Curbside Classic: 1985 Cadillac Seville – I Just Don’t Care

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!

Further Reading:

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)