Curbside Classic: 1980-85 Cadillac Seville – Context Is Everything

(first posted 3/19/2012 as a rebuttal to my Deadly Sin on the same car)

I’ll say this upfront so you’ll better understand my position: This is my favorite car of all time.

Some crazed German Austrian automotive writer (who is bound to pop up sooner or later) told me that he believes the 1980-85 Cadillac Seville is one of GM’s Deadly Sins.  After I regained consciousness, I informed him he was crazy and that the Seville is quite righteous.  So, to make a long story very slightly shorter, we have agreed to make our respective cases in dueling Curbside Classic fashion, and this is my assault.

En garde, sir:

My competitor was kind enough to spot me the ability to use any pictures I liked, while he will use ones of some crusty old Seville he found in Eugene with moss and possibly some hippie crazy daisies stuck to it.  While I hardly believe the Seville will need the extra help provided by photos of pristine examples, I also believe in using all available resources.  Put differently, I really want this car to win you over, and I really want to win.

Mechanically, the Seville was let down for most of its run primarily by a slate of engines consisting almost entirely of genuinely awful, underdeveloped designs.  Only the 368 cubic inch engine for 1980 was worth having at all, at least, that is, prior to being ruined the following year with a grafted-on variable displacement technology Cadillac named the V8-6-4.  The V8-6-4 was too frequently a V-5-8-3-G-D-@-*-!-F-F-F and was not known for the smoothness or reliability expected of a Cadillac engine.  It was so godawful, in fact, that it was dropped after only a single year!  (How often does that happen??)

Unfortunately, the other engine choices after 1980 were a now-rareish 4.1 liter Buick V6(!), the head-bolt-stretching Oldsmobile 350 Diesel, or Cadillac’s own dreaded HT4100 baby V8.  The less said about these last two boat anchors, the better.  The gasoline Olds 350 was available for the first year or two only, and only in California, sadly.

As bad as these engines were, they were in no way unique to the Seville, and that’s why I believe that Deadly Sin status should in no way be bestowed upon the Seville due to them.  Every single Cadillac of this era (besides the craptastic Cimarron, which had an entirely different burden to bear) shared this line of engines, so if the Seville is a Deadly Sin because of rotten engines, so are all the other Caddies of this period.  (On second thought, I may be tempting fate a bit too vigorously and the jaded German just might call every single Cadillac made in the first half of the 1980s a Deadly Sin!)


Well, I’ve stalled long enough.  If I must address the Seville’s bobbed butt, I’ll just say that it’s an acquired taste, and its charm is greatly influenced by the ride height of the rear suspension, options such as artificial tops, and paint choices.

This white example is as good a way as any to get a feel for the car’s natural lines before any vinyl or cloth tops or two-tone paint changes the feel of the trunk.  While this car’s rear suspension is sitting at the correct, factory height, in my opinion this car should be lowered about 1.5″ in the rear.  If you’ve ever seen one in my preferred state you know this does strange things to the rear camber, but it’s still worth it.

From this angle, the straight line from the top of the backlight down to the rear bumper feels especially harsh.  Still, I think this rear treatment is more effective and cohesive than either the bustleback Continentals or Imperials of similar vintage.

This Eleganté model sports the two-tone paint that I think makes the rear look much better.  Note ride height on this one is lower, and it helps, but it still needs to be ever so slightly lower.

As my Lincoln looks on, this pimptastic stretched custom Seville actually has a too low ride height, but too low is better than too high with this car.  And with that, I am now realizing I may not be helping my case for the Seville as a classic by belaboring the point that it must have an inoperative load leveling system to look proper.

If you’re not an ass man, the interior of the Seville is a nice place to be.  They have ample room without being absurd, and also they have that flat floor.  This model is fairly restrained, but many were ordered with rather flamboyant interiors that more severely date the car than this one.

Sevilles also enjoyed (mostly) frameless windows, a favorite feature of mine on any car.  (Note the oddball framed rear quarter window.)

Sevilles had plenty of buttons to press without feeling like an early ’90s Pontiac product.  Note the very ritzy use of two different kinds of fake wood.

And with that, my fight for the Seville’s place in the CC pecking order is just about finished.

I realize the Seville is a polarizing design.  I realize that (because of the engines) it’s a terrible mode of transportation.  I even realize it isn’t built to the standard of the Cadillacs of the early 1960s and before.  But it was bold, interesting, and even exotic at a time when very few cars were.  Praise (Wayne) Kady, (Bill) Mitchell be upon him.

Alternate viewpoint:

CC 1980-1985 Cadillac Seville: GM’s DS #17 – From Halo to Devil’s Pitchfork  PN