Cohort Classic: 1987-88 Cadillac Cimarron – Could This Be The Nicest One Left?

Let’s continue our Cadillac Friday with the polar opposite of the ’83 Eldorado: The Cimarron. It’s hard to believe that these very different cars shared space in Cadillac showrooms at the same time. What a decade Cadillac had in the ’80s! While the Cimarron might go down in history as the worst-ever idea for a Cadillac, that shouldn’t prevent one from earning its keep–even 24 years after Cadillac shipped the final one to a (certainly) less-than-enthusiastic dealership.

Yes, the Cimarron is the poster child for Cadillac’s fall from “Standard of the World”–a reputation it had managed to keep more or less intact for six decades–to, well, this. The first 1982 Cimarron was virtually identical to its Chevy, Pontiac, Buick and Oldsmobile cousins, although later versions became much more palatable. I know I might get blasted by the Curbside Commentariat for it, but I have a confession: I like the 1987-88 model Cimarrons. Yes, seriously.

It’s hard not to see the original 1982 version as anything but a cynical marketing exercise: Tack on quad headlamps, an eggcrate grille and leather seats, then ship ’em off to the dealers–and oh yes, don’t forget to mark the price way, WAY up. There. Job done. Well, not really.

Once the Cimarron debuted, most folks rolled their eyes at this Cad-valier. But for those who kept paying attention, the car actually did get better. The 1985 models got BMW-like side cladding, wraparound taillights, a new front fascia and handsome alloy wheels. But the best-looking Cimarron came out in 1987. Its new composite headlamps, wraparound parking lamps and  trademark eggcrate grille finally gave it a strong resemblance to the front-wheel drive Fleetwoods, de Villes and Eldorados. The front air dam and integrated fog lights added for ’85 completed the look, which I think was a pretty good one.

By now, all Cimarrons came with the 2.8-liter V6; in reality, the 1.8- and 2.0-liter fours should never have been offered. Despite a newly available five-speed manual transmission with overdrive (instead of the previous 4-speed), it’s likely that most of these compact Caddys were fitted with automatics. Small details, perhaps, but at least indicative of Cadillac’s attempt to improve the car through the years. Was it a viable competitor to Euro sedans like the Mercedes 190E and BMW 325i? No, not by a long shot. Nevertheless, the car DID get better.

It was, however, all for naught. Sales continued to be less-than-satisfactory, and the little-changed ’88 model would be history by June of that year. It might have looked a lot nicer than the original ’82, but there simply was no way to completely disguise those Cavalier origins. And therein lay the rub.

The few prospective buyers who liked the Cimarron faced the major downside of being mocked by their neighbors, their dentist, their mailman and random passers-by: “Nice Cavalier! Har har har!” They could add all the options they liked–digital gauges, fake convertible top, fake continental kit–but there was just no getting around it.

I recently was reminded of all this when I spotted this super-nice ’87 or ’88 Cimarron, posted by sometime CC author and frequent Cohort contributor Chris Green (AKA mistergreen on flickr). These recent photos were taken by a friend of his.

I haven’t seen one this nice since–well, actually, the last time I saw one this nice was at the 1988 Chicago Auto Show. It was hiding in a corner of the Cadillac display, locked and with a “SOLD” sign on the dashboard. Deep burgundy with silver rocker trim–in fact, just like the one shown in the ’88 Cadillac brochure a few pictures above.

What’s best about this Cimarron is its lack of “traditional” Cadillac dealer-installed options. No aftermarket grilles, no fake convertible top, no landau roof or JC Whitney wire wheel covers. OK, it has the gold badging but, all in all, it’s quite a nice find. Thanks for sharing, Chris!