(first posted 2/21/2014) The 1980s were not kind to Cadillac. While in the 1960s they could do no wrong, in the 1980s it seemed they couldn’t do anything right. The shrunken new-for-1985 models were perhaps rock bottom for Cadillac.
Cadillac was a powerhouse in the 1950s and 1960s. They consistently outsold both Lincoln and Imperial and were, it seemed, in a class of their own. It could be said they were a victim of their own success, as the cars started to become less special as Cadillac chased ever higher profits and vehicle output. Starting in about 1969, Cadillac started skimping on interior materials. What had been chrome plated hardware was replaced with flash-plated plastic. Real wood trim on the Fleetwoods was replaced with the soon-to-be ubiquitous wood-grained vinyl. Starting in 1971, the C-body Cadillacs had even more in common with their B-body corporate cousins, while the Chevrolets became even more Cadillac-like, particularly the Caprice. This was all small potatoes compared to the missteps of the 1980s.
1980 would be the last time for several years that you could purchase a Cadillac and not have major issues. The 368 CID V8 was robust and powerful, and the new styling of the ’80 Cadillacs was quite attractive. In 1981, the ill-fated V-8-6-4 was introduced. It was a good idea, and today is used successfully on many vehicles such as the Chrysler 300, but in the early Eighties the technology was in its infancy and the cylinder displacement module was nothing but trouble. It could be disconnected, but the folks who were buying new Cadillacs were not happy with this solution and Cadillac’s reputation suffered.
1982 was even worse. The new aluminum block HT4100 was introduced that year, replacing the 368. Basically, it was a slow, unreliable piece of junk. At least the car’s styling was still attractive as it sat at the curb with its hood open. The Cimarron also came out for ’82, and the less said about that thinly-disguised Cavalier with a leather interior, the better. The 1982-1984 de Villes and Fleetwoods were not reliable vehicles with their 4.1L ‘hand tighten’ engines, but at least they looked imposing and were clearly Cadillacs. That would change for 1985.
Here is a 1984 Coupe de Ville. Still nice-looking, yes? As long as you traded it in before the warranty was up, you could probably enjoy this car, albeit with more than a few dealer visits in all likelihood.
This is a 1985 Coupe de Ville. Not so impressive, eh?
They were introduced as early ’85s in March of 1984 and although they had more space and were perhaps more driver-oriented, most people had a hard time taking them seriously as Cadillacs. With the exception of the Fleetwood Brougham, all de Villes and Fleetwoods rode a much-reduced C-body platform, shared with the Buick Electra and Olds Ninety Eight. While the Cadillac had an exclusive V8, it wore the new design the least successfully.
The Electra looked the best in my opinion, with the Olds in second place. They also had the benefit of a reliable 3.8L V6, instead of the self-destructing Cadillac engine. If you had to have a GM luxury car in 1985 the Buick and Olds were safer bets, and a real full-size Delta 88, LeSabre, Parisienne or Caprice might have been an even better choice.
1985 de Villes and Fleetwoods were now front wheel drive with a transversely-mounted version of the 4.1L V8, with a 4.3L diesel V6 as a no-charge option. The 4.1 produced 130 hp at 4200 rpm and 200 lb/ft of torque. Confusingly, Fleetwoods used the new body, while Fleetwood Broughams used the 1984 full-size platform. In GM’s defense, during the early ’80s most people thought gas prices were going to go through the roof. After the second gas crisis in 1979, gas was expected to hit $2 a gallon in a few years, so GM designers had to adapt Cadillac styling cues onto a much smaller platform. These shrunken Cadillacs were the result.
Not much changed for 1986. The de Villes got the wider chrome rocker moldings used on the Fleetwood, but that was about it. 1987 brought composite headlights, a new eggcrate grille, and slightly extended rear quarter panels with new taillights.
The big news for 1988 was a new engine, the 4.5L V8. This engine finally replaced the boat-anchor 4.1 and was much more reliable. Cadillac offered a new six-year, 60,000 mile powertrain warranty to back it up. The 155 hp, 273 CID V8 had digital fuel injection and was mated to a four speed automatic with electronic overdrive.
Both Coupe and Sedan de Villes continued to be offered. The full cabriolet roof, first offered in 1987, was still available. It actually did look like a convertible, as long as you were nearsighted enough to not notice the cut lines for the faired-in doors. You could also get a formal cabriolet roof in vinyl with opera lamps on the Coupe, or the standard painted steel roof – probably the least common choice. After all, this was a Cadillac, and lots of exterior gingerbread was the order of the day. Let us not discuss the horrid dealer installed grilles or fake continental kits that graced many of these Caddys.
Other than the engine, the 1988 models stood pat for the most part. Finally, Cadillac had a decent engine in their volume line, although the cars themselves still looked an awful lot like a Volvo 740 with a Brougham package.
That would change for 1989, when Cadillac finally restored the full size proportions, at least a little bit. The 1989s marked a slow return to what Cadillac stood for, and the Nineties would be kinder to the marque.
I ran across this ’88 Coupe while shopping for new batteries for my camera. I knew it was a 1988 as soon as I saw the 4.5 Liter V8 badge on the back, the only way to tell an ’87 from an ’88. That engine is probably the reason this car is still on the road.
It was in really nice shape. There was no rust and even the driver’s seat was not worn out. I do see these cars from time to time, but they are usually in pretty sorry shape. This one is identical to the Coupe de Ville in the 1988 Cadillac brochure. Someone must have looked at the brochure at the dealership and said “I want one just like that!”
Cadillac stumbled badly in the Eighties, and though there would be trouble with the Northstar later on, Cadillac gradually returned to health. The current CTS and XTS, while not as great as the 1960s Cadillacs, are nice cars. Hopefully they’ve learned their lesson, and hopefully Cadillac’s darkest days are behind them. After the 1985 de Villes, there was nowhere to go but up.
Oh, Cadillac in the ’80s. The pain. The pain.
The ’85 devilles were introduced early. I remember seeing one in the spring of 1984 and it made me sad. That horrible 4100 engine only made matters worse. The interiors were quite handsome but there was something wrong with the exterior styling. Vinyl tops only made the car looked more ridiculous.
The Buick LeSabre and Oldsmobile 88 coupes were pretty cool. The Cadillac Coupe? Fail.
I know I stumbled on this stream 8 years later, but I bought my black 1988 Coupe Deville in 1989 because it was advertised as the “First front-end V8 in the world”. I’m not sure if it was a big deal then but today after almost 200K miles and original spark plugs, I still drive that head-turner brunette on deep snow. The original black paint still shines and beads and just let those snow melt down its sides.
OK, I’m wierd. Take away the hideous 4100 and the diesel, and I much prefer the ’85-88’s much better than their predecessors. As long as there’s no vinyl roof or other Florida senior citizen crap. Better visibility, more room, much more of a driver’s car (did I mention that dad had an ’85 Fleetwood and I loathed it?), all in all a much better concept than the previous car.
So of course it failed in the marketplace. It wasn’t a Cadillac, and Cadillac wasn’t allowed to leave 1965.
I think the car’s bones were pretty good, that 4.1 V8 was the biggest issue. My aunt has an ’86 Park Avenue. I’ve driven it several times and it has a nice combination of comfort and roadability.
In the late ’90s I toyed with the idea of getting an ’89-’93 Sedan de Ville. I drove several and I can tell you they are nice cars, especially the interiors. Never drove an ’85-’88 though.
I’m looking at one of those Florida senior citizen cars now. Cadillac 1988 base Deville, with the full cabriolet white top and opera lights… interior and exterior are in top shape … i like its character and history, and the fact that is has 60K miles…. $2,000 a good buy?
$2K sounds pretty good if the car is as nice as you describe. And with the 4.5L V8, it shouldn’t have the problems of the 1985-87s with the 4.1.
I have the absolute understatement in elegant cars. A beautiful silver 1988 Cadillac Sedan Deville. It is 90,000 original miles and while driven it is far from worn out. It is a wonderful classy ride and some may knock the quality of the 80s but mine was handpicked after years of searching. It was Cadillac’s first good poke at the understated elegance of mercedes or its competitors since the long ago Seville for 1975. And that it has the 4.5 liter v8 is even better. And the lighter curb weight made it possible for the 1988 with the 4.5 liter engine to throw you back in the seat like a real engine. This may not have been your dream car but it was somebodies. But I would decline to trade to on of those disco diva 1976 Coupe Deville models with the wild disco print crushed velvet seats.
The 4.5 ltre. engines blow head gaskets. A lot of power but they do blow head gaskets better to find one with less than 60,000 miles. A 4.9 ltre. engine same problem.
I have a 1988 model and although some would call it junk I am a very proud owner of it. It is a beautiful silver with showroom new original paint. It has a 4.5 liter v8 and will flat lay rubber from a dead stop. The interior is done in an elegant blue leather which I keep conditioned and has no cracks. I have put 90,000 miles on it and it does not burn a drop of oil. Most of the people who have bad problems are not following factory recomendations when dealing with the cooling system. There is a sticker on the car right by the radiator that says you must use coolant tabs. This is a very important thing and you must go to an a/c delco parts supplier to get them but they are really cheap. Anytime you flush and drain the radiator you must replenish the coolant properly then put in the tablets, I repeat that they must be ac delco tabs because they are made of different ingredients than some of the other tabs you might find. Your caddy will thank you. Also these cars that you can still find unmolested are becoming more popular. Mine appraises at $7.500 for insurance reasons. While it may not bring what a 1960s model might bring it is still a respectable amount for a car that a lot of people would call junk.
Nice writeup on this drastic downsize. I actually do like these, too, although I agree that the Cadillac was the least attractive. The Buick Electra was my favorite, and even today the styling looks very clean. I also like the lines on the coupe versions of the Olds 88 and Buick LeSabre. The Buicks were especially cool with their rear-hinged hoods. I think these cars were a great idea, really — so much more “of the times” than the big rear-drive models, as much as I like those, too. And if you ever ride in one of these, you’ll see that they really are very space-efficient. They’re drastically shorter, but actually quite wide, and amazingly roomy inside. At the time, I thought they were a strong statement and I was actually disappointed when they gave in by lengthening them in 1989. But I was not in the target market back then, either!
The Electra was definitely the most successful of these designs. While the Buicks achieved a clean look that emphasizes the car’s width, the Caddies for some reason look tall & fussy. I think the Electra design holds up well to this day, just as the 1976 “sheer look” Seville does.
My boss at the time drove one of these. Very roomy & comfortable inside, and the 3800 engine had plenty of torque and a nice, throaty exhaust note.
Yes. The slight curve in the corner of the rear roofline (echoed in the rear door window line & rear quarter window on coupes) was just the right touch to soften the boxiness. The Cadillacs came out as too boxy and compact looking.
There is an interesting article about these at Deans garage. Don’t remember all the details, but the original design of the 85 had the longer, more traditional look of the 89. But, someone high up at GM decreed that these cars had to be “international” sized. Since so many design elements had already been baked in by then, they did all they could to meet the mandate by basically chopping off the rear of the car.
Would be really interesting to see what the original version looked like.
I remember at only 30 or 40k miles, a pulley literally broke off my family’s 85, perhaps strangled by that giant serpentine lurking under the hood (another bad idea from GM.)
At least these cars had decent paint jobs though…
Hey alert the press, I actually got one CC clue right!
GMs biggest problem with Cadillac is they never seem to know what to do with the marque since the gas crisises. They’ve lurched from the downsized debacle to lets build an extremely high tech V8 and try to make everything but the Deville a European sports sedan, to (with art & science) “BMWs that swill Pabst Blue Ribbon.” I wish someone in GM had the testicular fortitude to push Cadillac to Rolls Royce/Bently levels of refinement, power, and low production #s. Give them all bad ass gas guzzler taxed engines and interiors that have higher quality materials than a designer living room.
(sorry rant over now.)
At least in ’88 the 4.5 had more HP, and the tailights got extensions. For the predictions made in 1980 of ‘no more cheap gas’, well?
While analysts trash the car, some owners did like them. My aunt got an ’86 SDV used in 1991, and to her it was a Lexus LS. Drove it for 10 years! Mostly drove Plymouth Furys and Buick Centurys till then. Got it from friends.
It did get a 4.5 transplant when it was near 10 y/o, which helped alot. Now she has a Lucerne, and loves the new LaCrosses.
I thought the 1988s were the first year for the larger tail lights, too.
I posted this at TTAC back in 2010 – I’m oddly a real fan of this generation of Cadillacs, for purely nostalgic reasons. I took my grandfather’s pristine dark blue 1988 Sedan de Ville to my junior prom.
Although it had over 60K on the clock when he bought it, he’d paid a lavish sum of money to bring it back to like-new condition. It was tight as a drum, inside and out, and seemed the “right” size for its mission. The 4.5 never gave him any problems, either.
He later traded the ’88 for a new 1992 de Ville, with its longer wheelbase and trunk, more “Caddy-like” proportions, and the 4.9L engine. While the ’92 was prettier, the 1988 was in almost every other way the superior car.
The revised taillights and longer rear quarters came out in ’87, but they still had the 4.1 V8. Out of the 1985-88 generation, the ’88 with the 4.5 was the one to have.
Allright. How SHOULD Caddy have downsized? Like Kenny Rogers, what automaker was aglow after a 2nd wave under the knife? In retrospect, pot shots at 80s autos are popular and an easy target. You do with what you’ve got. Times forced change. Performance had began improving vs the late 70s. History/romance will be kinder in 20 years when, most people will have never spent any time as pilot or wrench. I’m hardly a Caddy fan, yet absent is any namedrop of the Seville and Eldorado. In the late 80s, Riviera and Toronado were trying to force-feed us a zillion counter-intuitive CRT buttons that had drivers glancing from the road to turn the radio off. I was happy standing pat in my wheezy, bulletproof, downsized 77 Caprice long into the 90s.
I’d like to think if GM’s corporate structure in the 80’s had been more like the independent free-wheeling 60’s, they’d have found a way to downsize that would have re-written the rules for downsizing.
This was after all, Cadillac…the Standard of the World.
But years of chasing market share combined with GM’s arrogant “we’re a bank that happens to make cars” 80’s attitude resulted in yet another half-baked effort from the RenCen.
Yes, the times forced change. But remembering what a Cadillac – historically – was supposed to be and then filtering that credo thru an 80’s lens would have resulted in a much better car.
Even if GM had just executed the above design to a traditional Cadillac standard would have resulted in a car more fondly remembered today.
Did they need to downsize drastically, or just make the RWD car better and more efficient? Replacing the sluggard Olds 307 and Chevy 305 with the LT-1 derived drivetrain in the 1993-96 Roadmasters and Broughams resulted in cars that performed better AND were among the most fuel efficient full size cars ever produced — real world MPG about the same as the 4.5 and 4.9 engined front drivers.
And that was what GM achieved without really trying hard. Other than experimenting with different engines, the technology and content level of the RWD Cadillac was largely frozen from 1980 until ’93. The FWD Devilles should have been given a sportier look and sold as Sevilles and Eldorados (sparing us the ridiculously tiny 1986 Eldo/Seville), and the RWD cars given world class drivetrains and handling. Going forward the RWD cars probably would have evolved into somewhat smaller footprints, but still impressive cars maybe somewhat like the VW Phaeton and Hyundai Equus (both of which would make good Cadillacs with some exterior restyling).
In 20/20 hindsight, would have been better to call these ‘LaSalles’ and keep the DeVilles RWD, with Chevy 350’s instead of the 4100’s in 1985 model year. The Brougham name was too overused.
If these were released in 1981, instead of Cimarrons, GM would have been heralded as ‘forward thinking’ and would have been waiting lists. But then again, would have had same quality issues as Citations?
But, the 1989 restyle helped a lot, by then traditional buyers saw them as Caddys.
Ugh! GM at it darkest days or at the height of the Roger Smith era. Shrunken Caddies, Olds, and Buicks that looked like Celebrities, the disasterous E/K series only a year away, mediocre N bodies whose paint started flaking upon delivery. The only interesting or good looking cars like the B/G/D bodies left to die on the vine, although you could now get a 305/307 in your G body. If anything could make the 1975 GM line-up look good, it was the 1985 line-up, with few exceptions.
Didn’t C/D test the latest ’85 Caddy upon introduction and find that it had lower cornering abilities that the previous big D body? I seem to recall that they managed to roll the tire right off of the rim without trying too hard. If only they kept the 368 with MPI and an overdrive tranny through to the 90’s. I guess that it must have made too much sense at the time, and was promptly rejected.
When my family returned from 6 months in Europe in summer of 1984, the rental car we picked up for the trip home from the airport was a white 1985 Sedan DeVille with a red interior in what I imagine was called crushed velvet. It had 37 miles when we picked it up, so we were probably the fist to rent it. The tufted seats had inconsistent stitching that was already pulling apart in places. It was pretty much the gaudiest car I’d been in, and I used to carpool to baseball practice with a kid whose father had a driveway full of awful Lincoln Continentals. It wasn’t the lowest mile rental I’ve ever had though. A dozen year later I was issued a new Buick Century with 22 miles and weather stripping that hadn’t yet been installed around the driver’s door. GM. Why are they still around? I suppose the Ford E350 I rented three years ago with 400 miles, an engine that sounded like it was using gravel as a lubricant, a dead power window, and the body integrity of a retired Manhattan taxi shows that they aren’t up against the varsity as long as people insist on buying Detroit brands.
These Caddys are a lot like the Mustang II people love to bash them now but in their time they kept the brand alive.
The main downfall of the 4.1 was that they didn’t put the “cooling system conditioner” (stop leak) in them from the get go and once they started doing so many did not replenish it when the cooling system was serviced. By the time it morphed into the 4.5 the cooling system conditioner was SOP and that is what kept them together. Yes the 4.5 had more power but the 4.1 was not significantly underpowered for the weight of the car at the time.
Yes the switch to FWD meant they handled like pigs compared to their RWD predecessors, but the average Caddy buyer wasn’t interested in how fast the car could get through the slalom, to them and many buyers good handling = easy to park. granted that FWD configuration limited the turning angle of the wheels but the shorter wheelbase and other dimensions more than compensated.
Of course for others the FWD meant it was a no go and some did defect to the Lincoln camp and never came back.
To quote my uncle, a long time Caddy man who used to trade for a new one every 2 years after the first round of downsizing, “I’ll buy a Lincoln before one of those sawed off pieces of junk” I can only imagine his disgust had he lived to see the FWD successors.
Eric, perhaps these cars “kept the brand alive,” but they never sold in anywhere near the volumes of their RWD predecessors. GM didn’t make money on them because of all the warranty claims. The FWD cars were so unpopular that GM had to keep the RWD cars in production long after they intended to stop them. They also made fat profits on each one. Cadillac as a brand has never recovered from this auto-debacle.
I saw the four-door version of this yesterday in a Kroger parking lot, same color and condition. Whenever I see one I am reminded of the movie Twins. However they’re viewed now, Danny Devito sure was excited to get his hands on one in that movie.
Slumberland, kinda sums it all up.
I had a 86 Coupe, just like the maroon one featured. The only difference was the roof, instead of the fake convertible, I had the matching maroon half vinyl roof. I bought it from a little old lady with 44K for $ 4,000 in 1998. On the way home oil light came on, a $ 900 repair. Numerous things went wrong in the 4 years and 30K miles I put on it, but nothing major. It still was a beautiful car when I sold it to a guy I golfed with. His wife had one since new, gave it to her grandson, and wanted another one.
A week later, oil wasn’t getting to the engine and ruined it. I offered the guy his money back, but he refused to accept it. The car sat in his garage for a year. He gave the car to a neighbor, who replaced the engine. A short time later it was totalled.
The only complaint I had with the car other than the $ 900 repair, was the sluggish performance. I could live with that, however. The ride was smooth and Cadillac like. Just a little too small.
At least you gave some of the reason for these cars existing, these cars, along with the 1986 downsized E/K cars provide a valuable lesson about the auto industry and how sometimes you can know all the answers, but still get an F on the test.
To understand them, you have to put yourself in the time the groundwork for their design was laid out, circa 1980. 1985 CAFE targets of 25mpg were looming, and who knows if they could be increased depending on who would be in power, We had just had oil embargo number 2 in 1979, with the possibility of embargo 3 and 4 at anytime in the future, gas was going to be $2 to $3 a gallon at best, when it would be available. These cars were designed for a future that never came to be thankfully, if price on the sign would have read $2.85 instead of $0.85 in 1985, things would have been different.
Remember at the start of the 80’s GM was really the only heathly domestic manufactuer, Chrysler was on the ropes and Ford was not much better after the Henry Ford II’s reign through the end of the 1970’s, and AMC was hooking up with the French just to have a chance, then there was GM, sitting fat, lots of cash, just having launched the FWD X-cars, it looked towards the future, it had the cash and the resources to leapfrog ahead and have cars ready for the future that everyone KNEW was going to happen. It was really doom and gloom back then, you owe it to pick up a circa 1980 or so auto rag like C&D or Motor Trend, and read the articles about the “Death of the V8″ ” Fuel rationing and airbags” that were in every issue.
All excellent points. You had to be there to understand the dark, doomed feeling of the era. GM faing to get it right seemed par for the course as America wasn’t getting it right either. Nicely written.
Are they making the same mistake again, betting the company on an EV future? But I’m no longer a stockholder, and I don’t pay enough taxes to care if they have to be bailed out again.
The conventional wisdom then was that Reagan’s deregulating of oil prices would cause them to skyrocket. Then he bribed the Saudis with jet fighters to open their spigots, which hit the USSR hard, while it was Morning in America.
Were these cars really any more efficient than the Opel Senators that could have made Cadillac relevant to baby bummers?
GM eventually tried something like that with the ill-fated Catera.
I think they had much better luck selling Opels as Opels, compared to the re-badge attempts from Cadillac, Buick and Saturn.
Happy Motoring, Mark
The devolution of GM never ceases to astound having not had to suffer FWD X car rubbish over here I guess we should be gratefull but Cadillac has gone rapidly backwards from the 60s Standard of the World and is now just a Holden with Triumph Mayflower styling cues Oh high the mighty are fallen These debacles from the 80s must be what sealed GMs fate ugly ill proportioned junk no luxury car buyer could be fooled that often surely.
What really ruins the look of the ’85, to my eye, is the way the front wheel fits into its well. They carried over the big squarish opening and fake wires from the previous RWD design. I’m not a fan of fake wires, but at least on the ’84, they have some visual depth which helps the wheel seem to fill out the well, from any angle.
But on the ’85, the shallow offset of FWD wheels flattens the wires and visually shrinks the wheel. On the Buick, they at least tightened up and rounded off the opening. The wheels seem bigger and the car seems wider without those big gaping voids.
The Caddy buyer in the 80s may not have been able to put his finger on what looked wrong about the cars, but I think this front wheel issue is the culprit, even more than the stubby rear end and wimpy greenhouse.
That’s an interesting observation about the wheels. The whole car is just very flattened and simplified compared to the rear-drive ’84s, which were much more sculptured. I think the whole industry learned as the years went by to get a lot more sculpturing and depth into these smaller packages, while maintaining space efficiency. They weren’t quite there yet in ’85. But as I said earlier, these are amazingly roomy inside! In fact, I think a Cadillac with these proportions if not styling (inside and out) would be an improvement over current Cadillacs. I looked at a CTS wagon recently and was shocked at the lack of room inside, particularly in the cargo area.
I agree; 15′ wheels instead of the tiny 14 inchers, some decent alloy rims, and a better wheel opening would have helped create the more “International” scale and look they were presumably after. Those tinny little fake wire wheel covers just shout “Pep Boys!”
The fact that the front wheel cutout is about four inches ahead of the door doesn’t help either. Most of the front fender is ahead of the wheel.
The third-generation Camaro/Firebird had this problem too – I wonder if the idea had been to make them front-wheel-drive, and they changed their minds about that but left the styling the same.
Good observation. I could never put my finger on it, either, but these cars looked more “stocky” from the front than from the back. The 1989 facelift (at least on the sedans) was an attempt to fix the awkward original proportions, but the fender/wheel problem remained.
Cadillac never gave these cars a great wheel selection, either.
The 1994-1999 model didn’t have as much of a front wheel problem, even though the shape wasn’t that much different. Why is that?
Didn’t some of the 1980-1984 generation offer a 4.1-liter/252 cid version of the Buick 90-degree V6? I don’t know how common they were, but I recall that it was an option.
Yes, it was available in 1981 and 1982 as a credit option.
Ok, but I never knew why Buick had two V6s — the 3.8 and the 4.1.
I know the 3.8 Had it’s origins in the early 60s, but I don’t know anything about the 4.1. I assume it was created in the late 70s by lopping 2 cylinders off a Buick V8.
Also, aren’t both 90 degree V6s? If so, then it’s not like one would fit in certain cars but not another. In fact, I can only recall the 4.1 being offered in full size models only; all mid sizers got the 3.8.
Then around the same time, Chevy introduced the 2.8, which I know was a 60 degree V6 and was designed to fit the new mid size front drivers. Was the 3.8 a 60 degree too?
Anybody know the answer? I keeps me up nights..
From what I can recall the punched out 4.1 was as big as the 3.8 got, it was sort of the “V8” of the 3.8, the 4.1 V6 had a 4bbl carb while the 3.8’s had a 2bbl, it was intended as the base engine for the big cars, but I think that you could have had it on a Regal too.
The 4.1 could have been made to perform, Buick turboed or twin turboed one to use in the 1983 Indy Pace car Riviera, it made like 450hp
The Buick 3800 originated as the 198 cu. in. (3,247 cc) Fireball V6 in 1962. It was based on the architecture of the aluminum 215, with a larger bore and stroke and all-iron construction; it was a 90-degree engine, like the V8. It was later bored and stroked again to 225 cu. in. (3,692 cc), then sold to Kaiser Jeep. GM bought it back in 1974 and put it back in production, punching out the bore slightly to bring it to 231 cu. in. (3,791 cc). They made various changes to it once it was back in production, including split-pin crank throws to give it even firing intervals. The 252 looks to be a bored-out 3.8, bringing it to 4,136 cc. (They have the same stroke.) They still had their roots in the old aluminum V8, and were both 90 degrees.
The Chevy 2.8 was a completely different, 60-degree engine. I’ve heard several former GM engineers say it was based on an engine developed by Oldsmobile in the early sixties for its abortive FWD F-85.
Great write up, thanks.
Still trying to get my arms around why they made both at the same time. But then, wasn’t the 3.0 also a version of this engine too? Or maybe that was a clean sheet design.
The 3.0 was based in the the 3.8 and wasn’t around long as it was a gutless wonder. It was extensively revised and came back as the SFI 3.3, with roller lifters. This was the best motor the A bodies ever had, in my opinion. It made fantastic torque and had enough horse power to cruise at 130 km/h easily.
These are just depressing. I knew multiple people who owned Cadillacs in the 1980s. Every one that I can think of later bought either a Lincoln, a Honda or a Toyota. The 1985 Fleetwood was the worst of all, where they offered it without a vinyl roof and stuck a painted panel into the rear window opening to make for a smaller rear window. The problem was the big fat weatherstrip that advertised the size of the original opening. Not even the 1958 Studebaker did that.
Lincoln was going after those conquest sales hard. These were the cars that were lampooned in that famous Lincoln ad where the valets at the country club can’t tell an Olds from a Buick from a Caddy, but locate the Town Car on the first try.
The famous Lincoln ad in question, for those who haven’t seen it/are unaware:
On topic: I always thought these cars resembled a little girl trying on mommy’s shoes.
One of my aunts owned one and stayed loyal to GM. Or rather, she gave them *just one more chance*, which turned out to be an LT1-powered Roadmaster wagon…
Okay, they needed to downsize, but did they have to make them where something would break every other month? Mom’s 87 that I inherited in 2002 was a 15 year old POS that broke on schedule. I fixed the minor stuff courtesy of junkyard parts but the major stuff I let slide as it continued to run. Worst car I’ve ever owned. I will never own a Caddy again.
A friend of mine drove one of these in a demolition derby. It actually did pretty well – #5 out of 25 or so cars.
One man’s story….beloved 1975 Thunderbird traded in on a brand-new 1985 Park Avenue, in the summer of 1985. My father was ill at the time and I believe, sitting on the showroom floor, it must have made him think back to his youth and the new ’55 Buick he once owned. Within the first week or so, the transmission would suddenly slip into neutral at part-throttle acceleration, and the radio and power antenna had packed it in. Took them over a month to get it fixed. I think I mentioned to him at the time that he should go back to the salesman and ask for his T-Bird back, but it was probably too late at that point. When we did go back to the dealer to discuss why our new $26k (Cdn) Buick had such issues, he got up and left us sitting in his office, stating that “he didn’t like to lose his cool”…Beyond that, I remember numerous steering racks and mass-airflow sensors, and several electronic control pads for the A/C unit. Good thing Dad bought the extended 5-year warranty – we ditched it during the 7th year. Given about $4k on a trade for a ’92 Accord wagon (which we still have and which is still on its original set of shock absorbers, by contrast)….the Buick was in excellent condition, but essentially on its way to being nearly worthless.
Oh yeah, the ’85 V6 had only 125 hp – peppy enough around town, but a bit breathless on the highway with a full load. Then for ’86, it was 150 hp and by ’87 it was 165…two years later and suddenly there’s over 30 percent more power. Talk about GM using the customers as the developmental guinea pigs…
That story is exactly how GM gave away the business to the foreign car manufacturers. Change the car in the story from a Buick Park Avenue to a Cadillac Fleetwood and you have my family’s story. No, do not miss them one bit here in the Lexus camp where the cars never break and where they come pick up your car for maintenance and leave you a new one with a full tank of gas and return yours washed. I remember once when my grandmother had me drop off her car for service she told me to have them wash it. Their reply was, they did not wash cars for individuals, they only washed their own cars. Lexus washes cars for free. Our town does even have a Cadillac dealership anymore.
I’m a GM fan, but have somewhat similar sentiments on Cadillac dealerships. When I would have my car serviced at the Buick dealership, it was always washed and dried (free). When I would take my car to the Cadillac dealership for repairs, it was never cleaned, and I couldn’t imagine their reaction if I asked them to. One time, their quick-lube worker got grease on the interior and window; I sent them a letter and never heard one word back. Cadillac today? Yuck. Their salesmen made me cringe–and so did Cue.
That is a sad story and one I’m sure could be duplicated repeatedly. I worked with a university faculty member whose husband bought her a new Coupe De Ville as their first luxury car – I’m not sure of the year but I think an 87 or 88 such as the one Tom includes above. It had those hideous wire wheel covers but fortunately no vinyl or canvas top, just all white with red leather. Her car had repeated transmission failures and the power accessories and radio crapped out accompanied by other electrical gremlins.
The response was Lexus – on my advice she bought the new ES 300 in 92 and drove it for years with no problems and gave it to her daughter who drove it for years and years more. The first week the Lexus dealer sent roses to her office whereas the Cadillac dealer had treated her as described above. To this day not only has no GM car ever graced her driveway again (and her family had always owned GM cars, in fact at one point during this time she inherited a pristine Olds 98 – I think a 1949 model – from an aunt) but no American car has even been considered for purchase.
I had an ’85 Eldorado. Bought it used from, IIRC, an Acura dealer. Maroon in and out with the vinyl top. Our first Caddy. My wife loved it. She was the primary driver. The HT-4100 never was a problem for us. Went almost 100k before we traded it for a 90 Seville. Several Sevilles later our current ’08 STS is the best one we have had. Just can’t beat reasonable power and rear wheel drive. Don’t get me started on the Northstar.
According to Matt Garrett, the Caddy aficionado with a stunning collection, Cadillac finally fixed the problem causing early failure of the 4.1 in the middle of the production year 1985; from that point on, the 4.1, 4.5 and 4.9 were all reliable enough.
I had a 1989 Fleetwood Coupe as my daily driver from 2001-04. The FWD Fleetwoods were the same as the DeVilles except for having more pimptastic interiors with real wood trim instead of plastic. It seemed to me that GM was trying really hard to make these ride and handle just like the best of the RWD boats, but you never quite forgot that the front wheels were doing all of the work. The 4.5 was a smooth and very quiet engine that provided a decent level of zip and 20-25 MPG depending on driving conditions.
I always wondered how GM gamed the interior volume formula to be able to say these cars had the same or better interior room than their RWD predecessors, because in the real world they didn’t. Especially in the width, and since the seats were cushioned and bolstered for four passengers, you got the idea GM didn’t believe their own hype either.
Despite having a 70 mile round trip commute, I maintained the car well enough, for the first couple of years, to enter it in some shows. If you were at the 2002 Cadillac-La Salle Club Grand National in Michigan, you saw my car. However, a couple of years later, not too long after the odometer crossed the 100K mark, all the electronics seemed to hit a wall. The first one to crap out was the electronic gas gauge. Multiple dealer visits and $800 later, it was still kaput. The radio died due to the lousy on-off button. It got worse from there in a short time and I gave up.
Once there are any electronic gremlins in these car, there is only one thing to do: BAIL!! It will never end as the car was designed to last 10 years/150,000 km. The cheaper GM stuff was 6 years, 120,000 km.
Wow. Pity, that was a good-looking car.
“The 1982-1984 de Villes and Fleetwoods were not reliable vehicles with their 4.1L ‘hand tighten’ engines, but at least they looked imposing and were clearly Cadillacs”
Hand tighten engines… AWESOME!!!
Fun Cadillac fact for you
Did you know that the full size 2 and 4 door caddies with tune port motors!!! I know of one near my house That say 5.0 tune port injection on the trunk. It even had a beefy sway bar as well.
Weren’t those GM 4.1 Litre 252 cu inch V-8s that Cadillac was using on these cars the same engine as the GM 4.1 Litre 250 cu inch I6 which used to reside on the engine bays of the 1975-79 Chevrolet Novas, 1974-79 Chevrolet Camaros, 1973-77 Chevrolet Chevelle Malibu and the 1977-79 Chevrolet Impalas and Caprice Classics?
I don’t mean to sound condescending but how could any V8 possibly be the same motor as any inline 6! Come on now, think about it!!!
I can’t speak for the DeVille, but my grandpa’s last car was a 1990 Seville with the 4.5 that he bought in 2000 with 70k miles.
That little Cadillac (190 inches long – shorter than a modern Camry or Accord) was actually a pretty nice car to drive. It had surprising handling for a GM car and really felt tied down to the road. The 4.5 liter was up to 180 hp for 1990 and had loads of torque off idle. It really made the Olds Ciera I learned to drive in look like an unrefined, mushy handling POS.
Caddys of that era were still pretty uncompetitive compared to Benzes, Bimmers, and the new for 1990 Lexus LS400 – which incidentally had a base price very similar to that of the Seville, but that was a nice car to drive and had pretty decent quality materials in the interior, even if said interior still hadn’t progressed much since the early 80’s.
I remember going to a new car show in DC a couple years after the LS400 changed the luxury car world. The price on the Lexus was up to $50,000. That didn’t shock me, although it made me wonder about what the press reception would have been had the introductory price been 30% higher. What did shock me was that the prices on Cadillacs at the show matched the price increase of the Lexus. All the window stickers of the DeVilles and Sevilles at the show were right around $50,000 too. It was a delusional slap in the face. Considering the resale values and likelihood that luxury car buyers would trade their vehicles in frequently, a Cadillac would have cost the typical buyer at least twice as much as a Lexus, and it would take a special set of priorities to consider it remotely competitive at the same cost.
Which is exactly why Lexus has spanked Caddy’s ass since then. The beehive hairdo set these days drives either the RX350 or ES350. Have a look at the resale on that duo.
Cadillac previously had been a viable alternative to a RollsRoyce not a cheap mass produced heap like a BMW or Benz they tried to compete in a market they were unsuited to.
Cadillac was never on the same playground as Mercedes or BMW and not even on the same planet as Rolls-Royce.
Only Ford had the audacity to compare themselves to a Rolls
Normally I’m sad that we never got Cadillacs new here in NZ (except for the 2010 CTS), but every time I see those ghastly 80s FWD models, I’m so glad we were spared them. Of all the USA/Japan used imports that we have here, very few are the 80s FWD ones, so to most NZers, Cadillac still has the big luxury image it always had. The 2010 CTS sedans we got new were built factory-RHD for Cadillac’s ill-fated Asia-Pacific re-launch, when that went pear-shaped the whole lot were bought by my local GM-Holden dealer. They sold out in no time, but I reckon if they’d bought a shipment of 85 Coupe de Villes back in the day, they’d still be unsold on the lot today…
Those CTS sold for less money than the top of the range Holden, GM had them positioned at the top a place Cadillac does not deserve anymore.
“…so to most NZers, Cadillac still has the big luxury image it always had.”
Anyone else have “Royals” by Lorde running through their head after reading that?
When General Motors downsized their C-Bodied Full Size Models and switched to Front Wheel Drive in 1984, the Cadillac Sedan De Ville/Fleetwood 4 Door Sedans were even almost a foot shorter than the RWD X-Bodied “Compact” Chevrolet Nova based 1976-79 Rear Wheel Drive Cadillac Seville as you all can see the comparisons on the photo that I have attached here. It seemed that Cadillac regretted converting the 1980-85 E-Bodied Mid Size Personal Luxury Cars eg. 1979-85 Cadillac Eldorado into a Four Door “Bustle Back” switched to Front Wheel Drive K-Bodied Cadillac Seville. To make up for that, GM gave the directives to significantly downsize the Cadillac De Ville/Fleetwood by a little over two feet so it would mimic the design and size of the original 1976-79 Cadillac Seville. Cadillac went a little overboard and the final product turned out much smaller than that aforementioned Seville and on the average 700 pounds lighter than the car which was almost reminiscent of the Seville. It was such a bust that even the lesser and unrelated 1975-79 Chevrolet Novas were almost 2 inches longer than the 1985 Cadillac De Ville/Fleetwood models.
Im obsessed with its Brother the Oldsmobile Trofeo Toronado. Why are they all but extinct?
im working on a 1988 coupe deville 4.5 liter….my moms car….
have to replace the left fender and side lights…
i see alot of 4drs devilles…are the fenders the same size from the 2dr to the 4dr?
thanks in advance for your help
“Classic Curbside Classic”? Sounds like you came from the “Department of Redundancy Department”.
You must be a Civil Service worker. I was one for about 5 years…
Adding “Classic” on the front signifies that the article is a reprint, in this case originally from March of 2012.
…which is kind of funny….because my ’85 CDV is still sitting in the same spot since this article initially appeared here. It was given to me when its second engine overheated at 100K. Backing it in there was a bit of a squeeze and getting it out will likely require a can opener and a round tuit.
Thanks for bringing back this oldie but goodie.
I saw one of these on the highway recently. I was surprised how low & wide it looked in comparison to today’s cars. Perhaps it suffered more in comparison to the fleet on the road at that time than it does today.
Still is an ugly duckling compared to the Buick, but it looked a lot less stubby than I remembered it in my minds eye.
“That would change for 1989, when Cadillac finally restored the full size proportions, at least a little bit”: The rear quarters were lengthened on both the sedan and coupe, but the wheelbase was not lengthened on the coupe, only on the sedan. This can be seen in the fixed portion of the rear door glass, which is several inches wider than that of the 1985-88 cars.
GM would have done well to benchmark the size for these C-bodied FWD on the Mercedes-Benz 450SEL, 116″ wheelbase, 205″ overall. That would have been about 10-15% larger than they were, a size that had been acceptable to upscale customers for most of a decade.
I think it’s interesting that they developed the Seville to try and compete with luxury imports. You look at these models and you have to figure they completely gave up and defaulted to being granny cars.
Those of you interested in how the design of the 1985 C- bodies came about and want to see some sketches can go here:
Interesting comments here. I am a fan of the Oldsmobile, but I was not a fan of the downsized 1985-1990 Oldsmobile Ninety Eight. I have the up sized 1991-1995 model. One has to wonder if the 1989 Deville/Fleetwood and 1991 Oldsmobile Ninety Eight had come out in 1985 what would have happened… GM is still paying for the downsized era 1985-1990 to this day.
The 1989-1993 Deville and Fleetwood were great looking cars and had a solid reputation too. The funny thing is Deville stayed fwd and looked forward through the 90’s and became DTS and then was replaced by XTS ( which is not great looking and reminds me of the downsized era at GM) and Fleetwood got big again in 1993. People fondly remember the 1993-1996 Fleetwood.
I feel all the squared-off corners and simplified details are largely to blame for this not lending the impression of a real Cadillac. They make it appear that the styling wasn’t a true design choice, but a compromise forced on the designer. Which was largely the case, but in the right hands it could have been made to work.
Look at the original Seville for comparison. It also was squared off but it looked complete. Its lines looked like a true design choice, and didn’t lend the impression that it was less than a real Cadillac. This was helped by the fact that the Seville used very little in the way of familiar Cadillac styling idioms. But the downsized full-sizers did use these idioms, and as a result they advertised all that wasn’t quite right.
let us remember that GM did not want to build these cars, nor did the public demand them. These cars were the result of government mandates. perhaps the public wanted the availability of more efficient small cars, but there was no call for tiny Devilles.
Total BS. If there was actually a “government mandate” for these cars, please show me what it was. GM built this car because they wanted to make money on them, and that meant platform sharing. The “government mandate” thing is just talk-show host nonsense, since Lincoln very successfully sold full sized RWD sleds until very recently. Perhaps it was a special “government mandate” only for GM. If you are talking about CAFE standards, well, Ford had no problem meeting them and they sold loads of Crown Vics, Town Cars and other assorted land-yachts. GM was all about “if we build it, they’ll buy it.” They were more a finance company at the time anyway. They still are, too!
GM should have designed a unit body RWD car with IRS and a real V-8, a car that was actually worth the sticker price. They could have worked with an Opel product such as the Catera but make it to suit American tastes. That would have saved Cadillac and much of GM’s reputation.
+1 Standard talk by mis-managed companies big and small- it’s all Big Government’s fault ( unless it’s Ralph Nader’s fault). There is no good reason other than mismanagement by GM that they couldn’t have produced a car that was at least engineered properly- Lincoln was making good enough cars at the time for example.
A question though, were these heavily based on the A- body mechanical package which derived from the X-body in turn?
I ask because the original FWD programme was an immense capital investment, and suspect GM used these Cadillacs as a way of getting a return on that spending.
CAFE standards. Simple as that. The government destroyed the American car industry by mandating that they had to build cars in the international style and of course they weren’t as good at it as the international companies were. By the time they caught up an entire generation was taught that American cars were inferior. And still today the best sellers are the least regulated vehicles, full size pickups. Now that the government is going after them too I wonder if there will be articles in 20 years talking about how GM ruined the pickup in the late teens…..
Good Day to you all. I enjoy this site and it reminiscences about past cars (and trucks). On the subject of this post, I’ll relate a conversation I had just after the administration bailed out Chrysler and General Motors.
I was sitting at dinner at my brother’s house, across from a woman named Laura, the wife of a computer guy at one of the aerospace firms in the South Bay. The talk turned to the bailout, which the group favored, and I remarked that the reason so many Americans, of different political outlooks, were unhappy with it was that they were tired of being treated like crap by the manufacturers and dealers.
In my (never) humble opinion I said that GM had cynically designed, cynically engineered, cynically assembled, cynically marketed, promoted, sold and serviced their products to a buying public that had figured out they were losing on the value for money equation. And that this was why General Motors had been in such trouble since the late sixties.
Laura replied, “That’s what my Master’s degree was about.” She was from Michigan and both sides of her family were GM people.
As I wrote before, I enjoy recalling these cars, but, really, watching the paint bubble up due to rust (on a California car!) is disheartening.
I saw an ’88 SdV in, I think they called it “colonial yellow”, they used to offer the other day and a Fleetwood of that same era a few weeks ago. As far as downsized Caddies, I see the 89-93 models way more often.
The 89-93 look much more Cadillac-esque, especially the way they handled the rear light “fins”.
Yes the 89 to 93s were much more stately and at least LOOKED like a Cadillac!
Great Aunt Kessie’s early 90s DeVille will always stick out in my mind because – A.) She made that much money selling AMWAY in a rural county in Ohio.
B.) It was sort of “dusky tan” color with a rose colored leather interior with rose colored fake convertible top.
Her last Cadillac (R.I.P.) was a last of 4.9 ltr cars with the built in fender skirts, no fake or vinyl top of any kind, and was a “metalic pea” color. Very European for a 70+ year old widow in farm country. I wish I could have gotten a crack at buying it from the estate.
Hindsight is always 20-20. The real blunder was that a standard finance balance on these was about the same as the B-bodies and their competitors. Faced with the advantage of Cadillac’s reputation, they should have outsold Lincoln, Mercedes, and the competition as a whole. Remember, in 1985, Amway was still bringing the rubes to Cadillac stores (with belated apologies to the Principal’s Aunt) when giving their pitch, and if memory serves, BMW wasn’t selling 50k total in the U.S. When faced with a prime of 20%, even the usury laws of the time didn’t prevent a buy-down, so looking at $20k balance at a charitable 12% equals $530 times 48. House payment territory at the time. So, with an 80 year reputation as “standard of the world”, what would’ve you purchased in 1985? We know now the flaws and missteps, but they weren’t so obvious then, and the corporate reasoning seemed sound. Who really thought the Taurus was going to be a smash? Success has many fathers, failure the orphan.
The same day they downsized the first one or fitted plastic wood they shoulda shuttered the division if it isnt priced so they average executive cant afford it it isnt a luxury car. Making them cheaper on gas WHY? if you can pay the sticker price why should you be worried about gas consumption the same with financing, huge mistake, cash only sales would have kept the luxury image alive you didnt see Bentley introducing a 4 banger to make its Mulsanne affordable to drive, HELL NO they slapped on twin turbos so it not only went like hell it drank fuel into the bargain only those who could pay bought one and they happily waited for delivery too Thats luxury not a vinyl top on a FWD junk heap
The thing is, Cadillacs and Lincolns are not luxury cars the way Bentleys or Rolls Royces or Grossers or any of those are. They hadn’t been in quite some time, probably since the old Cadillac Sixteens.
The basic idea was to start them out on a Chevy or a Ford. As they make it in the American Dream (either by saving until retirement or working their way up the corporate/entrepreneurial ladder) they get into progressively nicer cars. Once you’ve “made it”, you’d be rolling in a Caddy or Lincoln or maybe an Olds if you don’t like to be THAT flashy. It was something to look forward to during the boom after WWII for the kinds of people that grew up during the Depression or were raised by parents who grew up in the Depression.
Cadillacs and Lincolns were/are a luxury car within the grasp of your average industrious man, the ones that could work their way up to far short of being Uncle Moneybags but still have something impressive with a good ride and maybe a little extra snort than all the econoboxes you will be surrounded by on the highway.
Hell, even if I had half a billion in the bank, my garage would be populated with Broughamtastic old Caddies and Lincolns. Bentleys and such just do not have any real appeal with me.
Correct, no man that buys a Caddy gives a damn about gas prices!
Fascinating article about a weird period in car history. I was watching. ‘The color of money’ only last night and by a coincidence Paul Newman was driving an ’80s Cadillac. The film was made in ’86 so I think it was the lemon 4.1 he was in.
Newman was driving an 86 Brougham, so at least it was the big Cadillac. Yes and no to people worrying about gas prices, many people do in most cases, especially when they are predicted to rise to $3 or $4 by the end of the 1980’s, even if gas was going to be available, remember OPEC embargos 1, 2 and 3? People were expecting a 4, 5 and 6 in the 80’s as well. not to mention that the 25mpg CAFE average was going to be forced down everyone’s throat like it or not. GM was fearful of even more government intervention so it skirted around CAFE and gas guzzler penalties with care, it didn’t even want the perception of being inefficient.
Actually, the downsized DeVilles and Fleetwoods outsold their predecessors, unlike the E/K Eldorado/Seville’s which were a disaster. The comparison to a Bentley is pointless, a small volume manufacturer that sells a couple of thousand cars a year, and couldn’t update their dated crocks even if they wanted too doesn’t compare to a volume manufacturer that sells upwards of 100,000 cars a year. Even then Cadillac did realize that it course needed correction, by 1989, the C-cars were getting bigger again and by 1992 the gorgeous new Seville and Eldorado made their debuts, even during the thin times Cadillac still offered a traditional full size car to those who wanted them, in ever diminishing numbers.
The mistakes and miscalculations that GM and Cadillac made in the 80’s were shit sandwich that they were going to have to eat until they could right the course again.
Good points, Carmine. People get all bent out of shape about gasoline prices, because they don’t realise that the difference between a Corolla and a Caddy, even these days, is maybe $100 a month at the pumps.
I am paying $1.50 a litre for premium fuel for my Acura, which gulps it at a rate of 12 L/100 km in Vancouver’s horrid traffic. Lots of people have told me that I “should get something cheaper to run.” I look at them like they have rocks in their head. When company car tax credits are factored in, the depreciation on this car has been less than $1000 in three years. I don’t care how much gas it costs me and it is only like $60 a month more than my Fit was anyway.
I agree, there is no comparison between Bentley and Cadillac. It’s like comparing chicken salad (Bentley) to chicken s*^t (Cadillac). One is made with great effort and a recipe, the other just kind of comes together and falls out. Seriously, it’s never fair or even sensible to compare something handmade with something mass produced; two totally different worlds.
I have a hard time imagining someone in 1988 buying this car and saying “Look at my beautiful brand new Cadillac, I’ve been waiting for it my whole life” after driving home from the dealership, but this is exactly the scene that comes to my mind when I see an 84′ CDV.
Never underestimate the power of “new”. I’m sure that sort of phrase came out of the mouth of many a blue blood country club member when they rolled up in their mini-Fleetwood. The older fullsize was a much better looker, but its OLD! Gasp!
You know it’s kind of funny reading these Cadillac screwed themselves stories. Ruined their reputation, etc. But nobody brings anything to the table to support that is what really happened. I’ve read about the 85+C-Body, the 86+E/K Body,the 1st gen Seville,2nd gen Seville,Catera,HT4100,yada,yada. Hey look around. Cadillac and most of GM is still around. If these cars were such a failure than the sales numbers don’t support it. But,but they sold in smaller numbers than their previous models, you say? Did they I say? Yes they sold smaller numbers but so did everybody elses equalvalent models. I know Paul was even stupid enough to say that Lincoln surpased Cadillac in sales because of the new for 85 DeVille. NO THEY DID NOT. Cadillac still out sold Lincoln. It wasn’t until this century that Lincoln finally out sold Cadillac and IIRC it was only by a couple of hundred units. A dead heat if you ask me. So that blows the theory(more like opinion) that these were cars that nobody asked for and that nobody wanted. I could rant all day on this subject, but I’ll leave with this statement for all of you arm chair executives to ponder. ” What if this was the way that it was planned all along?” You know the other day I was watching Fox and a host posed the question “If BHO didn’t want to fundamentally change America what would he have done differently?” This is the question I’m asking. If Cadillac did have a better strategy then what would it have been? IMHO I think they took the right path. I suspect that if they stayed on the same path that Lincoln took than we wouldn’t have some of the great Cadillac models we see today. In the end you can’t deny that GM fundamentally transformed the automotive industry in the later half of the 20th century.
You all focus on what was bad but fail to see what was good.
The right answer was probably somewhere in between, I imagine that by the time they found out that these might have erred on the side of smallness too much, they were already to far along to make major changes without it adding even more costs, and more development time, remember changing over to the H, C, E and K cars for 1985-1986 wasn’t cheap, there was a lot factory and manufacturing changes that needed to be made, not to mention all the development and testing of all the new FWD components, especially the 440T needed more development time. Originally these cars were supposed to roll in the summer of 1983 for GM’s 75th anniversary in 1984, replacing the already 7 year old 1977 full size cars, which got another 2 year extension so the FWD H/C-cars could be fully sorted out
I think if they would have managed to add a few inches to the length and width of these and some of the other downsized cars, they would have looked better than what originally came out. Lincoln did try to copy these cars, how else could you explain the FWD Taurus based 1987 Continental?
Very true Carmine. This car had two strikes against it–the HT4100 and the difficulty of putting classic Cadillac cues on a smaller car. The ’85-up FWD C-bodies had tons of room and space, and rode great, but it was a luxury car, and luxury cars were supposed to be big and imposing. Why pony up the cash otherwise? People wanted size, gadgets, reliability and style. I actually like the design of the 1985-88 de Villes, so long as there are no aftermarket wheels, grilles and fake convertible/vinyl roof. But the 1980-84 de Ville and Fleetwood were beautiful-BEAUTIFUL!–cars, and the ’85 design was not near as attractive. If the 1989 car had come out in 1985, things may have been very different. In fact, I have read that the original design of the ’85 was very, very close in design to the ’89, but was nixed in favor of the smaller version.
I like the 1987-88s a lot more–the extra length and added chrome helped a lot. And the FWD C-bodies did sell well–by ’87 the de Ville, 98 and Electra had been accepted as the new normal.
But you have to remember GM (and they were not alone) feared Gas Crises III, IV and V and planned accordingly. If they had been right, today we’d be going on and on about what a dinosaur the 1985-89 Town Car was compared to the Caddy.
1980 Sedan de Ville for your viewing pleasure:
The advanced styling studies for the FWD C-cars began while the 1977 cars were still in their first run believe it or not, some of the early styling studies were much less conservative than what came out for 1985, I think, partially at least, that Cadillac was sort of caught in the middle, not wanting to loose a large number of the styling cues that long time Cadillac owners liked, while at the same time trying to attract a new crop of buyers, in hindsight they probably should have recalled the “old man/young mans car” paradox.
This was a DeVille advanced styling study from 1979-80
Wow, that looks nice. It reminds me of the Cadillac Voyage concept, but with a formal roof line. It’s also very reminiscent of the rare 1986-88 Touring Sedan–but with more luxury car-like proportions.
From that angle it reminds me of an Aston Martin Lagonda.
Here’s another. Lots of these sketches look good because of the larger wheels too, which would have helped the final production cars too.
My grandmother bought one of these downsized ’87 deVilles – hers was actually a Fleetwood d’Elegance model – with 14k miles on it from the local Caddy dealership. She LOVED that car until the day she died. Granted she didn’t put a ton of miles on it, but it was always very reliable and comfortable for her. Plus it WAS very roomy for its size. She was able to manuever that car far easier than the huge 1979 deVille it replaced. I drove that car on many occasions and always felt that it handled nicely but was slightly underpowered, especially if there were a few passenegers. I think GM made the mistake of not having a tried and true engine in the 4.1, but overall I feel that these cars were a step in the right direction. The 1989 update did make them far more attractive, enjoyable to drive and more Caddy like. My Dad’s 1990 Coupe deVille with the 4.5 was a fantastic car. He loved that car too. I drove that car all the time and always enjoyed it. I can’t tell you how many people rode in that car and commented on how comfortable and well it rode.
I used to get much of the same comments from the 1990 LeSabre Limited that I owned, everyone that rode in the car commented on how comfortable the seats were, and how nice the ride was, and “why don’t they make cars like this anymore?”
To which I replied: “Because the idiots and Car & Driver have convinced everyone that EVERY car has to be a f**king BMW”
Carmine you are so right! As my Dad’s final car before he passed, he was proud to own that 1990 Coupe deVille. It was as if owning a Cadillac meant something again. They had presence which some of the mid 80’s Caddys lacked a little. Dad had considered another Maxima but one drive in the deVille and he was sold. I remember the day we picked it up – I was 23 at the time. I remember saying to him “I can’t believe it is ours.” The smile on his face will never be forgotten. And he enjoyed that car every day until he passed in 1993. My Mom drove it for 5 more years and replaced it with – you guessed it – a 1998 BMW 528 which she still owns to this day. She was afraid of another Caddy after ours started having a few minor issues and my brother (an avid Car & Driver reader) talked her into the BMW.
Though isn’t that kind of an “out of the frying pan and into the fire” situation? I know that late 90’s BMW’s aren’t really known as paragons of durability, which is why you can buy a 750iL for $1800…..
Carmine, I am calling BS on that one. Prove it by showing us an average example of a late 90’s 750IL for $1800. Those cars were among my favorite when new and still are as used cars.
Here’s a $1400 740iL
And here’s a $1225 750, it still has 2days left, NO RESERVE, but if it cracks $2000, I’d be surprised.
Act now, this could all be yours…..
And this was with about 2 seconds of searching in eBay and no other sites.
Carmine, One is of the cars is advertised to be “parted out” and the other has not even ended the auction yet. Also, one is a 740 not a 750. Yes, you are making that shit up or at least playing with the facts:)
I would love to buy cars at prices determined by your process:)
Ok, here’s a 750iL for $1000 in Sunrise FL, again 2 SECONDS OF SEARCHING ON CRAIGSLIST FOUND THIS CAR, if they were so hard to find at this price, I wouldn’t find one this cheap every 2 SECONDS OF SEARCHING WITH LITTLE TROUBLE. This needs a water pump, they’ll take $800 for it, let me know if you want me to go by and take a look at your dream car.
Or am I still making this shit up?
I’m not saying this because I have anything against the 7 series, please stop taking it personally, Its a fact that they are expensive cars to keep running, which usually results in $1000 used to be $100,000 cars, its the same with older S-classes, there is a $3000 600SEL on ebay now, that was a $130,000 car when new.
I think the rep you have built up for these cars in your mind doesn’t match up with the real world realities of owning one.
My Mom’s situation may be a bit different from the norm. She only has 76,000 miles on hers and babies it. However, it is very expensive to fix when it breaks – luckily hers has been relatively trouble free except for normal wear and tear items.
Carmine’s right on bargain basement 7 series. My sis’s FIL had a 740 from same period. Mint nick, worth about 4 grand. It’s the gold example on my cohort page.
Carmine, My family and I have owned these cars and find them every bit as dependable as the cars you see as top ring and certainly better engineered; so if you were in an accident chances are you will be home that night. The examples you keep pulling up are in pieces yet they are still worth what good examples of the cars you so admire are worth. Stop looking for pieces of junk trying to prove your outlandish post and find an example in at least average condition. Go ahead, put down your Kool-Aid get to it and prove me wrong. So far you are digging yourself in deeper to a hole you cannot explain your way out of which concerns a car you know nothing about. You want me to pull up some Cadillac’s which are even newer in the condition of the examples you have presented? No, I didn’t think so:) If you want to talk about BMW’s limitations, there are plenty, but don’t just make up stuff in order to try and be somewhat right in what was a foolish posting.
LeBaron, there’s no way I’m going to defend a Cadillac as better than the E32, but over here in oz you can find right now two 750iLs for $6k or under. 740s and 735s are so cheap, it’s not funny. Really not funny. Because you’re right, these are great cars.
I’ll contrast this with my mate’s mum’s E39 5 series, which is so fresh her (dealer) mechanics are fighting to buy it. Seriously.
It doesn’t matter how good these 7-series are, they have just gone to nothing in value unless you’re talking about super-low-low-mileage-full-continuous-dealer-servicing-one-loving-owner provenanced examples.
It’s nothing against the car, I think three things influence their price;
1. Very big and slightly clunky design
2. Rich people mostly like new toys and these aren’t new anymore.
3. Relative complexity. Once these need a serious fix, forget it. I’ve seen one for sale outside a pawnshop in low median income Adelaide.
As mentioned above, I am familiar with a 740 owned by my sis’s FIL. He loved that car and paid a lot of attention to it. He’s just passed away (RIP B.) and after recently putting $20k into the car, its been estate-appraised for $4k.
You asked for examples and with little effort I found 3, don’t ask questions you don’t want to know the answers to, and then don’t try to change the subject once you’ve been clearly shown up since I’ve backed up my statement with FACTS.
But Cadillac this and Cadillac that…
That’s fine, whatever, you wanted sub 2K late 90 7series, and I found NOT 1, NOT 2 BUT3 examples, one for 3 digit prices. I’m sure there are tons of cheap burnt out Cadillacs too, but remember that none of those crapped out 90’s Cadillacs were once $97,000 cars like a 750iL either. It’s the nature of the luxury car, once it becomes yesterdays old luxury car with problems, its slides down the socioeconomic scale, its a fact of life, there are $2000 Lexus LS out there too, I know its sad….
BTW, some of the cars or heaps if you want to call them that, I admire so much, a 1974 Fleetwood Talisman and a 1977 Coupe deVille are on ebay right now at $6300 plus, with the reserve still not met, which is more than what the majority of late 90’s 7 series are going for on ebay, and yeah, I know those are great examples, but even crapped out 70’s Cadillacs, are still selling for what crapped out 90’s 7-series go for.
Here’s the crappiest “buy it now” 90’s Cadillac I could find on ebay, a 1990 Fleetwood, and it was going for $500, with a blown head gasket, but consider that this was a $32,000 car 24 years ago, not at $100,000 car in 1997. This car is going for $300 less than the 750 that needs a water pump.
Please try to be a little more adult in your arguments, you seem like a nice person and I don’t want to really insult you, but I will if I have too. You are taking this way too personally, bordering on being insulting.
I’m glad you carry a candle for the 7 series, good for you, but you CAN BUY ONE FOR LESS THAN $2K, FACT. Sorry.
Carmine, you can’t fix prideful stupidity.
Don, I get your point but you and I know the used car market in your part of the world is completely different than our part of the world, we cannot compare. Even one of these old Cadillac’s might bring a couple of thousand over there. Why would you have to put $20K into a car that had been well kept?
I am in the car world/market more than you know and I do know what I am talking about when it comes to the “price market”. You are going to have to trust me on that statement. No wanting to believe something is not an option for me.
Very good condition Cadillac like you are talking about $2500, unless you find someone that wants it bad, not for just what it is.
Very good condition 750 $25-30K and they are beginning to go up as most examples are in the condition you pulled up. I will also say a very good condition Cadillac of that era should be reaching the bottom of it’s depreciation cycle due to fewer examples each day passes.
A $2K Lexus LS isn’t a driver, it’s a donor car.
Now, how can you compare a 74 Fleetwood Talisman’s value of which 1,200(?) were made to a car made 20+ years later in the thousands?? I owned a 76 Fleetwood Talisman for 15+ years and sold it last year to a friend. I know something about the cars you speak of and your examples make no sense.
On that note, if you really want an example of a marque I love that would support your crazy examples look at what very good examples of 1981-1989 Rolls are bringing. Now that is really sad! For someone who wants one it is a buyers market and I would be grabbing several example if they appealed to me (which they do not).
You insulting me isn’t an issue. I don’t know you, you are just words on a screen to me, besides I am not insulted because you do not know the subject you are talking about and it has been a livelihood for me. Your ideas sound like me trying to practice medicine. You are the one that post ill intended snippets on here with “I am the Queen” attitude cutting others off that don’t respond because they do not take you seriously. I think you have some depth knowledge on these cars, more than 95% of people but you cannot be objective for whatever reason about these cars. I have owned them, loved them and yet still know them for what they are. These are just facts. It’s not some Friday night high school football team we are pulling for. It’s just facts. The cars I have kept over the years I could walk through my barn now and tell you each one’s glass jaw and shortcomings without getting angry. My self esteem is not tied to anything I own.
Junqueboi, Oh, never mind.
You’re right, I’ve never bought and sold new, used and classic cars, I was never in the car business for more than a decade, I never wholesaled, never been to an auction, I don’t have a warehouse full of old cars, I’m clueless about all this stuff…
The 1977 Coupe de Ville I used in the same example was produced by the hundreds of thousands, I provided that in contrast to the low production Talisman so you couldn’t used the low volume argument, which you did anyway.
But please keep plugging away at your “credentials” in hopes of impressing I don’t know who.
If your so knowledgeable why don’t you own a 750 already? Why don’t you snap up these clearly undervalued or imaginary cars that you “cant’ buy for $1800, corner the market. I mean, you know so much about these you should be able to snap up these $1000 750’s and turn them into $10,000 cars in no time.
The nicest realistically priced 750 on ebay right now is $4995, and it has a day to go with 0 takers so far, anyone who pays $10,000 for one of these is following that adage about a fool and his money.
BTW, there are 7 running 1990-1996 LS400’s for under $2000 on Craigslist in Miami. I don’t make up these prices. I’m not rooting for one team or another, you called me out, you said that an $1800 750 was BS, I clearly showed you it was not, several times, that really should have been the end of the argument right there.
Objectivity has nothing to do with it, I think the 7 series is a swell car, James Bond even drove one, either way, I’m tired of going roundy-round with you on this. We’ll just have to agree to disagree.
Carmine, You aren’t listening. The examples you are pulling up are j-u-n-k. No one would in their right mind would buy such a ragged out car and expect to fix them as you say and sell them at a decent return nor would an enthusiast buy these junk examples, but instead would buy the nicest example he/she could find at a good price, which is the price range I quoted. Perhaps that’s why you aren’t in the car business any longer? By the way, James Bond isn’t a real person and besides who cares what other people drive? Again, my car isn’t tied to my self esteem. I think that point of view has plaid a hand in Cadillac’s demise too. I think you are in love with an idea and it has removed your ability to be rational. Cars are a passion for me and I have to see their good and bad points otherwise I am out of touch with reality on the subject. Because your opinion is based on emotions it is not rational, therefore it is pointless to try and discuss this (and probably anything) with you. I will give you the last word on this my Queen, but I would like to invite you to think of seeing your hobbies/interests for what they are, not just the good or you will just live in a fantasy and distort things to defend a dream. Now, in the last word on this subject include some limitations of your beloved marque. It will not hurt you, you will grow. I carry that practice over into all aspects of my life which keeps me grounded and makes me aware of my own shortcomings and limitations which must be improved. I would think those earlier car makers did the same. Take care.
Le Baron, because he loved the car.
I’m obviously not hating on the 7-series; I think this is just part of a wider malaise. The 750 cost somewhere in the region of a quarter mill to buy over here which takes into account the oz dollar, the luxury car tax (and its predecessor, the Wholesale Sales Tax – both protectionist mechanisms and look at our car industry today) and the fact that as such an isolated region, we are held captive by greedy distributors.
When you flick through the used car mags here, there are plenty of recent ‘luxury’ vehicles for sale in large warehouse dealerships. Even recent cars against their new sticker show unacceptable levels of depreciation. If people didn’t finance to buy…
In short, I just think new cars are too expensive. Period.
Spot on Carmine. And it’s so stupid for everybody to make a fake BMW, because people will just buy (well, lease) a real BMW instead. So what’s the point?
I’m glad the new Cadillacs look like Cadillacs, and not the latest Japanese or Euro fare. But I still think they need a more traditional model above the XTS–a three-box design with classic cues, modern power and safety gadgets and tons of room. Think modernized LT1 Fleetwood.
Tom, I think Cadillac should have gone the way of Lexus; cars that don’t try to out Mercedes Mercedes. Meaning, Cadillac should have remained rear wheel drive, made their cars quite as tombs, a reasonable amount of isolation from the road, highest grade material as price would allow, very dependable like the 472 and customer service second to none. Had they done that before Lexus, Cadillac’s would have a resale valve, customers would be standing in line and they would be a world class car. Oh, how I wish that were so. Just imagine if the early 80’s Cadillac’s had been made with such ideals in mind. Now that would be awesome! I would have one in my barn now to play with and my daily drive would likely not be a Lexus LS, but instead a Fleetwood or Fleetwood Coupe.
Isolation and soft ride was a BAD BAD BAD BAD BAD BAD thing when domestic makers did it according to Csababa Csesrereere over Can and Drivel and Motor Rooter, until Lexus did isolation and soft ride, then it was AWESOME, like if it had just been discovered all over again.
Carmine, Cadillac’s example of road isolation meant out of control cars that turned and pitched like canoes. Lexus did it with retaining an ability to still handle the car in emergency maneuvers and let’s not forget dependability, outstanding customer service and awesome resale value.
PS, Cadillac is done as you and I knew it and loved it.
I’ve never been “out of control” in a 70’s car, well once in one night in a green over white 77 Mark V, but that’s a different story, mostly due to operator error…..perhaps you might need driving lessons?
Carmine, You might have felt in control in those old cars but trust me you were only a passenger.
Amen. I was kind of disappointed when I got into the XTS for the first time. Its a big bold car, sure, but when you get in it has that narrow cockpit feel. Ugh.
Give me a bench seat with the gear shifter on the steering column. I should be able to sprawl out in that SOB. A car that big on the outside should sit like a living room like the Caddies of old, not like every other permutation of “sports sedan” or somesuch.
I sat in an XTS at a Cadillac event a few years ago, and hated the interior. The dash/console should not be so intrusive that it pushes my leg into an uncomfortable position. I don’t want a “cockpit”, I want a big roomy car to stretch out in. To me, the luxury is not what a car can do at Nueremberg, it’s how comfortable it rides on a 5 hour road trip. Someday sooner than later, I’m going to be forced to give up the bench seat and column shifter I love for an inferior bucket seat/console setup.
Wow! So gas is as much as $1.50/litre.
In UK it surpassed that in about 1999/2000.
There were a series of fuel strikes by truckers. Now its at about $2.00/litre. Thankfully its dropped a little and been steady for a while. You’re catching us up though!
For my part it is not a statement of wealth when I drive my old gas guzzler, its two fingers to a government that screws motorists any chance it gets. I’m still rolling and you ain’t killed me off yet!
The last time I was in the UK I thought petrol was very expensive but there are some major differences to the situation here in Canada. First, we drive a lot more, since the distances here are simply huge. Then there is the harsh winter in most of the country. There are also mountains and lots of rough terrain. That kind of means we have larger displacement cars to begin with. In the UK, I saw loads of little city cars, 1.0-1.4 litres that simply don’t exist here and there are only a few diesels. So, although you guys pay more for fuel, I doubt many people spend more for fuel on an annual basis that we do, since your cars are more efficient and you drive less.
People grew up with large displacement V-8’s and they are still the biggest sellers, in trucks where the cabs get bigger and the load beds get smaller. Feeding these things, even at the cheaper prices in the USA, is still freaking expensive. In Canada, it’s obscene, but it goes to show what guys will pay for lifestyle and to look cool. They are cheap, too, we put on on the road last year all in for less than $25,000, with a V-8, of course.
That baby Cadillac has to be one of the ugliest cars ever built. Along with the worst v8 ever. No wonder they all bought Lincolns and Lexus cars. It just didn’t look impressive and if a luxury car don’t look impressive why buy it I??? This holds true today also. For example the current Lincoln mk something flagship is much like this car. Its ugly and too small ugly and not a real Lincoln. Might as well just buy a same sized Camry or accord. Shame on Cadillac for making this car and shame on Lincoln for forgetting why they owned the luxury market for 30 years
This car would have made for a fine redesign of the Eldorado and Seville, but Deville and Fleetwood they were not! At least they were smart enough to continue to offer the old bodystyle as the “Brougham” during these years.
Here is a magazine ad for the first front wheel drive Cadillac Fleetwood for its debut year in 1985. Note that there is NO VINYL ROOF! Horrors! But, at least they kept the coach lamps. Cadillac would bring back a “Landau” half-roof style a couple years later, that encompasses the entire rear side windows. That gave the look of a “opera window”.
This is the very junk that got GM into such a fix. God, how I hated those ugly, tall, upright rooflines. The ’80s produced the worst looking cars ever. I look at the gorgeous Cadillacs from the ’60s and early ’70s and wonder what in the hell went wrong in the ’80s and even into the ’90s. Picture a 1967 Cadillac Eldorado or a 1966 Oldsmobile Toronado or Riviera from that era and there’s intense beauty in what you see. Wonderful quality and top notch engineering, beautiful quality interiors and rugged powerful engines. Fast forward to the Regan era and GM is littered with one mess on top of another mass of messes! Ford and Chrysler were wallowing in flotsam as well with ugly K cars and Ford’s overuse of the Fox platform. Remember the ugliest Thunderbird and Cougar ever built from 1980-82! May the ’80s forever be as far forgotten as possible!!!!!
Those FWD 1985 Cadillacs suffered from the dullest period of GM styling ever. Everyone reveres Harley Earl and Mitchell, but who remembers Irv Rybicki? (Sp?) EVERY car and truck coming out of GM in the 80’s was a stilted, straight-lined, unsculpted bland mobile. Even the “sexy” cars were dumbed down. Compare a 1981 Camaro/Firebird to the 1982 versions. And the 1984 Corvette was a technological triumph, but lacked the voluptuousness of its predecessor and follower. I knew the 1985 Cadillac was bland, but when the 1988 Riviera came out, I was dumbfounded! Charles Schulz could style cars better! It was truly over when the 1988 pickups came out. Nothing more than straight lines and rectangles…The new breed of CTS-image Caddies are encouraging, but if the “quality” of my 2006 Corvette is any indication, I’ll pass…
To accomplish the blaming about the 80’s Cadillac’s. 😉
I still like that thing even I’ve got many troubles whit engine overheating caused by those lousy water pumps. Yes the head gaskets are still ok 😉
Electronic troubles, hard to find parts for the convertible type (here in Switzerland) etc. I don’t understand why they didn’t kept the good old 350 Olds engine and made them of alloy instead of designing the 4.1 L HT crap. No torque, no power same gas mileage as my Tahoe which weighs about one tone more than the Caddy.
Anyway, it’s still fun to enjoy a couple nice sunny days a year for granny stile cruising. But I will definitely not start a round the world trip with this Devil(le)
>> Starting in about 1969, Cadillac started skimping on interior materials. What had been chrome plated hardware was replaced with flash-plated plastic.
The reason for that was the NHTSA’s Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 201, which took effect in 1968 and covered dashboards and door panels as they related to occupant protection in a crash. The general approach taken by the auto manufacturers was to eliminate chrome, aluminum, stainless and other metal components from dashes starting with the 1968 model year. Which is why the interiors of 1969-70 Cadillacs are so full of craptastic plastic that’s impossible to restore. Blame FMVSS 201, and not Cadillac.
This 4.5 has been great for me since Aug, 1992. Now with 252K miles & still going strong. And a head-turner.
A head turner? NO WAY! A stomach turner? Most definitely!!
I used to own an ’83 Eldorado with the super, shi*** 4.1 V8. That Eldorado was a money pit. It never ran right. It pinged all the time, the engine would surge at cruising speeds, the front end wore out prematurely, and the interior materials were absolute garbage. Not to mention the rotten paint quality and interior water leaks and a climate control system that was a major failure. The “level ride” feature for keeping the rear of the car level under load was always breaking. Oh, and let me not forget the passenger side power window motor failing on a rainy day! Nice. Especially since the dealer charged me $400.00 to repair the damn thing! I bought this car used and it had around 50K on it. It appeared to be well cared for and it seemed pretty nice at first being a quiet ride and that, but boy what a hunk of junk it was in a short time of owning it. The only other cars that were absolute crap that I owned was a ’95 Volkswagen Jetta GLI (a major nightmare!) And a 2001 BMW 328. An absolute piece of garbage! The best cars I ever had were a 1988 Honda Civic wagon that I bought used with 100K on it, and I added another 220K! And a 1984 Toyota SR-5 4X4 truck that I still own with 173K. My everyday car is a 2007 Toyota Corolla with 95K that has been 100% trouble free. I would NEVER buy a FORD, GM and especially a Chrysler product. I would never want to own any german brand either. The Japanese brands, and the Korean makes are absolutely the best built, most durable cars on the planet.
Caddies used to have neat triad horns. I pulled a set from a super, stupendously, ugly ’80s Eldorado. I installed the horns on my beater Camry wagon. Imagine the surprise when some inattentive dullard on the road gets a tritone blast of those old Caddy horns coming from a tatty old Camry!
My dad had a an 83′ Coupe DeVille purchased brand new that was my first car some years later. It was actually trouble free until it hit 75,000 miles then it started falling apart. The single reason he opted to keep it and not turn it in after the lease was up because the 85’s were so small.
A friend of mine had an 89′ Coupe DeVille and I fell it love with it. When the 83′ engine blew at 127,000 miles I sold it and purchased a 90′ Coupe DeVille. I loved that car. I owned several different Caddy’s since that 90′ coupe and it still remains my favorite with 83′ a close second.
Is there any software that can filter out all the crap about how unbelievably fantastic Japanese cars are?
The truth is Japanese and European cars are superior. Especially if you are comparing the shit Cadillac was stinking up our roads with in the ’80s and ’90s. I think that the only people who have some twisted love affair with these clunkers are those folks who can’t afford a decent automobile to own. Face it, these cars are what nearly drove the final nail in Cadillac’s coffin. It has taken over 30 years for Cadillac to try to make a name for themselves once again, and it’s an uphill battle.
this about says it all
My 1988 Cadillac DeVille
81,000 miles on it
Love it wouldn’t trade it for anything
I’d stick with my 88 Brougham d’Elegance over one of these oddly styled golf carts any day. When I buy a Cadillac, I want a Cadillac. Not some imitation of an ugly eurocar. When rear drive went away, I went to Lincoln. All of the rest of the pretenders bought trucks. Clearly, gas prices and size were not the issue at all. Or they were just fooling themselves.
It’s almost painful to read Tom’s concluding remarks after 6 years have passed: “The current CTS and XTS, while not as great as the 1960s Cadillacs, are nice cars. Hopefully they’ve learned their lesson, and hopefully Cadillac’s darkest days are behind them.”
My Granddad had a red ’90 SDV which I ended up with in exchange for acting as his chauffeur for a bit. My friends used to refer to it as the “blue hair advantage” because it was damn near invisible when returning from being out in Buckhead on the weekends. I also enjoyed use of it as a budding road warrior, inhaling the miles driving back and forth from Atlanta to Savannah.
As bad as the reputation of the 4.1 was, the port injected 4.5 was rather pleasant. The engine and transmission were about as well matched as anything I’ve driven, snatching a quick downshift almost telepathically but never holding it any longer than needed. It certainly made the most of the available 180hp.
I read through all 152 comments, whew, such vitriol! I guess that things can get quite heated when we discuss something that we either love, or hate,- a lot. I worked on the production line in the late 70’s and early 80’s for General Motors. I came from a UAW family and the American auto industry meant something to me. There was lots of good and some bad, but it provided my family with the opportunity to enjoy security and a degree of upward mobility. Cadillac also meant something to me on a personal level, even though I was never going to be the person that would buy a brand new one.
There was a very good article in Collectible Automobile ( August ’87) entitled Cadillac in the 1980’s, Design Dilemma, by Harry Bradley. I could not find an online copy but I’ll try to summarize. Cadillac has lost it’s way, changing demographics, both social and economic have eliminated the possibility that a modern Cadillac could ever again be a competitive “World Class” car. Since Cadillac is based upon mass produced GM platforms and mechanical components, it could not be exclusive enough, and be priced high enough, to appeal to modern high income consumers. He noted that there are now more wealthy people, and they are more wealthy than those of the past. These people are not brand loyal and they are likely to want to try new and different products. They are also not limited to Western European backgrounds and traditional American design holds little appeal for them. In fact the opposite was probably true. Traditional American designs seem old fashioned and retrograde. Definitely not prestigious or a positive reflection of their self image.
Bradley’s recommendation was for Cadillac to retain their focus on providing reliable, comfortable, quality vehicles that are recognized as “good worthwhile cars” but to quit pretending that they are or were comparable to Rolls Royce and compete in what is now called the “near luxury market.”
I found that recommendation startling at the time. Cadillac should settle for being an Acura, or even worse, an Oldsmobile? No matter how Cadillac wanted to be thought of as, the reality is that consumers decided what a Cadillac really is. Cadillac is now thought of as a higher, glitzier, trim level of a corporate GM car, truck or SUV. An Escalade is not thought of as being better than a Tahoe or Denali, just different. And not always as “different” in a complimentary manner.
This was described in detail in the CC post that described the new Ford Explorer as the “real” Cadillac. It became the aspirational status indicating choice. Driving a new Explorer ( and other higher line SUVs) made a much more complimentary statement about the owner than some stuffy 90’s De Ville.
I still love old Cadillacs, primarily from the mid 1960s and 1950’s. Now those were real Cadillacs!