Everyone who has written here at CC for any length of time has surely experienced this phenomenon: You come across a car that is both out of the ordinary and has been kept in exceptional condition. You know that it is a unique find, and you know that you should write it up. But somehow you just can’t. Not because something prevents it, but because you Just. Don’t. Care.
This is one of those cars.
June 25, 2011 was a big CC day for me. Later that day I would bag two cars that got their day in the sun here – a Corvair Rampside and an early Honda Odyssey. This Cadillac, however, was how I opened that day.
The McDonalds nearest my home has proved to be a rich hunting ground, and this may have been the first CC I found there. The car was stunningly beautiful. I recall talking to the owner, an older man who had bought it (as I recall) from the longtime original owner.
The first owner was evidently some flavor of OCD because he had small trim pieces replaced when they became slightly worn. The car showed as though it was a restoration, but who would put that kind of money into a bustleback Seville?
So the car was unusual, it had an interesting backstory, it was in gorgeous condition – what was my problem? I don’t know.
Perhaps it was because the car took the stereotype of what a Cadillac was in the 1980s and turned it up to 11. That light yellow paint that seemed to be found on few cars besides Cadillacs, the yellow leather interior that so often went with it, the wire wheel covers, the carriage roof, the whole package. It made me want to applaud it and to scream, all at the same time.
The senior partner at my first office had a yellow Cadillac when I first went to work there. His was a 1984 Sedan deVille. Only his had had that medium brown leather interior, not the yellow. Maybe it was because he only spent a few weeks in Florida during the winter and not all year.
Anyway, the car seemed to me then to be the typical modern Cadillac. It was slow, it was not all that impressive, but it was what a successful midwestern attorney in his late 60’s would drive from home to office to country club and back home.
But Wendell would never have driven this Seville. He was much too conservative for something so obviously flashy. Maybe I disliked this car because it was Cadillac trying for one final time to pretend that it was still 1958 and it was still the king of the luxury car world because it could out-bling everyone else.
So let’s take a brief inventory. I don’t like 80’s Cadillacs in general and the bustleback Seville in particular. I don’t like fabric carriage roofs. I don’t like wire wheel covers. I don’t like Vogue tires with those gold strips augmenting the whitewalls. Are you starting to understand my problem?
But the problem goes beyond the car itself. I have shared elsewhere that I was raised among Germans – or among midwesterners of German heritage. And this means that there are rules to life. One of those rules is that you have to finish what you start. And so this stupid yellow Cadillac has been nagging at me for eight long years. “Yes, I know you just shot pictures of a fabulous black ’57 Thunderbird, but when are you going to get back to that Seville” is the question that come from somewhere deep down at the start of way more CC pieces than it should. Perhaps this involves another kind of OCD.
But OK Curbsiders, here you go. Here is your damned yellow Cadillac. What year is it? Which awful engine does it have? Is that carriage roof from the factory, from the dealer, or from some Bonita Springs trim shop? I. Just. Don’t. Care.
It occurs to me that I have not slung dung at a car in a long time. Have I become more tolerant? Have I become complacent with advancing age? I do not know, but I just cannot stand this car. I have friends wh0 love cars like this. I forgive them. But I do not have to join them.
I think Paul Niedermeyer did a Deadly Sin writeup on one of these. I may have to look it up for the “further reading” tag at the bottom, but as for right now I don’t care enough to look it up. Surely he did – how anyone could miss a target as fat as this when writing a Deadly Sin series is beyond me.
Really, can we not agree that this car is nine kinds of pathetic? A 5.7 liter diesel – yes, the shitty one that turned an entire generation of Americans off of diesels all by itself. The suicidal “HT 4100” – did HT stand for Hemlock Taking? How sad is it when the best engine in a given year of Cadillac is a Buick V6?
And that styling. Who thought this was a good idea. It tells us that not only did Cadillac still possess delusions of grandeur, but that folks in Dearborn and Highland Park had not yet realized that they were not following the leader when they emulated the trend, but were following the lead lemming who was heading them all towards a cliff.
Is it doubly pathetic that the only thing that makes me appreciate this car even a little bit is – – – the Seville that came after it?
This car is a microcosm of the entire shitshow that was Cadillac in the 1980s. I return to my first law-mentor Wendell. He was a successful man who had spent most of his life driving Buicks before treating himself to a Cadillac in 1970. In 1987 or 88 he was ready to replace his yellow deVille. Do you know what was not on his short list? Another Cadillac. He drove Lincolns for the rest of his life.
Or another lawyer in the firm – Bob. He had grown up poor, put himself through school and worked as hard as anyone I have ever known. All his life he had wanted a Cadillac. He finally treated himself to one – a 1981 Sedan deVille. He never bought another Cadillac either. For the rest of his life he went to the Honda dealer every four years and wrote a check for a new Accord LX.
This would make a great QOTD – how many people do you know who owned the last in a series of Cadillacs in the 1980s.
“Hey JP” I can hear a few of you say, “didn’t you own an ’80s Cadillac for a while and wasn’t it a pretty good car?” Yes I did. And yes, from a functional point of view, it was. Especially for what I paid for it, which was about $3k. But was it a Cadillac? Haaayllle No, as my relatives in Tennessee might say. It was indistinguishable from an Oldsmobile Ninety Eight built five years earlier that had been my previous car – right down to its identical drivetrain. The only real difference was the shapes that interior plastic parts were molded into. The way Cadillac peppered the interior of my ’89 Brougham with little plastic Cadillac crests told me that they knew this too.
It is time to bring this rant to a close. I did not set out to rant about this car when I began. It just kind of happened. But it was cars like this that caused the entire American auto industry to piss away leadership in luxury automobiles – a field where it had maintained a legitimate presence from the beginning of the automobile until well into the 1960s.
From a personal perspective, perhaps this little exercise was healthy. I have cleansed my soul of the bile and judgment that have built up over quite a few years, and have emptied the pictures of this yellow Seville of the power they have held over me during my entire CC career. So, here you go. A yellow freaking Cadillac Seville.
Wow, do I ever feel better!
1980-85 Cadillac Seville – GM Deadly Sin No. 17 (Paul Niedermeyer) – Hey, I was right!
1980-85 Cadillac Seville – Context Is Everything (Mr. Tactful’s rebuttal to the above)
1980-85 Cadillac Seville – How To Lose Momentum (William Stopford)
My father had a run of Cadillacs, 1974 Eldorado, 1976 Seville and 1981 Fleetwood Brougham de Elegance. In 1984 he bought a Lincoln Mark VII and had about a dozen Lincolns until he passed in 2015.
Y’know JPC, another solution to feeling you have to write a piece about a car you don’t like would be to just shove the photos in the Cohort. Use another name if you don’t want people slinging off at you for taking the easy way out. Mine perhaps.
I applaud you for not doing that.
Much as we like to deride ’80s Cadillacs as examples of What Not To Do When Managing A (once-)Prestigious Automobile Company, I don’t actually mind this one so much. I actually quite like the pale yellow with yellow interior; it could not fail to lift your spirits, and heaven knows, our world could certainly do with a good dose of that. However, I cannot abide that silly roof. I don’t feel the urge to check the catalog to see what other tops were available, just Not That One. Please.
I don’t mind the Vogue tyres (sorry, tires), but I’d rather have real wires rather than fakes. A younger friend regularly sends me pics of ‘classic’ seventies and eighties American iron tooling around on Vogues and spokes; this strikes me as being one car that’s screaming out for them.
But for a car to tool around, it needs a Real Motor. Not Breakdown Central. Now it seems to me that where a 3.8 Buick motor dwelt, a recent GM LS unit might be made to bolt in, solving this car’s biggest problem. I should qualify that: biggest Mechanical problem. But you can’t see the tail from inside…..
(/justy mode off) 🙂
Haha, who knew that Old Pete had a Justy Mode.
I could *almost* reach some level of caring if this was an 80-81 model with a 368 V8 under the hood.
Which makes me think that over a nearly 40 year span, how many years of production has Cadillac built a decent engine? There was 1980. Then there were the few years of the 4.5/4.9. And then? I stopped paying attention awhile ago, but does Cadillac even have an exclusive engine anymore?
Black-Wing Twin Turbo V-8
Pete, I agree on most of your points here.
I like the bustleback. I know that admission immediately pegs me as having some kind of social dysfunction or visual impairment, but to quote JPC here, I don’t care. I like ’em. To me the bustleback is distinctive, but not nearly as garish as ostentatious as they’re often accused of being.
This Sunburst Yellow is the best color for 1980s Cadillacs, especially when paired with the matching interior.
But, just like you, the silly roof ruins this one for me. I can deal with a vinyl roof on the right kind of car, but not these absurd fake cabriolet roofs. And if I’m not mistaken, this one may be a factory-installed roof, which retailed for something like $1,000. That these things were ever popular just completely baffles me.
And then there’s the engines. I often wonder what kind of classic car I’d buy if I had the money, space and knowledge to buy & maintain one. My mind often drifts to these Sevilles… because I like them and they’re relatively affordable now. But regardless of what year one chooses, you’ll get a car that is absolutely awful to drive. Why-oh-why couldn’t Cadillac have put a real engine in this car??
I do disagree with you on the Vogue tires though. They rank a (very distant) second on my List of Annoyances about this yellow Cadillac.
Haha! Oh deary me.
In the most unlikely twist, the only thing that was burbling somewhere in the back of the generous spaces in my head when reading JPC’s piece was that, whilst I completely understood the Counsellor’s frustration with the unnecessary decline that the Seville might represent, and even have an idea for the sense of order that nearby Germans might instill – being sired of one, after all – the one saving grace that had some appeal for me on this duck-assed wafflebarge in the pictures was that roof! Truly! It could pass for an actual foldable, which gave some old time relief to the ill-starred show of mangled angles anywhere below it.
Which means pete’s /justy mode is faulty.
Or mine is.
Mine must need some adjustment. 🙂 Or adjustyment.
Not my usual style, but I was in a playful kind of mood and as I read back over my comment it sounded reminiscent of your style.
Ive never liked those Sevilles the styling just doesnt do it for me never mind that some of the engines are crap I couldnt handle looking at it, I’m probably in the minority but I’m ok with that and they are turning up here as collector cars as is everything else we couldnt get new, taking pictures while driving will get you in trouble here these days but seen on the road or parked today Bullet Bird, Lincoln Continental, 57 Chevy, mid 50s Chevy pickup street rod, 56 F100, 65 pontiac wagon(canadian) only the 57 Chev was RHD NZ new all the rest are used imports, its kiwi Labour weekend and spring so old cars are coming out to play.
There’s nothing quite as invigorating as seeing someone vent their spleen first thing in the morning. This was a good recipient for such treatment.
An ’83 Seville was the first Cadillac I ever drove. It belonged to Mrs. Jason’s parents and, by the time I started coming around, that Seville was looking a bit rough around the edges. Sometime before the HT4100 consumed itself (at an amazing 177,000 miles) the door panels were being held on with romex and the whole exterior just seemed a little droopy.
From the B-pillar forward these look decent. That’s about the best I can say…
My father had the same mentality as the lawyers you write about. Ex-Chevrolet dealer, GM lifer (with one short lived exception and that was a second car), a Cadillac was always his dream car. But practicality and life always got in the way. Put the kids thru college, build up the estate so you have something worthwhile to leave the kids. Ect., ect., etc.
And in the spring of ’86 mom finally jumped on him and told him he’s been practical long enough, to get himself that Cadillac he’s promised himself all his life. He got one of the Fleetwoods (no front drive stuff for him, he wanted a real Cadillac). I borrowed it once, for a fancy shindig at the local country club with my wife – what a disappointment (the car and the shindig).
And six months later mom was dead. Dad never drove the car again, it was sold within three months of the funeral. And he never mentioned getting a Cadillac again, Buicks and Chevrolets were just fine for him.
For not caring, it sure got a lot of words out of you 😃 I think maybe it’s like in first grade when you thought that girl was yucky…
I’ve seen plenty of Cadillacs in that color combo and we’ve featured several here but I don’t recall ever seeing a Seville of these years like that (never mind the top which is ghastly.). So I don’t necessarily mind the color combo, it had a time and place. Reminds of of lemon meringue pie or pound cake, both of which I like. The rest of the car? Nope, can’t do it either. But I applaud you for bringing it here anyway, cars you don’t like are by far the hardest if only from a motivational perspective.
“For not caring, it sure got a lot of words out of you”
8 years of ripening (and silently nagging) will do that. 🙂
A clown car if ever there was one. Right up there with the AMC Gremlin.
This coming from a Cadillac owner.
It’s utter garbage. It looks cheap and tacky for what it’s supposed to be.
And it’s not so much the bustleback itself, as its integration into the overall design. Like the stylists were instructed, “here are the hard points, MAKE IT WORK!!!!!!”
“…but it doesn’t…?”
“MAKE IT WORK, I HAVE SPOKEN!!!”
A Bill Mitchell or Harley Earl would’ve demanded heads roll and by sheer force of will, delivered a thing of beauty.
Cars like this haunt Cadillac to this very day. Can the 2021 Escalade and the new crop of Caddies change that? Remains to be seen. It’s gonna take moving from strength to strength to regain the mojo once implied in the name.
Well Bill Mitchell did oversee the design of this, and Wayne Cady’s head most definitely did not roll.
It’s my understanding that Bill Mitchell championed this design over the objections of the Cadillac Division’s general manager.
Mitchell was the one who pushed for this to be the second-generation Seville.
I can’t see a bustleback Seville without remembering the one time that I rode in one.
In the mid 1980s, I was 12 or so, and my sister was 17. Her boyfriend was a guy named Brent… and his parents owned a bustleback Seville. His parents were very nice, unpretentious people , and they usually drove a beat-up Buick Estate Wagon.
However, Brent’s father bought his mother a Seville for her 50th birthday. The reason for this was that the mother, Florence, hated driving, to the point where she rarely went anywhere, and the Seville was supposed to be an incentive for her to drive more. For whatever reason, it didn’t work… probably having to do more with Florence’s phobias rather than the car itself. But as a result, the Seville just sat in their garage largely untouched.
Since I suffered from having cheapskate parents who drove a minivan and an old Subaru, I desperately wanted to ride in a Cadillac. So I begged and begged, until finally my sister and Brent relented. Brent picked my sister up in the Seville one night, and the three of us went somewhere — I don’t even remember where. What I do remember is that the car (which has about 4-5 years old by then) had about 5,000 mi. on it, had new-smelling leather upholstery, and was like a dream to me. Sitting on the buttoned upholstery surrounded by elegant fake burled wood and lots of chrome switches, I felt like I was in heaven.
I have no idea what happened to that car, or for how long Brent’s family held onto it. Not long afterwards, my sister broke up with Brent, and she started dating a guy who drove a Chevette. But I sure am glad for that one ride in a bustleback Seville.
I like these sevilles and yeah it was a way of Cadillac being in your face like in the older days. but i can’t get over the fact that JP finds it more exciting to write about a Honda Odysey than this far more exciting Caddy.
I’m just going to leave this here.
I have never liked the bustle-back as a styling conceit. But, I think it is a legitimate design direction. In the case of the Seville, it Just. Doesn’t. Work. First of all, the front of the car doesn’t match the rear. It looks like one of those junkyard customizations where the front half of one car was welded to the back of the other.
I like the character line that runs the length of the car and declines to the bumper. And the line from the rear sail to the bumper is clever. But the back of the car is maybe six inches or a foot too short.
Wayne Cady did some admirable styling work for GM. This one was a swing and a miss. I guess everybody has the occasional off day. The bustleback Versailles was a much more cohesive design, although I don’t really like it either. And in my admitted opinion, the only standout design was the bustleback Imperial, which I think was a truly pretty car.
Looking back, the 76 Seville is stlil amazing. Cadillac clearly expended a lot of effort in creating a standout product. I think they succeeded in converting a sow’s ear X-Body into a silk purse.
None of the bustlebacks were good cars, but they have supplied us something to talk about.
Somewhat funny that you would pick a car like this to write about, as just yesterday I saw a Cadillac that could have been the automotive equivalent of its grandson.
While sitting at an intersection in Gainesville, Florida a car whizzed across the intersection that was a somewhat similar. A late model Cadillac, metallic red but with a brownish tan vinyl roof, and a spoiler on the trailing edge of the trunklid.
I agree with everything you’ve said here, JPC, and can find little to add to your litany of this Cadillac’s many sins. What I find most galling is that I always considered the first-generation 1975-79 Seville to be one of the best looking Cadillacs ever (understated, unique, and truly differentiated from the rest of the GM lines despite its plebeian Nova origins). This follow up killed any hope of younger buyers that Cadillac would ever again offer something more in line with their tastes.
Yeah, I guess I don’t care to comment on this.
Although the only person I know who had an 80’s Cadillac was Mrs DougD’s uncle, who bought himself one when he became a successful real estate developer. As I recall it was yellow with red leather interior.
Again, it was the only Cadillac he ever owned and he drives a Hyundai now. 🙁
Notice that with the exception of the cabriolet roofs brochure, all of the Sevilles featured in the promotional prochures are in the natural metal. No vinyl, no faux cabiolet, not even a half roof. And they look vastly better to me.
Looking at sources on the internet (fuel economy.gov), the available engines for the Seville didn’t include one stinker that was an option in the Fleetwood and De Ville – the LS2 4.3 L, 6 cyl, Automatic 4-spd (wait for it) diesel. I can’t imagine the exhilarating performance that would have rewarded the thrifty buyer and I’ve driven a stock VW Bus.
This is the auto version of a 1980’s prime-time soap opera. It’s “Dynasty”, or “Knot’s Landing”, or “Falcon Crest”.
This car comes at the end of an era of faux opulence, “bordello era” that swept the US and was fashionable during ten years earlier. Fake was fashionable. Pretending to be the New Jersey version of Charles and Diana, was for a brief moment – hip. Dressing like you attend a prestigious Ivy League university in polo shirts, double pleated khakis, and plaid school skirts with penny loafers was big. Ralph Lauren, Laura Ashley, Abercrombie and Fitch, Polo, paired with Ivy League haircuts and Prom Dances were considered very fashionable.
This car, and other faux bustle-back luxury cars showed up right after this fashion hangover was fading. Had they arrived three years earlier, they could have been a market success. Instead they showed up like a Jack-O-Lantern on November 1st, garish, extreme and embarrassing.
So, at least for now, for those of us who remember them when new, these cars, and especially this Cadillac, is a reminder of how something so phony and crass could also be so incredibly insincere. Anyone want to tie a polo sweater around their neck, grab a tennis racket and wear short white tennis shorts? How about big blow-dried hair? Shoulder pads so high you look like you’re still hanging from the clothes rack? Members Only jacket?
Somehow the earlier bordello 1970’s rides avoided this fashion crash. Today, we look at a Monte Carlo with its over-styled fenders, the Cordoba with its fake plastic doubloon coins, and the Oleg Cassini AMC Matador and see something that this Cadillac Seville doesn’t have. I’m not sure what, frankly. Those cars caught the Zeitgeist – that’s what. The Seville didn’t. Instead it just reminded us of what we were sick of driving just five years earlier, right?
Thanks, you describe that era perfectly! Gave me a heck of a chuckle! The bustle-back Seville was five years too late, would have been a raging success in 1975. Polyester leisure suits in the same yellow to go long with it! And blow-dried hair, gold chains, fake tans, enough cologne to take your breath away.
By the late 1970’s, Bill Mitchell was losing his touch almost as badly as had his mentor Misterl two decades prior.
A great point – this was Bill Mitchell’s 59 Cadillac, only it stuck around for years and lacked decent powertrains.
The worst part of the bustleback was that it appealed to the very same buyers as the DeVille/Fleetwood did. The original Seville, broughamy as it was, had a wider appeal in 1975 and expanded the brand; the gen 2 did not, it sold only to “Cadillac people”.
Great points, VanillaDude! I agree. I’ll add that the 80’s were the perfect time for this car, because every tacky trend got wildly exaggerated in the 80’s. The Zimmer Quicksilver and other outrageous neo-classical cars could only happen in the 80’s, because of the sheer vanity and the pursuit of image being the be all, end all. What better era for cars that were all show and no go, than to have their owners exemplify that as a personally hollow credo?
Someone mentioned that Bill Mitchell had approved this and pushed for it. Yikes! You learn something new that you wish you hadn’t learned every day.
Just some miscellany:
The overblown padded roof was an affectation in New Jersey and the Philadelphia area by those who just had to show off that they could afford the monthly payment on a used Cadillac.
The bustleback on the Seville was likened to having an Eldorado rear-ended. By a steamroller.
My Dad aspired to Cadillac. His first was a 1963. They went downhill from there and the last was an Eldorado Diesel.
And I am not posting comments too quickly.
There’s definitely some truth to that. I’m a Philadelphia native, and I think about 90% of the Cadillacs I saw during the 1980s had some sort of silly roof affixed to them.
That phenomenon was certainly regional. After I moved to North Carolina in 1990, I saw far fewer of them.
Now my wife was raised in a neighborhood probably similar to Mr. Cavanaugh’s, surrounded by frugal Midwestern Germans. I once asked her about fake convertible Cadillac roofs. First she asked, “What’s a Cadillac?” After I explained that it’s the kind of car that people on the posh western side of St. Louis may drive, she said that even people there wouldn’t spend money to make a car look like a fake convertible.
I was rather surprised to see this Indiana example with the fake convertible roof. I guess tackiness knows no geographic boundaries.
Eric, you’ve reminded me of something….
There is a town of some historical significance east of your wife’s parents home. When I lived in that town, there was a older gentleman down the street who owned a white Seville of this vintage that had a brown cabriolet roof. I would frequently see him turning left off his street, going by in front of my house. While it was an HT 4100 equipped Seville, he always kicked it in the tail taking off.
He had two other cars he treated similarly – a ’77 Firebird Formula he bought new and which had around 400,000 miles and a Cadillac Allante. It was his Allante I found and wrote up years ago.
All three were frayed around the edges.
This one? How many of these could there possibly be in northeast Missouri?
It’s a small world…
Yes, this is it! I was thinking brown roof but it is indeed red. I’ve heard this car at wide open throttle many times.
Popular regionally dependent upon the ethnic make up of a city. From personal experience, Rochester, NY with a high percentage of families of Italian heritage embraced the bustle-back ‘carriage roof’ Sevilles with gusto.
From the book, “U – R What You Drive”:
That’s outstanding! I never would have guessed that such a book existed, but they were on target this one.
It’s unfortunate that 99% of all bustle back Seville’s came with fake wire hubcaps. There was a very nice alloy wheel offered as shown on the light blue car parked in front of the yacht above, that looked so much better. The funny thing about the cabriolet roof is just how unnecessary it was. Two tone paint jobs were very fashionable in the early 80’s and the drooping character line provided a natural place for the colors to meet. The only part of the lower body carrying the upper body color being the bustleback itself.
Harsh, but based in reality.
I kind of liked these originally, with a mental image of the car that avoided the pimpmobile trim packages and assumed that it would run and drive like a 1978 Sedan deVille.
If our collective recollection of the car had been one of quality, reliability, and trimmed like the car below, I bet lovers of this love / hate style would be more prolific and the haters a bit more tolerant.
I was going to comment on the same photo. If all Sevilles looked like that photo, they would be much more palatable for me. This photo shows that without all the gingerbread the Seville did have some decent styling, at least IMO. Nevertheless, it still was horribly out of step with the trends of the time.
My friend’s dad was an immigrant from Southern Europe who became a successful building contractor. I remember now that he owned a bustle back diesel Seville. He loved it at first … the culmination of his American dream. I remember riding in it, though I doubt I ever got a chance (or wanted) to drive it. If I did, I’ve wiped that from my memory. It was replaced in short order with a Jaguar XJ6.
My first exposure to these was when I was a mere tyke perusing the Hot Wheels cars. Yes there actually was a HotWheels (not Matchbox, who usually tackles less exciting models) of this car in a metallic mustard gold. I remember how odd and out of place an old person’s car looked among the hot rods, musclecars, 4x4s and the usual wacky customs Hot Wheels has been known for: dragster stagecoach, anyone?
Fast forward to 2000, Im in a relationship with a longterm girlfriend and I get regular exposure to not one but two of these Sevilles, both in immaculate condition. The first is no suprises., it’s one of two older Caddys (the other a mid ‘70s Eldo convertible) owned by my ex g/f’s grampa. Grampa is an Arkansas born Korean war vet, and owns the Kirby vacuum cleaner distributor that my ex and her immediate family all work for. He’s very old school and owning not one but two Cadillacs means he has definitely ‘arrived’. Both of these cars are immaculately maintained and the Eldo is often in car shows around southern Oregon.
Seville #2 belongs to my exes best friend’s father. The car seems very out of character for him, being an eccentric, notoriously frugal progressive academia type Boomer who has been on the west coast his whole life. While he wasn’t what I’d call a car guy, his frugality resulted in a pretty eclectic mix of vehicles in the time I was with my ex, including a mid 70’s buick wagon, 90-ish toyota pickup, civic Si, and in a rare splurge, a mid 70’s corvette. Later, he would buy their first ever new car, a prius for his wife. On more than one occasion, myself, my ex, her friend and her brother (the 4 of us were always into something or other) would all pile into that Seville for some kind of shenanigans. I remember it being comfortable and very well kept but horribly S-L-O-W, likely (under)powered by the HT4100. Good times!
I already knew about the car, but was less familiar with the advertising. Just, wow… So much circular logic – “It’s a Cadillac, so it must be the best! Why? Because it’s a Cadillac!” Or some variation on that theme. I get the sense that the technological features are emphasized less because they thought the buyers would really consider FWD or IRS or EFI advantageous, or even understand their significance, and more because they just needed to be convinced a Cadillac is worth the extra money. But mostly, it’s “buy a Cadillac and show off how successful you are”. Such a contrast from period BMW or Mercedes advertising. I recall most BMW ads showed the car on a winding road; by contrast, the Sevilles appear to be at rest. But look at the fancy house or yacht in the background! See, it’s for successful people like you!
I actually mostly like this car from the C pillar forward. Or at least the 1980-81 models when you could still get the old, reliable 368 V8. Avoid the fake wire wheels and two color paint. Opt for the simpler seat cushion designs that didn’t have the button tufting that made it look like Grandma’s couch and the interior was a nice place to be. I was always impressed by GM’s Unified Powerplant Package as well as the nearly flat floors these had. If only they didn’t look so gauche and had decent engines…
Oh, that’s a let-down, Mr Cav.
I thought from the headline “I Just Don’t Care” that CC had a small scoop, and that you’d been handed the internal briefing cover from the rear-end designers of this thing, the much-fabled (and suspectedly cocaine-affected) document that GM has tried to bury for 30 years.
Even though this isn’t about their folio, it still raises an important issue not addressed in your article: why did GM employ two competing teams (one sober, one flying high) in designing each half of this Cadillac? And why did they not meet until tooling had been installed? At the very least, it was a woeful misinterpretation of the idea that competition improves the breed, and the story of who approved this needs to be revealed.
Hey, it may be ugly but at least it’s slow.
And makes up for both by its unreliability?
And has an unnecessarily small trunk, to boot (pun intended).
It takes Sevillage to keep it running.
Very few of these cars were purchased by government fleets; they were mostly sold to Sevillians.
They were popular with barbers.
These were too ritzy for Seville servants.
It looks like the boss man backed the prototype into a wall and everyone was too afraid to say anything, so they put it into production that way.
A bustleback might have worked on a two-door coupe, but on a sedan it was stupid, tacky and ugly. Load it with a V8-6-4 or a diesel and you’ve got a metaphor for GM in the 80s and beyond.
I think it says something about the bustle back Seville that the only person I know who actually wanted one drove an aeroback Oldsmobile Cutlass.
These always reminded me of a four-door AMC Gremlin…with far crappier drivetrains.
At least the Gremlin could be ordered with the tough AMC straight sixes or 304 V-8 and a Chrysler Torqueflite transmission.
During 1948-49, Cadillac sent Packard reeling with the 1-2-3 punches of the first tailfins, the new OHV V-8 and the Coupe de Ville.
During 1980-82, Cadillac sent itself reeling with the 1-2-3 punches of this car, the Cimarron and the awful HT-4100 V-8.
“During 1948-49, Cadillac sent Packard reeling with the 1-2-3 punches of the first tailfins, the new OHV V-8 and the Coupe de Ville.”
Postwar were just the final roundhouses to knock Packard’s lights out. Pre-war they delivered 1-2-3 punches; first the ’36 Series 60 at $1,700 in a price segment where there was no Packard competition. Second was the trend-setting, influential ’38 60 Special. Third was the ’40-’41 C-Body Torpedo teamed with the seminal ’41 styling and 12-15% price adjustments to bring Cadillac into a range previously unavailable. The volume sales balance tipped to Cadillac in 1939.
That was quite the write-up JP! It was an enjoyable read and I do share pretty much the same opinion on these cars as you do. I know I have commented in the past on how these cars were a big deadly sin for Cadillac. Maybe not quite as bad as the ’86 Seville, but Cadillac destroyed any cachet it had with buyers who cross-shopped import brands with this car. The previous Seville was at least an half-hearted attempt to try and keep some of those customers.
That said, I have to admit when these cars were new I was somewhat intrigued by them. I think it was just the fact that their styling was so different from anything else. As much as I don’t mind reading a rant, I think this one particular Cadillac deserves some credit for being a nicely preserved old car. Despite all the many faults, I can appreciate any old car that has been well cared for and loved by someone, which this once clearly was. So, in this case, I will look past the deadly sin status and just enjoy this nicely preserved CC in all of it’s glory. I hope it is still being enjoyed and well cared for.
JPC – Incredible rant! I haven’t had a domestic car for 38 years, but my anger at their failings (and my memories) is still a livewire. The one time my (ex) wife stuck her neck out and bought a 2010 Edge sent us flying back to Japan Inc within 4 years.
A shame too, to have frittered away a generation or two of drivers with consistent mediocrity….
In 1980 the idea of a blinged out luxury plumbers truck like you can buy today was unheard of. The Seville passing for luxury back then wasn’t any more dumb than a Chevy Suburban clone passing for luxury now.
I’ve made the point elsewhere that a late ’70s Suburban maxed-out with luxury options had the exact same level of features and plushness as a late ’70s Chevette maxed-out with luxury options. I think the only “luxury” you could get on the Suburban but not the Chevette was rear a/c, and that was only for technical reasons of the smaller car having neither the space nor the need for it.
It’s fascinating to compare this Seville with the BMW 528e also recently posted. MSRP of both is close, but even with the ‘lo-po’ engine, the 528e seems years ahead.
JP, this is your best work. Who is going to clean up the coffee I spit on my keybord–multiple times? I just. Don’t. Care…..The best piece ever on the worst car ever!!!!!
Why were people so wowed by this car? It´s a standard Cadillac with the boot sawn off. It´s strikingly horrible in its proportions. At the time I thought them wierd and they have only looked less convincing with the passing time. I am not anti-Caddilac in general. The mid 80s coupe de Villes are rather tasty and a much better attempt at a more compact Caddy than this monstrosity.
Glad you could finally get this off your chest! In the couple years I’ve been writing here, it is not lack of interest in writing up cars I find but lack of time that is the biggest factor. I also don’t have OCD that bad that I feel guilty for not writing up a car I find., especially one I don’t care for. I have dozens already that I may never write about, but maybe someday I’ll find one like this talisman of yours.
I don’t hate these Sevilles, but I totally understand all the problems people have with them. I definitely don’t care for this example, nicely preserved though it is. I like the buttery yellow Caddy color, but not fake convertible tops and Vogue tires. Wire wheel covers are ok with in some contexts, they just aren’t the best option on these. I actually rather like the blue one in tbe add titled First Class. Mono paint, steel roof, aluminum wheels. Nice! I always thought those are great looking wheels.
I happen to love these cars and I own a 1980 Seville with the only good engine they used (368). It’s actually a great car, with a big car ride and sport sedan handling with IRS and front torsion bars. it’s brimming with luxury, shag carpeting and Cadillac’s beautiful Sierra grain leather. The styling is beautiful to me, unabashedly American with some of the adventurism that GM used to be known for before they renamed the Styling department to the drab-sounding “Design Center.”
You guys may hate these, but you should be magnanimous because you won. Stiff everything, boring looks and foreign nameplates dominate the new concept of luxury. Not a stand up hood ornament or a landau roof in the lot.
Good perspective! I’d rather a company err on the side of being too bold than too bland.
I too have a prisitne silver and black two tone 1980 Seville Elegante with a 5.7 Gasoline engine. It’s 42 years old and drives like buttah. I love its ridiculous styling. It turns heads, it elicits smiles and good feelings since you rarely see them anymore. OK I have strong feelings about its HVAC system being a pile of doo doo though.
I get this car isn’t for everyone. I get most of the engines that came in it were crap. I get they clearly had never heard the word “ergoniomics” but this thing has some real charisma nonetheless.
The controversy over the styling of these things commenced immediately after their introduction. I remember a letter writer to a contemporary car magazine said something like “Sure they’re attractive. About like a 4000 pound booger!” To this day, upon spotting one in the wild, my wife or I will say “Oh, look! A booger!”