(first posted 3/19/2012) There were innumerable milestones in GM’s terminal decline, but the Cadillac Seville makes for a very convenient set of markers. In its four incarnations as GM’s most expensive car, the Seville almost perfectly marks the trajectory of its parent company; from the haughty over-reach and cynical pricing of the first one in 1975, when GM’s market share was still around 45%, to the misguided attempts to create a world-class sports sedan of the last.
But it was the second generation that really marked the turning point: the 1980’s were GM’s worst decade ever in terms of market share loss; and the Seville (along with that other DS, the Citation) kicked off that decade from hell in grand style: a near-perfect synthesis of wretched design and ruinous engineering. The halo car was now the devil’s pitchfork car.
A brief recap: it wasn’t bad design that earned the gen 1 Seville its (controversial) DS; it was GM’s cynical pricing that resulted in a somewhat improved Chevy Nova at four times the asking price. That, along with modest performance and quality glitches gave notice that GM was over-reaching dangerously. But its “sheer look” styling was certainly a refreshing break from the seventies bulge-mobiles, even if GM quickly destroyed its equity by conferring it on almost every mid and full-size car the company made within a couple of years.
The gen 1 Seville evoked exclusivity (before its lines were cloned) thanks to its finely chiseled looks, and was perhaps as original as anything that came from Bill Mitchell’s studios. It manages to evoke certain Rolls-Roycian qualities of poise and class without being derivative. Too bad Bill didn’t retire a few years earlier; the 1975 Seville would have made a fine last shot. But then what’s a retirement without a drunken office party and some fun under the drafting tables?
Speaking of drinking, this Cadillac V16 concept was rendered by Cadillac designer Wayne Kady in 1967. OK, I understand that renderings are where ideas are created and fleshed out, but take a close look at the size of the dash and steering wheel. I didn’t realize that Cadillac was proposing to put one of GM’s Detroit Diesel V16s under the hood; or maybe even a GM EMD V16 locomotive engine. GM had such great resources to draw on then; why not put a tug-boat V16 to good use?
Enough of that; it’s good to let our juvenile imaginations loose once in a while, and I would have been proud to come up with something like that in fourth grade. So here is the source of the Seville’s inspired bustle back; well, in America, that is.
Of course the origins are older than that, and obviously Mr. Kady had a certain RR Sedanca DeVille by Hooper in mind (or pinned to his drawing table) when he so lavishly rendered his creative vision for a future replacement of the 1967 Eldorado. His design was not chosen for that, but ironically, Kady did lead the design team for the 1971 Eldorado, another Deadly Sin. Actually, Mr. Kady may well become a DS record holder, since he also gets the credit for the gen3 Seville, along with a few other GM stinkers of the times.
Derivative styling: nothing new (literally). Bill Mitchell cast a wide net in search of ideas to feed his designers. It’s well known that the roof line and other knife-edge details of the handsome 1963 Riviera were also influenced by Hooper as well as other European coachbuilders. But there’s a big difference between synthesizing something original and just grafting on an isolated detail, like that bustleback trunk.
Although Kady’s red V16 design had been turned down earlier, after he became head of Cadillac exterior design in 1974 he lobbied for it again, against the objections of Cadillac GM Ed Kennard. But Bill Mitchell took a shine to it, and with his influence, it was adopted for the 1980 Seville.
At least part of the problem with the 1980 Seville is that its tail was never conceived to be used on a four door sedan. Kady’s V16 coupe concept was not used for the all-new 1979 Eldorado coupe (top), a rather rectilinear design that worked reasonably well enough. In a cost-saving move, the Seville lost its unique body, and was forced to share the Eldorado’s fwd platform and much of its body structure. That alone set up the Seville for its disjointed look: a very rectangular front three-fourths, with an abrupt change to that drooping tail.
What makes the original Hooper RR design work is that the sweep of the front fenders mirrors the sweep of the roof and trunk. All three lines converge at the tail; elegant indeed, if obviously a bit over the top. Kady’s V16 bustleback already looks inorganic and a grafted on. But it was always intended to be a coupe. Oh well, the Eldorado was out the door, so you take what you can get.
casey/artandcolour’s take on a Seville coupe is an improvement, relatively speaking, assuming the bustle-back speaks to you at all. It either does; or doesn’t. The 1980 Seville was a very polarizing design, and it’s pretty obvious what camp I’m in; and I’m unlikely to sway you if you’re in the other. If only certain other aspects of the Seville were merely polarizing, instead of just unmitigated disasters, like its engines. Who out there is a lover of them?
For some reason lost in the haze of diesel smoke, the 1980 Seville’s standard engine was the disastrous Olds 350 (5.7 L) diesel V8. To the best of my memory, the Seville was the only GM car thus cursed. One had to get an optional Olds 350 (160 hp) or the Cadillac 368 (oddly with only 145 hp) to avoid the 350 diesel’s self-destructive ways.
No need to rag on about it endlessly, but GM took shortcuts in its conversion from gasoline to diesel, and the result was that this engine single-handedly killed the Great American Diesel Epoch. Americans tend to be a forgiving folk, but then GM never really apologized, did they?
Perhaps Cadillac wanted to emulate the success of Mercedes’ 300 SD, realistically its main competitor. A tough act to follow though: the little MB three-liter turbo-diesel cranked out 120 hp, compared to 105 hp for the almost twice as large Olds 5.7. And these Mercedes diesels are famously durable, as we all well know in Eugene, given how many there are here still clattering away. I’ve been desperate but unsuccessful at finding any Olds 350 diesel powered car, despite the huge number built.
But in 1981, the W126 300 SD was hot stuff; thanks to its aerodynamic body it could hit 110 mph, and cruise effortlessly at ninety plus. Well, we could do a styling comparison between these two, but why bother? The Mercedes vs. Cadillac factions are deeply entrenched.
Back to the Seville’s engine travails. In 1981, things only got worse; much worse, actually. The gasoline Olds 350 was gone, and the Cadillac 368 V8 now sported the legendary V8-6-4 cylinder de-activation system. Two of the biggest engine lemons in one car; what a distinction.
Thankfully, Cadillac hedged their bets on a third engine choice, but it was hardly lemonade: the Buick V6 was now available too. Slightly enlarged to 4.1 liters and brimming with 125 hp, it hardly provided the kind of luxurious motoring Cadillac had always stood for. Given that the Seville weighed 4000 lbs, power-to-weight ratios for the diesel and V6 were back to what was common in the thirties or forties. Progress! At least the Buick V6 was likely to keep making some (slow) forward progress in a Seville, unlike its two V8 stablemates.
But hope springs eternal (until all the customers are gone), and in 1982, the Cadillac’s all-new 4.1 liter aluminum HT4100 V8 appeared. What excitement in the land; it was only the third all-new Cadillac ohv V8, following its proud predecessors of 1949 and 1968. But the great hopes were dashed as quickly as the following all-too inevitably happened: “failure of the intake manifold gasket due to scrubbing of the bi-metal interface, aluminum oil pump failure, cam bearing displacement, weak aluminum block castings and bolts pulling the aluminum threads from the block.” (from wiki).
The fact that this wonder of GM high technology made all of 125 hp, the same as the venerable Buick V6, only adds to the aura of utter failure that quickly consumed this little pile of aluminum. Even Mercedes’ notoriously weak-chested 3.8 L V8 managed 155 hp, and a BMW 733i churned out 181 hp from 3.3 liters. Oh well. Americans are a forgiving folk, right?
No wonder the Seville was a sales disappointment, selling at 40 to 50% lower levels than its predecessor. And the Seville’s demographic skewed the wrong way too. The Seville was supposed to bring in younger affluent buyers to augment Cadillac’s blue-hairs. Instead, the Seville’s median buyer was sixty, four years older than the Cadillac median buyer. More salt in the wounds, which were bleeding red ink. A remarkable investment, though; at least until it’s time to trade it in. Remarkable depreciation.
But there were compensations for the $60k (adjusted) that Seville owners paid: the finest space-age “woods”, tastefully tailored seats, high quality instrument panel components, and elegant timeless design of the highest international caliber; all designed to effectively woo the import buyer back to mother GM’s arms. Never mind the quality of how they were all lovingly assembled. Nothing less would do for Cadillac’s flagship luxury car.
Pity the poor souls who were suckered into buying those German taxi-cab Mercedes, with their penalty-box interiors. Crude, harsh and tasteless. Amazing what folks will endure just to try to stand out from the masses.
For six long years, Cadillac kept churning out these Sevilles, watching its market share decline like the slope of its “slantback” tail. If there’s any consolation in them, it’s that their gen 3 successor was an even bigger bust. And unlike that wart of a car, the slantbacks at least offer us…a hearty laugh. That’s good for the soul, even if it’s going straight to hell.
And here’s just the ride to take it there.
In a way, the “Art & Science” theme Cadillac has espoused in the last decade represents a 360-degree journey from this car. After an aesthetic retreat in the ’90s, today’s Caddys have become similarly provocative and angular, except now they bother with the substance underneath.
The 2004 CTS-V, with its Corvette engine and 6-speed stick, remains one of the most desirable cars of any I’ve driven. If only GM had been as willing to put their best drivetrains and chassis engineers on the job in 1980, their legacy would be much different today.
I can’t decide which of these two pieces today made me laugh more. Truthfully, parts of me agree with both of you. I am one of those forgiving Americans – you will recall my recent gushing over the 1981 Imperial. So, I kind of get the unusual styling on these. On the other hand, after Chrysler spent $10k fixing all of the problems, you at least had a car that would run for a long time, or at least until the digital dash crapped out.
The look of these has grown on me, if only because of its bold and unique nature. The two tone silver and black seems to fit this car well. Actually, in my own CC photo casche, there is the ultimate one of these in Palm Beach yellow with matching leather interior. I mean, who doesn’t like yellow leather? But everyone will have to wait on my take on this car, to let the flaming passions of these two alter-egos die down.
It is too bad that this car was saddled with such steaming turdpiles for engines. Had GM stuck the Olds 307s into these cars, they would be (slowly) cruising along everywhere. I ask my rustbelt bretheren – have you ever seen a rusty bustleback Seville? But GM’s arrogance is what killed this car. “We can create exotic new engines and then charge $60k for the car. Because we are General Motors.” But by this time in history, GM’s hubris was no longer in scale with its abilities. A sad state, but one we must recognize.
Bravo to the dueling CCs today and to two worthy opponents. I declare a draw.
i installed the yellow leather on the car you mentioned, thats not factory thats me…
I would take this one just for the rare El Dorado touring coupe wheels that are on it. never seen those on a Seville and assume they came from a donor car. you could always try to rip the stupid carriage roof off and find some choice rare as hens teeth new old stock Eldorado touring coupe suspension parts or else go aftermarket and create a precursor STS. I’ve always had the fantasy of putting a 4.9 into an Eldorado from this generation, but I’m not sure how that would work with the longitudinal setup. Probably have to do an LS swap, yawn. Of course it would also have to be completely blacked out and the interior done in Black
I’m in the same camp as JP. I see the good and bad, but concentrating solely on design, Caddy wins. The execution/quality of the effort? I wasn’t aware of the other issues, but back in those days, having and raising a family and having more important things on my mind, plus the fact we drove K-Cars, I wasn’t interested in anything GM did, as I hated them for reasons many times mentioned here in past articles.
The second generation Seville was more palatable due to the industry wide downsizing of the late 70’s. I remember looking at the 75 Seville when it came out, sitting in one at the showroom. Thinking to myself, this is a Nova. Who would want this at around $10,000? The Calais and Devilles were available around $ 8,000, even less in strip down format.
But after all the carnage, the Sevilles looked every bit a luxury car. The Cadillacs of the 80’s suffered due to the horrible engines, and ushered in the era of Lexus, BMW, and Mercedes to people who would have never looked at the foreign competition.
But Cadillac has always screamed “I am American!” Hopefully, always will.
Looking at the pics, I find myself redrawing the plunging fenderline so that it starts dropping by the a-pillar, and then clips the rear wheel with a skirt…
…And then I stop myself, thinking I just wasted five seconds of my life. It would still be ugly. 😉
Herr Rocky and Mr. T have fought to a draw, on my card.
As a big Cadillac fanboy I have to admit, what a craptastic piece of garbage. Ugh.
I had the pleasure of going to an RM Classic car auction in Ft. Lauderdale this weekend. there was a beautiful 1984 Eldorado with 30 something thousand miles on it. Inside the car was a book that had information about the car. In that book was a letter to the owner from Gm that had the statement “failure of the intake manifold gasket due to scrubbing of the bi-metal interface, aluminum oil pump failure, cam bearing displacement, weak aluminum block castings and bolts pulling the aluminum threads from the block.”
But hey, the letter also promised a complimentary oil change if the owner brought the car in to be checked!
On a side note, a 1992 Fleetwood Brougham with less than 1500 miles sold for $27,500. My God, it was absolutely beautiful.
I have to side with Paul. It’s not enough to have a bold idea, the execution has to be done well. It wasn’t. The bustle back trunk was a fine inspiration, but the lines of the car just don’t work. It was ugly.
The roof line of the Seville is much lower than the Hooper/Rolls that inspired it, so it needs more length to have the lines meet gracefully.
The Hooper car also has skirts, which do a lot to make the lines swoop elegantly. The Seville interrupts the line with an open wheel arch- a half circle wheel arch at that. If they didn’t want to use skirts, they should at least have angled the rear side of the wheel arch.
The large disc like wheel covers on the Kady drawing look much better than wires on this car. I’m kind of a sucker for wire wheels (wire covers, not so much) but the wire look doesn’t do anything for this car. Wires draw attention to themselves and sometimes that’s fine, but on this car you want to emphasize the swoop to the tail. The wires are visual clutter on this car.
The final problem is that the paint colors are separated in the wrong way. The Hooper car gets it right – top and bottom the same color, contrast in the center. The Seville just splits it in two, and that prevents the roof line from sweeping into the tail. To make things worse, the light color was often placed on top, but when you can find the dark on top it looks better – brings that bustle back down, visually.
I’m feeling especially critical today, so let me add this. It’s too bad the bumper car bumpers were mandated -makes it difficult to have the lines meet at a point in the back. But they could have worked around it a little better. The chrome trim that sweeps down the side of the car stop abruptly several inches from the rear bumper. That does two things; it leaves the pumper, visually, hanging in mid air where it looks like a RR tie, and it draws attention to the platicy/rubbery insert that had to be there for bumper’s travel. The trim could have been extended so that it meets the bumper. Then there is the chrome trim piece on the rocker panels and at the bottom of the front and rear fenders. This always ended up looking like a piece of aluminum flashing that the roofers left behind, but even worse on this car, it creates a horizontal line that does not intersect with the roof line or the chrome side trim. This also emphasizes the RR tie for a bumper. Just leaving that lower chrome trim off -even if it was just the trim rear of the rear wheel arch, would have helped.
The car looks like it was designed by a committee.
Great well-thought-out critique; agreed with you on all points.
Yep, Paul wins …..
For a relatively brief period we sold 8-6-4 engines.
For various reasons.
One being the extreme lack of running 8-6-4 engines entering the yard.
The other being so very few folks seeking them.
350 CID diesel engines?
Sold if running.
One guy had a standing request; he would buy ANY running 350 diesel.
He bought then altered them in his own way and resold them to local repair shops.
Apparently his alterations improved the engine enough to make it much more reliable.
The more thou knoweth…
That’s because the 8-6-4 engine itself was not a bad engine. It was the primitive and insufficient electronics attached to it that made it problematic. A simple snip of one wire fixes this and turns it back into a reliable sturdy long lasting Cadillac made V8 engine. The diesel and HT 4100 were garbage right out of the gate but I have seen 1981-85 5.7 diesels still running right up until this past year so they must have been better than the 1980 and older versions.
But as stated before…it’s not the styling. I actually like the styling, although that shade of blue and fake cloth top could make anything look dowdy.
Casey Shain’s what-if is once again spot on…maybe some big-bucks Caddy fan will try it for real. I’d love to see a 2-door phantom bustle-back.
But cynical execution and horrific build quality make this a deadly sin in an era in which all but a few GM vehicles were deadly sins. And oftentimes, the choice of drivetrain and other options made the difference whether the vehicle was a Deadly Sin or a Greatest Hit…especially when it came to the RWD A/G-bodies and the B-cars.
“But then what’s a retirement without a drunken office party and some fun under the drafting tables?”
So, I send the bill for a new keyboard to somewhere in Eugene?
I like Casey’s design, the Bustle back would have translated well to the Eldo of the 80s. The Seville looks like it’s trying to run away from it’s own tail. It’s almost cartoonish.
I owe Mercedes an apology, I called their interiors “penalty boxes well into the 80s” in another post. Unfortunately I forgot how bad some of GMs interiors really were in the early 80s.
That is until I saw that pic above. Flat. Flat dashboard, Flat seats, Flat floors.
I wish Cadillac would have held off on trying to re-invent the wheel every few years.
Dont forget that Pininfarina also toyed with the “bustelback” look on the equally polarizing Peugeot 504 of the ’70s, maybe this was one of the ideas caught in Mitchel’s search for new designs. I think the look works on the 504, not so much on the Seville.
What I want to know is once you’ve finished slamming every car GM has ever made from the beginning of time, are you going to close the site? I waiting for the “small block V8” deadly sin and the 63 Riviera “deadly sin” article, I mean, goodness knows no other car manufacturer has ever made a bad car other than GM, which has made ALL the bad cars.
Easy, there Carmine. 🙂 Actually, there will be a lot more time because Paul has lots of Ford and Mopar deadly sins to go as well. Have you ever read his ’71 LTD CC over on TTAC? A classic poison-keyboard treatment. The only thing that saved the 81 Imperial (if temporarily) is that I got to it first.
I can’t speak for Paul, but I sort of subscribe to the view that to whom much is given, much is expected. You must admit that somehow, General Motors in the early 1980s was the only US automaker not on the verge of insolvency. It had boatloads of cash and a 45% market share. Everyone on the outside considered them invinceable. So what happened? Somehow, 60 years of unquestioned market supremacy was frittered away by many (though by no means all) products that ranged from bad to awful.
My favorite part of Paul’s writing is its “emotional honesty”, for lack of a better term. I have seen him gush like a schoolgirl over an early 50s Chevy truck or a 63 Grand Prix, and seen him pull out the long knives on others, like this one. I love the passion that both Paul and Mr. T brought to these pieces today, and laughed with enjoyment through both of them. So, I say lets go out and find some more deadly sins, wherever they may be!
I guess you missed the GM’s Greatest Hits Series. Time for another?
Mr. Tactful and I agreed to debate; I think you know how debates work.
Time for a CC You Tube channel? Paul and Carmine could film points and rebutals in a point/counter point format under a set of pre-established rules. That I would watch.
Hey, you’re Austrian? Is that by Mississippi? Roll, tide!
No I’ve seen it, it just seems that the “Deadly Sins” articles outstrip the greatest hits ones.
Maybe if there weren’t legions of crappy cars GM foisted on the the public for a better part of 30 years there’d be fewer….
When was the last time GM had a greatest hit? 1977? I’d hate to think of the 1996 Chevy Tahoe/GMC Yukon as a Greatest Hit, but it was the only time it seems in the last 35 years where GM Got the head start on Ford/Chrysler/The Imports with a Modern Short Wheelbase Full Sized SUV.
The only other one would be the 2nd generation CTS, despite what the Brougham crowd says…
My vote is for 1970, with the Gen 2 Camaro/Firebird.
Like in my song of praise for it: https://www.curbsideclassic.com/curbside-classics-american/curbside-classic-1970-camaro-gms-greatest-hit-1-even-pininfarina-praised-it/
Based on the cars I see in Little Rock, the last GM greatest hit was the 90s era Donkimpala, but the supercharged grand prix represents well here too.
I know GM has made bad cars, but no one else has? Ever?
How come there are like 870 GM Deadly Sins articles and not one on the Dodge Aspen/Volare? Has Ford ever commited a Deady Sin? VW? Mercedes? or heaven forbid, Toyota or Honda? Never, ever, ever, ever made a marketing or product mistake?
No, they are all flawless.
Nope, it seems that we just go from one GM Deady Sin artice to the next, interuped briefly by articles praising Renault 5’s and early Rotary Mazdas, because you know, those were really good,
There have been plenty of critical articles written about other automotive fails besides GM’s blunders on this site, as well as the Curbside Classic series on TTAC. Here’s one of my favorites.
I guess you missed the Volare/Aspen DS: http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/10/curbside-classics-chryslers-deadly-sin-1-1976-plymouth-volare-and-dodge-aspen/
I cant go to TTAC, it makes this site seem like a GM fan site, pass.
I am pleased to read Carmine’s reply on this. EVERY automaker has produced (and marketed) their own pit-falls. No-one is innocent of that. Just like no one is perfect. That is what makes Life interesting, though, isn’t it? If all car makers’ plans worked out perfectly, then, wouldn’t the Love of Cars be, well, kind of dull? I am a man in his early 40’s who is guilty of loving cars for this design detail (and the Chrysler Imperial,) for its’ “bustle-back”. I DARE another car maker to bring it back. For that matter, I dare Ford Mo.Co. to bring back the Edsel, my absolute favourite, misunderstood car of all time. Although I also love “Landau” and “Cabriolet” roofs, I feel the Seville looks better without one. (Here’s a nice image below).
Carmine – Friend, I am responding four years late, but still: I’m the guy who friends know that in Adam’s opinion, if it doesn’t say GM or BMW, it’s probably broke. And I know because I keep around a sweet 2006 330i, and a 1995 Riviera (L67 s/c) as my daily driver on my 40-mi one way commute. I love GM cars more than the next guy, and you’re right to point that many other automakers have shipped s#$@ cars. It’s just that GM was the American halo. In terms of both business and design, they should never have fallen so low. I blame Roger Smith for putting fuel on that fire, but it’s not his fault alone. I’m happy to see GM resurgent today. Last year I bought a showroom new Chevy SS (black on black six speed manual, if you please) and was happy to plunk $50k on that barge. But still, GM did build a lot of junk along the way.
Peace and GM love – just don’t be so touchy, brother. Also- would you sell me that 1980 Caprice ???
“When was the last time GM had a greatest hit?”
The 1993 Cadillac Seville STS (with Northstar) was very well-received when introduced and made it onto several 10 best car lists back in the day. I think that was the last time.
“Mr. Tactful and I agreed to debate”
I enjoyed reading both sides of the debate, and I’m glad it was kept lighthearted and civil. One thing that I really like about CC is the fact that opposing opinions are welcome, but the debate never seems to get too mean spirited or nasty.
Thanks; Let’s hope we can keep it that way!
He hasn’t slammed all of the GM cars. I am waiting for another GM’s Greatest Hit though.
If you want a deadly sin on the SBC I can get you one.
I’d say it’s a tie between the 305 with the soft cam shafts and that crappy 262 from 1975.
Soft camshafts, that piece of GM NA brilliance made it down under where it was used in 253 V8s, I always wondered where that idea came from.
What I want to know is are you going to whine every time somebody says something mean about a decades-old GM crapbucket? Thanks to questionable styling, blatant badge engineering (Cimarron), ill-timed downsizings and perhaps the worst engine lineup ever foisted on American customers, Cadillac was an absolute disaster in the ’80s. If you can’t recognize that or admit that GM’s numerous past mistakes shaped the current U.S. market and led to a not-insignificant taxpayer bailout, well then there’s no hope for you.
One of the (many) reasons I’m not a big fan of General Motors, past or present, is the arrogant, head-in-sand attitude the fanboys take towards GM products and the simultaneously hostile, dismissive attitude towards imports. You’ll defend the worst GM car to the death, junk like the Citation is somehow irrelevant because it was in the past and Camcords are part of some sort of evil “Japan, Inc.” conspiracy to bankrupt Detroit.
Please. I expect that kind of nonsense over at TTAC and every other mainstream site where bile-filled fanboys plague the comment sections. I consider Curbside Classic to be a refuge from all that. A place where everybody can appreciate the nostalgia of old cars, warts and all. Thanks for ruining it.
Cool down! 🙂
Not all GM fanboys are willing to defend the worst GM car to death! Although it remains to be seen which among GM’s many eligibles truly deserves the worst of the worst prize. But they also made good cars. In the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s as even today. Camcords are good, no doubt, but GM did make some quality family and luxury cars over the years.
…did you read Paul’s write up about the ’55 Chevy? Or the B-body love? Or the ’47-’53 pickups? Or the Cadillac that represents the site’s icon?
Those are just a few, there are others. Many others.
Small-block deadly sin…I can think of a couple.
The 267 V8, advertised as “economy of a 6, power of a V8” when it was not only the opposite, they already had the 262 V8 which was a superior engine in every respect!
Also the original 307 had a soft cam. I’ve owned all three,
Right now in my driveway is a ’91 Caprice still going strong with 160,000 miles, a ’97 Blazer with 261,000 miles, a 200,000-mile ’90 G-20 van, plus the two projects – a ’57 Handyman similar to wstarvingteacher’s, and a ’68 C-10 2wd pickup.
All examples of GM’s better efforts IMO. Aside from my wife’s ’05 Subaru Outback, I don’t drive anything newer because I hate making car payments and want to save enough money to quit writing posts referencing my two projects and actually redo them instead.
I’m not going to try to speak for everyone else on the site, but I’m a GM fanboy.
Have been since the age of ten…which was a long time ago.
But I can’t be blind. I owned a Vega and a Corsica, both of which were utter crap, and have driven enough of GM’s FWD efforts from the eighties and early 90’s to understand why so many people turned to Ford, Mopar or the Japanese.
When my oldest son needed advice last year to replace his ’92 Subaru, I pointed him toward Honda and Toyota. It pained me to do so but he didn’t have the budget to buy, say, a Cruze.
He needed something bulletproof. He ended up with a ’93 Accord with 80,000 miles. I couldn’t in all good conscience steer him to ANY FWD American vehicle that vintage.
There was a time when GM led the PLANET in automotive design for North America. They innovated…Ford/Mopar and everyone else followed. Not at every single turn but enough that when it was stated in the mid-50’s, “what’s good for GM is good for America”, it was as true as the sunrise.
In fact until 1971 I’d be hard pressed to think of more than a half-dozen Ford/ChryCo/AMC models that model-for-model, feature-for-feature, apples-to-apples was superior to the GM product.
But once Ford got their poop in a group…I’ll place it well and truly around the time they debuted the Fox platform…’78 Fairmont/Zephyr and ’79 Mustang…their build quality had improved, they offered more and better features…they were building more hits and fewer misses. And the ’86 Taurus was Babe Ruth on four wheels. Driving one of those and a Celebrity made the Chevy feel like a bad joke and you were the punchline for having put your hard-earned dollars into one.
Mopar…I’ve owned a few and appreciated many, but go to Ate Up With Motor and Allpar and read the stories of Mopar corporate idiocy and malfeasance and see if you don’t come away – as I did – wondering how the company’s still in business.
GM has tried…no, actually Carmine, they HAVEN’T tried to build a great small car until the Cruze. AND THAT’S WHAT FRUSTRATES ME!!! WHY did it take them FIFTY!?! years to do what they should have been doing all along because that’s what they USED to do when Harley Earl was inventing automotive design and Alfred Sloan was the chairman.
To paraphrase Autoextremist Peter DeLorenzo…it must always be about the product. Beginning when Frederic Donner succeeded Alfred Sloan as Chairman in 1958, they veered away from that rather elementary credo, and by the Roger Smith era, they’d actually said their business was making money. Building cars was just how they happened to do it.
When it’s no longer about the product, Deadly Sins result. How can it be any other way when you’ve taken your eye off the ball?
Again I won’t speak for everyone else but I think because GM was so far ahead of everyone else at one time, the expectations were far higher and therefore the criticism louder. It also doesn’t help that the company once held 53% of the market…with more vehicles out there the problems are magnified that much more.
I know I’ve taken a ton of space here, but allow me one more thought:
In this thread, we’ve discussed CADILLACS.
Standard of the World.
A marque with some models once favorably compared to Rolls-Royce…as late as 1965.
You could never compare a Lincoln or an Imperial to a Rolls. (BTW I was eight when Ford bowed its LTD “quieter than a Rolls” ads) Cadillac was in a class by itself…and then spent decades turning that reputation into so much cow manure.
Once again, expectations were set based on previous performance, and then not only not met, but spat upon by the arrogant cynics on the 14th floor of the RenCen.
The past decade has been a long road back. I’ve gotten to drive several newer Caddies over the last 35 years…so I feel I can make an apples-to-apples comparison and state that the future seems bright for Cadillac. I’m hopeful for the division…and for GM.
I have defended the Volt even though I’d never own one, it’s just not my cup of tea.
Even now in these “Government Motors” years…(don’t get me going on the politics of the takeover!! I’d rather have seen a Chapter 7 and then re-start as Chevrolet/Cadillac with Buick for China)…I’m rooting for the day when they once again become an independent company and will fly on their own.
If I wasn’t such a antique/classic Chevy guy I’d be looking for a 9C2 Caprice right now. I don’t think I’d have a problem making payments on one of those. If my wife decided to give up the Subaru religion and try an Equinox, Malibu or Cruze instead, I’d be happy. And if we could afford a used CTS4…I think she’d like that too. I’ve cautioned that the new Outback is the same drivetrain in a much heavier package…and tests have shown it’s not as snappy as the old one. Not to mention most Japanese marques have been singing the song of decontenting the past decade or so. Sludgy Camry engines. Bad Honda trannies, et.al. Delicious for a GM fanboy like me to see. LOL!!!
Thanks for reading my impassioned rant. Chevy (and GM) Runs Deep here…but not blind.
Wow. A great post, and you’re spot on about the Cruze. However, comparison of Cadillac to Rolls-Royce is more an indicator of Rolls’ degradation than anything. RR was in terminal decline after WW2.
Also, weren’t GM headquarters elsewhere than the RenCen?
> Chevy (and GM) Runs Deep here…but not blind.
CarCounter, thanks for the kind words.
I think GM moved to the Renaissance Center in 1973…74. thereabouts…
Good point about Rolls-Royce although they’ve managed to hold onto their reputation all these years if I’m not mistaken.
Although the RenCen was constructed from 73-77, it was owned by Ford and others. Only after Ford could not afford it, did GM buy it and shift there in 1996. (Wikipedia) Hmm… interesting. It was built on the initiative of Henry Ford II, no less.
Classic Rollers have maintained their reputation, of course, as has the original Rolls-Royce aero-engine company. The legends of the past remain so. However, sadly the RR motor company is finished as a brand, ending its long decline and hopping from owner to owner. Current owners BMW are trying hard to make it into an uber-luxury brand, but the traditional RR buyers (Royalty) wouldn’t be caught dead in one of the new ones. The design is too bling-y, and the car is not really a major step up in technology or features from a top-of-the line BMW. It is in the same unenviable position Cadillac found itself vis-a-vis Olds 98. Its future is also uncertain, despite what BMW sales lit claims, given the ultimate failure of MB’s uber-luxury Maybach brand.
GM moved to the Ren Cen in 1997, before that their headquarters were at the General Motors Building on West Grand Ave, its now called Cadillac Place and its used for gov offices.
chas 108: excellent comment. And I share your hope that GM and Cadillac will succeed in the future. They have generally improved profoundly. I still have a few niggling issues, but I sincerely believe they can make it with continued effort. It’s a new company, and I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt that they can act like one.
Actually one GM car that is as good as a 93 Honda Accord from that time period would be the Olds Cutlass Ciera or Buick Century. Maybe your son didn’t want to drive an “old man car” but they are pretty much bulletproof. I know you said you didn’t like the Celebrity ubt the A bodies were really good in the 90s. Especially 94-96 when they came standard with ABS and airbags, among other things.
Speaking for myself, I loved my ’92 Grand Prix SE with the bulletproof 3.1. It wasn’t as fast as the tack-on B4U festoonery implied, but that engine was quite a trooper. And it was pretty! Well, I thought so anyway.
Great post – as someone whose parents owned a W126, with 80’s and 90’s Cadillacs in the extended family – this is absolutely spot on.
I have noticed that a Cadillac post inevitably results in the following:
– Recollections from people old enough to have driven one of these things brand new about how they were, etc
– Assertions from an Antipodean source that a period British car (Jag, RR, etc) was actually far superior.
– A shrill post from another source who has only read about Cadillacs on the internet about how GM lost the plot due to various evil forces (BMW, hippies, floor mounted gearbox selectors) and can only be restored to its former glory by making 225 inch long luxury cars again, priced over 6 figures.
– Inevitable heated debates.
And that is why I love posts about Cadillacs here. More, please!
Sorry I still like it… Somebody grab a continental kit and some tools, we’ll make it look appropriate. 😛
The connie kit was real common on slant back Sevilles down here in Miami, as was the obligatory Rolls grille and fake rag top. They were all either white or creamy yellow.
Whoever did those hates cars.
In pure white these Seville’s look ok I saw one cruising at night a while back twice, the second time I saw why it was out in the dead of night, recent import and still wearing US plates so not complied for the road yet, go cruising while the police man sleeps
Well, there were cries of ‘Caddys are gas hogs’ during the Oil Crises, and GM was eager to change that. But they want too fast and kicked junk out the door just to say “Look, we now got Caddys with over 20 mpg!”.
If it weren’t for the 1992 Seville, I think Cadillac would have went the way of Olds.
I know an older lady who has had one Cadillac or another in her garage continuously since the late 50s. When we reminisce about various cars we have owned, which we often do, the one car that she never mentions is her 1980 Seville. And I am not insensitive enough to bring it up.
Don’t let them get you down, Carmine. I’m old enough to recall my Uncle’s 1985 380SE from England that was on it’s second or third set of camshafts, had all of the wood capping delaminating from the dash, seat springs coming through on the driver’s side, and lots of electrical issues by 90k The Unk wasn’t a fusspot when it came to maintenance, but this was all happening in a gentile English clime, and he was writing a couple of thousand pound cheque every time he visited his local Benz shop. A 1985 Caprice with the right options would have been far more reliable,and at least as durable. I have two ’81’s in the barn with the multiple displacement tranny wire cut, and they run great as regular V8’s and still get the same mileage as the vaunted 3.8L Benz. The real issue with the Caddies of this period was the crap 4100, and if GM sought in its wisdom to give the 368 multiport fuel injection with a decent overdrive tranny, it would have been just the ticket.
An ’85 Caprice with the 305 was also a far superior car to the Seville. Don’t know why GM didn’t fill one with nice leather and wood and call it a Seville.
The Benz M116 engine wasn’t powerful – the M117 5.6 liter was the ticket for performance, but the unit in my parents’ W126 was still on its original set of camshafts when they got rid of it at 230k. Then again my dad put fresh Castrol in the thing every 3k miles – I learned to change oil on that car – and was pretty good about DIY maintenance. Biggest problem was a window regulator that failed a couple times. That car was far more reliable than my Volvo 940SE, despite being far more complex.
Caprices [B/C bodies] were already used as basis for the DeVille, Brougham, and Fleetwood. Just that Caddy had to put that 4.1 thing in them for a few years, but again, pressue to get good MPG #’s.
B and C bodies were distinctively separate vehicles. Caprice was a B body exclusive, The big Cadillac was C body exclusive (not counting Eldorado & Seville)
Chevrolet Caprice & Impala, Pontiac Catalina & Bonneville, Oldsmobile Delta 88 and Buick LeSabre were all B Bodies.
Oldsmobile Ninety Eight, Buick Electra 225 and Cadillac De Ville & Fleetwoods were all C body exclusive.
> Don’t know why GM didn’t fill one with nice leather and wood and call it a Seville.
Because then a certain Austrian would’ve created a Deadly Sin #573: Cadillac Caprice, and we would be laughing about how the fools at GM didn’t learn from the mistake called Cimarron. Not badge engineering, for a change, is good. Of course, a near-luxury car like the Caprice had no business being in the Chevrolet lineup and belonged at Buick, if not Cadillac, but that is another discussion.
Chevrolet, Pontiac, Oldsmobile and Buick all had various B body cars; Caprice/Impala – Bonneville/Catalina – Delta 88 – LeSabre respectively.
So your argument that Caprice belonged at Buick makes no sense, considering Buick had their own B body in the LeSabre.
Bingo! I have been saying this since I was a 12 year old! Why Cadillac spent all that development money over at Eaton corp developing a cylinder shut down system that was truly not possible with the then computer technology is beyond me. They could have so easily adopted the 4 speed overdrive and used either the TBI or multi-port setup, alas an improved version, that the 1970’s Seville had. This would have not only saved them a pile of dough and cleaned up the HT 4100 mess so that it could have debuted in 1985 when it was supposed to. This simple change would have made a world of difference with there reputation during the 1980’s.
The 4.1 V8 was never the right engine for any Cadillac that size. It grew to 4.9 liters before being discarded in the early 1990s and replaced with the Northstar.
Yellow leather? I’ve never seen a yellow cow. Then, I’ve never seen a silver or blue one, either.
The Hooper-bodied RR does have a lot better look; the Seville looks something like a dog doing a #2.
OMG LOL about the dog pooping image in my mind right now! TOTALLY!!!
I don’t like the 2nd-gen Seville, but it isn’t really for any of the reasons Paul wrote about.
I don’t like it because I am a big fan of the 1st-gen Seville. Yes, it was over-priced and needed to hide its Chevy roots better, but the overall idea and styling was solid.
The 2nd-gen Seville took everything that the original Seville was all about, tossed it in the trash, and turned itself into an Eldorado sedan. Despite the major shortcomings of the 3rd gen Seville, at least that car was back on mission.
In my perfect world, the 2nd gen Seville would have come out in 1982, been based on a modified F-body platform, and offered the HT4100 and 5.7L Crossfire. And, with those engines, it would have sucked early on. But, just like the Camaro and Corvette, as the 80s turned into the 90s, the Seville would keep improving.
The current CTS/Camaro link is pretty close to what I’m imaging.
Correct answer ajla – it could have been so much better. We all know that the 3G F body cars were junk in 1982, but they made them better. By the end of the run they were pretty decent, typical GM fashion.
Also- love your avatar. No really, I love wearing my t shirt with the turbo-6 Buick logo, it confuses folks. Until they get it. I push an L67 5gen Riviera every day. Smooth and fast. Yes, she’s no grand national but a fine riv sir. 😉
The 1982-1987 Lincoln Continental pulled off the bustle-back look much better than the Seville, in my opinion; it didn’t look so forced on the Lincolns and was much more subtle.
Also, whenever I see one of these Sevilles with wire wheel hubcaps, they appear to stick out too far, making the car look “bow-legged”. Wire wheels are OK on a RWD 1980s Cadillac, since the wheel offset allows for them, but on an FWD car, the shallow wheel offset makes wires look goofy. (Admittedly, someone else pointed this out in the 1985 DeVille CC.)
Having said that, I’d be curious to see what a 1980-1985 Seville looks like with the alloy wheels from an Allante or later Seville.
In my opinion, interesting idea, awkward execution.
+1 and the 302 was far less troublesome/perky/happy there than in the Panther Cars. The only flaw I can serious see with those would be the gawdawful Air Suspension failure.
I’m still shuddering over the fact that these cost $60,000 adjusted when new…
Your typical mid size CTS is very close to 60 large today so it’s not really that surprising that Cadillac priced it’s flagship the way they did. The real problem was in the indifferent quality control and the engines. The styling is a moot point. Some like it and some don’t, same as on many cars today.
The 75-79 Seville, even though much of the corporation had aped its styling by the end, still distinctly stood out in the caddy lineup for the most part. What I dislike about these 80-85 Sevilles is that they bear a complete passing resemblance to the facelifted 1980 Deville until your eyes hit that bustleback. And as a nearly lone defining feature, it’s a tough one to get around.
That said, I’m not repulsed by the styling as a whole and I even kind of like it(at least more than the Deville or Eldo of the same vintage), particularly in certain colors. Plus as Mr. Tactful pointed out in his article, ride height really is key.
Even in my own head this car is polarizing haha
It may be something wrong with me but I really like these cars. I know the execution, powertrains were crapastic ( that refers to the whole Cadillac`s lineup of that time) but somehow I like them.
Standard of the world eh what a piece of shit I didnt realise there were no good engines in the lineup it was only the poor styling that made these things look stupid when first seen the prewar Hooper styling cues do not fit that car. Definitely a deadly sin car what a way to waste market share a comedy cartoon as a Halo car
Seems that everyone has forgotten about the Seville’s trial balloon, the ’78 Olds Cutlass Salon which somehow makes the Caddy look a bit less hideous, but only a bit. The bustle-back look didn’t work for Chrysler or Lincoln either.
My grandparents used to have one of the Olds Cutlass Salon aeroback sedans, I believe a 1980. Even as a child, I remember being puzzled by its styling.
Another Pre-Seville Bustle back car, the post Boat tail Rivieras….
Nice find. I wonder why they had to add a rectangular box on top of the boot. The graceful character line on the side could have been made the actual line of the car. The only shortcoming would be a reduction in luggage space.
Also designed by the same Wayne Kady!
I sense a disturbing trend. Are there any good Kady designs?
Here you go: http://www.forgottenfiberglass.com/?p=14433
No points for originality on the design though.
There’s actually one of these in pretty nice shape on ebay at the moment. It even has the snazzy “Tahoe designer” interior.
I always thought these, and its’ twin Buick Century (1978-81) were interesting. However, I think a big turn-off was the fact that the rear windows in 4-door models did NOT roll down! Instead, the rear-most quarter-panel window, behind the rear doors, flipped open. I’ve read that the reasoning for this was to create more interior room, but I think that it a pretty far fetch. More likely, cost-cutting was the reason. Here is a nice pic of a 1978 Buick Century Custom “Aerodeck” sedan.
Well googootz – something like the BMW 5 GT.
the rendering of the 3 door coupe is as cool as fuck..i want one ..this cad is very cool in a battlestar gallactica 70s way ,very cylon styling..cool
I feel there is a more lithe back under that tacked-on bustleback. Here’s my take on it, though I’m no Casey, unfortunately.
It has some (odd) potential, but the same problem still exists: the front of the car doesn’t relate to the back.
I think the problem is that the shoulder line curves up from the front and peaks at the b-pillar, instead of sweeping down from the front as on the Rolls-Royce that inspired it. The strong straight horizontal emphasis of the lower door/sill trim does it no favours, and add-on bump strips make it worse. You wind up with a mish-mash of conflicting lines.
Maybe after the first sign of market-rejection they should have retooled the rear into something more mainstream, like they did to the boat-tail Riviera.
This is bad Paul. This is a design I thoroughly despise, and yet it is not a Deadly Sin. Not the absurd result of arrogance, this is rather the last time GM styling tried to be boldly different. In an age of inoffensive design, it takes guts to bet on an unconventional look. That look failed miserably, in my eyes, but you’ve got to give the makers credit for it. Just like the 61 Cadillac, this car *cannot* be mistaken for any other.
As for the engines, all GM divisions were plagued by the diesel, and the Cadillac division was hit. It is not correct to single out this car for it. Also, it was not the unmitigated sales disaster. Sales were lower than before, but Cadillac sales were in free fall, due to a gamut of issues.
Definitely not Deadly Sin material like Cimarron.
Any and every car GM made that materially contributed to its demise is a (potential) DS. How else do you think they imploded? One car after another, each one selling less than the one before it, and further damaging the reputation of its maker. “Deadly Sin” does not mean the car was without any merit; but if it was a failure in stemming GM’s market share loss, than it was a Deadly Sin nevertheless.
OK. Slam every GM car then. All of them (even the good ones) failed in stemming GM’s market share loss, which led the company to where it is today. Having said that, I do not believe this car materially contributed to GM’s demise. It would have sold at or more than earlier levels if it were not for horrible engines, which, as I said earlier, was a separate issue plaguing all divisions.
This car didn’t really contribute to GM’s death spiral in the market – the Citation did a much better job of that, but it helped make Cadillac uncompetitive in the luxury automobile market in the USA, which is where the majority of their sales were (and still are).
CarCounter: The first gen2 1980 Seville sold substantially less than its predecessor before anyone knew about the diesel engine problems. You would expect the opposite, as the gen 1 was in its fifth year in 1979, and virtually unchanged.
Gen 2 Seville sales dropped precipitously in 1981 and 1982, and then recovered some in its later years. In fact its last two years (1984 and 1985) were its best sales years. Which all makes t quite clear that the engines had little to do with its sales. Folks found the design to be polarizing. Mercedes were the hot thing in the eighties, and the Seville looked (inside and out) uncool.
I lived in fashionable Beverly Hills/Westwood (LA) in 1980, when this car came out: it was instantly branded as something no one under 65 (or with any taste) would touch it with a ten foot pole.
Which other Cadillac cars would the tasteful people under 65, who were eyeing Mercedes, would have considered? MB and Cadillac were not even in the same league for the fashionable crowd by the late 80s. I was not there, so you may better tell this. I’m just saying that Cadillac, as a brand, was going down the gutter, but not largely due to this car, and the engines, which sealed its fate, were a plague of all divisions. Both factors causing the loss in sale, i.e., brand erosion and poor engines, cannot be pinned on this car.
The gen1 Seville was heading in the right direction: size, clean styling, etc.. Cadillac needed to continue developing the Seville exactly where they finally took it with the gen4 Seville: a true (potential) MB/BMW fighter, with clean international styling, inside and out, and decent performance. Should have stayed with rwd, used the Olds 350 V8 and developed it further, etc..and be wiling to spend the money to do it right.
Caddy finally got the message in 1992, by which time it was too late. And even then, it was somewhat half-hearted.
Ahem, I don’t feel BMW was in the same league as MB, or even is today, although much closer than before. While MB cars are surely not the Teutonic Tanks of yore, the three-pointed star has greater brand cachet than the roundel. Cadillac cannot hope to challenge MB in this generation at least, even if they do everything right and MB does everything wrong and makes a line of shitty cars for years to come, which is highly unlikely. I don’t like MB’s dominance of the luxury market, but I respect them enough to understand why Cadillac marketing BS is focusing on BMW, while making no mention of MB. The Audi `old luxury’ ads capture very well the entrenchment of MB in America, among rich white folks at least.
In fairness, U.S. economy in 1981 and 1982 was in worst condition since Great Depression, so of course Seville sales would be way down.
I think Wayne Kady’s original late sixties concept works better insofar as it’s obviously not a production car — Cadillac did a whole series of V-16 concepts in the sixties, intended only as idea cars. (A couple of them did have mocked-up V-16s, made, as I recall, from two SB Chevy engines, but they weren’t intended for production, unlike the abortive V-12.)
I went off at length about the K-body Seville (both the first and second-generation) on AUWM two years ago, which still occasionally draws unhappy comments.
I agree with the earlier comment about wheel arch shapes, even the Eldorado style pictured above might have worked better.
Also, was the W126 Benz a competitor for this car, or would the W123/W124 would be closer?
This was the top-of-the-line Cadillac. So it naturally competed with W126.
Theoretically, the W126 would be a competitor, but in reality…
1984 W126 380SE acceleration (see also the W126 300SD acceleration video Paul posted above):
1984 Cadillac Fleetwood (with the HT4100, also used in Seville) acceleration:
Just for reference, here is an ’83 Caprice with the 305. Pretty awful when the luxury flagship gets smoked by a cheap Chevrolet sedan:
> Theoretically, the W126 would be a competitor…
That’s all there is to it. W126. Not the W123/124. That’s what John H had asked.
> here is an ’83 Caprice with the 305
I’ll reiterate my earlier statement, in case you missed it:
For a more humorous take on the luxur-isation(?) of GM’s lower brands which led to Caprice, and Olds 98, you’re welcome to read Jack Baruth’s take on the topic at TTAC. It may or may not be completely correct, but the phenomenon was definitely one of the reasons for Cadillacs brand erosion.
80’s Caprice near luxury? It may seem that way if you’ve only read about them on the Internet. They were a full size family sedan/wagon with comfortable but not plush interiors. Uncle of mine owned an ’89 Caprice wagon, and had tons of problems. He now drives a Ford pickup and a Subaru wagon.
You got me. I had no idea that having an uncle own a car automatically disqualified it from near-luxury status. Others, however, may think differently, even here at CC. To save you some Googling, here’s the linky: https://www.curbsideclassic.com/curbside-classics-american/curbside-classic-1972-chevrolet-caprice-cadillac-carbon-copy/
GM’s junior divisions were always biting at Cadillac’s heels, and Chevy was no exception, along with Buick and Olds. You’re right about my not being there to buy cars in 1980, so I’ll refrain from further comment in this line. Good day.
“I had no idea that having an uncle own a car automatically disqualified it from near-luxury status.”
It doesn’t, but riding around in my uncle’s ’89 Caprice wagon with cheap mushy cloth seats and manual windows was a sharp contrast with my dad’s W126 Mercedes-Benz, with leather seats, power everything, and one of the best ride/handling compromises in the world. Near luxury to me in the early 90’s – when I had the chance to compare those two cars firsthand – would be an Acura Legend or maybe a Ford Taurus SHO (the one with the Yamaha V6 that redlined at 7000 and would run with any contemporary BMW sedan). If you think a Caprice is near luxury, fair enough, you probably have a different perspective on cars than I do.
Yeah, by the late 1980s, 80% of Caprices on the road were taxicabs or police cars. It might have been luxury in 1972, but not by then.
Caprice Classic Brougham and Brougham LS in the late 80’s were very luxurious.
Well, same could be said about the early 50’s BelAir, being ‘too luxurious’ for Chevy. Maybe some will say they never should have gotten V8’s, Corvette, and SS packages.
Me, I love Caprices!
And another thing, the Olds 98 dates back to 1941[?], so to say it stole Cadillac’s buyers is ridiculous.
Good point. In fact Tom says even the 1932 Chevy restyle was Cadillac-esque to some degree, so this surely goes back years. However, GM’s market share was huge enough, and engines and (especially) transmissions on the senior cars were improvements over Chevy, as were the array of creature comforts. The V8 question was largely decided by Ford. Chevy *didn’t* initially have V8s, but had to have ’em to compete with Ford.
Olds 98 was a reskinned Cadillac from the get-go, sharing the C-body with senior Buicks and Cadillacs. Only Olds was more a performance-oriented brand (and it did have engineering, bow down to the Rocket!), while Cadillac was more about comfort. However, in later years, one could order a 98 with feature parity with Cadillac, at a lower price. It even had the bloody Twilight Sentinel. Smart man’s Cadillac indeed. After the demise of the Rocket V8, however, Olds’ following it was only a matter of time.
I love Caprices too, but it should’ve been a Cadillac. The single fleur-de-lis emblem doesn’t work for me.
Chevy didn’t get their V8 until 23 years after Ford got its V8. Truth is, the OHV Chevy six was mostly a match for the Ford V8 in horsepower, and had a better torque curve. And not having a V8 all those decades didn’t exactly hurt Chevy’s sales.
It’s true that the ’32 Chevy aped the Cadillac’s styling.
I’m just saying that the use of `V8′ as a luxury `feecher’ was ended when it became an option in low model Fords (which was later), and GM couldn’t do anything about it. Eight cylinders was the new standard, especially after WW2. Six remained for misers, becoming the new four.
Chevrolet division has operated like its own company for a long time. Of course, it was Chevrolet who had bought GM. Now more than ever, the so-called GM is basically Chevrolet and the seven dwarves. Apart from Opel and Daewoo, most of GM engineering now is actually Chevrolet engineering. This is also reflected when the Chevy guys were developing their own compact, etc, etc.
GM did well to kill Pontiac and Olds. Chevrolet alone is enough for all mainstream cars, leaving Buick for the affordable luxury, GMC for hardcore (==Non-Chevy) trucking (possibly a re-entry into heavy trucks), and Cadillac free to go after German marques. However, a gap is left in the market for large, pompous, luxury cars. This is Cadillac’s traditional market, and GM should do something to shore it up, lest it be swept away. Already the 300 is making inroads.
Chicagoland: The ’55 Nomad is what really got Chevy into Buick territory: https://www.curbsideclassic.com/blog/cc-capsule-1955-chevrolet-nomad-stealing-the-thunder-from-the-high-priced-cars/
After reading this I am real tickled that the cars I had during the eighties when I had money were towne cars. I have always thought that the 5.0 was a great engine and especially so starting in 86.
Like chas108, I am a freak for old GM cars (maybe my favorite other than the 210 chev was my 50 olds) but had to be forced into a caddie or lincoln by an ex-wife. A collection of old chevrolets cause no regret. I really do not care for GM now.
As we get older the old days were always better. Well maybe not always. An olds cutlass was my first experience with eighties era exploding automatic transmissions and GM really lost me there but not forever. Now I am just real happy being the geezer driving the Nissan Cube with a chevy classic in my driveway and another gathering dust (s10) between runs to the feed store. The best thing about those old days are that they are in the past.
I think this site does an excellent job of evaluating past efforts of the OEM’s. I find myself getting defensive when they don’t like one of my old favorites. Thing is, they are normally right. BTW, it’s probably time to quit calling Paul an Austrian unless that’s what he wants. He has been here long enough to have a better feel of the pulse of what he is covering than most native born Americans. He does not get my vote for president if he runs but otherwise he does.
> …it’s probably time to quit calling Paul an Austrian…
You mean its all right to call him a jaded
Well yes; I am a naturalized US citizen, after all.
“I’ve been desperate but unsuccessful at finding any Olds 350 diesel powered car, despite the huge number built.”
My parents own what is probably one of the last Olds 350 diesels still on the road. It’s a 1st gen engine too, and never blown a head gasket. I’ll get some good pics when it comes out of winter storage.
Please do, and write up something to go with it. it would make a great post. BTW, the Germans (auto motor und sport) were very impressed with the Olds Diesel in a test of an 88.
The bustle back sure makes a lot more sense as a coupe stylistically and conceptually – good luck taking a foursome on a road trip with the trunk cut diagonally in half.
As shown on my attachment below, I really like the conservatively styled 1G Chevrolet Nova based 1976-79 Cadillac Seville much better compared to the bustle back 2G Cadillac Eldorado based 1980-85 versions. The 1980-85 versions appears as though a city bus smashed through the rear end of the 1G 1976-79 Seville and therefore giving the 2G a “deformed” rear end look. I had seen in some Auto Magazines in which General Motors was even planning in the drawing boards in artist sketches a four door sedan version of the 1980 Oldsmobile Toronado which looks much better since it has a much conservative styling than its Cadillac counterpart the 1980 Seville. Anybody would wonder as to why General Motors didn’t give the Oldsmobile Motor Division a green light to produce the four door Toronado which would definitely and significantly would look much better than this 2G Seville? A four door Toronado and a bustle back Seville would be like a difference between night and day.
Don’t forget about the late 70s Olds Cutlass 4 door with the fastback design. Lovely.
And yet both Hotwheels and Tomica made diecast versions of this car. Honestly and personally, I am a huge fan of this design. I’ll take mine with the 368 or the 350 Olds, please.
I bought a new 79 coup , then in 81 a new Eldo,4,6,8 then in 84 a new Seville. The deVille was sweet car. I had no major problems with any of these cars. Honestly I really liked my Seville and feel it will stand out in years to come as real collectable car. In fact I just bought a clean one owner for my collection. Yes the engines had their issues but in the world of collectable cars this adds to it’s appeal. Remember the Cord had the same albotross hung around it’s neck. You guys especially if you are young are going to miss out. Most have been crushed and few good ones are far and few between. By the way I was no blue hair when I was going through my Caddy phase.
As you can see from this June 1973 proposal called La Scala, the original Seville concept was in fact a four door bustleback sedan, despite your assertions to the contrary.
Jeff, Thanks for toning down your original comment.
My point was that the original source of the bustle-back (in GM) was Wayne Kady’s red V16 rendering, which was a coupe. And the information that Wayne initially wanted to do the Eldorado coupe with the bustleback comes from ateupwithmotor’s article on the Seville. http://ateupwithmotor.com/luxury-and-personal-luxury-cars/210-cadillac-seville.html
Anyway, that picture doesn’t really “prove” anything, since the LaScala was just a concept for the final production Seville. I appreciate you sharing it, but from my perspective, it doesn’t change anything in terms of what I said. Yes, all GM production cars were usually preceded by concepts. FWIW, this is almost not a true bustleback, inasmuch as there is no break in the vertical surface, unlike the production Seville. The LaScala works somewhat better for me than the Seville.
BTW: that’s the only Seville I’ve encountered on the streets here; I didn’t pick and chose. Although it was somewhat fortuitous 🙂
I personally question whether there is any relationship between the V16 concepts of which there were at least four and the Seville in either generation. As I see it, the super long hood/ short deck proposals have everything in common with each other proportionally whether razor edged or not, and very little to do with the LaScala/ LaSalle which is an entirely different concept and package. If there is any relationship, it is that both are derived from Mitchell’s admiration of the razor edged Rolls-Royce.
That said, I do admire the styling of the second generation- a virtually unique exterior sharing only windshield and roof and featuring frameless glass was enormously expensive. That the Continental and Imperial paid tribute is telling. The shortcomings which the car does possess are largely mechanical and that has much more to do with the disease known as Roger Smith than anyone in the Styling building.
Anybody else remember the 80s C&D test where they compared the appearance of the slant-back Seville to a “4000-pound booger”? For years afterwards my wife used to say “Look! Another Booger!” Brand recognition.
Although I firmly believe that GM has screwed themselves by screwing their customers, I don’t think that the “Seville”(gen1 and 2) were completely responsible. Cadillac made many other poor decisions. Putting plastic fenders on FWD deVilles and Fleetwoods in the early 90’s that would explode if you had a blow-out. Not covered by insurance or warranty but, your wallet would be another example. Having been in love with both 1st and 2nd gen Sevilles and owning a 79′ it seemed to me that you have found the worst cars to photograph and compare with the MB 300sd’s that were nothing more than a “Work horse” – nothing luxurious but, they did run forever – a “Taxi Cab.” With that known about MB’s why have so many companies tried to emulate the Taxi Cab and not develop their own countries designs. If I wanted a German Taxi Cab I’d buy one – NOT a Cadillac.
Maybe (or obviously? ) I’m in the minority, but I always loved the styling of the ’81-’85 Sevilles. I only wish they had come out with a 2-door version though, similar to Kady’s 2-door design exercise pictured in the article! To my somewhat warped mind anyway, that car is gorgeous! Other than the styling though, just about everything else on these cars were an unmitigated disaster though. Particularly, – but not limited to – all off the available engines – the atrocious 350 Olds diesel, the awful V8-6-4 and the rough running and grossly underpowered V6. Also there’s the super-expensive to repair (if you can even get the parts anywhere, at any price!) digital dash too! Not that I’ll ever get around to building one, but in my dreams anyway, I have a vision of – sadly far too expensive and thus, totally impractical to do – of making one these cars into a decent driver, actually worthy of it’s name. My “recipe” for my dream ’81-’85 Seville would be to start with a clean, low-mileage 350 Olds diesel-powered version. (yeah, right, try finding one of those nowadays!) – and preferably, also without the ‘tres-tacky’ vinyl roof and opera lights! Then I’d yank out the diesel engine and strip it down to a bare block. I’d bore the block .125. (When building a gasoline-fueled engine from one, the Olds diesel blocks can easily and safely go to .125 over – and with sonic checking some can even safely go .250 over) Then I’d cut the down crank counterweights slightly and use a steel, 3.975-inch-stroke crank from a mid-’60’s 425 Olds V8 into the bored-out diesel block. Next, a set of big block Chevy connecting rods and custom pistons to yield a nearly indestructible and incredibly torquey 437-inch, small block Olds-based gasoline V8! For “Cadillac-like” smoothness and even more low and mid-range torque, I’d top it off with a mild ‘RV-type’ aftermarket hydraulic roller cam, and to let it breath, a set of aftermarket Edelbrock aluminum Olds heads and single-plane aluminum intake manifold – and both for power and driveability and some semblance of fuel economy too, convert the manifold to port-fuel injection using a kit-built Megasquirt controller. These cars are old enough now, that in a most, or a lot of jurisdictions anyway, they are exempt from emissions testing so here in Ontario, Canada anyway , I wouldn’t have to add a catalytic converter and could build a quiet, but also free-flowing and decent sounding dual exhaust system for the car too – probably using large 2.5-inch-diamiter tubing, a cross-over pipe and dual mufflers, backed up with a pair of resonators too. The car would be a powerhouse to drive, but still extremely civil and well mannered. If driven decently, fuel mileage probably wouldn’t be any worse than most late-model SUV’s either. The only real drawback to all of this is that just building the engine alone would cost about 5 times what the car would be ever be worth – not to mention the added cost and effort of rebuilding and converting the car’s entire fuel system to gasoline – and the problems of getting the everything wired to work with that gawd-awful digital dash! Still, one can dream anyway! 🙂
My dad purchased this car new in 1985, it was a light green metallic with the convertible look roof, wire wheels ( hubcaps) and those Vogue Tires with the yellow pinstripe. He debated the Cadillac over a XJ-6 Jaguar sedan. I was flabbergasted he was considering the Jag and I thought I convinced him not to buy the Seville.
Well he bought the Seville and I will never forget why, he said the salesmen told him you would never see anyone else drive by in the same car….well no kidding!
Now that 27 years have passed and his beloved Seville has spent the majority of it’s usefull life camped out in the shade of his Florida condominium subterranean parking garage I have most surprisingly developed an appreciation for the car. First off it is in immaculate condition, the dark green leather interior is like new and the mileage is around 45000 original. The negative comments regarding the styling surprise me, time is treating the look well, and the front wheel drive gives you foot room in the front and back like you have never experienced due to no transmission hump. The only drawback is replacement parts, some parts can only be sourced used. It will be a bittersweet day when I don’t have my Dad but I will have his car to remind me of his love.
Nice comments on your dad and your caddy. I have just bought a 1985 white Seville, even knowing all of its problems. Here en Europe no one ever turns his head to watch any Bimmer, Audi or MBs ( unless it is a young lady looking for a
Wealthy driver). Everybody look at my Caddys (I have three), everybody envies me, everygirl or woman wants to hop in and be pictured in my cars. Please, stop typical cheap criticism. All arond the world people love American Cars, even more Cadillacs. Not good engines, that is OK… Find a good garage and treat her right.
It is true, I don’t know much about cars, so three months ago I purchased a 1984 Cadillac Seville, 5.7L Diesel for $1,000. Why? Just sitting there in the far back corner of the used car lot, all fadded and forgotten, she screamed “I’m special!”. Today she floats down the road at 75mph, gets a nice 30mpg (you got new plastic cars that don’t even come close) and draws a crowd where ever she goes.
Yes, she has problems, yes it is hard to locate parts. But you know what, I can park this old forgotten piece of automotive history next to any new plastic car out there and individuals who know cars almost break their necks to get a second look. And yes, everybody knows she is a Cadillac, no one even asks. You remember those days don’t you, when cars actually had individual style.
If it lasted this many years, you got a good one. It wouldn’t be on the road if it was junk.
All of you guys make me laugh some like some don’t.(Sounds like politics) I bought a brand new 84 Seville, I was well off and I guess dumb and happy, I just like the car. It was a yellow creamy beige with a saddle top and interior. My wife and I drove that car all over the U.S. on vacations and believe me it got its share of attention and not a minutes bit of trouble.Goes to show you don’t worry so much about things if you like them enjoy them and have fun, it all works out in the end. I traded the car with 80 K on it and the guy who bought it said it was like a new car( I really take care of my stuff).
i like to say that i have a 1985 cadillac seville and i love every part that GM did with it its a diffrent and rear car
This is really sad. I think the styling of this generation Seville is fine. But coming out with engines that had all of these problems, that would be unacceptable for any brand. But for Cadillac to do it, as the flagship of all of GM, and given Cadillac’s iconic status, it’s just really sad. A buyer would trust Cadillac to get things right; but instead you could hardly avoid getting a troublesome engine. You had no reason to mention it here but during this same time period is when they came out with the Cadillac Cavalier… er… Cimarron. It was almost like, were they TRYING to screw up?? In the late 80s everyone started buying Lincoln Town Cars instead.
It was really sad that the 1979 second gas crisis had to come. If it wasn’t for that and unreasonable demands for year by year lowered emissions and better MPG, these probably would have been much better cars, at least as far as the engines go. The smaller 368 engine could easily have been modified for better mileage and power if it was left to be developed during the 82-84 models years hitched to either of GM’s new 200R-4/700R-4 4 speed overdrive automatic transmissions available in 81/82. Why GM didn’t think of this is utterly baffling to me. Instead they went to all the trouble and expense of fitting the 368 with the Eaton designed cylinder shut down system named 8-6-4 by marketeers in the 1981 season with resulting disastrous results leaving customers stranded on the side of the road, badly surging engine and very rough engagement going from 8 to 6 mode. The worst part is that this engine barely if at all made any real world mileage difference so most customers had the system deactivated bu cutting the wire to the lockup portion of the transmission. At least this gives 80-85 Seville lovers two good year choices to chose as the 368 engine it’self is of a very robust design.
The 81-82 Buick 4.1 liter 252 4BBL equipped cars were also not as bad as many think. I know because I drove both a Riviera and a full sized 82 Deville with this engine and it was reliable, fairly economical and peppy enough at the time in lower speed driving. I was in fact fooled by the 82 Riviera I test drove as a mere 21 year old with but 62k miles into thinking it was a V8. It had a different sound compared to my then 81 231 equipped Cutlass, was equipped with the 325 overdrive transmission which used peppier 3.15:1 gearing and moved away from a stop with surprising urge.
i own a 85 seville with the 4100,can i do something to make my 4100 stay on 8 cyclinders?
Keep the antifreeze fresh every two years, use the GM stop leak pellets and have the intake manifold bolts checked and re-torqued once a year. Has worked for many 4100 owners I know.
Very easy to trash a car that has not been taken care of and use those pictures as an example. Very easy to trash one car make and pretend that the others had no issues.
I have had a 71 MB 220 diesel 65 hp in a 2 ton car, yes they would run for ever but was slow as he’ll. They also had a tendency of rusting out to the point that the body would fall apart.
Had a 75 280 C , rust was another problem and the emissions always had issues making the engine run rough.
Had a 76 280 SE , rust and electrical problems.
Had a 1981 300 SD, electrical problems, air-condition problems and was slow as he’ll.
The seats in all of these would collapse after rears making the cars very uncomfortable to sit in, and the interior trim would crack or fall apart.
These cars were also very hard and expensive to work on.
BMWs and all the other European imports became popular because of the movies and the yuppie movement of the eighties. Young people did not want a 30 ft long car, or chrome, or bench seats.
They wanted something a bit smaller, with low amounts of chrome on the car with bucket seats.
They also wanted big hair and dressed like Miami Vice so go figure.
I also had Lincolns and Mercuries. The Lincolns was from the seventies so they were huge gas hogs that always tended to have emissions issues and rust issues. The moon roofs always had issues with leaking no matter what you did, and the auto lamps was unreliable.
The two 1989 Mercuries I had, had electrical issues and the water pump would go out after 60,000 miles and because you had idiot lights, no gauges, you ended up screwing up the heads.
The newer Lincolns I had, had air suspension issues and also had tendencies of over heating, the dealer couldn’t even figure out what was wrong.
The 3 Cadillacs I have had, my 82 Seville I should have never gotten rid of, the 2001 Deville I had issues out of the north star engine at 40,000 miles, and I now have a 1985 Eldorado that I refuse to get rid off, something happens to the engine, I will replace it or rebuild it.
a 1971 MB 220D weighs about 3100 lbs, not 4000. Yes, its slow.
Sun roof leaks and electrical glitches were hallmarks of the 70’s and 80’s Ford era cars.
I always wondered what the shrunken 1986 Seville would have looked like if they continued the “bustle-back” treatment. I am not the first person to try this, but here is my rendition of this idea.
This car has a lot of early memories for me as a kid. My parents bought one from my Maternal grandparents in 1988. A 1981 Seville. It was a Tan/Champagne color with a matching velour interior. Wire hubcaps, It had the V6 engine. My parents got it for a low price from my grandparents because the reverse gear in the transmission was toast. It did still drive forward though. We also had a 1976 Mercury Grand Marquis that was midnight blue with either a blue vinyl or leather interior. That was a much nicer car than the Cadillac. My family recalls that as well.
I remember my parents sticking their leg out of the door of the Seville and pushing it out backwards when it was time to go somewhere. Parking in pull through spaces whenever possible in public.
Thieves really loved that car. We lived in Southeast Denver back then. Not the worst of areas, but still, we had that car for about two or three years. During that time there were 4 attempts to steal the car. Each time, they would rip that steering column open and get it hotwired, only to realize that the reverse gear did not work and they would just leave it there in its apartment parking stall. I remember the colorful array of steering columns that my dad managed to procure: First time he got lucky and found one that matched the interior (tan), next came a bordello red steering column. 3rd attempted theft: Gray. And last but not least, we ended on dark blue.
The fixed glass panel on the back door was what they usually broke to access the interior. I remember that our car did not have tinted windows but at one point, the replacement panel was tinted. My dad got a glass razor and removed the tint.
I remember the interior being plush but there was something wrong with it it in the exhaust I think because it smelled after long periods of driving and I remember getting headaches from being in it. I never really got the design, and I certainly never understood the theft appeal either. My parents later on had a 1985 Eldorado Biarritz that I liked much better than this oddly shaped Seville. I recall that these Sevilles were also very expensive to repair and when things went wrong it cost my folks a pretty hefty sum as far as repairs go.
The trunk was what I remembered as being so very strange. I would see other normal looking Cadillacs (I think they were Fleetwoods from the same design era) and I would long for a normal trunk for the Cadillac we were in.
you need to do a little reading and research before you start typing garbage as if it were fact. These were great cars……you need a new hobby.
They were indeed garbage! Facts are facts.
My aunt bought an ’80 with the olds 350 gas engine. I remember it was only driven occasionally. She stopped driving soon after buying it. Whenever I rode it it as a child I always thought the interior was really nice. She died in the 90’s and by that time the car only had 13k miles on it. It was in remarkably good shape. When driving it around we got all kinds of weird stares. Cars didn’t age that well back then and I recall my father made a number of repairs to rubber parts before he sold it. An effeminate middle aged man bought it for his mother and we never saw it again. It was probably a very rare combination of the good engine and low miles. I wonder if it survived.
The ’80 Seville was Cadillacs first of many fatal errors to disgrace the once prestigious brand. Not only was the ’80 Seville an ugly automobile, it was a product born in a time when the worst things imaginable were occurring in the US auto industry. These Sevilles were plagued with so many quality issues and recalls that the damage to Cadillac was spreading like cancer. With the egregious Olds built diesel as the standard power plant in the Seville, and the even more troublesome six liter with cylinder deactivation that followed the next year, and then the actrocious 4100 V8 a year later, it seemed as though the division was possessed! Whew, what alot of garbage Cadillac was pushing off as “quality luxury automobiles” back in those dark, gloomy, olden days of the ’80’s. Mercedes Benz, BMW and even Jaguar never stooped to such low standards as did the American luxury cars. Even though Cadillac has made major, major strides in recent years they still fall tremendously short in style, design, driving dynamics, quality and desirability compared to the masterpieces that Mercedes Benz and BMW are building.
As someone who previously owned a 2007 E350 and traded it for a 2014 CTS, I assure you that Mercedes is not a superior vehicle nor a masterpiece.
Agreed. If I could write a book on customer’s family members, Doctors and lawyers etc that had a Mercedes that broke down or needed loads of expensive repairs it would be a large volume indeed. Heck my late great uncle had a mid 70’s Mercedes diesel and that damn thing was always giving him grief. he traded it in on a 1981 Buick Century Limited with the std Buick 231 V6 and never looked back. And that was a first year C3 computer emission system 231 V6 which was notorious for issues later in there life.
I’ve always liked the “Bustle-Backed” look of the Cadillac Seville of this era. If only Cadillac chose better drivetrain than they did. The V-8-6-4 was a disaster. The 5.7 litre V8 diesel engine was poorly made. GM should be damned ashamed of themselves for releasing such a nice looking car with such indifferent quality drivetrain.
I must be a very lucky man, I had a 84 Seville I bought used with 30,000 miles on it with a 4100 engine and I drove it until it had 115,000, the engine overheated when the fan belt broke on the freeway and nobody would let me over I still think that is one of the nicest cars I have ever owned, I would get compliments and thumbs up EVERY DAY. it was white with a blue cabrolet top, I wish I still had that car today, someone let me know when a clean one comes up for sale at a reasonable price
Phil – I do not know how this posting works, but I own a couple of Sevilles , here in Central Montana. They are always in ‘under cover’ and though I cannot say the 85 is worth what I have into it… it is in very good condition. It’s a dark blue cabrolet top over a silver body with blue leather interior – all of which are in remarkable condition.
I bought it on Craigslist – from what turned out to be a lying ‘tweeker’ to which my colleague who went to get it for me – would have just as soon killed the bastard, and the world would be a better place!)) This was in W. Seattle WA. I had to drive to WA with a tow dolly – because the lying scumbag said it was perfectly derivable… except he did not mention the ‘air pump’ was in-op and the drive belt removed…. so the brakes were ‘all but non-existent’ !! There were other issues with the fuel injection, power steering pump, etc… for which all the replacement parts we bought came to something around $ 900.00 Yes the guy was a POS.. and that does not mean Point of Sale!!… It is a good think I did not go there myself to get it – because I would have accrued a felony assault charge!
However – and all that being said – I have some good mechanics in my company and the car is now in excellent running order – and probably not worth the $5 K that I have into it…which does not include any of the parts, labor – travel and towing expense (fuel, lodging, etc) to get it back to Montana, but if you are interested you can find me here… I suppose.
Why would I sell it? I wanted to use it for an ‘airport car’ for guests flying to do business with us, but we have several other cars and I think I just did a dumb thing by purchasing this – ‘site unseen’… because I trusted this lying POS !
The tires are a good brand radial – windows are ‘not tinted’ yet. The interior is as close to flawless as you can get.. and the carpet and headliner are also ‘near perfect’!! All the body fillers are perfect and except for the lies about the roadworthy condition of the car.. it is truly in ‘excellent shape’ with no fading or anything as to the paint. All the chrome is perfect and the weather seals are also… Oh.. and the mileage??? I will have to look but I think it is around 60K.
I do not know how you might reach me though this site – but if you post back, I am sure we can connect.
I really despised the 1980 series Seville styling. Then there were the obnoxious add ons like cabriolet roof treatments, coach lamps, and faux wire wheel covers that look like a$$ on the Seville for some reason
I owned a 1980 Coupe de Ville de Elegance, and that was a lovely car. It was unmistakably a Cadillac.
Claims that the bustleback were a sales dud are way off the mark, or a direct contributor to Cadillac’s loss of market share. It sold about 40k units in 1980, 1984, and 1985. 1985 was Cadillac’s all time volume high. E body sales were limited by capacity. It’s easy to say that Cadillac was selling to people who should buy Buicks, but 1985 was Buick’s all time high, too (Buick’s only million year).
The US auto market dropped more or less in a straight line from 1979 to 1982. The 1980 Seville was down by 20 percent while the refreshed C bodies were down 50 percent.
GM had to tie pork chops to the small, bland, mechanically virtuous , and oh so European 1986 Seville to get dogs to chase it down the street. It was a disaster with a capital DISASTER.
A polarizing design indeed. To me it epitomizes the Middle American fascination with exhibitionist, Liberace “gingerbread” (fake wires, carriage roof, gratuitous chrome or gold trim, retro aft styling) that Iacocca first exploited to great profit. “Hey, look at me! I’m rich!!”
“An empty vessel makes the loudest sound.” Recently I even saw a Lexus with a carriage roof. When will this fad die out?
Tone aside, you happen to be somewhat correct, folks out here in flyover country like our kitsch, and proudly so.
Personally, I love the bustle back Seville.
I know they had crappy drivetrains, but as far as styling, I always liked these. At least they looked different without being too bizarre. You knew what they were when you saw one. ‘Course I’m one of the nuts who thinks the Aeroback Buicks and Oldsmobiles look ok too.
One deadly sin per day! Nice yield!
Like a good train wreck you just can’t make yourself look away. A wretched, tortuous treat for the eyes.
The bustle just might have worked on a long-hood-short-back coupe like the Eldorado, but on a sedan it tortures the soul.
GM committee-think at its stupidest.
Actually, it’s well known that this wasn’t a committee process. It’s the opposite. One designer wanted very much to see the bustleback in production as either a coupe or a sedan, and the head of the brand was willing to give it a chance as a sedan. The car itself was successful in the showroom, except for a period when a) the whole market was in the toilet and b) Cadillac put terrible engines in all of its cars.
The only possible criticism of the 1980–1985 Seville is that it wasn’t the long term future of Cadillac, although Cadillac’s actual long-term-future car, the 1986 Seville, was a notorious sales disaster that makes the bustleback look like genius in comparison.
Deal Old Roger made some of the stupidest decisions ever during his stint at GM. That is a well known fact.
Very hard to argue with the case for why this car is a DS. In the past I’ve been rather defensive of many DSs (I’m sure I remain so for some examples), but it’s hard to argue when you’re talking about GM’s flagship brand. There’s only one thing I wrestle with, and that’s the question of how one would reconcile the Cadillac aesthetic and brand image with import-chasing technology, ergonomics and road manners. Changing Cadillac’s image would had to have happened well before a car like this was made. Cadillac’s current shift has been met with mixed success and can’t be cheap. And even if successful, it’s probably a bit late. The future belongs to the likes of Tesla, the BMW i lineup, etc.
GM probably needed to coordinate Cadillac’s development with the Opel flagships’ by the late ’60s to avoid the trap they were in during the Seville years, where losing their core of ultra-conservative buyers was too large a risk to take. And I still feel that shaking that image and styling heritage is impossible with their current lineup of dynamically first-rate sedans; they’re still tacky.
But Tesla’s nasty post-accident battery fires? might put a damper on their success. Tricky business, storing potential energy safely. Toyota PR materials emphasize safety of the Mirai’s hydrogen storage.
I’m beginning to warm up a little on current Cadillac design, especially the sedans.
As you say, they seem to have made significant strides in driving dynamics, which is a great quality to be focussing on for a domestic luxury brand. But I’d also give them credit for trying to come up with an original look, something very hard to do these days, one that is unmistakably American and yet also disciplined and with elements of sophistication. They are a little over the top in some respects, but I’m more curious than with most other domestic brands to see where they’re heading.
Roommate of mine had a bustleback in the mid-to-late 90s. We drove it all the way from Illinois to Texas and back on a road trip with no issues, and he still had it into 2000. Must have been one of rare screwed-together-well ones.
It was a fun car for a bunch of college kids. Silver metallic with bordello red leather interior.
Maybe i’m looking at this wrong, but the reason I think luxury domestic’s don’t sell in anything like the volumes they have in the past is because they offer nothing of substance over less expensive cars anymore. Back in 79 for instance, they’re was a big difference in product differentiation, size, amenities, and general comfort between a $5000 Ford Fairmont and a $11,200 Lincoln Continental. Nowadays, at least in my opinion, that no longer exists between a $34,000 top line Fusion and a $50,000 plus Lincoln MKZ, for just one example. I’m I wrong?
I agree: Luxury has been so “democratized” by now, with yesterday’s gimmicks becoming today’s std. equipment, there’s little point to luxury brands anymore besides vanity. I imagine product planners racking their brains over what new features they should offer to justify outrageous price premiums over plebian equivalents.
There is more of a trim difference, there is more refinement etc. It depends on what you want, however. Also, back in ’79, a Fairmont would not be a fair comparison to a Continental as the Fairmont was a “compact” and the Continental was the big flagship.. The Ford Galaxie/LTD was much closer in size but for 79 the LTD went on the Panther platform while 79 was the last year for the big 70s Continental. However, it would join its lesser brethren on the Panther the following year.
Personally, I think the Lincolns look better than their Ford equivalents, especially the interiors. Mercurys used to be good FoMoCo Olds/Buick equivalents in the near luxury market. Its been that way for a long time. The problem now is people seem to see Caddys and Lincolns as “near luxury” and the Bimmers and Benzes as “real luxury”. Compound that with all the people who have the money but not the style. I don’t think it’s as much of a “thing” anymore to have a status symbol. I know you can’t universalise a personal observation, but I know too many doctors and lawyers (with student debt under control and paid down) who still drive their old med school Camry with almost 200k on it. Boggles my mind, but it’s there.
GM’s various brands crapped all over the Sloan ladder for a while too. Too many stripper 88s and LeSabres that should have been Caprice sales, not to mention all the penalty boxes badge engineered under those once august names that should have been Chevys too.
A good friend of mine’s Dad, retired Chairman of the Board of a bank had Lincolns all of his life. He passed away recently. His last ride, a fully equipped Ford Taurus which he claimed was the equivalent of his past Lincolns in terms of equipment and comfort.
Yet as soon as 1982, the humble Fox evolved into the Lincoln Continental. In turn, the mainstream Taurus took its place. Luxury brands are all about exclusivity, but by this time it could only be maintained superficially in trim & features, particularly at Ford.
Lots of folks would tell you that the problem was the Impala and the Caprice encroaching on the bottom of the Buick and Olds lines, not the other way around. Buick and Olds were created first, for those market positions.
The traditional US luxury and near-luxury buyers mostly are buying SUVs and half ton crew cabs. An F150 King Ranch short box starts over $50K and often goes well over $60k.
In my opinion, the Fusion is in the same slot as a Fairmont in 79, so I think my comparison still stands, irrespective of the physical size difference between the two cars in 79. Today a MKZ is barely larger ( if at all) than a Fusion. Which goes even further to prove my point.
A better comparison would be a Ford Granada/Lincoln Versailles to a Ford Fusion/Lincoln MKZ. Ford LTD-Gallaxie/Lincoln Continental to Ford Taurus/Lincoln MKS. Plus the Thunderbird/Mk. V but there is no real modern equivalent.
You could always get a big Ford that was fairly close to the big Lincoln. Or, later on a smaller Lincoln based on a smaller Ford. Same with GM.
My point was, back in the 70s you could get a big Ford and load it up to approach a stripper Lincoln (same with GM) just like you can do today.
The market mix for Ford in 79 doesn’t say much of anything, because they were stuck with a hodgepodge of old stuff and new stuff. The only cars they’d actually replaced were the Ford/Merc full size cars and the Mustang II.
By 1981, they’d cleaned up their product line with a small FWD hatchback, various Fox derivatives, and a unified family of big Fords/Mercs/Lincolns, which was the product line they were planning while the 1979 cars actually were selling.
Most of them didn’t sell very well in a terrible market, but the 1981 product line made sense on paper.
I see todays Ford line up as
Lincoln- The Luxury Brand.
And since nowadays the Lincoln is no bigger or better equipped ( or is it?) than the lesser models (unlike 1979) it has no place in the line up. Ford would be better off to cancel all their efforts with it and put those resources into the bread and butter line.
Guy, I think it wouldn’t be unreasonable to nominate the 80s FWD Continental as a Ford Deadly Sin: engines, transmissions, air suspension problems all wrapped up in a super sized Taurus. And without the distinctiveness of Ford’s mid size best seller.
I agree completly. They were junk.
There is more wood trim, better materials, more attention to sound proofing and ride. Sure, Ford could just make a Super Platinum line of Ford models, but they’d still be Fords and the people who would have bought a Lincoln would probably go Buick or Lexus rather that get a Ford badged fancy car.
Your probably right. Although dropping Mercury didn’t seem to hurt them. It can’t be profit though since all that comes from trucks now. And is the “attention to details etc., etc.” worth the extra 15 or 20 thousand per?
Mercury had been confused for so long, that wasn’t surprising. They made pickups at one point, then tried to be junior Lincolns then just went to being a Ford with a different look aside from the Grand Marquis which stayed junior Lincoln, though the Towncar was going out to pasture at that point anyway. They were no longer a really convincing near luxury marque.
Kind of like Oldsmobile and Buick. Olds got the axe probably just because Buick had the Chinese market.
The Fiesta is pretty much the Fiesta — it’s one of the only Ford nameplates that’s remained unchanged over the past 40 years.
I’ve commented on other Seville posts, but I love this shape. As a kid in rural New Zealand in the early 1980s, someone had one of these (it would have been a private import as Cadillacs weren’t available new then), and being the sole modern (at the time) American car (there were a few private-import Chev/Ford pick-ups though) in town, I used to swoon whenever the Seville was parked curbside when I was walking home from school.
Even today I find the shape to be distinctive and attractive, and quite preferable to the bustle-backed Fox-platform Lincoln Continental. Having said that though, from Paul’s evidence it’s quite clear that the Seville was a Deadly Sin. In my eyes it is due to poor engine options – how is it possible for 368 cubic inches to make only 145hp?. But when a car looks as unusual and good as the Seville does to me, I’d be tempted to dally with the dark side!
The bustle back style/design was not uncommon in the mid to late 1930’s. The most stylish versions are Hooper body Rolls Royces, but even Pontiac’s had a bustle back.
When I fist saw the 80 Seville I liked it. However, with the passage of time, and seeing them on the roads, I began to see that the front end did not really fit the rear end of the cars. The bustle back really works best on cars that have distinctive front and rear fenders.
The real problem though is that the 80 Seville is not the style to keep Cadillac owners away from the Mercedes showroom.
My old man had both the Olds Diesel and the 8-6-4 engine; one in a 98 Olds, the other in a Fleetwood.
The 8-6-4 engine was ok, provided you had an electrical mod done to always make it run in 8. Otherwise smoothness was not a word I would use to describe the sensation of the engine changing modes.
The diesel engine, on the other hand, only got 60k miles before it went. But it did pull an amazing 30mpg on the highway which was considered amazing back then. He had the diesel engine replaced with a gas one, and then the transmission went.
After that we started buying Nissans.
Ugly then, ugly now. Never spoke to me, rather it shouted “Run the other way!”
It never ceases to amaze me how a significant number of Americans will buy American cars just because they are American – no matter if they fall apart once you tur the ignition if you haven’t gotten eye cancer from looking at them.
I guess it is easy to point your finger, so in those Americans defense I would have to say that Germans have started to buy mostly overpriced incredibly ugly German cars as well just for the fact that they are German (tho it is true that that get huge tax incentives by the government to buy those cars in order to subsidize the local automotive industry).
In any case, the world would be a better place if everyone would just drive Camrys and Corollas but the we wouldn’t need curbsideclassic.com and that would be a shame.
I read about a poll over a decade ago that Germans considered the MB the most desirable car, but they also rated it as the worst ownership experience.
Have any 350 diesel-powered Seville’s surfaced since this article was written?
I’ve seen a handful of early and late model Seville diesels advertised or at auction, usually the auction prices are high. Fans of the diesel are willing to pay a good price. I own three Seville diesels, two are rescue cars not running and the 83 runs excellent with 147,000 miles.
Interesting article. I purchased a 1984 Seville in 2000. for $4000 including taxes. it had low mileage and was sold in perfect mechanical condition as was the outside. we found the ride to be comfortable and smooth. As you mentioned, I grew up thinking negatively of the Cadillac – I always considered it to be for 60 year olds. So at 30, I was not the natural demographic. The car only required normal maintenance (perhaps due to our mechanic) I have since been completely enthused about the Cadillac. BTW, I adored the back – the front not so much. I loved that car.
“A remarkable investment, though; at least until it’s time to trade it in. Remarkable depreciation.” LOL nicely written. The photo following that line is of the interior. Look at that! They keep a copy of Machinery’s Handbook under the arm rest as a prop because it sagged so much! Plus it’s a handy on board tool for those much needed roadside repairs.
My first encounter with one of these was along a stretch of three lane wide highway. As it merged in, I just about lost it looking at those odd geometries. The front as square as my K car, the rear as curved as a Beetle. I couldn’t fathom ever dumping one of those in my driveway. They didn’t seem to take long to become very sparse on the roads. The 8-6-4 engine may have been the culprit, or corrosion, at least around here. My eyes would still hurt if I saw one today.
History lesson required Ford got a flathead V8 in 32 only 15 years after Chevrolet had a one year V8
Such a truly UGLY car!
It’s an interesting phenomena, how styling is viewed by different people. I’ve always found the 80-85 Seville absolutely gorgeous, and yet yes there are individuals who despise the look. Almost a parallel to folks with different political persuasions. Of course GM styling and management must have loved the look of the Seville or it wouldn’t have been built.
I re-watched Raising Arizona last week.
I noticed that Leonard Smalls, the Lone Biker of the Apocalypse, rides up the back of a Seville and uses it as a jump ramp.
The 10-year-old in me wanted to try it, but luckily there are none around.
Wayne Kady said this uses the same hood as the Eldorado, so for the first couple of years, they put a chrome cap on the power dome that connected to the center strip to make it look different. This one has the dechromed dash of the ’84-85 model years. The bulging fake wire wheels on 95% of them were the most objectionable part to me, aside from fake convertible tops.
These Sevilles were hideous. Eons ago, I recall a young girl driving her parent’s Seville very proudly. She stopped by us, waiting for someone at a shopping center. My friend say to her through her rolled down window: “hey Tootsie… what happened to the rest of your car.”
Pretty well summed it up.
Back when these were a somewhat common sight on the roads, I thought these looked like an old man’s car and the back looked particularly unfortunate. Now compared to modern overwrought styling trends, it doesn’t look that bad.
Tootsie? That term sounds older than the people who bought these cars new. Was she dressed like a beatnik, waiting by the five and dime down the street from the drive in theater?
The bustleback looked goofy when RR came out with it. But RR was RR and didn’t play by the rules, they of course were RR. End of story. The big Rollers were never about competitive market, they were what they were, they claimed they were the best, and you either had the money and bought in to it, or you didn’t. You didn’t complain about styling because RR was RR, kind of a love it or leave it. And enough loved it that they made money.
Cadillac on the other hand, was in a competitive market, so an ugly car was just an ugly car, not something like a Rolls Royce. And to my eyes, the Cad bustleback is an ugly car, a very ugly one. Coyote ugly one.
I can appreciate the bustleback Seville as a piece of automotive sculpture (although the simcon top completely ruins it, even more than it would a conventional 3-box shape), but surely someone at GM realized it would kill the “import intender” appeal of the gen 1 stone dead. The gen 2 Seville appealed to absolutely nobody who wouldn’t have bought a DeVille, Eldorado or Fleetwood if Cadillac had modeled it after more contemporary European competitors, and it attracted for all intents and purposes absolutely no one to the Cadillac brand.
The first gen Seville was a bolder product, but the interior was a let down. No gauges, no buckets or console. The second gen was a bit better inside, it was roomier. I like the bustle back, but then I had a boat tail Riviera at one time! I bought a ’94 Seville STS and I thought that it was a beautiful design, It was so sleek the design team referred to it as the greyhound. The interior was a complete break from the “chrome box” interiors of earlier Cadillacs. The NorthStar V8 was terrific, even when coupled to FWD.
Looking at current Cadillacs they have a very strong shared design language, very recognizable as being a Cadillac. The Escalade looks like a locomotive set free on the highway, it’s a bold design that says Cadillac in no uncertain terms. Even the ATS captures that vibe on a smaller scale. Lincoln has done poorly with their sedans, they looked too much like the Fords they were derived from. Even the Continental was disappointing. I think Lincoln has done much better with their SUVs, even if they are just smaller versions of the Navigator, they all look good to me. I just bought a well kept, low mileage, 2005 Navigator and now I can see what the attraction is with these big luxury SUVs.
It really reminds me of the big Cadillacs of the ’50’s and 60’s, as well as the ’60’s Lincoln sedans that I’ve owned in the past. It’s a real Lincoln, not a poser like an MKZ. It’s not trying to be a Beemer or Benz. Besides Escalades, I see a lot of CTS’ which is the volume model. I don’t know if buyers will go back to sedans, the CT6 looked like a great car, much better than the Continental, but it couldn’t find any success.