Yes, the old story is that Team Cadillac went down the hall one night and raided the offices of Team Chevrolet for the bones of the Nova, which they then laid out on a table, poked, prodded and frowned at before adding some of this and a little of that and maybe some more of this before calling it good to go and christening it the Seville. Oh, and then they slathered on the chutzpah and almost quadrupled the base price. Surprisingly, it actually kinda, sorta worked. In fact it kind of worked well enough that they tried it again a few years later and a size smaller but got really burned that time…but that’s a story for another day.
We’re all familiar with the backstory so today let’s just ignore the ugly undergarments and enjoy this example that was actually built in the same month the Seville initially hit the showrooms, September of 1975.
I know this Seville is the stuff of Deadly Sins but I find it difficult to hate on it too hard. In hindsight it’s terrible that GM ended up making what seemed like every one of their cars look just like it for much of the next decade. And I wasn’t too cognizant of it when it was new although I’m sure I drove dozens of them when I was a valet in the mid-’80s in West LA. Or perhaps that was the bustleback one that succeeded this, I can’t recall beyond trying to avert my eyes when those pulled up. But I officially like Novas now so a fancy Nova, how bad could it be?
Just look at that, proud and resplendent, shouting “Cadillac” to the skies above. Is the dot on the “i” actually a separate element? It looks like it here but it’s doubtful to be so. Never mind the chipping of the Innsbruck Blue Metallic paint, this car has undoubtedly seen things in the last forty-five years!
The hood’s already up since it won’t close anymore, the hinges are jacked and the hood is bending when pulled down, I tried and then gave up. The front would look more American if it had an offset license plate but I suppose this was supposed to be chasing the Germans before Cadillac ever heard of the Nürburgring so a center plate it was. I can’t un-see the four little bumperettes now though. Why are there four?
Steelies look good on almost everything but not a Cadillac. Especially with these little whitewalls. Originally the ’76 Seville came with wide-whitewalls as standard, which seemed to be part of the American definition of luxury. But alright, enough waffling, since it’s open and not closing let’s get a little closer and look inside the engine bay.
Yep, 350 V8, 5.7 liters to those of you that metric. But not a Cadillac engine. As a further indignity this was an Oldsmobile engine (then fitted with Bendix fuel injection). And backed by a 3-speed Turbo-Hydramatic which isn’t an issue. 180hp @ 4,400rpm seems alright but the 275 lb-ft of torque @ 2,000rpm is better. Not fast but smooth. It seemed to pull just fine in the one a bunch of us got a ride in at the Auburn CC Meetup some years ago. That one (silver with a fantastic bright red interior and in excellent condition overall) was owned by Sevair, a man who owned one of these AND a Corvair. I think Paul was pulled in two directions at that one…
This one seems to have gotten a new distributor cap recently. The air cleaner is gone, likely the filter was new too, always seemingly the first (cheapest) thing to replace when there’s a problem that ultimately brings the cars down for their date with The Crusher.
It was hot on this day but this Caddy wasn’t afraid of cold temperatures either, not with the block heater plug. Apparently this was available as a dealer installed accessory item, but I’m not sure if this was one of those, that plug looks too new.
I’ve been to the real Seville in Spain. The dust and dirt on this car reminds me of the streets there, they were dusty and dirty too. And the sky was blue. That’s all I have, there is absolutely nothing else about this car that relates to Seville…let’s move on.
Jeez, the wonky wheels always depress me here, they leave one loose lugnut on the steel ones before setting the cars in the yard which makes sense, easier for a buyer to see if it’s correct for their car. I’m not a fan of the “formal” roofline (or is this one “semi-formal”?), it just seems kind of parochial and uptight to me somehow and mostly unique (oxymoron?) to American cars. Speaking of the roof though, let’s take a look at the vinyl top!
Now I’m thinking of Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers. If it rains, what’s left of the top must look like Islands In The Stream. That’s some rust, but at least it still looks unperforated. It’s spilling down onto the door frame too, that’s an achievement.
That badge is one crispy critter. For how many years did this side of the car face south? The wreath still looks good though, if fundamentally tacky. And a silver vinyl top? Come on. It’s ridiculous but I’ll somewhat shamefully admit this blue car with the silver top is probably one of the better color combinations that was on offer. Besides black with black or something traditional like that of course. And there were eleven vinyl top colors available! That’s more than many cars currently offer in body colors.
The rear; again, not offensive in the least, but also so common with the rest of the divisions a few years later. Lose the badge as on the lock here and without the script on the trunklid this could be an Olds or a Buick or maybe even a Pontiac. I guess it was different and fresh in the fall of ’75 but not for long. Maybe that’s the real reason for the later bustleback, make it so hideous that the others won’t want to emulate it. That’ll show ’em!
Still, it looks to have been rolling on the road at least semi-recently, proving that nothing keeps running poorly longer than a GM car as it doesn’t have the terminal dirt build up of the barn- or field-kept ones. That’s admirable I suppose.
Matching carpet on the inside of the trunk lid is luxury, I shall grant that. Why it’s needed or an object of desire in that location though I do not know. Mercedes only had black-painted metal there at that time if I remember correctly. Ah, there are the optional wire wheel hupcaps! And a spare that hopefully would not ever be needed to be relied on. Some people think a spare is just that, an extra to replace the first of the others to wear out. And then hopefully never have need for another ever again.
Enough standing around outside though. Let’s see what earthly delights await us inside.
Hoo-boy, light blue leather! And ribbed too, the pleasures never end! The “safety steering wheel” looks a little less so without the padded cover in place, never mind the tetanus risk. And how does a solid plastic rim shrink so bad that it has at least a dozen cracks in it? But there’s a lot of other stuff to unpack here, so let’s start at the left side.
That gold crest on the Twilight Sentinel is a bit much, there thankfully isn’t much gold-tone on this car otherwise. Cruise control, and automatic climate control for the driver to have full command of. Nice. The plasti-wood isn’t great but at least it isn’t super glossy or bizarrely textured as in a Granada. Surprisingly decent, in fact, for the ’70s.
When you drive The Standard Of The World you get a ribbon speedometer. And a fuel gauge that’s a complete afterthought up off to the left somewhere. As well as the widest imaginable spacing on a PRNDL display.
To the right of the wheel is the non-8-Track radio, it does have AM and FM but I can’t tell if it’s the optional one with the weatherband button. More gold-wreath knobs, at least for the tuner, the volume one was pawned or something. Toggles for the power antenna and rear defroster are handy but you’d need to remember which is which without the distraction of looking down there. And look, a garage door for the smoker’s package! The clock at the top is cool though, like a clock radio display from the bedside.
I don’t miss cracked dashes, and this one handily reminds the driver of who supplied it. Is it weird how the rest of the world stopped using script for automotive badges well before Detroit did? They were still kind of cool when they were metal and the cars were more sculpted and flowing, but once they turned into plastichrome and the cars sprouted right angles, eh, it kind of looked just as chintzy as it was.
The Seville kind of lost me a bit at this view of the dash. It’s just a solid cliff. A blue solid cliff. With that hideous glovebox door button/knob that looks way too familiar.
Legroom seems alright though. And I will say the seats (at least when new) likely looked very comfortable. It’s begging for one of those molded plastic over-the-hump cupholder/organizers though. Perhaps with a gold wreath to make it fancy.
Neither rear door would open from the outside and I didn’t really want to dive over the front to fumble around so this shot will do. But the legroom in the rear isn’t that much better than it looks here. Sure the cushion is askew, but it seemed a little snug. I don’t think it would pass my 6’1″ with 32″ inseam test too well. But maybe laying down? Hmm.
“Custom” built? Really? Methinks the word “custom” is bandied about way too readily these days. And wasn’t Fisher completely absorbed into GM during the 1920s? It’s as if someone at Cadillac could just ask for a body from someone else on a whim for this week’s production or something. There’s no way anyone in the 1970s was fooled into thinking this was something special anymore. Right? RIGHT?
And finally, the September 1975 build date! Production started in the spring so this was five or six months on. The VIN decodes as the 6 for Cadillac, the S for Seville (K-body), 69 for 4-door sedan body, R for the 350 V8, 6 for 1976, Q for Detroit, Michigan Assembly, and the last 6 are the sequential build numbers starting at 450001. So this was number 34,136 off the line which actually seems very high for September ’75 as apparently total production of 1976 cars was 43,772. Wiki also uses that 43,772 number as cars built in (as opposed to for) 1976 but says that there were 16,355 built in 1975. Either way it doesn’t really match up with what the VIN indicates. Someone here will perhaps know better.
I think Cadillac should have considered this first Seville as a success, it seems to have always sold around 50,000 per year while on offer and volumes never really dropped off although they were hoping for more. It however apparently attracted an older clientele than what Cadillac desired but then again, that’s generally where the money is and where they priced it. Of course Cadillac still hasn’t succeeded in becoming attractive to the youngsters out there as a whole but if they thought this Seville damaged the brand, well, it’s too bad they didn’t gaze deeper into the crystal ball for their next small Cadillac idea a few years later…