For many a classic Cadillac fan, the bloom fell off the rose when the majority of the lineup followed the Eldorado and Seville to front wheel drive, and downsized in a 1-2 Punch between 1985 and 1986. I for one think it was a semi successful move, since I never really cared for the C/D-body Brougham. The more modern FWD DeVilles might have been a bean counter move, but they ended up a lot better than history remembers them.
Cadillac touted the all new for 1985 DeVille/Fleetwood as “The Cadillac of Tomorrow.” But as Cadillac soon realized, you can’t force your most conservative, traditional buyers into something because it’s better for them. Even if the downsized C bodies had almost the same interior volume, got better fuel economy, performed better and drove better than the nearly 19 foot long barges their names once graced, they still didn’t *scream* Cadillac to their buyer base. The result? A significant number of those buyers fled to the slightly updated Lincoln Town Car.
So the act of adding length to give more “importance” to the emasculated Caddies started with larger, more fin like tail lamp lenses for 1987, a larger 4.5L V8 in 1988 and for 1989 a longer wheelbase and all new styling (although the coupes cleverly hid their 1985-88 bodies with the new front and rear caps grafted on).
Now they appeared more traditional, more respectable. By the time the 1991 model year cycle rolled around, the best evolution of the 4-add three digits aluminum V8, now with 200hp had the ability with proper gearing to give some rather un-Cadillac-like haste. And with fewer issues with the drivetrain and assembly quality up, they started getting Consumer Reports Best Buy recommendations again, and recaptured the crown of being America’s Favorite Luxury Sedan.
But that’s before some new, soon to be perennial favorites started chipping away at the DeVille’s shaky confidence. First the LS400, followed by a upsized, more elegant Acura Legend, and to an extent the newly distinctive Buick Park Avenue started making inroads into the DeVille’s home turf, and splitting the buyer base once more, more so than the Town Car had done on its missteps half a decade before.
It’s not too clear in hindsight if you can blame the DeVille for losing the Cadillac Playbook. The restyled for 1994 models were decidedly more baroque with their skirted rear wheels. It was more ridiculous when they moved the DeVille Touring Sedan concept to the DeVille Concours model. It was all the conceptual failure that the 1991-93 Olds Ninety Eight Touring Sedan was.
But the Seville in particular did an earnest effort going after the new import challengers. Although, in the Seville’s case there were a couple of notable flaws. I remember Car and Driver complaining about fit & finish during their long term test of the redesigned 1992 Seville, especially given the price that was par for a lot of better assembled competitors. Add in the initial shock of torque steer when the Northstar came on board in 1993 (and then the eventual maintenance issues later in the early editions of that engine’s life) and you start to see why people, once and for all, started turning away from Cadillac in droves.
This generation of DeVille however, always seems to show up on my beater shopping list. Often well preserved by elderly owners, there is always at least 35 on Craigslist for low low prices at estate sales. But there’s one flaw that I’ve read about in online forums that keeps me away. Flaws that don’t prevent The Allen family across the street from keeping these two 1991 DeVilles as daily drivers.
More often than not, if you go to any forum online, you’ll most often hear about the gas tank baffles coming loose and causing lack of gas flow and stalling. More often than not the forum recommendation is keep 6 or more gallons in the tank. Between that, or replacing the gas tank (at purchase or down the road) has kept me away from indulging my own type of Brougham Fetish and acquiring one.
And when I say my “own” type of Brougham Fetish, you can understand why it might not be quite as traditional as someone who prefers the D body Broughams. There’s no “Sofa Pillows” on the leather interiors of this generation of DeVille (although I believe there is on the Fleetwoods). I have a hard time separating the sensation of pillow top Brougham interiors with the phenomenon of “swamp ass.” But the rich variety of full colored interiors, from this deep navy blue to maroon and off white, and you have all of the rich color that was a Cadillac staple all throughout the post -war era.
And with that I offer a theory (and duck and run before the tomatoes start flying): that this generation of DeVille was the last great traditional Cadillac. It’s widely known that the 1993-96 Fleetwood D bodies suffered from the same fit and finish woes that plagued the last B Body Caprices and Roadmasters. The DeVille that followed it tried too hard to be what it wasn’t. And they soon became the General Motors alternate to rental fleet “luxury” choices opposite the ubiquitous Town Cars you could rent at Hertz.
And the rest of the Cadillac line-up tried to walk an awkward tightrope of Cadillac tradition and fighting an import war that they lost. Or are still fighting. And even then, these almost great DeVilles don’t count for most Cadillac enthusiasts. But I’ll sing their praises. For Smith era GM products they aren’t half bad. And maybe, just maybe I’ll get over my gas tank fears and own the last great traditional Cadillac.
I, too, love this generation of DeVilles. I owned a 1990 with 130k on it. The cushy, wallowy ride, the small, yet powerful and smooth V8, tons of space, compact size, decent build-quality. Stay with the 4.5 or 4.9 (I heard that instead of a tune-up at 60k you just had to rebuild the 4.1) and keep some gas in it (my father put 180k on one and never had the gas tank issue) and you will have a reliable, comfy cruiser that gets mid-20’s on the freeway. Good call, Laurence!
I just bought a 91 Sedan Deville in Toronto, original Florida car with only 60000 miles.
That top picture is awesome. Don’t you love it when cars and houses are color coordinated?
Only GM could have made this car (duh!), inasmuch as these downsized Caddys were classic overkill (underkill?); shrink them to Camry size just as gas prices were dropping like a stone. Yet they were a paragon of space utilization; GM’s technical prowess on display to prove that it could be done, regardless of whether it should be done.
Then you would have loved my mom. She loved the color red, and our house was painted white with red trim (and plenty of red inside too). In 1973, when I was a kid, she and my father bought a new Sedan de Ville – red, with a white vinyl top and white leather. We were definitely the family with the matching house and car.
Thankfully, they toned it down in just a few short years (even at 8 or so, it seemed a bit too flash), and moved on to gray cars and repainted the red trim green. But I often think of my mom in her red years!
These cars are far more impressive in the metal and on the road than one would guess from photos and specs. I was surprised when I had the use of a ’91 for a few days what a nice car it was.
The gas tank issue is no big deal. Keep gas in it and keep a spare good tank around just in case. 🙂
Great piece on a car I have trouble finding much love for. Maybe someday I will offer my take on these. The Coupe DeVille body had truly awful proportions. The sedans looked much better.
I had an elderly neighbor with one of these, and he was not very happy with it. I never knew what kind of problems he had, but he told me that the car was fairly troublesome.
I suppose I could see one of these as a really comfy Camry alternative. But here in the midwest, this is just not a proper Cadillac.
This body style is one of my favorites from the 80s – early 90s. This cars styling once again (to my teenage eyes) said CADILLAC. My Great Aunt Kessie had one in a pinkish shade of tan with a maroon vinyl top, matching leather interior and the 4.5V8. She drove it for many trouble free years and then replaced it with a non-Concours “areo” DeVille with the 4.9V8. That one was a lovely minty shade of metallic green. If the cars had been RWD instead of FWD it would be a true “WIN” in my book.
Give me any DeVille (or DTS) except the years with the 4.1V8 or pre-2004 Northstar. Although maybe it’s just easier to buy a 5.0V8 Town Car or a post intake issue (2001 and up) Town Car?
I’ve always been a sucker for rear seat leg room and V8 torque/smoothness. (How’s that for a Lutz-ian quote, Zachman?) 😛
“I’ve always been a sucker for rear seat leg room and V8 torque/smoothness. (How’s that for a Lutz-ian quote, Zackman?)”
I whole-heartedly approve, Dan!
These cars always struck me as a little girl playing in mom’s high heels.
You said it! Pretty nice to drive, however as a friend of mine had one.
I may be one of the few that liked the downsized Caddys. The early Coupe Devilles and Eldos really weren’t bad cars or bad looking.
I’ve always wanted to swap a 4.5/4.9 into an early Lumina just for grins.
You’re not the only one – the chiseled, first incarnation of the downsized Cadillac was always a favorite of mine. I was glad they they got away from the bloat. And was very sorry when the bloat came back.
Very nice article and photos. Sorry to say, but I could never get too excited about these Cadillacs. The interiors felt flimsy, and fit-and-finish was nothing to write home about. The rear quarter-panel extensions, lower-body side cladding and multi-piece front bumper all had a tacked-on, cheesy look. This only became more pronounced as the cars aged.
“Standard of the World” wasn’t what popped into most people’s minds when one of these drove by on the street. They just didn’t have that “robust” character that Cadillacs had possessed during the marque’s heyday, and was still present as late as 1976 in the Eldorado convertible and Fleetwood Brougham sedan.
After the battering that Cadillac had taken in the early 1980s, it still had a chance to regain at least some of its former glory and respect. These cars just didn’t seem all that luxurious or special. I’d rather have a Lincoln Town Car, particularly a post-1989 model.
I am afraid to say that I can’t get to excited about these cars. The idea was fairly good in that the cars were space efficient but the execution was all wrong. The cars were reliability nightmares, just rolling disasters. This model was introduced the exact same year as the Lexus LS400 which is still one of the best cars ever produced. GM counted on brand loyalty to get people in the door and it worked.
For many people in North American, owing a Cadillac was the pinnacle of success. Lots of them went into continuous debt for them and traded up every few years. My experience was that most owners of this generation of Caddy did not trade them for a new one. They either went for Lincoln Town Cars or to Lexus, more to Lexus than Lincoln. The reason was very simple: the cars were reliability nightmares, looked like a much cheaper GM running-mate and simply did not project the kind of image a 60 year old retired mill worker wanted to have. The Town Car did that and the Lexus and Acura (to a lesser degree, Acuras are not about cushy rides, I know this from experience) catered to younger buyers looking for a better made and more entertaining ride.
Oh, and in addition to the gas tank, the rear struts on these cars are really awful, as are the brakes, a/c and electronics, in addition to gaskets, fuel injectors….
I’m gonna chime in and say an LS400 at this point is another 20+ year old car. And (at least in the Bay Area) there seems to be more of the DeVilles of this age rolling around than the LS400.
Granted, that’s more to do with the LS400s sales figures and the DeVilles being pampered, but they must be worth some salt if there’s 10 within 4 blocks of me that are daily drivers 20+ years later. The same can be said for the LS400, a lot of them are still on the road 20 years later because they were well cared for. Which is something that can be said for any halfway decent luxury car. I think a lot more Cadillac buyers left the fold after the Northstar, an engine that was supposed to be world class, blew up in too many faces.
I am not going to get into a big argument over what brand is best but I have spent quite a bit of wheel time with both an LS400 and a FWD Cadillac and I would much prefer to have the Lexus as my daily driver. That said, the FWD Cadillacs were a quantum leap over the old RWD C bodies in the area of driving dynamics. The problem for me was the cars were practically the same as a Buick or Oldsmobile, which had better engines and much lower price tags.
It is easy to reason why there are more 20 year old Cadillac on than Lexus LS400. The Lexus was as big money in 1990 and there were not as many sold.
I’m going to assume you’ve never driven a well-maintained example.
It’s true the 4100 and early Northstar engines were reliability nightmares, otherwise they were actually pretty reliable and well screwed together cars.
As for the electronics, they’re as reliable as any which is to say they’re so-so. But check eBay for the difference in pricing of a ’91 DeVille climate control head unit vs one for an LS400. This is why you rarely see ’91 LS400s while ’91 DeVilles are still common. The people who buy 20-year-old luxury cars don’t have thousands to blow on repairs.
And BTW, Acura is nowhere near being in the same league as Lexus or even Cadillac — more equivalent to Pontiac.
Interesting you would say that Acura is on the same level as Pontiac. Have you ever driven one?
I have to say the 1991-95 Legend just feels like a grown up Accord with a V6. My Ex had a 1993 Accord EX and a Cousin of mine had a 1992 Legend. Same awkward for my body driving position (I have short legs and found both the Accord and Legend not to have much thigh support for those who sit closer to the wheel, even with the power seats on the Legend) Same extremely harsh given their relatively modern age automatic transmissions (They shift as hard as a W123 4 speed Automatic). Granted neither developed transmission problems while I experienced them, but the transmission always made themselves present. “Look at the work I’m doing! *SHIFT*” This in the same era that most electronically controlled automatics became amazingly smooth and quick shifting.
It says more about the competence of the Accord that the only bonus between it and the Legend to me was the standard V6 that went like batshit. Acura’s didn’t feel as distinctively special as even Lexus was able to do with the ES300 (granted, with acres of sound deadening). When the Accord got a *real* V6 (The 3.0L in 1998) it rendered a good number of Acuras redundant. I don’t feel the comparison between Acura and Pontiac is too off, if you think of the perspective of “what do I really get over the equivalent Honda?”
Acura is dangerously in the same dilemma that always plagued Mercury, Pontiac, DeSoto and the lot of Medium priced brands (or what is now *near luxury*) since it never really moved far upmarket enough in features or content to justify the premium. Lexus always had a aimed high and settled among the premium. Acura didn’t. And they have released some rather dubious looking cars in the last 4 years.
You need to drive a 1999-03 TL. There is a world of difference between them and an Accord. The 2004-2008 and 2009-present cars are even more different. The TL was the best selling near luxury sedan from 1999-2008 and still sells very well.
And yes, I agree, their styling has gone to pot in the latest generations.
We owned a 1990 Coupe deVille from new that was 100% bulletproof. It only started to leak a little oil around 100k but other than that it was well built, solid and enjoyable to drive.
I’m with you on these Laurence. I’ve been finding myself surfing Craigslist lately looking at them. I rented one in 1991, after I got married for a jaunt to Michigan with my new bride. I found it comfortable, fairly quick, fairly nimble, and not overly done. One of the nice things about being a south side of Chicago boy is you can still drive a Caddy or yes even, to a lesser extent, a Town Car without being labeled an old man or out of step with what the sophisticated folks drive. Okay, maybe not the Town Car.
And with that I offer a theory (and duck and run before the tomatoes start flying): that this generation of DeVille was the last great traditional Cadillac.
I disagree for one major reason. To me, Cadillacs should be imposing. The FWD Cadillacs are about as imposing as a day with grandma. Say what you will about the XLR and 2nd-gen CTS, but at least there is a sinister charm to them.
These do make good 2nd/3rd hand vehicles though.
Despite my dismissive comment of above, that does not extend to these contrarian takes on these types of vehicles. They make me look back and look at them with a fresh eye and a new take.
Keep ’em comin’!
One of my old bosses had several of these cars. I went to work for the nephew (Don) of the man (Leo) for whom I washed and waxed his wife’s 1969 Sedan de Ville in 1984. The company was then the largest producer of aluminum climbing equipment in the US and a Tier 1 supplier to the Big Three and others. Don (who was the advertising and marketing department VP) leased a brand new Cadillac every year, whatever the de Ville model was that year is what he got.
I can remember the 85’s, and what really strikes me is that page from Car and Driver magazine, (I bet I still have that in my archive somewhere) because IIRC, Don had one of those. I thought it was a rather interesting choice for a VP of a large company. Corporate edict stated that they could buy/lease any car from any company they supplied. I’m guessing that was the closest he could come to a BMW within that framework. The company didn’t start supplying transplant operations until the late ’80’s.
He had all of the models from 1985 to 1991 when I left the company. I remember the 1990 models in particular as they were the first ones to get a nose and trunk job to make them look like de Villes of old. IIRC, they also came with the then-new 5.0 Caddy motor. Once, when we were going to investigate the feasibility of installing new Scitex equipment in our in-house ad department, I asked him how he liked the new 5.0. He said to me, “I never worry about that kind of stuff”, and then proceeded to show me his newly installed cell phone. He enthusiastically remarked about how much more he could accomplish with this device in the car.
Just like my introduction to the microcomputer ten years earlier, I didn’t realize what people were showing me, and I totally missed the moment. I should have taken his enthusiasm as a sign that the world was about to change on it’s axis again.
But being the idiot I am, I was consternated that a VP of marketing couldn’t care less about the motor in his automobile, and was far more excited about what looked like a regular telephone handset with a few extra buttons.
I left his employ in 1991, to seek my fortune in a large Southern city. By 1994, the grandchildren of the founders of the company had sold it off to some investors, I never found my way back out there again. However, whenever I see one of these cars, I can’t help but think of that day in Fall 1990 when I was confused by a cell phone…
I’ve driven a couple of these ’85-’93 cars and although they were nice, I just didn’t think they had all that much of a Cadillac feel.
A few years ago I considered a ’94 Sedan DeVille…it felt more the part but some now-hard-to-remember red flags kept me from proceeding with purchase.
I do like the late DTS models although once you drive an STS/CTS…there’s no comparision IMHO…the STS/CTS just feels tighter and better behaved. The DTS is GM’s FWD platform dressed up as nice as can be but still unable to hide its roots.
The CTS is Holden based thats why it drives properly the chassis was engineered by people who know what theyre doing the same people who supply the world with RWD Chevys These Cadi look like the work experience kid did the styling its awkward and completely uncoordinated every old idea GM ever had cobbled onto one ugly car it sure dont spell luxury No surprise the German and Japanese luxo brands took off in sales these are truly ugly in comparism Id much prefer a Holden Statesman from this era proper V8 RWD good styling 4 wheel independant suspension and decent road manners no wonder Americans started buying tarted up pickups these Caddys are S**T
I agree on the DTS – it didn’t really feel all that much different than a similar-year Tahoe or Suburban in spite of the height difference and driving from the other end. Just GM and big.
What Cadillac had, was an image problem. I remember reading a write-up of their troubles at the time – that their median customer age was somewhere between 70 and “dead.”
This…was an attempt to take on the import luxury-sports models. Yet without changing the image they cherished…the younger buyers weren’t persuaded, or fooled, as the case may have been; but the older buyers just saw one more car that wasn’t the Titanic barge that screamed “BIG SHOT!” to them.
It’s not unlike the situation Daimler finds itself in now…after decades of providing, and being recognized for, superior engineering, their customer base has aged tremendously. All those retired Ob-Gyns no longer care to analyse the engineering of the product…they see the three-pointed star and reflexively sign on the buy order. The end result has been a company that’s neither high-quality nor cutting-edge on technology…basically what Cadillac had become 25 years earlier. And, as shown with the Chrysler fiasco, unwilling or unable to change its ways when presented with new problems.
But in the case of Cadillac…their choice is either to cater to the geriatric crowd, with the financial rewards they offer; or to completely, top-to-bottom, reinvent their image along with their products. Sadly for them, I don’t think they can do the latter.
My grandfather gave me one of these a few years ago when we were going through a rough patch, got me through a few months of family duty before my wife killed it. Literally, killed it, drove it with no oil for about 20 miles, the car smoking the entire time. She was stuck in literally the middle of nowhere Virginia, no cell coverage, no gas stations, NOTHING around. It died in the driveway.
In 2005, I needed a cheap cash car while going through a nasty divorce. All the Hondas I looked at were trashed, then I found a ’91 DeVille for $999. It had 200,000 miles on it, but it ran well, and unlike the Hondas, everything worked, including ice-cold A/C.
After taking care of neglected maintenance and having the transmission rebuilt at 216,000 when the lockup torque converter would intermittently not lock up (it still shifted fine), Cruella DeVille proved very reliable, and I took her on two cross-country trips where she performed flawlessly. The 4.9 had plenty of punch, and the car handled better than you’d expect. Cruella was comfortable and thoroughly pleasant to drive, and while not as glitzy as classic Cadillacs, the car had character out the wazoo.
I put 60,000 miles on Cruella, then gave her to my niece who has put another 7,000 on the old girl. And even after a harsh North Dakota winter, she still cleans up nicely:
Whoa, that’s a pretty sharp nearly 300K Caddy. For those of you that say they’re pieces of crap… here’s the counter evidence.
Thank you. I still see lots of these early 90s DeVilles on the road. I think it speaks well for their durability.
I have to admit I like the look of the ’89+ models.
The scope of the downsizing of the C/H/K/E cars in ’85-’86 was essentially a big mistake, but one tied to economic factors more than anything. Perhaps the story would have been different if $3.00/gallon had come true in 1985 instead of 2005.
However, the switch to front drive (and V6s on the non-Cadillacs) really was the right move for the time. Anyone who’s automotive awareness began after the mid ’80s (or doesn’t live in the Snow Belt) simply cannot understand how important FWD was at that time. From being essentially a novelty in 1979, it became a must-have almost overnight, leaving manufacturers like Ford, who didn’t didn’t ditch the Fox platform for the Taurus until 1986, at a major disadvantage.
For GM, moving the fullsize/prestige cars to front drive was both a necessity and a big gamble. Dire economic forecasts and falling sales all but killed the future prospects for big, V8 rear-drivers…remember that Pontiac (prematurely) killed off its Bonneville/Catalina after ’81 and Chevrolet came very close to doing the same with the Caprice/Impala, which had been selling 500K+ units only a few years before. On the premium side, cars like the Audi 5000 looked like the FWD way of the future.
Where they really goofed was on the styling. The cars were roomy and efficient. The drivetrain was…uh, okay, depending on the engine – they should have stuck with the transverse layout of the old E-cars, at least for the Cadillacs, but I digress. But the carryover Baroque look of rear drive cars on these modern machines was just ridiculous. The smaller size was going to turn off traditional buyers either way, but the hackneyed looks ensured that they wouldn’t be stealing any Mercedes buyers, either. Had the Cadillacs been even a little bit cleaner-looking for ’85, they could have done better, especially once the Touring Sedans and Northstars rolled around. Instead, they went scrambling back tail fins and fender skirts and remained a joke for another twenty years.
Of course, the luxury market eventually reaffirmed its preference for traditional rear drive, regardless of whether or not owners actually know what wheels drive their vehicle. Nevertheless, Cadillac, along with Infiniti managed to catch this trend at the right time, while Acura, Volvo and now Lincoln falter with with FWD/AWD platforms. Still, as competitive as the new CTS is, it just doesn’t register with younger buyers the way a 3 Series does. Moreover, Cadillac lacks any market presence above about $55k, save for the rather silly CTS-V and borderline offensive Escalade – the Allante, the XLR and the STS all tanked. Infiniti still struggles to be considered a legitimate luxury brand after multiple generations of Q45 remained anchored to the showroom floor. Yet in all that time, Cadillac hasn’t even tried to offer a true flagship sedan, unless you count the geriatric DTS – I don’t. There’s always rumors about the Sixteen or some Zeta-based thing, or a stretched STS, or now this new Ciel concept, but it’s just not financially worth it anymore. The ship has sailed, and that’s a shame, because the opportunity was there for a very long time.
Absolutely dead on. Pre- Stability control, front wheel drive ‘sucked’ except for the 8 months a year the weather is inclement and it ‘rules’.
I’m ashamed. I had a 1989 Sedan deVille and I didn’t recognize that.
That car was so comfortable and nice to drive. Nice assessment of it, though!
Nice write up Laurence! I’m ashamed I didn’t get the Clue, as I owned an 89 Sedan deVille.
Fine car. Should have never let it go.
I had an ’89 Fleetwood Coupe (same car as the Coupe deVille with fancier seats and real wood trim on dash and door panels) for several years and found it to be an extremely comfortable car that got 18-20 MPG in town and almost 25 on the highway. Had a great road trip to Detroit in 2002 for the Cadillac centennial meet of the Cadillac La Salle Club. The 4.5 engine (and its 4.9 successor) are much more reliable than either the 4.1 that preceded them or the Northstar that followed.
Then, a couple of years later, an endless series of electrical problems began. The worst one was the digital gas gauge that started giving random readings having no relation to reality. Two Cadillac dealers failed to successfully diagnose and repair the gauge although they did charge me $800 in the process. By the time I gave up on the car, it still ran well, but I had no gas gauge, no radio, no cornering lights, dash lights that were on at max brightness and would not dim, ABS that was on its way out, and a couple other things besides, and it didn’t feel like a Cadillac any more.
I have to say my *favorite* element of all of these DeVilles was the engine/exhaust note of all of them, even the 4100. It was completely out of character for a Cadillac , a bit more of a surly burble that the docile quiet of preceding Cadillacs.
I guess the people that find these DeVille’s flimsy like barge-y cars. To me the RWD C-bodies drive like a laundry basket of wet socks. I only am familiar with driving my Uncle’s 1984 Ninety Eight, but I would think the Cadillacs would be worse.
My family had a Firestone repair centre and we saw a lot of these cars coming right out of warranty. Usually one or two trips to the dealer (which was across the street) after the warranty was up would scare even the most hard core GM lover away.
Don’t get me on mechanics and diagnostic time. I could rant for hours on it…
The gas gauge thing was pretty common. Unfortunately, the float was attached to the fuel pump and to get the gauge working, the whole unit would have to be replaced which in 1993 ran like $1000 parts and labour. I would tell Caddy owners to fill the tank, reset the trip meter and go no more than 500 km.
The other electric gremlins were almost always the body computer. This tech was relatively new in all domestics at the time and, typically for GM, they bought the cheapest one they could. The rebuilds were actually better quality. The cost (ca-ching!) was $600 plus labour. In fact, every single part for every GM car seemed to cost $600, but I digress…
The 4100 motor was an abberation, an unadulterated P.O.S that should never been released from the factory. I can’t count how many low km examples I saw grenaded by the Classic GM Intake Manifold Gasket. Because of the aluminum block it could tolerate ZIPPOLA coolant in the oil before dying with a gigantic blast of steam. The Olds and Buick C Bodies had the 3800 V-6 which was infinitely superior in every single way.
In typical GM fashion, the later cars were much better. The 4.5 and 4.9 were actually very nice motors and reliable. Most of the electrical gremlins (but not all) were worked out by 1993 or so but the 1985-92 cars we worked on were truly atrocious. Hard to work on, difficult to diagnose and absurdly expensive everything, from sensors (which they went through all the time) to brakes.
Sorry, can’t make me love these things.
There was a good reason GM sent it 3.8 V6 to Aussie they must have known it was the only good one I didnt realise they made so many different bad engines.
There actually is a way to tell the 1993 De Villes/FWD Fleetwoods apart. The 1993 had black inserts in the grill, while the 1991-92 was all chrome. I wanted one of these for a while and drove several 89-93s about 12 years ago, but didn’t need a second car. One, a ’93 Sedan de Ville in Antelope Firemist, dark brown ragtop, and beige leather, actually conked out two blocks from the dealership. I was on the way back though. I locked it, walked back, gave them the key and told them where it was, and left. I still like them though! It says “Cadillac” to me much more than the current lineup.
The LS400 and Legend were not direct competitors to the DeVilles. They were top of the line for their makes, while DV is ‘bread and butter’ model. The Lexus ES or GS and Acura Vigor would be slotted there.
We still sell these at our dealership here in Upstate, NY. Mostly 1988-92 versions as they are still plentiful, inexpensive and they still run well. We have sold examples with as much as 320K miles that still glided down the road like new cars so I say bull when someone says these cars were badly put together and unreliable. Yes the odd electrical issue comes forth and the rear suspension issues rears it’s ugly head on some high mileage examples but they are otherwise reliable. Funny, not one customer has ever brought there car back for the baffles in the gas tank issue. maybe they all keep the tanks full.
I have owned five of these cars. Hands down the best built Cadillac’s built. Period. I started with a medium blue 1992 Sedan DeVille spring edition when I was 16….back in 2001. My dad wouldn’t let me have a Cutlass T-Top or a Fleetwood brougham. When I turned 18 I moved out and sold it to buy a 1991 Fleetwood Brougham. BIG MISTAKE. They are beautiful looking and riding cars but I find them (and the 1986-89′ lincoln town cars) very uncomfortable with hardly any upper back or neck support. I sold that car a month after buying it and bought a 1993 Coupe DeVille. I had moved out to the country, about 40 miles north of Detroit. Snow was just a fact of life. Though the brougham I had was AWESOME in the snow (I actually pushed my buddy’s ’97 Bonnie SSE out of a 3′ snow drift with it) the front drive DeVilles were amazing. They were never too loose but they weren’t to tight. Really, just the perfect, quintessential car. Not too flashy. Not to bland. Fast. I mean, those 4.9s were as fast if not faster then my 1997 Deville with a 275 Northstar. Fun fact. The 92-93 DeVilles only weighed 3200 lbs. to put that in perspective, a new Chevy Cruise weighs about that. Wow. That was a mouthful. Sorry.
I love these cars! I have owned many Cadillacs through the years but I have a special love for the 1991-93 devilles, my latest one I bought with 60k miles, it now has 294k miles and driven daily! Original engine and original trans., my last one I drove to 330k before selling it! Truly great and reliable cars!
Too small. Does not compare to the big Lincoln in size quality reliability or looks
I bought a low-mileage 1992 deVille a few Augusts ago. Within one year of ownership, I’d replaced the gas tank, the fuel pump/sender, the rear shocks (system still didn’t level after that), and when the a/c compressor locked up, that was it for me. I fixed it and dumped it.
This made me very sad — I’d always wanted one of these and the utter disaster that was my burgundy/burgundy/burgundy was a disappointment. In terms of cost per mile driven, the deVille was the most expensive car out of the 18 I’ve owned, and that includes a VW Phaeton.
Mr. Jones: your gas tank mention is accurate and quite common. I had a ’92 Sedan deVille and I had to end up replacing the gas tank. HEFTY sum indeed. I was able to drive it with a full tank for a while, but eventually it was stalling at every light, etc. Really great ride in that car but when the compressor and certain engine problems began to give out, it was time to get rid of it.
Beautiful cars if you can get a good one I had 1990 Deville, paid $1600 for it Cordovan Grey
grey leather interior aircond new tires rode like
a dream I never whine about gas mileage I
figure if you buy a big car you pretty much
know you have to feed it, but honestly it was
not that bad on fuel, really sorry I sold that