. Also available were 20-inch sport wheels with performance tires.
As more luxury brands entered the 7-seater crossover market, Cadillac chose to withdraw. The 2010 SRX shifted to a front-wheel-drive platform and lost the available V8. It also cost around $10k less and looked more like a conventional SUV. No longer was it a BMW X5 beater; instead, it was more of a Lexus RX matcher. Sales doubled almost immediately.
White Eldorado photos courtesy of O2AFAC67
Cadillac Eldorado Collector Series
Years produced: 2002
Total production: 1596
GM let the final Eldorado wither on the vine. Extensively overhauled for 1992 like its Seville stablemate, the Eldorado didn’t migrate to the more modern and more rigid G-Body for 1998 with the Seville, or in 2000 with the DeVille. Instead, minor visual tweaks were made but nothing could spark more consumer interest in Cadillac’s aging coupe. The segment was dying: the related Oldsmobile Toronado was long gone, the Buick Riviera and Lincoln Mark VIII dead after 1999. There were rumors of a rear-wheel-drive Seville and Eldorado replacement at the dawn of the new century, but they were false: the Seville wasn’t replaced until 2005 and the purported RWD Eldorado replacement never eventuated. The Eldorado thus lingered on, gradually declining in popularity, until it was axed in 2002. To send off the 49-year-old nameplate, Cadillac produced 1,596 Collector Series Eldorados.
For $2,395 above the Eldorado Touring Coupe’s $45,265 sticker, the Collector Series added unique seven-spoke chrome wheels and a throatier exhaust note, retuned to recall the sound of the 1953 Eldorado. You could have any color you liked, as long as it was Alpine White or Aztec Red. Again, these were colors available on the ’53.
Inside was slightly more differentiated. Alpine White Collectors had two-tone leather trim in Shale and Oatmeal, with Pommele Sapele wood trim in lieu of the regular Eldorado’s Zebrano wood.
Aztec Red Collectors had a racier black and red two-tone leather interior with carbon fiber replacing wood. Both interior schemes featured a numbered dash plaque.
It was these thoughtful and distinctive touches that made the Collector Series a memorable send-off for the venerable nameplate, but it also made one wonder why they hadn’t invested this kind of effort in the Eldorado earlier. As one final tribute to the ’53, of which just 532 were produced, the production sequence of the Collector Series was 532 white coupes, 532 red and then another 532 white.
The final generation of Eldorado may have remained mostly unchanged for a decade, but even by 2002 its handsome lines had held up well. However, its competition had moved on. No, not the coupe competition – most of that was gone, after all – but the internal competition. The slightly newer Seville and DeVille could float over bumps with the best of them, but they were engineered with greater suspension control, rigidity and poise, while offering the same gutsy Northstar V8 performance. The Eldorado’s time was most certainly up, but Cadillac wouldn’t be without a two-door for long.
Cadillac XLR Neiman Marcus
Years produced: 2004
Total production: 101
The Deville and Seville may have been competent sedans, if graying around the temples, but the arrival of the XLR in Cadillac showrooms in 2004 made them look like absolute relics. Inspired by the 1999 Evoq concept car, the XLR was the most dramatic expression of Cadillac’s new Art & Science design theme yet and became the marque’s halo car. Riding atop a modified Corvette platform and manufactured in the same Bowling Green factory, the XLR was re-engineered to include the 4.6 Northstar V8. Weighing an extra 400 pounds thanks to higher feature content and a folding metal roof, and down 30 horsepower, the Caddy roadster was less of a hellraiser than the Corvette. However, its role was as a Mercedes SL rival and although it was expected to deftly manage the twisties, it was also designed to lope along coastal roads and cruise down highways. To help introduce the new nameplate in 2004, Cadillac offered a special Neiman Marcus special edition through the department store’s 2003 Christmas catalog.
Actually, two of the $85,000 Neiman Marcus XLRs were auctioned off for charity, with the remaining 99 available through the catalog. The Ultra Violet paint color was unique to this special edition, and was paired with a two-tone shale and ebony interior and an engraved, numbered sill plate. The idea of a uniquely colored special edition would inspire Cadillac to later launch limited-run Star Black, Alpine White and Passion Red editions.
The Neiman Marcus edition was priced a lofty $9k above the regular XLR MSRP, but it sold out in 14 minutes. If only the XLR continued to sell at such a rate. Instead, sales declined each year, despite the arrival of the luxurious XLR Platinum and high-performance XLR-V, until Cadillac axed the luxury roadster after 2009. The luxury roadster segment was small and perhaps its buyers were too brand loyal to consider the upstart XLR, but Cadillac didn’t help by leaving the convertible mostly untouched for its run. By 2009, the dated Northstar was looking none too competitive power-wise and the interior was outclassed by the much cheaper CTS. Still, the XLR looked like nothing else on the road and you either loved it or hated it (personally, I loved it). Johan de Nysschen, the new President of Cadillac, wants to eventually re-introduce a Cadillac roadster. We’ll see if Cadillac can be more successful third time around.
Cadillac CTS Touring
Years produced: 2012-14
Total production: ?
In the late 2000s and early 2010s, the CTS anchored Cadillac’s passenger car lineup. The luxoboat DTS’ sales willowed away after its sophomore season, as even its natty Art & Science reskin of 2006 couldn’t hide the car’s arthritic bones. The handsome STS sadly never made much of a dent, sales-wise, and the second-generation CTS’ gorgeous lines simply made it look old and plain come 2008. The CTS was a breakthrough for Cadillac: it became Motor Trend’s 2008 Car of the Year and Car & Driver mused that it may have been “the best American car ever made”. For its second generation, the CTS had gone to finishing school: there was more chrome and wood than before, but it was elegantly applied; the exterior and interior were still bold, distinctively American and yet tailored and prestigious. If there were two faults of the acclaimed second CTS, they related to the engines. Firstly, the base powertrain from 2010 onwards was GM’s mediocre 3.0 V6, an engine no more fuel-efficient than the direct-injected 3.6 also available, and one that could have used another 30-40 pound-feet of torque (mystifyingly, it replaced a 3.6 that had just that). Secondly, there was a gaping chasm between the 304-318 hp DI V6 and the 556 hp, supercharged 6.2 V8 in the CTS-V. Whether the aborted, Northstar-replacing Ultra V8 was intended for the CTS is unknown, but it would take until the third-generation CTS for Cadillac to offer an in-between engine. Perhaps as a consolation prize, Cadillac offered a sport package in the last few years of second-gen production.
Cadillac had offered a “Performance Collection” throughout CTS II’s run, offering firmer FE2 and FE3 suspension tunes. The $2,065 Touring package was more of a cosmetic package, although it could be ordered in tandem with those mechanical upgrades. Effectively, the Touring was designed to be reminiscent of the wild CTS-V. Available on all three body styles of the CTS, the Touring added a dark-accented grille and, on the coupe and sedan, the respective CTS-V models’ rear spoilers.
As for the interior, if you opted for the Touring sedan or wagon with the 18-inch aluminum pearl nickel wheels, you received bucket seats with suede inserts. However, if you chose the 19-inch polished aluminum wheels, you received body-hugging Recaro bucket seats; this was the only option for the coupe, and brought the cost of the package up by an extra $800. There was also suede trim on the shifter and steering wheel, Midnight Sapele wood trim and alloy pedals. But for the lack of piano black trim, the overall look was almost identical to the CTS-V interior. It also represented great value for money, as selecting the Recaro buckets in a CTS-V tacked over $3,000 to the sticker.
Cadillac has proven to be more committed than most luxury automakers to the good old-fashioned manual transmission. However, the stick shift was slowly whittled away from the CTS lineup. The CTS Sport Wagon was launched in 2010, but the manual was gone by the Touring’s arrival in 2012. Also in 2012, the 3.6 sedan gained horses but lost its 6-speed manual. The 3.0 sedan lost its manual in 2013, the sedan’s last year, while the coupe (only ever available as a 3.6) lost it in 2014, the last year for the coupe and wagon. So while the CTS Touring’s Recaro buckets and sporty trim suggested it was the most exciting of the regular CTS models, that wasn’t quite the case. But as a way to keep the second generation fresh in its twilight years, the Touring represented a nice bit of kit for a little extra dough.
Cadillac Seville and Eldorado Commemorative Edition
Years produced: 1985
Total production: ?
Seville photos courtesy of That Hartford Guy
The Commemorative Edition commemorated the end of the 1979-vintage Eldorado and 1980-vintage Seville before they underwent a radical and poorly-received downsizing. Much like the Bill Blass Lincolns of the 1970s and 1980s, the Commemorative Eldorado coupe and convertible and Seville followed a navy and white theme.
Officially, the exterior colors were known as Commodore Blue and Cotillion White. Both Seville and Eldorado special editions had special gold badging and both were available in either color, but in interior treatment they differed.
The Seville had blue leather seats with white cushions, while the Eldorado’s color scheme was inverted; both, however, had a blue dash but white and blue door panels. Either way, the interior treatment was distinctive and yet quite elegant. The Commemorative Editions also came fully-loaded, although in 1985 the engine offerings were either the HT-4100 V8 or the Oldsmobile 5.7 diesel V8. Fortunately, these Caddys weren’t designed for high-speed thrills. You just sat back and enjoyed the (slow) ride in leather-lined comfort.
There’s quite a contrast here: farewell tributes and splashy introductions; Recaro seats and button-tufted benches; stick shift, RWD sport sedans and patrician FWD luxury coupes. Next week, we shall explore some more contrasting Cadillacs. After all, the only way to travel is Cadillac style.
Top 10 Obscure Special Editions and Forgotten Limited-Run Models: Cadillac Edition, Part II
Curbside Classic: 1963 Cadillac Park Avenue
Too Big Even For America: 1974 Cadillac Fleetwood Talisman
So thats the story behind the alloy spoke wheels on those I saw one and assumed they were aftermarket, it looked ok in the metal too I didnt get a good look as it just appeared in traffic ahead of me then turned off, but its another Cadillac this site has taught me to identify only the CTS was sold here new and only in 6 cylinder form, though which 6 I’m not sure.
Some of these seem so half hearted that one wonders if the engineers and marketers that put them together are embarrassed to be working for Cadillac. A shame but these days people go from car maker to car maker and pedal the same junk wherever. Why can’t they find people that live and breath Cadillac
William I look forward to part 2. We used to have a commenter named Carmine that was always ready to pull out a mind blowing Cadillac special that few of us remembered. This history sets a high standard for you, but we have faith.
I wondered what happened to him, another guy that worked for GM, and one other fellow that liked Buicks.
William, I always marvel at how you ferret out these special editions. Well done! While I was vaguely aware of the Neiman Marcus car, I’ve never seen any of the Collector or Commemorative Editions, and I never paid attention to the packages on the “alphabet” Caddies. So all “news” to me and fun to read, though I can’t say I would have been tempted to buy any of them…
I remember when these “Collector Edition” Eldorados started to hit eBay en masse. They didn’t seem so rare at the time, just Eldo’s with tacky wheels and seats. More than a couple met the top-choppers in Florida too…
I despise the wheels on the Collector Edition Eldorado. It looks like they went to Pep Boys, bought some cheap aftermarket wheels, and threw them on. They couldn’t have at least used Seville/Deville wheels with a different center cap?
I hope part 2 includes the limited production 90-91 Eldorado Touring Coupe and the 89-91 STS.
Interesting, most of these got past me when they were new. The Nieman Marcus versions are especially cool to someone of my strange tastes. 🙂
I’ve seen 1 or 2 Eldorados that look like that white Collector Edition “last” Eldorado, I just never knew it was special or more limited than any other Cadillac.
Oddly, Escalades seem to have been much longer lived than those SRX wagons were. Even CTS wagons seemed to be more popular….or am I thinking of the SRX?
Front – This has the 20 inch sport package with 255/50 tires all around so they can be rotated. Standard tires are smaller in front.
I really liked the SRX. I was always a bit surprised it didn’t sell better.
Outside of the signature Cadillac tailights and the nose, Ford’s 2005 Freestyle looks very similar. It also didn’t do very well in the marketplace. I couldn’t afford the Caddy, but I did buy the Ford. It has served us quite well.
I started out thinking I would like a 2006 certified used one and our dealer here said it would be no problem to get one. After several months went by, I finally asked if it was too late to order a new 2007. They asked what I wanted on one, so I said the utility package (includes rear A/C), the sport package (so I could rotate the tires) and I think the premium package (navigation). While it did use a bit more fuel than I expected on long trips, the overall mileage was about 19 MPG. I have traded it for a car.
I thought I saw a Commemorative Edition Eldorado in a medium blue exterior color. Either I don’t remember correctly or they painted it. Could’ve been a convertible from ’85 though.
And speaking of the Neiman Marcus Christmas Book, has anyone seen the 2015 edition? It’s pretty YAWN-tastic to put it mildly. The car this year is a limited edition Mustang. The catalog used to be so interesting. I have a few older editions from 1965 through the early 2000s.
I’m guessing you’re limiting your articles to “factory-produced” limited editions. Unfortunately, this would exclude the 1979 Seville Gucci which took a factory Seville to Miami, FL to be “Guccied”.
And whatever happened to poster “Carmine”, aka, “Mr. Cadillac”? The guy knew everything about the Cadillac Motorcar Division.
I saw one of these about a year ago in South Beach parked at the Lincoln Road “mall”… I honestly assumed it was a recent conversion (it was immaculate) and pray for forgiveness for the stereotype that immediately crossed my mind!
The only one I was familiar with were the collector series Eldorados, if only because owning a similar generation Eldorado of a couple years prior means I did my research. Hard to believe that the Eldorado ran as long as it did, 50 years is a long time for any nameplate in the auto industry, that’s a pretty good accomplishment in and of itself. Still always cool to see special edition cars I’ve never heard of.
I never knew of several of these. Love the blue and white interiors in the 85 Commemorative editions!
Man I love that blue and white Eldorado/Seville interior!!!
It doesn’t get any more special and obscure than the famous Mary Kay Cadillacs. Or more difficult to get.
Weren’t they repainted when returned from Mary Kay? I seem to remember that they were a special de-specced model too.
As a grocery carry-out boy at our local IGA, I remember a customer having a 97 Mary Kay DeVille (in 1997 no less) that had a really cheap looking gray cloth interior. It was the only cloth interior I ever recall seeing on the 1994-1999 gen DeVilles.
The “commerative edition” final cars that were somewhat common in the late ’70s and the ’80s were an odd phenomenon.
The final ’76 Cadillac Eldorado convertibles sort of started it – but that car had no planned successor. Lincoln took it to another level with the ’79 Continental and Mark V. The bottom line was they were making a statement that the car that was coming would not be as good – due to downsizing.
I recall Buick doing it with the ’85 LeSabre, obviously the Eldorado and SeVille also did this in ’85 – all of which were downsized for ’86.
I wonder how many Lincoln salespeople had to explain why the ’79 M5/TC/TC was better due to their size when after a few months the newly downsized ’80 M6/TC/TC was sitting right next to it.
Salesperson: “Well this is the Collector’s Series Mark V. It’s a full-size luxurious car.”
Customer: “So what about this ’80 Mark VI? Are you telling me it’s ‘less’ of a car because it’s smaller?”
Remember this downsize was being forced by new government standards. Lincoln had a great year in 1979 so there were probably few leftovers. It might have been interesting if they had tried to meet the new CAFE standards with carefull tuning of the 351 and the new 4sp lockup transmission in the old body. Bet it would have meant a better 1980. Imagine how sales of the old body would have spiked when there was the big car revival of 1983.
Given the 1979 gas crisis and the constant media discussion about energy independence, I think you’re selling Lincoln’s customer base way short. Some of them might have gone senile, but not that many.
Remember a big part of the gas crisis was range between fillups. The Panthers had small gas tanks so the old bodies would have easily out ranged them with a smaller V8 and the 4sp auto.
The oil embargo (1973) did cause gas shortages. Some (probably most) gas stations were limiting purchases to 10 gallons. So the issue was how far you could get on 10 gallons. There were concerns about rationing to 10 gallons per week, which never came to pass. But import cars had the best fuel economy, so they took over a significant part of the market, ending GM’s 50% share.
The late 70’s oil crisis resulted in high prices for oil and gasoline. This prompted GM to move most of their cars to FWD unibody transaxle designs.
I think John C is correct about how do you tell a possible customer that the 1980 Mark Series is better then the previous year Mark Series. Lincoln customers of that era were older folks that wanted a comfortable car. They were not concerned with gas mileage as much as comfort and given that a lot of these folks that bought the cars were in their 60’s or 70’s, the car probably saw a lot of short trips followed by a few days sitting unused until that big yearly vacation with Aunt Maude so gas mileage and prices were really not a big factor. Those thart could afford to buy a new Lincoln or Cadillac in the days before easy credit were not to phased about gas prices. To some comfort is worth more then saving on gas. For years I drove small gas friendly shitboxes to save money on gas and while I saved a boatload over the years, everyday my back barked at me due to the seats. A few years ago I went out and bought a full size car and though I am spending more on gas per month, my back thanks me.
Looks were also a factor, if you were going to spend all that hard earned/saved cash on a luxury car, you want it not to look like a cheaper/lessor car. In this case, after introducing the new Mark VI series in 1980(with a sedan no less) Ford then follows it up with a 1981 Town Car that is offered cheaper and also has a Sedan or coupe option so sales of the Mark VI tanked (the 77-79 Mark outsold the 80-83 by about 100,000 cars.
1993 Cadillac Allante Indy 500 Pace Car…