tur·key (/ˈtərkē/) – Oxford Dictionary defines it as 1) a large mainly domesticated game bird native to North America, having a bald head and (in the male) red wattles. It is prized as food, especially on festive occasions such as Thanksgiving and Christmas and 2) something that is extremely or completely unsuccessful, especially a play or movie.
While our featured car is certainly no domesticated game bird by any means, the Cadillac Catera is largely regarded as an extremely unsuccessful vehicle, even garnering the unflattering nickname of Cimarron 2.0. Here in the U.S., today is Thanksgiving (a.k.a. “Turkey Day”), so featuring the Catera may seem very fitting. It’s been scrutinized and lambasted countless times here at CC over the years, but let me be the first to give it thanks and offer a differing opinion, for I’ll let you in on a little secret: I’ve been captivated by the Catera ever since it debuted.
Getting past its shortcomings in actual execution which have been described in detail before, look at it from my perspective as I viewed when it was being produced and sold. During my relatively short lifetime, up until this point I only knew Cadillacs as being big, square barges with illogical bench seats and column shifters driven by wealthy people with white hair like my great uncle and aunt. The Catera, however, completely shook up my world and vision of Cadillac.
Before I was old enough to pay attention to ads and marketing, my impressions of cars were based fully upon seeing them on the roads. Once I started seeing the Catera, I instantly could tell it wasn’t an ordinary Cadillac for it was… not square. It was sleek, it was sporty, it was captivating. It looked a lot like a Lexus, or even a BMW. I remember sitting in it at the auto show as a curious as a young child, amazed at its bucket seats! This was the first Cadillac I ever found cool.
History has branded the Cadillac Catera as a catastrophic failure, and in many senses it was. Furthermore, its track record for less-than-stellar reliability has dug its grave even further. Yet for someone with little knowledge of the actual car industry at the time, and judging cars based on purely what my own eyes saw, the Cadillac Catera was a gem of a Cadillac and the only Cadillac that’s ever appealed to me. It may indeed be a turkey, but hey, I don’t even like turkey. Today I’ll be enjoying a nice piece of grilled Atlantic cod, and like that unpopular choice in Thanksgiving dinner, my preferred choice in Cadillac will always be the Catera.
Photographed at World’s End in Hingham, Massachusetts – May 2019