By on January 25, 2013

By the late 1980s, the Coupe de Ville had become a not-so-imposing front-wheel-drive machine, sharing the C-body platform used by the Buick Park Avenue and Olds 98. GM had squeezed much of the remaining value out of the Cadillac name by that point, and the average age of the World War II vets who aspired to Cadillac ownership had crept up to close to 70. We don’t really notice these cars today, though quite a few are still on the road, but this one caught my eye because it is a very rare GT version.


As we can see in the 1988 ad above, GM was desperate to woo some younger buyers to the marque. As the 1980s ground on, conspicuous greed became increasingly fashionable, so the marketers imagined that successful American 30-somethings would drive to the polo championship in shiny new Coupe de Villes instead of those damn German cars. Hey, if they want something European, there’s always the Allanté!
These things weren’t bad to drive, but they just didn’t radiate luxury the way their predecessors did. It took Cadillac a long time to come back from the dark days of, say, 1972 until the Escalade Era.
I didn’t see any Landau emblems, but the padded vinyl landau roof is in full effect.
Cadillac never made a factory Coupe de Ville GT, of course; this one boasts some enhancements added by what I assume was its final owner.
The pinstripe decals on the marker lights were likely applied by the same owner.
The HT4100 V8 engine gets a bad rap, but the half-dozen or so we’ve seen in 24 Hours of LeMons racing have been very reliable. Perhaps the problem with this engine on the street is the lack of cornering G forces to massage the engine oil properly.
I may have to go back and buy these crypto-opera interior lights for my van.
170,125 miles on the clock, which was pretty good for a late-80s GM product.

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86 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1988 Cadillac Coupe de Ville GT...”


  • avatar
    cargogh

    That upholstery really held up well for 170XXX. You were a trickster with the GT. Must have been glorious when all the appliques and hello kitty were new and shiny.

    • 0 avatar
      doug-g

      The first thing I always check on Cadillacs of the 70′s and 80′s are the door panels/armrests. Rarely do you not see duct tape or some other DIY attempt to remedy the cracking and splitting. This, sadly, began to develop when the car was only a few years old. You’d have thought GM could have gotten it right in that length of time. The other thing I always look at on Cadillacs is the power antenna. The automatic power antennas gave out after a few years if the radio was used very frequently.

      On the latter, the automatic power antenna was introduced on the 1957 Eldorado Brougham as a way to replicate the old vacuum antenna that would conveniently lower into the fender when the pressure went down. Also, until 1969, the Cadillac power antenna was raised by pulling on the radio power switch and lowered by pushing on the switch in. This replicated how it was done to control the valve on the old vacuum antenna. Seems Cadillac owners didn’t take to change well. This resistance to change also lead to two sets of control to operate the stupid cruise control – one on the dash and the other on the blinker stalk. (Just some useless information to pass along.)

    • 0 avatar
      snakebit

      Surely(I know, don’t call you Shirley…)

      Surely, all of you remember the Road&Track road test in the late 1960′s of a ‘Mercedes-Benz GT’, when GT stood for garbage truck.

    • 0 avatar
      chas404

      I rode in one of these circa 1990 in college. The kid must have inherited from grampa. it was in perfect condition and I believe canary on canary yellow. super nice interior and smooth. I love the ridiculous oversized greenhouse in comparison to the downsized 80s platform.

      It aint no Donnie Brasco Deville for sure but thanks for reminding us about it.

  • avatar
    Ach

    The HT4100 got a bad rap, but that’s a 4.5L in the picture. By ’88 the 4100 had been replaced by the 4.5L, which was a much more reliable beast. I had an ’88 Sedan de Ville, same color but with leather and digital dash which actually made the interior look quite a bit more upscale. Very reliable car, and, as you say, not bad to drive.

    • 0 avatar

      Isn’t “HT4100″ the generic name for that entire engine family?

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        Jeeze, Murilee, that’s like calling all man made fabric polyester… ;)

      • 0 avatar
        ranwhenparked

        @Murilee Martin

        HT4100 only refers to the original 4.1L V8. Once it was bored out to 4.5 and 4.9L, GM officially dropped the “HT” designation entirely, mainly to get away from the image problems. The final version was produced through 1995. The 4.5 and 4.9 were generally fairly reliable engines, maybe even less problematic than the Northstar in many ways. Even the later 1984/1985-on 4.1s were much improved.

      • 0 avatar

        I believe that the 4.9 is the hot tip for Fiero V8 conversions.

    • 0 avatar
      Halftruth

      Confirmed by the badge.. No wonder it lasted so many miles.

    • 0 avatar
      Ach

      The reason I thought you meant the 4.1L in this case is because the larger versions had significant internal revisions from the 4.1 and by no means have a “bad rap” reliability wise. I’ve never heard of the larger motors referred to as HT4100 and I always thought that was just a marketing badge for that specific motor, but I could be wrong.

      The final, 4.9L version of this motor was quite a torque monster and felt far stronger than its hp/torque rating, which was 200/270 or so. I remember driving a ’92 De ville and being shocked at how easily I could squeal the front tires on a fourth-to-second downshift. Great throttle response.

      • 0 avatar
        skor

        The 4.9 had a lot of improvements over the 4.1 that it was based on. I own a car with the 4.9, the engine is very reliable, much more so than Northstar. Yes, it’s a torque monster. I believe the hp/torque rating of 200/270 is accurate….redline is 5,500. The engine gets up and goes very strongly but quickly runs out of steam at around 65mph……just the thing for those highway on-ramps. The worst part of these engines is the gas mileage….very bad around town(about 14mpg).

    • 0 avatar
      agent534

      The 4.5 was just as bad as the 4100 at eating head gaskets.
      both were aluminum blocks with iron heads, defiantly not the brightest idea they ever had. Sooner or later, after many heating and cooling cycles, both are going to blow their head gasket at some point.

      • 0 avatar
        ponchoman49

        There are still 3 4.5 equipped 1988 Devilles in the neighborhood that are running well with well over 100K miles. The reason- the owners are very good about servicing the oil and anti-freeze. The worst of these engines were the initial 1982/83 HT-4100 engines with weak porous blocks, less beefy blocks, head bolts that stretched and poor intake manifold gasket material. Much of that was remedied by 1988 when the 4.5 took over.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      The 4.5 seems durable enough but IMO didn’t bring much to the table over the 3800 that debuted the same year.

      The 4.9′s output at least required the supercharged 3800 to match it.

      Never driven a 4.1.

  • avatar
    Halftruth

    I liked these cars and do think GM got it right as they were roomy, FWD,
    more refined than their RWD predecessors and were easier on gas.
    The 4100 gets a legit bad rap though.. I saw more than a few failures of head gaskets on these (owned by fam and friends). Drive it long enough (more than a day) and it will indeed leave you stuck. The Caddy 368 however? A gem if you ask me.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      My limited experience with the 4100 is they are perpetual oil leakers. Don’t even bother throwing seals at them, they’ll still leak.

    • 0 avatar
      ranwhenparked

      The packaging on them was commendable. Essentially the same interior volume as the BOF RWD models they replaced, but significantly smaller exterior dimensions and dramatically reduced weight. Given the rather anemic powerplants of the era, the engines that were underpowered for the bigger cars worked just fine in the smaller FWD ones.

      Aside from the horrific HT4100, the only real problem was that they were essentially designed without any thought to aesthetics. GM was so focused on their weight and packaging goals that they neglected to consider what the cars were going to look like, and image is pretty important in the luxury segment. The proportions were just terrible – stubby front and back ends grafted on to an oversized passenger compartment. That’s what turned customers off and sent them running to either Lincoln or the West Germans, depending on what sort of luxury experience they were looking for.

  • avatar
    Hank

    “These things weren’t bad to drive, but they just didn’t radiate luxury the way their predecessors did.”

    Bingo. It wasn’t a bad car, just not really a Cadillac. I had an ’88 with the 4.5. It was a great road trip car. I’d bought mine from the proverbial little old lady. West Texas rust-free, 48,000 miles, and the leather in the back seat looked never to have even been sat on. It was immaculate. While it didn’t have the level of luxury or cache of its predecessors, it was actually a better driving car in practically every way. And while the smallness of the car hurt its perception as a Caddy, I always thought GM had done an incredible job of space packaging. It was still a decently big car inside, making my grandmother’s ’85 Crown Vic seem cramped, especially in the back.

    It earned its dings in the press, but it deserved more praise than it got, too, when looked at as a car, not a Caddy.

    • 0 avatar
      Featherston

      @ Halftruth and Hank – totally agree. A favorite great-uncle of mine had a late ’80s and an early ’90s Sedan de Ville as his last two cars. Chauffeuring him around after his eyesight began to fail him was something of a guilty pleasure. The V8s gave these cars good pick-up compared to most sedans of the day, and the ride was reasonably well-sorted. They didn’t steer or corner like a sports sedan, but they had what I called “magic carpet” performance: smooth and comfortable but far better-controlled than the boats of the 1970s.

      Though that era’s Fords and Audis would define the long-term trend in exterior design, GM does indeed deserve kudos for its packaging. The combination of FWD and a wedge profile with a formal roofline gave these cars great interior room relative to their exterior size, especially in terms of rear headroom (a major failing on the vast majority of today’s sedans).

      And contrary to conventional wisdom, the late ‘80s, EFI-equipped GM cars owned by my friends and relatives all were reliable. And yes, my friends and relatives also owned Japanese (also reliable) and European cars (far less so, barring the 1970s Volvos and Mercedes that some people still had).

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    My grandfather bought one of these new in 1987. It was white with a white landau over white leather over whore-house red dash and carpet. He drove that for the last 13 years of his life and he loved it.
    He was very mechanically inclined, ran a factory he started in the 1940s, invented and built machines to manufacture the products (he was the last supplier of heels for women’s shoes in the US), but he flat refused to ever change the oil in any car he owned. He stated that because the engine is a closed cycle, dirt cannot enter it and therefore the oil never gets dirty.
    Needless to say, he had more engines replaced than oil.
    OVer the years it held up ok (engine issues aside) but it was a bit of a rattle trap after about 6 years.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Your grandfather was awesome.

    • 0 avatar
      jeoff

      Funny about your grandfather, who I am sure was a very bright guy, but was “stupid” about engine oil. I see this a lot in the brightest of my friends and family (but never in myself!).

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      My grandfather too had a series of 80s FWD Caddies. He really favored the bustleback Sevilles but also had a Deville or two. When Caddy got away from buidling more traditional cars, he went back to Lincoln and never looked back.

      • 0 avatar
        jayzwhiterabbit

        The bustleback Seville is the AWESOMEST car Gm ever made, in my humble gen-Y opinion. It may have been an unreliable, rattle-trap POS, but those proportions were so sweet. The bustleback Chrysler Imperial from the early 80′s also rocks. Especially the FRank Sinatra edition with real waterford crystal hood ornament :)

    • 0 avatar
      chas404

      I had a 1992 burgundy cherry TownCar signature series. no landau but white leather red seatbelts dash and carpet (whorehouse option). I loved it. I was 29 at the time. I actually searched it out and bought it that way. Some day I must own one again maybe a 1970s mark III or IV or V.

      something about white or red leather i just love.

    • 0 avatar
      snakebit

      ref: JayZwhiterabbit

      There was a previous discussion about the Continental Mark III, because Murilee found a white one in one of his favorite Denver boneyards(search for the article elsewhere on TTAC). Also, Hemmings Classic Car #98 November 2012 did a drive report of a 1971 Mark III from Palm Springs. Metallic green with a green vinyl roof(it sounds like a tacky combination, but it looks nicer than it sounds). It’s interesting that you favor red leather. The owner of the green Mark III mentioned that he’d rather have found a black on black one with red leather, but he just couldn’t pass up this green one, the condition was so excellent. If I have one criticism of the new ads for the Lincoln Motor Company, it’s that while featuring cars from the Lincoln past, they totally forgot the Mark III, but in one version the ads showed a Mark IV, which to me is not nearly as memorable as the Mark III.

      As for the bustleback Seville, I’ve begun lately craving the original 1976-1978 rear-drive model. I know some will complain that it was just a Nova in a prettier dress. I think Cadillac did a very good job distinguishing it from the Chevy to the point that you’d have to be told about the connection before it would dawn on you. Same with the Mark III. It was based on the then-current Thunderbird, but FoMoCo did a good job of differentiating it from its Ford cousin.

      • 0 avatar
        chas404

        the towncar had white leather on red red carpet. i later leased a bmw z4 sport model (not the sissy 2.5 one). it was light silver and had red leather. nice.

        later ordered a red leather mustang conv with firemist or something red (closer to burgundy a touch). i feared it would look bad it looks great. something about red even the cheaper ford version looks pretty good.

        nice to see more leather colors (king ranch and bmw browns look nice).

        how long before dark blue and greens?

  • avatar
    west-coaster

    Boy, you had me scratching my pre-caffeinated head with that “DeVille GT” headline. (By the way, on the road in recent years I’ve spoted “GT” versions of everything from a Toyota Yaris to an older S-Class Mercedes-Benz thanks to those same stick-on letters.)

    Cadillac DID offer GT-ish cars in those days, long before the Seville STS and then various V-series cars. The Eldorado Touring Coupe got bucket seats and a mildly agressive suspension in the mid-’80s, and the DeVille Concours was a less-floaty version of the big sedan starting around 1994 or so.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Concours also came with the first gen Northstar available in Seville/Eldorado but was not available with Deville at the time (Deville ran the 4.9 till 1996 MY)

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    1988 is the 4.5 V8, not the 4100. 4.5 is the fixed version of the 4100, I bought an ’89 parts car with 174 on the clock, ran great. I had hoped to do a swap with my 85 CDV (4100) but I couldn’t find a competent mechanic who wanted to do it and my 85 was literally stolen not long after presumably for scrap.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    I love the three second shot of the Cimmaron toward the end.

    • 0 avatar
      Land Ark

      Ha! I noticed that too.
      The DeeeeViiiiiiillllle, The Seeeeeevilllllllle, Aaaaaaalanteeeeeeee, Fleeeeeeetwoooooooood, Broooooooooooughammmmmmmm, thecimarron, and the Elllllllldoraaaaaaadoooooo.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    My dear old Dad has always wanted one of these, but of course being born in 1954 he remembers when Cadillac meant something. He wanted one as a “road trip” car. Big, quiet, and comfy.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    These cars were actually quite popular as road warrior cars in the auction world back in the late 90′s and early 00′s.

    I knew plenty of guys who would put a change of clothes on one of those mobile racks in the back of these things, and then proceed on from sale to sale.

    The change of clothing was so that the smell of gasoline wouldn’t permeate your car. You could simply change out after the sale. Put the smelly clothes in an air tight bag in the trunk, and go forth without the emanations of gas and coolant in your car.

    Great cars. If you watched out for the fuel pumps and could deal with the lack of lateral support, they were perfect for the long hilly drives over somewhat bumpy pavement.

  • avatar
    LTDScott

    There was kind of a “GT” version of this car from the factory: The Cadillac Touring Coupe (and Sedan):

    http://farm6.staticflickr.com/5082/5263354751_ab32bc4253_z.jpg

    Visually different than your standard Caddy because of a front spoiler with fog lights, rear decklid spoiler, and blacked out trim.

    The only one I’ve ever seen on the road was a badly rusted example a few years ago. I found this odd since rusty cars are rare here in San Diego, so I assume it came from somewhere else.

    • 0 avatar
      Austin Greene

      I remember the DeVille coupe and sedan touring variants. They were only offered for two years and had upgraded suspension and unique, yet elegant, trim pieces.

      Back in the day I aspired to one day own one. They were my if-I-won-the-lotto car.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        The ad doesn’t mention any mechanical upgrades beyond the Eagle GT tires. It seems to me that they were just trying to de-broughamify the cars enough to make them fit into a parking lot full of Audi 5000 Turbos, BMW 528es and Mercedes 300Ds without looking like time travelers or cartoons.

      • 0 avatar
        geozinger

        Here you go CJ: http://www.flickr.com/photos/smokuspollutus/7693984922/

        Read the advertising copy at the bottom of the ad, there were quite a few changes to the cars. The first image link posted is incomplete. I can’t find a link to the C/D test at the time, but it detailed the changes.

        There are even more comprehensive posts at oldcarbrochures.com

    • 0 avatar

      Thanks for posting that pic, it blew my mind.

      When I was a young man, I drove my Grandma’s hand-me-down ’83 Coupe de Ville, in a vile shade of coppery puke. To this day I regret selling my dependable 1980 Datsun pickup and switching to the Caddy.

  • avatar
    jco

    omg, I miss the horizontal speedometer that only went up to 85mph.

    our Eurosport wagon of the same vintage had a similar one. i didn’t realize how common they were for GM.

  • avatar
    tuscreen-auto

    Priceless video :]

    I especially like the scene where those two gentlemen wearing hard hats carry on their conversation while the environment around them is blown to pieces.

  • avatar
    Numbers_Matching

    I demo-derbyed one of these back in the 90′s. lasted about 1 minute at full throttle. Sitting stationary for the rest of the derby is not fun. I’m not sure what the year was. Not much prep done to it – just a county fair thing.

  • avatar
    Dynasty

    The one in the print advertisement looks like a nice looking car actually.

    Even the fake wire wheels are sort of cool, in a 25 years later, hipster cool sort of way.

    If one were in good shape, I’d much prefer to drive this Cadillac than a similar vintage Mercedes or BMW. Maintenance and repair costs aside.

    I like the sizing and proportions of it. And I’m sure with GM’s heavily boosted power steering it is really easy to drive. Like others have commented, I think the biggest issue might be seat comfort.

    • 0 avatar
      Numbers_Matching

      Dynasty – these cars almost killed off Cadillac. They certainly did with their ‘younger’ clientel, as many moved to MB, BMW and especially Lincoln. It was a dark period – possibly worse than any other era for Cadillac.

      As a urban-hipster, anti-aspirational, anti-technology solution for the ‘hood – they don’t quite do it. The greenhouse is tall and upright – almost Pope-mobile like. Too boxy.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        The one-two punch combination of the 368/Diesel fiasco combined with the uppercut punch 4100 disaster is what sunk Cadillac. The ref was already counting when these downsized models came out in late 1985. Cadillac has never fully gotten back up.

        Esp in those day, can you imagine being a loyal Cadillac customer, coming from that mentality, and then spending a great sum of money to drive cars (from ’81 onward) with no power who frequently broke down? Only today have so called luxury manufacturers been able to convince people to buy expensive cars who require regular dealer trips. People of yesteryear expected more for their luxury dollar.

      • 0 avatar
        Dynasty

        I’m aware of that.

        But I also don’t care for late 80s Mercedes that much either…

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        I had the Oldsmobile fake wire locking wheel covers on my 1987 Cutlass Supreme. I lived with the rattling which I could only hear at low speed although there was something embarrassing about driving around a parking lot looking for a space and hearing that ratling noise.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        The 1985 FWD DeVilles reached production in April of 1984. My family rented one in July of 1984. It was pretty shockingly backwards and tacky compared to the Ascona 1.6S we’d just rented to tour Europe. The red velvet seats had split stitching on a car that had less than 40 miles when we picked it up. Nothing in the interior seemed particularly true or consistent in its relationship to the other badly conceived and executed components around it. The domed-out fake wire wheel covers were insultingly crass too. The styling from the previous generation did not translate to the proportions of the 1985. It looked like one of those English Fords of the ’50s or early ’60s, when US styling was applied to European austerity bins.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        @Dynasty

        I had an ’85 FWD Deville which looked very similar to this one, however I added the aftermarket E&G Rolls Royce grille, a.k.a the “pimp grille”, it adds so much more presence on these otherwise blander Cadillacs. Personally I’m a bigger fan of the 91-93 and 94-95 Devilles over this and the 89-90 style. German stuff from the period is well built for the most part but “meh” to me as well.

    • 0 avatar
      scponder

      My company had one of these, handed down to us plebes when the owner decided to upgrade his company car. I used to take it all over rural georgia on business trips. It was a very comfortable long distance cruiser. I do have one very clear memory of it though. I was driving along at a “comfortable” rate of speed and encountered a turn. In the middle of this turn was a bridge. The combination of the soft suspension, modest road maintenance, youthful ingnorance of the benefits of seatbelts and the living room couch flat front seat conspired to sling me into the passenger seat as I crossed that bridge. Luckily I managed to back across those butter smooth leather seats and slowed it down to a pace more attuned to cruising in the Caddy. Good times.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      Oh, boy, do I remember those fake wire wheels! They go back a lot longer than 25 years. I was a toll collector in the late ’70s to early ’80s, and cringed wherever they came in my lane. The protruding 8″ curb shattered quite a few of them, and in our spare time the collectors got out a whisk to sweep the wires under the curb.

      Once, I had just been relieved by the next shift and was in the back of the booth counting money when a lady in a Seville came too close and destroyed the left front wire wheel hubcap. She leaned out, saw the damage and asked the collector who relieved me, “Who’s going to pay for that?” The Collector, Fred, responded smartly, “The driver of the car, Ma’am.” She was not happy.

      • 0 avatar
        MadHungarian

        The 80′s and 90′s GM fake wire wheel covers also had a failure mode requiring no assistance from a curb, where the cemter emblem would fall off and the retaining doohickey inside (which is what failed) would rattle around between the wheel cover and the tire. They all do it but for some reason the problem seemed worst on the Olds, followed by the Buick and then the Caddy. Third and fourth owners of these poor beaters never bother to pop the wheel cover off to take the rattling parts out. To this day, I will hear that distinctive sound approaching, and I know before the car comes into full view that it will be a late 80′s or early 90′s GM product.

  • avatar
    sckid213

    I know this genre of Devilles well. My best friend’s mom had a succession of two late ’80s/early ’90s Sedan Devilles bought new back then. Both white, both worn quickly by carting around two crazy kids and a dog, and chain-smoking Virginia Slims in the front seat while driving us around (she was a Yugoslavian beauty, and could somehow get away with this while looking classy, not trashy).

    Her Devilles were replaced by what was probably one of the first ’92 Sevilles in navy blue. Man, that thing was a revelation — seemed so modern. My parents then got a ’94 Sedan Deville, which I learned to drive on. I never liked the ’94 as much as the earlier models.

    I always liked the dashes on these early ’90s Devilles. Some models came with digital speedos, which looked much better than the 85-mph speedo. But I always thought the entire dash looked quite classy with the Fuel Data Center and Climate Control pods. Nice font they used there. I thought the ’94 was a big step back in this department — just black plastic buttons surrounding the IP.

    And FWIW, while the ad above seems really cheesy now, I think it really does capture the feeling in upper-middle-class America at the time. And many of those folks DID still drive Caddies in the late ’80s (for many, their last before moving on to Japanese or German brands).

    • 0 avatar
      chas404

      great comment. reminds me of being 12 with my friend riding in the back of his mom’s big model 80s deville (the last of the donnie brascos rwd). we were comfy in back there tooling around with the giant square port windows. prob is mom and stepdad were CHAIN SMOKING with those big caddy ac vents wafting the 2nd hand smoke back to us. i remember being quite comfy back there but begging to be able to open the rear window! It was florida so they would run the AC on max all windows closed and just smoke ourselves like country hams.

      • 0 avatar
        BobinPgh

        Speaking of the big Cadillac vents….
        One of our neighbors had several Mr. Donut stores and the Mrs. had a big Cadillac to prove they “made it”. She also had 4 boys and a hamster named Henrietta. One day they could not find the hamster. She took a ride down the highway with one of the boys and as soon as they turned on the air conditioner they heard squealing. Henrietta was right on the other side of the vent wanting out! Fortunately there was a Cadillac dealer on the way and they got Henrietta out after taking the dashboard all apart. It seems that Mrs. B spent a lot of time at the Cadillac dealer too. So they found Henrietta, Cadillac style!

  • avatar
    Distorted Humor

    I grew up in this era, and I think one of the major problems is that when you look at it, the car looks like a Olds 98. Still, for that era it got over 150k miles and 20+ years. Not really bad for a 1988 car. Modern cars have us spoiled.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Two things that are standing out to me: the cloth seating and the tastefully placed “Coupe de Ville” emblem underneath the trunk lock. So cars used to have named eh?

  • avatar
    jayzwhiterabbit

    If only Cadillac would bring back a modern interpretation of the massive rear-drive luxury coupe (everything this car is not). My fave DeVille’s were the “downsized” ’77-’85, both the coupe and sedans. Cadillac should never have gotten so much smaller than that.

    Strangely, you could get the leather in many different colors but the dash had to be an awful navy blue or trashy maroon. GM beancounters!

    • 0 avatar
      west-coaster

      GM was on a tear to convert everything to FWD back then.

      The RWD Nova was replaced by the FWD Citation. (Ditto for the other GM variants from Pontiac, Olds and Buick.)

      The RWD Malibu was replaced by the FWD Celebrity, though there was a year of overlap, and the Monte Carlo and El Camino soldiered on for several more years. The same went for ther other GM RWD mid-sizers like the Olds Cutlass (becoming the Cutlass Ciera)

      And the FWD Caddies of 1984 were supposed to be the end of the RWD models, but strong demand kept those going, even with the same basic body design until the early 1990s. The Impala/Caprice was supposed to follow, but got a lengthy reprieve as well, likely due to strong demand by police and taxi fleet sales. Pontiac even started rebadging the Caprice as a RWD car called the Parisienne in about 1985, because their dealers were complaining that they weren’t selling as many big FWD cars as GM had planned.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        “GM was on a tear to convert everything to FWD back then.”

        I think CAFE has a great deal to do with it, prob not the sole motivation but I’m sure it was high on the list of reasons.

    • 0 avatar
      pdieten

      The RWD Cadillacs stayed in production through 1996. Nostalgia clouds our memory sometimes, but the reality is that by the mid-’90s the 225″ boats really were played out in terms of mainstream popularity. They were old-fogey cars, even compared to the average Cadillac buyer. Of course there were always people who had to have them, but in 1996 they sold 100,000 FWD deVilles and 15,000 RWD Fleetwoods…..

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Agreed, however I would wager at least half of those Fleetwoods are still on the road somewhere and less than half, probably a quarter, of those Northstar Devilles are still out there. Think about it, in 2004 let’s say whats a ’96 Deville just south of say 90K with a time-bomb engine worth? Not worth fixing to alot of people…

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        In 2005 or 2006, I had a customer that inherited one of the last Fleetwood full sizers, with an LT1 V8 that inspired me to check it out more thoroughly. It had something like 9,000 miles and had been stored in a garage all of its existence. That wasn’t enough. The chrome trim down the side was delaminating, making the car look like an old parade float. Various electronic issues had brought it to the shop, and there were various other signs of materials being used that were not chosen for durability. The guy that owned it hadn’t seen it much since it was new, and he had gone from being an excited new owner to trying to find a way to make it sale worthy in a matter of weeks. There wasn’t much we could do for him, because even NOS trim had aged just like the stuff separating itself from his car. I doubt there are too many nice examples around, and I haven’t seen one that was close to stock in appearance since.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        That’s unfortunate the General cheaped out on materials during the period. Given the deterioration however I would wager the drive-train is in good order for most of the examples that are left or is worth putting back together from a financial standpoint. Unfortunately, Northstar Cadillacs, much like older Jaguars, Saabs and the like, usually aren’t worth putting back together.

  • avatar
    Joss

    “the average age of the World War II vets who aspired to Cadillac ownership had crept up to close to 70″

    Yeppa baby IKE pram..

  • avatar
    ajla

    “170,125 miles on the clock, which was pretty good for a late-80s GM product.”

    Hell, I’d take odds on a ’88-’94 GM product lasting longer than a ’99-’04 GM product.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      I’ll take a piece of that action.

      Alot changed at RenCen after the crisis of 1992. The 88-94 stuff was already designed and in production when that happened, but the next gen was still under design or development for 95/96 period. My that would explain so much.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    GT?, I was thinking Touring Coupe which were quite unique, not the retirement community special. Though FWD, kind of a predecessor to today’s ATS,CTS. It’s too bad GM did not design these with RWD and the existing 4 wheel independent suspension, at least they could have competed with the German sedans of the day. This platform could have just been used for other GM divisions for their full-sized sedans. Remember the famous Lincoln Town Car ad with the parking valet confused over the look-alike GM’s?

    Back in 1988 my lifelong Olds 98 owning great uncle bought the Sedan DeVille. The 1988 Olds 98 on the same platform was just plain uninspiring to him compared to the ones he purchased every few years starting in the late 1940′s. He did enjoy the Deville which was quite trouble free but it ended up being his final car when he gave up driving at age 98. A relative ended up with it and it started have some engine related issues, namely leaks which apparently are quite common with the 4.5.

  • avatar
    chicagoland

    This is what the Cimmarron should have been. If brought out in 1981, would have been praised highly.

    Caddy was under pressure to get better gas mileage, so voila! Also, the 4500 and 4900 were more reliable than the Northstars ever were.

  • avatar
    skor

    “…the average age of the World War II vets who aspired to Cadillac ownership had crept up to close to 70.”

    And it was this single-minded pandering to the WWII gen as their primary customer base that killed off GM.

  • avatar
    BobinPgh

    Did you notice how when they show the back seat, it is just like the Jack Jones Chrysler New Yorker?

  • avatar
    MadHungarian

    I had an ’89 Fleetwood coupe, which was the same car with thicker padding on the vinyl top and a slightly more pimptastic interior. I never had any problem with the engine which was smooth and provided a decent amount of zip while returning 20-21 MPG in mixed driving (24-25 on the highway). The problem was everything else. Fleetwoods had the full-zoot electronic dash which must have been too ambitious for 1989 technology. The gas gauge stopped working and nobody could fix it. The shop manual indicated the signal went from the tank sender through TWO different underdash modules then to the electronics on the back of the fuel readout panel, and there wasn’t a clear diagnostic routine to isolate the fault. The next thing that happened was ozone-y smoke coming from the steering column. That was the cornering light switches self-destructing, after which the cornering lights were permanently on (redneck solution: remove bulbs from cornering lights). About 107K miles, several other electronic things took early retirement at once and I gave up.

    • 0 avatar
      MRF 95 T-Bird

      Not only did the Fleetwood have the extra padding on the roof and a pimpier interior but it also had rear fender skirts. Probably one of the last vehicles to have them. There was also the Fleetwood 60 Special which was slightly longer with stretched rear doors. Not to be confused with the Fleetwood Brougham which was still build on the D-body platform.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    I had driven a mid 70′s Caddy Sedan de Ville and then my in-laws got an 86, the first time I drove it, it was like I was driving another lesser brand, what a friggin’ let down it was. Standard AM only radio on a Caddy????

    • 0 avatar
      west-coaster

      If your in-laws bought a 1986 Cadillac that only had an AM radio, then the dealer must have done some kind of switcheroo, with the intention then seling buyers an upgrade. (How they could then doctor the window sticker would be anyone’s guess.)

      The brochure shows that a digital AM/FM stereo was standard (see page 8), and I’m pretty sure all Caddys had FM standard for quite a number of years before that.

      http://oldcarbrochures.org/index.php/NA/Cadillac/1986_Cadillac/1986_Cadillac_Brochure

      • 0 avatar
        jayzwhiterabbit

        I’ve seen Cadillacs from those years with AM only radios. I think that, rather than FM not being standard, the old codgers could actually could get an FM-delete option.

  • avatar
    seth1065

    sad just sad how far caddy fell from where they were to this, they have never recovered and it is just sad

    • 0 avatar
      doug-g

      I’ve always felt that Cadillac’s descent began in earnest with the 1968 model year when they discovered plastic wood.

      We didn’t get a Cadillac until 1978. The one we got was a Fleetwood Brougham de’Elegance which replaced a 1978 Town Car that was universally despised by my family and only stayed with us a few months. The Lincoln was purchased because my father had finally given up on Chrysler products. You hear people talk about the ride of the land yachts and, particularly, the Lincoln. The one we had wallowed worse than any car we ever owned and the seats were the most uncomfortable. You couldn’t go 200 miles in that car without a stop at the chiropractor’s office. They shared “luxury” that was, at best, tacked on. Both were just hollow shells of their former glory. That same year, my mother got a 1978 Pontiac Bonneville Brougham. The Pontiac was favored by us over the Cadillac by a wide margin.

      I really think part of the problem was that GM was the golden goose. Everyone from the unions to the shareholders expected money from it. (It was a blue chip stock back then so investors expected growth AND dividends). To make everyone happy (including themselves) management just kept cheapening the products more and more until the poor brands were bled white. It is sad.

  • avatar
    Joss

    And you know the new GM is still burning plenty R&D on Cadillac while B&B Chev struggles for market. Dearborn’s laughing, keeping the defunct, cross-haired decoy round is doing the job. I hope I’m proven freakin idiot but I still see BL death spiral for GM NA.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      They already thought of that Joss, Chevy car is now Daewoo, Chevy/GMC truck stays the same, Buick is Opel and/or upmarket Daewoo, and Cadillac is Chevy/GMC truck clones with other random stuff thrown together.

      In all seriousness though you’re right, Cadillac (and prob Buick) will never be volume brands, and the big boys rise and fall on their sales volume. Meanwhile the other major players invest in their lower branded volume models (Ford, Toyota, Honda) and simply clone up the plebeian offerings as faux luxury for the most part (Lincoln, Lexus, Acura).

  • avatar
    RatherhaveaBuick

    The 80s weren’t a good time for Caddys. I love the early 80s Devilles, Broughams and Eldos but the engines were supposedly really unreliable. I think this generation Deville is one of the worst Caddys, as it looks like a slightly shorter version of a Park Avenue of the same vintage, which, due to some design elements, was a much easier car on the eyes.

    These Devilles look shortened and stubby because of GM’s whole downsizing effort at the time. Same with 86 Eldorado restyling. At least the 98s and Electras of those years seemed proportional. Cadillac fixed it with the 89-93 Devilles though, as those are much nicer looking.

    Broughams will always be the best of that time period though.

  • avatar
    and003

    I could see this Caddy getting a V-Series restomod treatment, perhaps something along the lines of what Jay Leno did to his 1966 Oldsmobile Toronado.


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