By on January 8, 2014

10 -1982 Cadillac Cimarron Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinSometimes I just have to choose a Junkyard Find car based on its potential for a good Crab Spirits Story™, and that’s what’s happening today. The Cadillac Cimarron— well, there’s not much we need to say here about the image-tarnishing disaster that finished the brand-devaluing job GM started a few years earlier with the Seville (other than the fact that it took many years to undo the damage and convince car buyers that Cadillacs weren’t just badge-engineered bait-and-switches. The Cimarron never sold very well, and the J-body cars weren’t known for longevity, so Cimarron sightings are extremely rare today; we’ve seen this ’82 and this ’83 Cimarron d’Oro, plus the very first Down On The Street car. Here’s an ’82 that I found during a recent trip to California.
12 -1982 Cadillac Cimarron Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinYes, it turned out that Cadillac badges on a Cavalier just wouldn’t translate into a thick stream of pure cash for The General.
04 -1982 Cadillac Cimarron Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinLeather or Pleather? Does it matter?
08 -1982 Cadillac Cimarron Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinYou couldn’t get the Iron Duke in a Cimarron (Cadillac Division execs probably expended all their remaining political capital to keep the raspy, shaky half-a-Pontiac-301 out of their J-Car); instead, the base engine in ’82 was the developed-for-the-J pushrod 1.8 four-banger.
01 -1982 Cadillac Cimarron Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinWould a Coupe Deville buyer have slapped this Chevron Travel Club sticker on a side window?
18 -1982 Cadillac Cimarron Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinCimarron By Cadillac!

Why not start the day with a Cimarron promotional film, while Crab Spirits works on the real story of this fine automobile?

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216 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1982 Cadillac Cimarron...”


  • avatar
    OldandSlow

    Wow! Hand cranked windows in a Cadillac, no less.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      No kidding – pretty stunning for 1982.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      This was a very low-option one!

    • 0 avatar
      Geekcarlover

      Fleet/rental company purchase?

    • 0 avatar
      namesakeone

      I was surprised by that too. You would have thought that, even in this imposter, power windows, were a given as standard. But I looked it up on Wikipedia:

      The Cimarron had a high level of standard equipment for the time including items like air conditioning, leather interior, alloy wheels, accent stripes, locking fuel filler door, power mirrors, courtesy lights, intermittent wipers, rear window defogger, and AM/FM stereo radio. Cadillac also included many sporty features as standard, such as a tachometer, specially tuned suspension, and stabilizer bars.

      Notice that the “high level of standard equitment” didn’t include power windows, locks or cruise control.

    • 0 avatar
      Superdessucke

      Power windows add weight. This car didn’t need weight. Per that wiki link above — “Acceleration in these cars was quite sluggish, with a test 1982 Pontiac J2000 accelerating from 0–60 mph in 16.3 seconds, with a quarter mile (~400 m) time of 20.6 seconds.”

      When was the last car sold in the U.S. that was that slow? Isn’t that level of performance even illegal now?? You’d get crunched like an empty can of Milwaukee’s Best by an angry soccer mom in in Infiniti QX56 if you even tried driving this stupid little thing today,

  • avatar
    el scotto

    I dated a woman who was proud of her two year old Cadillac Cimarron. It was horrid, horrid little car. As soon as it was paid off her and the “Cimmy” made a trip to the brand spanking new Acura dealer. She’s still driving an Acura.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      So ironic you mention Acura, since Acura currently sells a 21st century Cimmaron.

      • 0 avatar
        WhiskerDaVinci

        Yeah, but at least Acura’s aren’t a Cimarron haha. While they sell something similar to it, the ILX, it still isn’t the same bucket of garbage the Caddy was.

        The Cimarron is particularly special in it’s general horribleness :-)

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        An Acura based on a 1982 Civic still wouldn’t be a Cimarron. People that compare the ILX to the Crapillac simply don’t know enough about cars to comment on them. I see plenty of ILXs here in coastal San Diego. They’re driven by the same types of young women that have other small premium cars and live in the same high priced condo buildings, no doubt subsidized by trust funds. Cimarrons were driven by traditional Cadillac customers that had gotten too old to park full sized chrome taxis. There used to be a GM dealer here who complained that her family’s customers loved their Cimarrons until the press let them in on the joke. That’s how out of touch the actual buyers were, even though all it would have taken would have been eyes to detect that every body panel was the same as the lowliest Cavalier. The Civic is far better than any sedan GM has produced, giving the ILX a race distance head start. The ILX shares what with it, exactly? An optional engine and a floorpan? Does it have the same sheetmetal? Base engine? Dashboard? Greenhouse, including hard points like the cowl? Do people who say it is like a Cimarron not know about Cimarrons, not know about J-cars, not know about Hondas, see only general shapes, or care more about their agendas than being respected by anyone with a clue?

        • 0 avatar
          Zykotec

          True, for any Acura to be as terrible as the Cimmaron, there would also have to be a Honda as terrible as the Cavalier, and there never was…

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I’ve never driven an early 80s J-car but I have driven plenty of the late 80s variety and while Honda was probably making the better product throughout the 80s, J-cars in the late 80s were not the “bad” cars you make them out to seem.

          • 0 avatar
            Zykotec

            I have only driven an eary 80′s Opel Ascona version, and compared to a Ford Sierra (direct competitor over here, similar to a Merkur XR4ti) it seemed crude, slow and cheap, and we still had the more powerful engines over here.It had decent interior space being fwd. And they could handle some abuse, except the abuse from it’s own auto-choke carburettor (which was discontinued after a couple of years).

        • 0 avatar
          thornmark

          True enough.

          Lincoln has been the “Cimarron” division of Ford for decades now and has about as much life left as Mercury did five years ago.

          • 0 avatar
            Zykotec

            As a (not hardcore)Ford fanboy, let’s try not to mention the Versailles :P)

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Versailles was awesome :P

          • 0 avatar
            mkirk

            The Versailles had a 9 inch rear with disks that was the perfect width for an early Mustang. This fact alone makes the existence of this car worthwhile.

          • 0 avatar
            Zykotec

            The rear axle is about the only good thing about the Versailles. Had it been sold as a cheap upgrade on the Granada (like the Monarch) and available as a 2 door, it would have been less of a disgrace…(seen some 2-door versions built off of Granadas/Monarch and they are awesome’ish)

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            From what i read about Versailles, it owes it’s existence to Seville. Ford looked at how GM took a Nova, restyled it, and then got the ridiculous amount of profit out of it they did and said “us too”.

            In 1978 a Seville MSRP’d at $14,710. For contrast the Fleetwood Brougham MSRP’d for $12,842. Only the Fleetwood 75 limousine cost more, at $20,742.

            http://www.nadaguides.com/Classic-Cars/1978/Cadillac

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          I drove an ILX in March, I can’t speak to all sheet metal but the doors are identical in size, I wouldn’t bet against them being interchangeable with Civic. The hood and front facia are different, the trunk lid may or may not be the same (I can’t recall), but the rear of the platform is extremely similar in size, I also can’t recall if the bumper cover is different. The base engine I believe is the same 150hp 5spd, and the up trimmed ILX in manual offers the SI motor. I haven’t been in a 12+ Civic, but the base model ILX comes in cloth, so the seats may be the same. The interior door panels seemed refined so I assume they are different, and the dash is exclusive to ILX. Its damn close to Cimmaron, maybe a hair or two above. I haven’t heard anyone outside of TTAC refer to it as a Cimmaron, but I have heard to it referred to a Civic by several people including my fresh out of college salesmen.

          “The Civic is far better than any sedan GM has produced”

          Wow, not even close.

          • 0 avatar
            PolestarBlueCobalt

            I agree 100%. The ILX is a cheap rebadge of the Civic. Plus it has that hideous “Trademark” beak grille that make me throw up every time one of those rebadged Hondas drive by.

            Isn’t it funny that Acura has zero(ZERO) rwd products? Wow, what a luxury brand. Their top-of-the-line model is a rebadged Accord. I’ve seen two. Bot driven by Asian women(of course) becasue no one else is oblivious enough to drop 65k on an Accord.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Technically the top of the Acura lineup is the RLX, itself a federalized JDM Honda Legend. I don’t mind the brand devolving as much as the mix of pretension and ignorance emanating from many Acura customers I’ve encountered.

            “no one else is oblivious enough to drop 65k on an Accord.”

            I honestly wasn’t aware TLs run to $65,000 it almost feels like something you should report to BBB (esp in light of Accord starting at $21,680 MSRP). What a joke.

          • 0 avatar
            Zykotec

            As someone who keeps returning to Hondas whenever I get tired of working on cars and need something practical, Acura is damn close to Mercury both in spirit and pronounciation.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            The Japanese Mercury you pay out the nose to drive.

          • 0 avatar
            DevilsRotary86

            I know Acuras aren’t for everyone, but Zykotec is right, the ILX isn’t Cimarron-awful.

            FWIW I drive an Acura RSX Type-S here, and I don’t htink I would trade it in for anything right now.

        • 0 avatar
          Tim_Turbo

          “The Civic is far better than any sedan GM has produced”

          Guess everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but thanks for the chuckle.

      • 0 avatar
        Z71_Silvy

        “So ironic you mention Acura, since Acura currently sells a 21st century Cimmaron.”

        Acura sells the MKZ?

  • avatar
    raph

    Huh, I thought like Atari and the E.T video game fiasco GM had recovered every Cimarron and buried them in a secret spot out in the desert.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    Weren’t those designers disappointed when the final car turned out nothing like those renderings in the video.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Cimarron Design Team LTD: “We’re gonna draw an 88 Touring.”

      GM Bean Office INC: “Okay well as long as it looks like a Cavalier, that’s fine.”

    • 0 avatar
      Yoss

      I thought the same thing about the Dodge Dart commercials. That commercial has a big build up about all the exciting design and engineering going into the new Dart. All the featured sketches look sharp. Then we get to see the actual car. Meh. Not that it’s a bad looking vehicle, just decidedly stodgier than the sketches they showed us just 10 seconds before.

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        Many cars end up like that after you start seeing the final packaged, price leader, hubcap special versions with wheels 3″ smaller than the concept and no real trim pieces to speak of.

        Aztek syndrome.

  • avatar
    rpm773

    Re: the video

    Was there really a “Cadillac Cimarron Design Group”, or was that just GM marketing bullshit?

    Or did it really exist, and was the esteemed group of engineers that took upon the responsibility of spending a $150-per-car budget on stickers and decals for their stock J-Body.

    • 0 avatar
      epsilonkore

      After watching that video, I can only HOPE that it was ALL MARKETING. If there was truly a Cimarron Design Group (possible) I would be interested in seeing if they agreed with the videos stance that this car had tight tolerances, and exceptional fit and finish that was worthy of the Cadillac crest. I know unibody construction and one piece stamped doors etc were state of the art at the time, and provided a cheap, repeatable product but that does not mean it was quality and that the stamped parts would fit, bolt, and maintain gaps after 10000 miles of use. Just hearing the video utter “structural integrity” in reference to a J body made me laugh. And what is the use in tucking windshield pillars and flush windshield seams if you are going to slap chrome trim around the door frames that isnt equally flush… wind noise reduced around the windshields but increased at the door!

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        There probably was such a design group but from my reading over the years they had very little impact on the structural design because of the shared platform. I imagine their role was limited into restyling “their” product as best they could.

  • avatar
    Morea

    Love the luggage rack on the trunk lid. Like opera windows and vinyl roofs, it was the “classy” feature to have in the ’70s and ’80s.

    (Don’t laugh monkey boy, in the future they’ll be mocking the wings and spoilers on our trunk lids!)

  • avatar
    ash78

    Needs some ATS badging, but otherwise it’s mint!

  • avatar
    mcarr

    A roommate in college drove an ’82 Cimarron with the 1.8L. By that time there were numerous issues with it, including no heat, which was kind of a big deal in MN. In the winter he’d arrive to class in a snowmobile suit. He did enjoy telling girls he drove a Cadillac though.

  • avatar
    rpol35

    Back in the mid-80′s I worked with this young, rather shrill woman who fancied herself as a young and rising junior exec. and she drove one of these. A guy that I worked with used to torment her to no end by asking how her Cavalier was doing. He’d say things like, “I didn’t know you could get leather seats and alloy wheels on a Cavalier.” It drove her bat$hit.

    BTW, I am almost positive that the steering wheel in this badge engineered coupe-de-grace is out of a Jeep Cherokee.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Speaking of, what’s the thing wrapped around the column and plugged into the dash?

      • 0 avatar
        rpol35

        “Speaking of, what’s the thing wrapped around the column and plugged into the dash?”

        That’s the “Please Steal It” option. It allows the owner to permanently attach the ignition switch key to a cable so it is present in the car at all times. That way, you can take the car to the best parts of town, hopefully pretty far from home so it won’t find its way back, lower your manual crank windows and leave the car there in the hope that some poor bast@#^ will make off with it relieving you of ownership once and for all.

      • 0 avatar
        Crabspirits

        It’s a cable with the ignition key on it. This, combined with the big sticker on the windshield tells me that it went through insurance as a total loss before being auctioned off.

        That sticker even tells you how it was totaled, and what insurance company dealt with it. Too bad Murilee didn’t get a good shot of it. Would have helped greatly in my story. I presumed it died by that hit to the LF wheel area, and it’s owner happily took ANY payout.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          Thanks for the dual answers. I had seen this sort of cable at newer car auctions – but since this one was obviously not at an auction, I thought it might have been owner-equipped.

        • 0 avatar
          jpolicke

          My guess is that the cause of death wasn’t the hit to the LF, but the trunk being ripped open by thieves. The fender hit doesn’t look bad enough to render it undriveable.

          Interesting that it appears as if nothing was removed from the car. Apparently nobody wants to keep any J-body on the road.

          • 0 avatar
            Crabspirits

            Almost every single instance of trunk damage in this series was done at the junkyard.

            Look how the trunk lid layer have been ripped apart. It’s split all the way to the edges, bowing the sheetmetal down. It would take a lot of force to do that kind of damage, say from a fork loader.

            Lazy workers at Murilee’s yards, attempting to disable the latch in the fastest/easiest way possible? The places around here don’t do that unless the key is gone or something. If I needed a trunk lid for my Cressida, and ran all the way out there to find that, I’d be pissed.

          • 0 avatar
            luvmyv8

            I think the wrecking yard did that to the trunk…… “No keys, no problem!”

          • 0 avatar
            Shamwow

            Crab is like the Sherlock Holmes of wrecked autos. You guys think he makes this stuff up? More like crazy attention to detail and the power of deduction

    • 0 avatar
      onyxtape

      I worked with someone similar. Except it was one of those LeBarons rebadged as a Maserati.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    The Cadillac of compacts!

  • avatar
    OneAlpha

    My dad bought his boss’s wife’s 1986 Cimarron V6 when I was a teenager, and I learned to drive in that car. To the car’s dismay, I might add. It really wasn’t that bad. Decent amount of power, leather interior and I loved the digital dash. It would light up the tires if you drove angry.

    A year later, my sister did something to the transaxle on the way home from the mall and all of a sudden, no second gear. It would redline in first and then shift into third.

    She drove it like that for six months and when my dad asked if she heard the engine getting louder than it was supposed to be, she told him that she just turned the radio up when it did that.

    Then I, in my infinite driving skill, bent it into a big steel banana by skidding into a guardrail backwards at 75 trying to get a magazine out of the backseat on the way home from work one day.

    It still drove just fine, it just wasn’t straight anymore.

    Like THAT should be cause for failing a state inspection…

    There were other indignities I inflicted on it. Crushed some deer’s skull with the passenger side headlight one night. Drove through my best friend’s neighbor’s trash cans and into his backyard on garbage night because the throttle froze open.

    I remember being really afraid that the tires were about to explode on the highway that one time because they were only rated for 90 MPH and I was doing 110, just to see if the car could do it.

    Memories.

    • 0 avatar
      Featherston

      I once borrowed an ’87 or ’88, and–pointedly ignoring issures of MSRP and brand image–it honestly wasn’t a terrible car. With the V6, it basically was a Cavalier Z24 with a better interior.

      I think Martin is a slightly off-base with the observation that the the brand devaluing started with the ’76 Seville. One of the points of the linked Ate Up With Motor article is that GM did an effective job of upgrading the Nova’s X-body platform to a higher standard. For example: “[C]ontemporary road tests found that the Seville was significantly quieter than either the Mercedes 450SE or the Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow” GM’s and Cadillac’s problems were broader, deeper, and started earlier than the X/K-body Seville.

      I’m curious as to where Packard would be today had it survived in its pre-Packardbaker form. My impression is that the three P’s were closer to the positive stereotype of a foreign luxury car than was Cadillac.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        I wish Packard were still around, complete with swan hood ornament. Give me a new Super Eight, I’ll drive that all damn day.

      • 0 avatar
        PenguinBoy

        Packard was moving downmarket and chasing volume after the war, which gave Cadillac an opportunity to replace them.

        Then Cadillac moved downmarket, and was replaced by Mercedes.

        Now Mercedes is moving downmarket with the $30k FWD 2.0 litre 4 cylinder CLA…

        A good write up on Curbside Classic here: http://www.curbsideclassic.com/curbside-classics-american/curbside-classic-1951-packard-200-and-packard-history-falling-downmarket/

        This quote from the Packard write up almost looks like it could apply to the brisk selling CLA, or to some of the affordable Cadillacs:

        “And they sold very well; suddenly the most desirable brand in the land was affordable to a large portion of the middle class.”

        • 0 avatar
          Featherston

          True, and that story predates WWII as well. GM did well in creating and then eliminating Cadillac’s less expensive companion brand, LaSalle. LaSalle brought in some volume during the Depression without directly affecting Cadillac’s cachet.

          Conversely, the Packard One-Twenty was a high-quality car in and of itself but is thought to have tarnished the exclusivity of the “senior” Packards. (For the One-Twenty, I should say *is* a high-quality car. I occasionally still see an example out in the wild.)

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          I do wonder who will be replacing Mercedes. Sounds crazy but I could see Jaguar in this role.

      • 0 avatar
        Christian Gulliksen

        I also disagree with the idea that the 1976-1979 Seville hurt Cadillac’s brand. I’d say it had the reverse effect. There were lots of them in Los Angeles, mixed in with the Silver Shadows, XJ6s and 450 SELs, often driven by people who wouldn’t have otherwise considered a Cadillac. Nicely styled and a manageable size. Very few non-enthusiasts had any idea about the Nova connection.

      • 0 avatar
        ponchoman49

        Cadillac’s real problems started mid way in 1980 after the second fuel crisis.
        That is when the stupidity at GM power train really one upped them selves in creating cylinder shutdown 20 years before computer technology existed to do so and then not to be outdone they created the brilliant idea of making an aluminum engine married together with iron heads in a too small size, rush it into production and even worse gave it two more cylinder and a full 20 LESS Lbs Ft of torque than the credit option simpler Buick built carbureted 4.1 liter V6. Now that is surely engineering excellence and one that doesn’t make the Cimarron look quite so bad.

    • 0 avatar
      Firestorm 500

      “Then I, in my infinite driving skill, bent it into a big steel banana by skidding into a guardrail backwards at 75 trying to get a magazine out of the backseat on the way home from work one day.”

      Yeah, you gotta get them Playboys out of sight before you get home.

    • 0 avatar
      jpolicke

      It did 110? How steep was the slope you were going down?

      • 0 avatar
        OneAlpha

        UP hill, actually. It was a slightly inclined stretch of highway, but it was strugglin’.

      • 0 avatar
        sgeffe

        I had a 1984 Pontiac Sunbird hatch with the Brazilian 1.8L OHC. Got me through college, commuting 40 miles round-trip each day, though the $500 head-gasket repair on said college budget (flipping burgers at the Golden Arches), plus the concurrent problems my Dad’s Buick dealer was having solving the cause of a dangerous hesitation on his 1986 Century Limited 2.8L V6 with 2bbl. (read: throwing parts at the problem, and my Dad having trouble getting reimbursed for his trouble), turned my entire family over to Honda, after being an Oldsmobuick one for 20+ years!

        As to the speed, there was one time I had to meet a deadline for a programming assignment, and I was running..uhh..LATE! The speedo needle was pointing straight down (and well past the 85mph marker) going down I-75 to Bowling Green State University at 6 ayem! Foot a little ways off the floor, and the THM-125C humming nicely, thank you!

        It WAS possible! ;-)

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    ELR

  • avatar
    honda_lawn_art

    In Denver at least, Cimarrons are about the only way to see an old J-body. I presume because the Cadillacs were bought by older people who didn’t drive them much. I see them pretty regularly. I guess folks really liked them because they would’ve been easy to drive. My great grandmothers last car was a Catera for that reason; “I only buy Cadillacs but she won’t drive something huge.”

  • avatar

    I don’t really get the hate for this car. Maybe GM was just too forward thinking for the times. This kind of car is now a dime a dozen and is sold by many “prestige” makes. A better appointed car, but small: What is the problem?

    • 0 avatar
      OneAlpha

      The problem was the General’s typical halfassery of execution. As usual, their concept was pretty good, but no idea is so good that you can’t kill, or at least tarnish it, with a poor effort. Conversely, no idea is so bad that it can be redeemed by a good execution.

      A small, luxurious car is fine – as long as it’s a bespoke chassis made for the purpose. Think about it – Audi can credibly claim its status as a premium manufacturer, even though all of its cars are based on FWD architecture, a universal characteristic of cheap, crappy little cars.

      The fact that the Cimarron was so obviously a Cavalier, so obviously NOT a Cadillac in every respect but the price, is what’s so off-putting about this little road toad.

      • 0 avatar

        Good answer. Execution is key and like you say GM probably botched it. This kind of car needs a very good interior for instance to have a chance at making it. More sound deadening. The best engines possible for it. A bodyshell as different as possible. In other words, something to make it stand out.

        I thnk the example you give is good. From the profile and back, it’s often hard to tell an Audi apart from the VW. Yet somehow, there are many people out there who think they’re worlds apart.

        Probably GM should have kept it and evolved the idea along. Nowadays a smaller Caddillac wouldn’t be such a shock and might actually find some favor in today’s market.

        • 0 avatar
          OneAlpha

          No, it’s easy to tell a VW apart from an Audi.

          VWs are Audis without the reliability.

        • 0 avatar
          WhiskerDaVinci

          Which is what the ATS Sedan is currently trying to do, but in a much more convincing way.

          The Cimarron and the ATS are similar in purpose, but the execution of the two is worlds apart. At least GM seems to have learned a lesson from the Cimarron.

          • 0 avatar
            PenguinBoy

            From the wiki entry on the Cimarron:

            “According to Car and Driver, current Cadillac product director John Howell has a picture of the Cimarron on his wall captioned, “Lest we forget.””

            By all accounts the ATS is a pretty convincing small premium car, so maybe they’ve learned. I think the folks responsible for the Acura ILX and Mercedes CLA would do well to hang Cimarron pictures in their offices as well.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          For another unsuccessful example badge job, see the Seville as mentioned, or the Chrysler TC, by Maserati.

          Or the Cadillac BLS, which was a Saab.
          Or the Saab 9-2x, which was a Subaru.
          Or the Saab 9-7x, which was a Chevrolet.

          GM just goes on and on in this fashion.

          • 0 avatar
            mike978

            The Saab ones are easily explained as trying to quickly give the brand some volume. Saab was never a luxury brand and was in that nether region like Lincoln, Acura and Volvo of being semi-premium.
            The BLS was a mistake and was a cheap attempt (doomed to failure) to sell in Europe. That takes great product and time. No shortcuts.

        • 0 avatar
          sgeffe

          If the J-cars would have been competitive with the other competition and done well, it would have been an easy sell, IMHO, for a fully-loaded Cavalier equivalent with Bose audio, Twilight Sentinel (auto headlamps), climate-control A/C, and leather seating surfaces with the quality found in the bigger Caddies. Actually, this car was supposed to be the first stab at a “driver’s” Cadillac, so perhaps things would have been a little better if they would have waited a year, and brought out the Cimarron with the dash from the Olds Firenza/Buick Skyhawk, and went from there, since the Chevy/Pontiac IP was the more pedestrian of the two layouts.

          By the end of the run, as has been stated, this car was a nice step above the other Js, but the damage had been done.

      • 0 avatar

        Parking a Cavalier and this side by side will reveal your answer. Only the smallest of differences between them, just easily interchanged parts.

        Contrast that with VW/Audi/Bentley/Porsche who manage to share tons of engineering, but not in obvious ways. (at least not obvious to a typical consumer).

      • 0 avatar

        I thought the main problem is that the basic J-body was a fundamentally lousy car, so no amount of cosmetic improvements could make it decent.

        Aren’t’ a lot of Audis gussied-up VWs?

        D

    • 0 avatar
      Yeah_right

      The Cavalier was a terrible, terrible car: underpowered, poor fit-and-finish, and usually showing rust after your first winter. Then, to turn stupid into epic, they affixed the nameplate that for decades had meant something special, that the owner had “made it” to it. Parked next to each other, you couldn’t tell which was the Chevy and which the Caddy.

      People who bought this car because they thought they were buying their first Caddy were made too look like a sucker. And then the car started to come unglued after a couple of years.

      Did any other single car model have as big an effect on chasing consumers away for life? I doubt even the Edsel, Pinto, or Corvair resulted in as many people saying “never again.”

      • 0 avatar

        That then was the problem with the car. It was the car itself, not the idea. Not having had any experience with American GMs from the times, I couldn’t judge it. The idea itself was good and is presently making a lot of money for many makers the world over.

      • 0 avatar
        sgeffe

        Recall that the Buick Electra and Olds 98 Regency were also on the same C-Body platform as the Cadillac DeVille and Fleetwood of the day.

        Spray paint gray an example of each car, then de-chrome it, remove the side mirrors, shave the door handles, then compare pictures of the left side of all three–only the squared front fender openings will give the Caddy away immediately.

        • 0 avatar
          NoGoYo

          I’m fairly sure neither the Buick nor the Olds had the distinctive tailights of the Caddy as well, with their chrome bezels making them very obvious.

          But I see your point.

          • 0 avatar
            sgeffe

            Yes, the front and back of each would certainly be different. Photoshop the front and rear off the pictures, and somebody who isn’t necessarily a car nut like we of the B&B might take a second to determine which was which.

            I wonder if it was possible to slap a Caddy front-clip onto one of the others. I’ve seen a Franken-G-Body that started with a Buick Regal, but the seats were removed and replaced with those from a Grand Prix, and the same happened with the front clip, which was a direct plug-n’-play operation, IIRC! :-)

        • 0 avatar
          ponchoman49

          Do that with many of today’s me too mid size sedans and it would be even more difficult telling them apart. At least the Caddy had it’s distinct stand up taillights and grille/side marker lights in addition to the rear window treatment.

    • 0 avatar
      Geekcarlover

      The problem is the badging. American drivers were used to the idea of the same platform be used by different subsidiaries, but this was a step (or mile) too far. Cadillac was considered an almost separate company from GM. In the minds of many, the General was just pimping out a once great name.

  • avatar

    I kind of dig these cars, mainly because a well kept J-car was still better than a poorly kept import of any brand, and the Js lasted longer than the comparable Mopar, Ford, or import around these parts. Could also be that my sisters had an 84 Sunturd that stood up to a surprising amount of abuse, even being left under a tree during migration season for a month, and subsequently coming home white instead of blue.

    Back when I worked parts, I had a lady with a Cimmaron come in needing something, and I couldn’t find what she was looking for as a Cadillac in the catalog, so I called it a Cavvy, she saw what I was looking at and got all upset with me about calling a different car. I think it was a fuel pump she was looking for.

    • 0 avatar

      That’s too funny! Somebody once told a story here on TTAC on how a lady wanted to cancel her purchase of a Lexus because the invoice said Toyota. Don’t know if it’s true, but it sounds plausible and is revealing of some people’s psychology.

      • 0 avatar
        WhiskerDaVinci

        I can’t back that specific story up Marcelo, but I know first hand about something similar. One of my close friend’s in high school had parent’s OBSESSED with Lexus, All they bought were LS sedans and LX SUVs. Until I told her once that her mother’s LX560 was a Toyota Land Cruiser with nicer leather, a better stereo and real wood…and that was really all that was different about it. She denied it (she knows nothing about cars) and demanded that her mother replace it. Her mother complained to the Lexus dealership about being lied to, and then quickly went off and bought a Porsche Cayenne.

        I kept my mouth shut on that one.

      • 0 avatar

        When Honda started selling the rebadged Isuzu Rodeo, I had a customer come in wanting an oil filter and air filter for it, it was so new that I didn’t have the updated catalogs yet, and I knew what it was so I called it what it really was. Got the right parts, customer saw the screen and berated me for looking up the wrong car, I told him that if he looks carefully on the engine, it’ll say Isuzu Motor Company. He begrudgingly took the parts, went home and called me back an hour later apoligizing. Till I left the company, he’d come in and ask for me as I knew my stuff.

        So glad I got out of that industry and into IT where I still get berated for finding different solutions to problems.

    • 0 avatar
      OneAlpha

      One could make the case that American cars are the most reliable vehicles on earth.

      Think about it.

      How many ancient Crown Vics, Tauri, Intrepids and Sebrings are running around on 20,000 mile oil-change intervals, suspensions which long ago heard their bushings and springs say ‘fuck this noise, man,’ transmissions which shift about as cooperatively as a DMV drone and interiors mostly duct tape, and yet are STILL ROLLING?

      Like GM said, “Our cars run badly longer than most cars run period.”

      European and Japanese stuff eventually needs maintenance.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        Uh what? Intrepids? I NEVER see those – and considering how many they sold, and for how long, that’s not a good reputation.

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          Those LH cars are still around. The numbers are dwindling because of the engine that shall not be named and transmission issues. I know someone still drives my former ride, a ’98 Concorde, around. It had the 3.2L V6 though.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Ah we must never speak of the engine that shall not be named.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            Thank you. I edited my comment.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            I do not criticize the 300M however, as I always liked it, and it seemed a very appropriate car at the time.

            Oh and someone has a late gen-1 Concorde here at work, and it’s a no clearcoat mess. But DAYUM is that thing huge. It looks longer than a park avenue for sure.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            It has a 5 body trunk.

          • 0 avatar
            shaker

            Ah… the “Square Root of 7.29″ engine? :-)

          • 0 avatar
            ponchoman49

            The 2.7′s were junk up until around 2003. We avoid them like the plague at the auctions or dealerships where we buy used cars. Had far too many come back ticking, knocking, using oil, smoking or just plain fail to keep making that mistake. We see very few LH’s any more on the block but when we do it is usually a low mileage 2004.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        You make a good point, I’ve seen serious abuse on Gen 1 and some Gen 1 Taurii, Gen 1 LH cars, Panthers, B-bodies, and GM 60V6s.

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          LH cars, especially Visions and Intrepids (yes I brought up the Eagle Vision), are often three colors, driving on a spare, and passing people at 85 in bad weather. Most look like hell.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            That’s usually how I see them. My favorite LH story involved my former mechanic. He was able to con the wholesaler next door out of a 94 Intrepid/80Kish for $700 in 2006. He puts a dealer plate (or a Repair/Towing plate I can’t recall) on it and briefly enjoys his new purchase. However the relatively new wife intervenes as his new late twenty-something loser stepson “needs a car” and it is basically given (plate and all) to the stepson. Soon after the stepson gets a house (or moves in with someone) in Petrolia, which is 64 miles one way outside of downtown Pittsburgh where he was a chef. Flash forward to late 2008 when my mechanic entered divorce proceedings and the Intrepid is finally returned now with 170 and change on the clock, with 2006 inspection on balled tires, looking like it just came back from the Normandy invasion. I drove what was left of it to get gas, it handled horribly but it shifted ok and didn’t overheat despite the fact it probably hadn’t seen any maintenance in two years and 90K or thereabouts.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            “what was left of it”

            just fantastic

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            He eventually sold it to a low level (but very amusing) s**tbag drug dealer for I believe $700, I’m sure it blended in well with the local surroundings in Arlington/Mt. Oliver.

            From what I understand out in the country farm boys have similar junkyard grade cars used for screwing around, mudding, and occasional transportation on back roads.

        • 0 avatar
          ponchoman49

          Don’t forget the GM 3800′s which I have seen and driven more of those than most any any other engine with 400-600k miles and no rebuild. No joke!

  • avatar
    Willyam

    Personally, I get a kick out of the window stickers. Thanks to Murilee for providing snaps of the neat/weird ones. Is there a compilation out there of the best?

    I wonder if numbers exist for how many (if any) hundred-dollar rewards were paid out by Chevron?

  • avatar
    agent534

    I was a car jockey for Cadillac dealership in the early 90′s and I saw 1 Cimarron come through the doors in my time there. The owner was very happy with it as he had an older house with a small garage and this was the first Cadillac he could buy that would fit in the garage, hence the continued dealership maintenance on the old Cimarron.

    There is a blue one for sale at a garage near me. It caught my eye as I haven’t seen one anywhere in loooong time.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    I think those seats were made of pure unobtanium.

    They look practically new after 32 years.

    EDIT: And I just noticed in one of the pics it still has the OEM floor mats (with Caddy logos of course)!

  • avatar
    Crabspirits

    Terrance lived by his own terms.

    Terrance walked down the steps out to the street. He stretched a bit, and took in the sights of another beautiful day in Jingletown. Beautiful, if not, scorchingly hot. He fished his keychain with it’s accompanying lanyard out of his pocket. Fingers easily felt, and found the round GM door key as if second-nature. Terrance unlocked the 1982 Cadillac Cimarron, and pulled the chrome handle to gain access in a swift motion. He let the door swing open on it’s own accord, so as to minimize the transfer of searing heat to his hand. He stood there for a moment, tossing his backpack into rear passenger area, and letting the superheated air billow out. When the time was right, he slid himself into the pleather-lined oven. His buttocks and back began to cook quickly through his basketball jersey, and shorts. “Hoh hoh hoaaaa. Damn.” Terrance leaned across to the passenger side to wind down the mechanical window. It was a mistake. His supporting forearm broiled on the seat before he could get a singular revolution out of the crank. “DAMN!” Terrance exited the Cimarron, and proceeded to open all the doors and windows.

    With the venting process completed, Terrance climbed in again, and shut the door. It shut with a metallic click. It was a noise reminiscent of a great number of other GM models over the years, the automotive equivalent of the Wilhelm Scream. The 1.8 was fired up, and the shifter pulled into drive. Terrance and his Cimarron were no stranger to ill remarks. He paid them no mind. For, it was this that put a smile on his face. It was just a car that worked, acquired for free, that wasn’t terrible to be in. Well, the AC didn’t work. Just that one thing. Terrance glanced down at the air conditioning panel, with it’s fan set to “off”, and just let it be.

    The By-Cadillac pulled to the curb to pick up friends, Aaron and Todd. Terrance reclined sharply in his seat, and assumed a luxurious motoring lean to the B pillar. He beamed in anticipation of the joking about his ride. “Oh shet! What it be? Cadillac Cinnamon!”, Aaron yelled, faking amazement. “Lets go get some Cinnabons in your Cimarron.”, Todd laughed. “Dayum! Hot as hell in this bucket.”, he added, climbing into the back seat. The distant rattle of a missing exhaust hanger, and laboring power tranfer through automatic shifts added it’s background soundtrack while the Cimarron cruised International Boulevard towards the municipal pool complex.

    The three young men discussed many of the typical subjects customary to their age bracket, girls, video games, sports, and scoring grey-area narcotics.

    The left turn signal glowed green, authorizing the boys to change course to 42nd Avenue. As Terrance started his arc across the intersection, his focus was stolen by some “fine-ass females” in front of the Burger King. “That one der got a bubble-butt.”, Aaron commented, gawking. The sound of a pre-ABS era Lincoln panic braking snapped them out of their hormone-fueled fantasy. Terrance glanced left, just in time to see the trident-shaped bow of the Town Car delve into the sheet metal of the fender before him. The steering wheel ripped from his grasp. The hull of Terrance’s door slid along the Lincoln’s bumper due to the slight momentum of the Caddilier. “Oh, you gotta be fu$%king kidding me.”

    The man and his mustache stood staring at what he had done. He was “no habla”, speechless on what had just transpired. He simply handed Terrance his insurance card, saying only “Surrey”. The Town Car laughed off the impact with a smirk of scuffed vinyl trim. The Cimmaron limped to the Burger King parking lot where it lay mortally wounded. Broken bits of it’s model-specific aluminum wheel still littered the intersection. A flatbed wrecker was called. The boys pulled their belongings from the Cavallac, transferring them into Mom’s Caravan.

    “Guess how much they gave me for the Cimarron?”
    “$500?”
    “No. $2000″
    “HOOOOOAAAAAA!!!!”

    • 0 avatar
      matador

      Awesome Story!

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      In reality, I suspect neither party would’ve had insurance. Also, poor young boys don’t even eat Cinnabons. They’re too expensive.

      But I liked the story, great imagery.

    • 0 avatar
      Monty

      Awesome – I only read the comments to see if Crabspirits had submitted another fine story.

      Crabspirits, please submit a long form story for Sunday. Please.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Another excellent tale. I had started penning another interpretation this morning but between meetings and actually having work to do I haven’t had time to goof off until around now. I wanted to share some feedback, I enjoy the more lighthearted tales such as this one but I think you truly hit your stride in the darker last rides. The recent Datsun story and the much older Skyhawk SW were superb.

    • 0 avatar
      micturatedupon

      I don’t know whether this has been discussed here, but living in The Town myself, the details are stunningly accurate and vivid.

      Someone either lives here or used to! :-)

    • 0 avatar
      351_dub

      Great story.. similar to my real life experience with an ’86 Cavalier. I got T-boned on my way to work by an Hispanic lady on her cell-phone in a full-size Tahoe. My Cavi had the same exhaust hanger rattle, (had to bump it in neutral at a stop light or drive-thru window to shut it up) and I was on my way to work at.. (u guessed it..) Burger King. I wish I got 2 grand for mine.. the accident was judged the lady’s fault as I had witnesses verify her phone was stuck to her ear b4, during, and after the wreck but all I had was basic liability. The now-uglier Cavi soldiered on with a T-boned drivers’ side and the driver door still worked even. Awful sh*tbox car that thing, but wow what a lil tank. Awesome true-to-life stories, plz keep ‘em coming!

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    It looks like a couple of the drawings later became the FWD Fleetwood for 1990.

    And furthermore, the turn blinker went too fast/rushed to be luxurious (big Caddy’s of the era had sloooow blinkers). When the guy drives up the driveway to the front of the house, it seemed like he took the last corner too fast and had to brake suddenly. I can understand, in such a precise handling small car like that.

  • avatar

    GM could’ve done Cadillac, its customer base and America a favor and just shipped every Cimarron straight from the assembly line to the junkyard.

    Only now is Cadillac getting its reputation back and they still have a ways to go.

  • avatar
    mars3941

    Only G.M. could have gotten away from calling such crap a Cadillac and you people have got the balls to tear apart the new Lincoln MKZ in your misguided and misinformed report on it a few weeks ago.

  • avatar
    OneAlpha

    I agree with whatever blasphemous writer said this, but the muscle car era was a bad thing for GM, because they learned the wrong lessons from those that period.

    GM seems to have gotten the idea from the GTO-to-Super-Duty era that engineering and design don’t matter, only marketing. That the salesmen were right and you can sell anything to anybody if you sell it properly.

    And so it was with the Cimarron. GM decided that they couldn’t afford to do a custom small platform for their new Cadillac, but they could afford to splurge on some brightwork and leather.

    Well played, GM.

    My experience has been that if you make an honest, good-faith effort, life will most often cut you a break, and you’ll somehow find the time and money to get the job done right.

    It’s almost like God, karma, or the universe hates halfassery and loves to frustrate it.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      A good salesmen can sell ice cubes to eskimos GM didn’t necessarily misunderstand this fact. However as “real” competition showed up in the 70s GM failed to adapt its product and quality control adequately to meet this competition and the myriad of new crushing regulations head on, they were simply in cruise control.

      I’ve read alot of Cimmaron lore over the years and from what I understand the issue wasn’t cost, it was time. I’m not sure when the project was conceived, but I do know in 1979 GM soothsayers were predicting $3.00 gasoline by 1985. Cadillac wanted to offer a small car with a manual transmission in order to compete with BMW, due to time constraints a decision was made to use the existing J-platform instead of attempting to develop one from scratch. The engineers were told they were only allowed to change the interior front and rear facia in styling and parts (or something to this effect). I’m not sure if a generic or “cadillac spec’d” transmission was used, but the L46 1.8 was a straight up shared J-car engine. The corner cutting was obvious and yet there is a youtube video out there somewhere which interviewed new MY82 Cimmaron owners and they praised the car and none of them mentioned Cavalier so it seems initially the ruse was working. This quote from Wikipedia is very telling: “Pete Estes, GM’s president at the time, warned[4] Ed Kennard, Cadillac’s general manager: “Ed, you don’t have time to turn the J-car into a Cadillac.” “. The Cimmaron really never had a chance from the time of conception, but the success of the rebadged Nova as Seville gave the planners false confidence.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cadillac_Cimarron

      • 0 avatar
        Featherston

        The Seville shared a lot of the X-body Nova’s DNA, but it’s not really accurate to call it a rebadge.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GM_K_platform_%28RWD%29

        http://ateupwithmotor.com/model-histories/cadillac-seville/

      • 0 avatar
        rudiger

        Yeah, there’s your answer. GM corporate thought they saw a ‘get rich quick’ scheme by offering a Caddy that got good gas mileage for the upcoming gas apocalypse. They wanted a small Cadillac right NOW so they wouldn’t miss the opportunity to cash in and, thus, the Cadillac Cavalier was born. They figured with $3/gallon gas, it wouldn’t matter that it was a thinly disguised Cavalier; the wealthy would lap them up like crazy (and at full MSRP) as they ditched their gas-guzzler de Villes in a panic.

        Unfortunately, oil prices stabilized, and even though the Cimarron got better fuel mileage than any other Cadillac, it was all too obvious that, in all other respects, it was just a bottom-feeder Cavalier. Cimarron owners instantly became the object of scorn and derision, and that’s the kiss of death for a status-seeking luxury marque.

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      I think you are doing the muscle cars a disservice. Most who badmouth them do so because they judge them (no pun intended) with a contempoary reference. Compared to the other cars of the era, they did better than most. And they are worth a fortune today.

  • avatar
    greaseyknight

    Scrolling down….scrolling down…..looking for the Crabspirits story….lunch break made!

    I’ve done my part in the quest to rid the world of Cimmarron’s, gutted and hauled one to the scrapper, it was a 5 speed to!

  • avatar
    prndlol

    Imagine an ’88 V6 in black. Fog lights, alloy wheels… that would be one sweet ride, right? RIGHT???

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      I’d buy it, why the hell not.

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        Here you go.

        http://newjersey.craigslist.org/cto/4243678801.html

        Complete with interior finished in pornography red.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          HOLD UP.

          Why does this 82 in the article have a 6-digit odo, but the 88 has a 5 digit? The odo v. trip are also in switched positions.

          Something doesn’t add up here.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          Nice. Sorely tempted.

        • 0 avatar
          prndlol

          Cripes almighty! It’s as if I imagined it… AND THEN IT HAPPENED

        • 0 avatar
          Pinzgauer

          Tempted to go pick that up…its not far away

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          Someone really should. I am truly tempted because its extra clean but (1) Other existing cars need work (2) need savings for real estate purchase, (3) the fascist HOA at my building will have my ass if they figure out I’m running an effective personal car dealership with the ones I already have there.

        • 0 avatar

          dang… I’d rock that as my DD. 2.8 in these cars is a relatively fast beast.

          Just for the irony in the area I work in (high end cars are a common sight, eyeballing a Lambo through the hood ornament of my $300 77 Chevelle is a favorite pastime of mine)

          • 0 avatar
            PrincipalDan

            Elderly neighbors across the alley (back in the 2005-2009 time frame) when I was living in Gallup had an 88 with V6, alloy wheels, deep tint, chocolate brown paint with matching leather, and sunroof. It moved just enough to know that it was still running. I would eyeball it enviously while walking the dog every evening and always planned to make an offer when I finally had the cash.

            Around the same time that I finally was starting to get some money together they had their place re-roofed and the car disappeared. I assumed one of the laborers made them an offer they couldn’t refuse.

            Although I enjoyed the scooter I bought with the cash I had saved up I sure would have preferred that Caddy in the long run.

        • 0 avatar
          mcarr

          That actually looks pretty sweet! I drove a ’87 Celebrity Station Wagon with the “2.8 multiport FI” in college (yes you can fit nine people in it) and that engine went almost 200,000 miles without major issues. Also sounded great. I’d DD this Cimarron, definitely!

  • avatar
    zach

    I had an 84? or so Skyhawk that had power windows and locks, and the instrument cluster was a more import esque’ than this Caddy, if fact I think the Skyhawk had the best dashboard of all the J cars, you would think a Caddy would get pw/pl standard even if it is a J car.

  • avatar
    zach

    How did a Cadillac (even a J body caddy) get out of the factory without power windows?

  • avatar
    zach

    Those cold looking steal? steering column collars always looked cheap to me, IIRC Nissan /Toyota of the 80′s vintage always had a molded piece of plastic but it looked better.

  • avatar
    zach

    My parents bought an ’85 Sunbird 5sp. wagon that had “OHC/FI” on the front fenders, I never knew what it meant, but now I am guessing the Cimmaron had the same 4cyl engine, I don’t remember it being a bad car, but in 1990 they traded it in for a ’90 Accord Lx sedan, and it seemed like a BMW in comparison.

    • 0 avatar

      OverHeadCam Fuel Injection.

      It was a different engine than the 1.8 in this car.

      The OHC engines were Brazillian based designs, with a one barrel throttlebody injector. good for torque, but absolutely hated to rev.

      • 0 avatar
        kmoney

        This one is missing the “Designed exclusively for Cadillac by General Motors” plaque that adorns all the other shared engines in their lineup. Guess they ran out of effort to even pretend here.

      • 0 avatar
        sgeffe

        I had an ’84 Sunbird with that engine. It got out its own way adequately enough, and, IIRC, I got upper 20s in mostly highway miles on my commute to college. (I was used to driving A/G-Bodies with the 3.8L Buick V6, plus my first car, a 1978 Cutlass Salon, had the wheezy 260 Rocket V8 — all the performance of the V6 with the fuel-sucking-ness of a V8+! Believe me, a Honda four-banger was a revelation, not to mention the V6s in my later Accords! ;-) )

        Being a commuter and paying for half of one’s education twenty-some years ago, the $500 hit to my budget from a blown head-gasket (plus the inability of the Buick dealer to diagnose the dangerous hesitation in my Dad’s 1986 Buick Century 2.8L 2bbl), in addition to the so-called “morning sickness” common to GM front-drive steering racks of the era (internal power-steering fluid blowby when cold due to poor rack design, if I’m not mistaken), soured my family on GM permanently after having been an Oldsmobuick family for years.

        • 0 avatar
          ponchoman49

          Your 260 Rocket was for sure not in proper tune if it made V6 power and eats gas like a V8. I know because I own a 1979 Cutlass Calais with the 260 and it doesn’t compare to the dog Buick V6 in power, smoothness, sound, low end grunt and fuel mileage which is about the same.

  • avatar
    jacob_coulter

    This is one of those cars you’re just supposed to hate.

    I think I’ve only ever seen one in the wild in my lifetime in about the mid-nineties, even though it was a flop, you would think there would be more floating around.

    I’m amazed GM thought they could fool anyone with it, it’s incredibly obvious it was just a Cadillac badge slapped on their economy platform at the time.

    The idea wasn’t bad, a small luxury car for traditional Cadillac buyers, but the execution was horrible.

  • avatar
    fozone

    I drove an 82 for years, it was given to me. I’m not sure where to even start….

    Yes, the quality was abysmal — what American car wasn’t back then? I won’t review all the systems that broke down right from the get-go (anyone ever lose a steering rack in under two years? Never seen that before or since. And that was just the beginning…)

    The car wasn’t that terrible to drive. Dare I say chuckable — it was compact, and visibility was good. The interior was actually a comfortable, airy place (can’t say that for many cars these days, they all resemble caves.)

    The engine was pure crap. Grossly underpowered for the weight of the car, it hated to rev, and when you put your foot to the floor, you’d get a whole lot of sound and fury, but little forward motion.

    Interestingly, I remember the car being quiet on the highway; It looked to me like they added extra soundproofing under the hood and in various spots, ostensibly to differentiate it from the Cavalier.

    The thing that killed it though was the price – IIRC, when you optioned it up like a ‘real’ caddy, it was about 2x that of its J-car stablemates. Ridiculous, but remember Cadillac was aiming for the BMW 320 and Audi 4000 (yes, really) and they wanted to price accordingly.

    So, terrible piece of junk, yes. But I would still take it over, say, a Caliber, if only because the ergonomics and fuel efficiency are better. No lie.

  • avatar
    zach

    Did this thing have an optional V6 at intro?

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    And some people laugh at the CLA now!!

  • avatar
    davew833

    From 1988-90 I drove 4 or 5 different Cavalier fleet cars regularly– they all looked identical to this one except for the Cadillac emblems and the “leather” interior. We even had one that was the same color, which we less-than-affectionately called “Dirt Brown”. (If you looked closely there were flecks of pink or red in it.) As I recall, the CAVALIERS weren’t terrible cars for the time, in fact, I preferred them over the other choices in the fleet, which were Reliant “K” cars and Ford Tempos. To try to pass them off as a Cadillac though was just ridiculous. However, the 1988 in the Craigslist ad looks more unique and fairly attractive compared to the ’82. IIRC, the Cavalier changed body styles in 1989.

    • 0 avatar
      84Cressida

      Cavalier didn’t change until 1995.

      • 0 avatar
        NoGoYo

        Nope, the 1989 was a whole new body. Which then got a nose job for 1991 and looked rather nice for a Cavalier.

        http://media.ed.edmunds-media.com/chevrolet/cavalier/1994/oem/1994_chevrolet_cavalier_coupe_vl_fq_oem_1_500.jpg

        • 0 avatar
          CJinSD

          Only the coupe got a new body in 1989. The sedan and wagon stayed the same right up until 1995, although there were detail changes with the lights and grill.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I think it all changed for MY90 probably in CY 1989. Here is a MY91 cavalier sedan wearing the new early 90s bodystyle.

            https://www.google.com/search?q=1991+cavalier+sedan&client=firefox-a&hs=WGf&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&tbm=isch&source=iu&imgil=JLPACG1GJbitRM%253A%253Bhttps%253A%252F%252Fencrypted-tbn0.gstatic.com%252Fimages%253Fq%253Dtbn%253AANd9GcSqsvZsDNECWYiq0RX-nKichXjstsR4aRab6-Usmk6jpo_sHUnTcg%253B640%253B480%253BR9wdpW8fliSiQM%253Bhttp%25253A%25252F%25252Fwww.cargurus.com%25252FCars%25252F1991-Chevrolet-Cavalier-RS-Pictures-t2813_pi18200073%25253FpicturesTabFilter%2525253DEXTERIOR&sa=X&ei=tNXOUuu8N8utsAT5oYGgDA&ved=0CC0Q9QEwAQ&biw=1920&bih=958#facrc=_&imgdii=_&imgrc=JLPACG1GJbitRM%253A%3BR9wdpW8fliSiQM%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252Fstatic.cargurus.com%252Fimages%252Fsite%252F2008%252F06%252F22%252F19%252F28%252F1991_chevrolet_cavalier_4_dr_rs_sedan-pic-47580.jpeg%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252Fwww.cargurus.com%252FCars%252F1991-Chevrolet-Cavalier-RS-Pictures-t2813_pi18200073%253FpicturesTabFilter%253DEXTERIOR%3B640%3B480

          • 0 avatar
            NoGoYo

            Oh, I didn’t know that. I assumed they all changed.

          • 0 avatar
            big_gms

            Just to clarify (okay, nitpick)…the restyled Cavalier coupe debuted for the 1988 model year. Though if you look closely, you can clearly see that it is closely based on the original body-the doors, for example, are virtually identical between old and new.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    Back in the late 80′s the firm I worked for had a leased 86 Cimmaron, loaded with the optional 2.8. Basically a Z-24 Cavalier with 4 doors. It actually was not a bad ride, far better than the loathsome x-car. It handled quite well with the optional F-41 suspension pkg and had decent power from the 125 hp 2.8. But worthy of the Cadillac wreath and crest?, no way.If Cadillac wanted a 3-series fighter they should have just badge engineered an Opel Omega or Senator. Oh wait they finally did that in the 90′s that led to the Omega based Catera but then the much better CTS. If they created a good sport sedan in the 1st place they never would have need to buy and eventually dismantle Saab.

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    As bad as this badge job was I don’t think the first Escalades were any better. At least the Cimmaron looked better than a Cavalier. The first Escalades look like what would happen after some high school kid went down to his local auto parts store and dressed up a Suburban with a bad plastic body cladding kit, aftermarket wheels, and a fake wood steering wheel to really jazz up and finish off the interior. Kind of the real life version of Clark G’s Pea Green family truckster.

  • avatar
    chicagoland

    Cadillac Division execs probably expended all their remaining political capital to keep the raspy, shaky half-a-Pontiac-301 out of their J-Car)”

    The Iron Duke was never ever offered in the J car, nor could it fit. Get facts.

    Also, this is the deadest horse to beat. Did you know it will be 33 years ago this spring that the J cars debuted? Most of TTAC target demographic audience has never seen a Cimmaron, nor care, so why keep dredging it up? Then how about talking about Edesls till the end of time?

    First Gen Seville is a classic to many, and is the roots of the ATS/CTS. TTAC is not the ‘be all, end all of car opinions’.

    • 0 avatar
      tonycd

      The first generation Seville is not the root of today’s ATS/CTS. It was a heavily modified version of that era’s lowly Chevy Nova, a car so haphazardly engineered that a significant number of them were rolling off the line with live rear axles that were already almost detached from the car, located only by their primitive leaf springs because the only other hardware holding them in place — a single bolt — had already sheared. Which is why so many Novas and their other badge-engineered siblings (Pontiac Phoenix, Olds Omega, Buick Skylark?) conspicuously crab-walked down the road.

      Get facts.

    • 0 avatar
      ponchoman49

      I often find I funny how the Cimarron is most always brought up when trying to put GM down but never do you hear about the Ford Granada turned into a Lincoln or the horrid 3.8 liter Essex V6 that was made available on the new Lincoln Seville copy in 1982 or the 1981 Imperial over at Chrysler that had a fuel system so bad that 98% of the few cars that were sold were quickly converted back over to a carburetor and it was obvious that this was a tarted up Cordoba/Mirada. Or how about the lovely re-badged K-car that turned into a much more expensive New Yorker in 1983 with the same gutless 2.2 liter engine or the horrid 2.6 Mitsubishi.

  • avatar
    Joss

    Wasn’t GM just trying a stick on the ice with Cim? J started with Chevy/Pont then spooled Bu/Old. The higher the trim the fatter the margin. I remember a Buick J rental not too badly. Plusher & schmaltzier than Tojo-of-the-day. Not as well made.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    Whenever I see one of these I think of Japans counterparts, the Infiniti G20 and the Acura Integra, and naturally cars in similar vein like certain Audis.

    Yea yea I know theres a difference between switching badges and changing bodies and engines, but if a car shares a platform with another, its still the same car underneath the fancy bodywork. Carmakers are just getting better at hiding the fact.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      Back when Jonny Lieberman reviewed the G8 GT for TTAC he wrote something like “why doesn’t GM badge-engineer this?”

      I think the point is that people don’t really mind badge engineering as long as they like the underlying vehicle. Heck, many people here have been clamoring for a Mustang-based Lincoln for years and consider the Fleetwood Brougham or Escalade the last “real” Cadillacs.

      It’s when you take a vehicle that isn’t much loved (Camry, Cavalier, Etc) and try to take it upmarket that the enthusiasts start to get vocal about it.

      • 0 avatar
        NoGoYo

        Well of course, the Fleetwood Brougham and 93-96 Fleetwood were the last old-school RWD Cadillacs. The Seville had gone FWD in 1980 (and the STS was much more euro-flavored than the old Fleetwood) and the DeVille series in 1986, they were the last holdouts.

        But how exactly is a Fleetwood Brougham badge-engineered?

        • 0 avatar
          CJinSD

          The same car was also sold as the Buick Electra and Oldsmobile 98. The Fleetwood Brougham was also just a gussied up Sedan DeVille until the DeVille went FWD. That’s pretty much textbook badge-engineering.

          • 0 avatar
            NoGoYo

            I feel like they hid the DeVille body sharing with Buick and Oldsmobile better than they did the Cimarron being a Cavalier.

            As for the FWD Fleetwood…people prefer not to talk about that. Though the 4.9 Sixty Special is sorta neat.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            I’d rock a Sixty Special with those special expensive Euro package seats. I like em.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7240/7157595090_d8eb778323_o.png

            Because adjustment!

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          CJinSD is correct, and the “Fleetwood” FWD sold from 86-92 was a badge engineered C-body Deville with more standard equipment and minimal changes.

          • 0 avatar
            NoGoYo

            I swear the Sixty Special (maybe the Fleetwood too) has a different rear end to the standard DeVille (looks more like the ’94 DeVille), but maybe they changed the rear end treatment towards the end of the line and most DeVilles I see are 4.5 cars.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            The Sixty Special always had a body colored strip on the bumper between the horizontal reflector strips, whereas the Deville was either chrome or the same color as the lower portion of the two-tone. All Sixty-Specials were monochrome paint as well.

    • 0 avatar
      davew833

      I worked for Infiniti from 1991-93 when the first G20s were introduced. Badge engineered though it may have been, the P10 Nissan Primera/G20 was a great car. The upmarket touches and SR20DE engine in the G20 made it a standout, but I always thought Infiniti could have done a better job on the styling & colors of the interiors.

      • 0 avatar
        tonycd

        Yes, it was.

        Whoever said it just above hit it on the head: Badge-engineered cars aren’t a problem if the basic car was good to begin with. The Lexus ES succeeded because the early-’90s Camry was a fantastic piece that was just crying out for more luxurious trim bits. The Cimarron was a slap in the face because it was unchanged at a 100% markup from an obvious POS that wasn’t best-in-class even at its Chevy prices.

  • avatar
    SixDucks

    For the record, though the 2.5L was considered a Pontiac engine, it was not half a Pontiac 301 V-8. The early Tempest did use a 4 cylinder made of half a Pontiac 389 V-8 though.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      The 2.5 had the same bore and stroke as a 301. It has always been considered to be half of that engine, although it endured countless changes over the years.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iron_Duke_%28engine%29

  • avatar
    doug-g

    There was a little-seen Blake Edward’s movie called S.O.B. where the main character, a movie producer, said something to the effect, “if you want to highlight the sins of prostitution corrupt a virgin, not a whore”. I think that pretty much sums up the accusations that the Cimarron destroyed Cadillac’s reputation. How? By the time the Cimarron came along Cadillac’s reputation was already down the tubes.

    For years I felt Cadillac jumped the shark in 1968 when they felt plastic wood was worthy of the “Standard of the World”. After reading more I think the first FWD Eldorado was the first crack in the armour. The Eldorado wasn’t a bad car but for the first time the press was openly discussing that it was just an Oldsmobile Torornado in fancier clothes. Then the Lincoln Marks started kicking its butt and the press turned up the heat. It was like the reporters were just waiting for the public to say it was OK.

    The Cimarron might have helped confirm the fact that Cadillac had lost its way, I will give you that. As for the Cimarron being a bad car. The Cimarron was as good of a small cars as its contemporary stablemates were good big cars. The entire Cadillac family had taken to the streets. Sadly, not in the way GM intended.

  • avatar
    rudiger

    There’s an interesting modern day similarity of the Cimarron story, and that’s how differently GM went about making the upmarket Buick Verano from the Chevy Cruze platform. For starters, the Cruze is much more competitive in its class than the Cavalier was back in the day. The Cruze is a pretty damn nice small car to begin with. Then there’s the fact that rather than make the Verano a Cadillac, they went with the less prestigious (but still upscale) Buick brand.

    Most importantly, it’s difficult to tell that the Verano started life as a Cruze. It’s not just a cheapo badge job designed to extract the maximum amount of money from consumers at the lowest possible cost.

    There’s no way of telling if GM learned anything from the Cimarron fiasco over 30 years before, but judging from how they spent the extra money to properly turn the Cruze into the Verano, it sure looks like they did. When GM manages to temper their greed, they usually fair much better in the long run.

  • avatar
    NoGoYo

    @CoreyDL: I think what I’m thinking of is the pre and post 87 DeVille/Fleetwood…they went from a rather flat rear end to a more extended one with “fins” and narrow vertical tail lights, more like an older Caddy.

    Certainly makes the car look less stubby. I’m not sure the Eldorado and Seville got that change though.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Ah yes, I’m pretty sure I saw an 86 Deville this morning, little blocky tail lamps, and stumpy overall, with quad square headlamps.

      The Seville and Eldorado did get this change, but in a different way. The Eldorado had flush lamps then for 86 got them pushed out a little after that, making it look MORE old-fashioned than it already did. At the same time, they made them flush for things like the 98 and 98 Touring.

      The Seville went from bustleback to horizontal long taillamps until 1992 when it was redesigned. This was the model available for the STS from 89-91, IIRC.

      It’s funny, the lamps are like a slimmer version, and a bit longer, of those found on the Cimmaron. Same crests.

      • 0 avatar
        NoGoYo

        I don’t think anything can fix the stubby and awkward proportions of the 1986 Seville and Eldorado, it’s amazing how much GM got it wrong. And I’ve seen an Eldorado from that generation in person, it doesn’t look any better in the metal.

  • avatar
    chicagoland

    Note: Using ‘Jump the Shark’ jumped itself 8 years ago.

    Anyway, during the 70′s Oil Crisis, GM and Cadillac were heavily criticized for ‘selling gas hogs’, and dealers demanded smaller cars. Some Caddy dealers dualed with imports!

    So, they kicked the unbaked J-DeVille car out the door. “See now we got a small car!”

    What really hurt Cadillac the most was poor quality diesel and 4100 V8 motors, in the big cars. Then, the plain -jane smaller FWD models. Those errors drove loyal GM lifers to Town Cars in the 80s/90s. Cimarron to most people was just a temporary fix. Only now, younger car fans look at it and go ‘huh’?

  • avatar

    There was an independent mechanic in the town I was living in who specialized in European cars and drove one of these. He told me someone brought it in for repair years ago and never came to pick it up (hmm), so he got a title for it and kept it running all these years. Looks awful, the paint has about faded entirely off, but he gets a kick out of it, I guess.

    Astonishing that the video had the balls to compare the car to Audi and BMW even once, even just talking about cargo volume.

  • avatar
    Japanese Buick

    That video is awesome. I can just picture the Caddy salesmen in plaid sport coats, loud ties, and matching white belts and shoes in a mandatory Saturday morning staff meeting before the dealership opens, being forced to watch this and cutting up and heckling the whole way through.

    Then for grand finale the sales manager exhorts them: “Now get out there and put some lipstick on this fucking pig, you assholes!”

  • avatar
    sgeffe

    Never realized that even basic stuff like tinted glass wasn’t standard equipment in these! (Of course, it’s already been pointed out that power windows and cruise control were options.)

    Good Gawd!

    My 1984 Sunbird hatch had tinted glass, Delco ETR AM/FM stereo without seek/scan, automatic, ps/pb, air/cruise/tilt. Nicely equipped — if only the thing would have had some QUALITY behind it!

  • avatar
    big_gms

    Someone ought to grab all the Cimarron specific bits (grille, taillights, etc.) off that thing just for the hell of it. Not that anyone would truly want them, but they’ve got to be scarcer than hen’s teeth by now. I’d be just nutty enough to do it, if I were in the area. That steering wheel should be saved too. I’m quite certain it’s the same one Pontiac used in ’70s era Grand Ams, with different emblem of course.

    And I have to confess, I’d love to have an ’87 or ’88 Cimarron, just for the hell of it. Very rare, and a much better car by that time.

  • avatar
    Allan850glt

    I had a thing for these little Chevrolac’s back when I was a teen. Prior to moving back to North Buffalo we had lived in Medina NY, a rural town where a car was necessity if you wanted any sort of life. After initially purchasing a very worn ’80 Caprice Classic with 398,000 miles which my father objected over and subsequently had it junked, I had received hand-me-downs from my folks, respectively an ’86 Taurus LX Wagon and an ’85 Subaru GL-10 4wd Sedan. When my folks informed us we were moving back to the city, Dad also informed me he would be selling my Subaru as I wouldn’t need a car in the city (B.S.). Over much objection on my part the Subaru was sold and we moved back to Buffalo in late ’94. I immediately began to gripe, as teenagers do, about having to bus it out to the burbs for mall trips or having to beg and borrow Dad’s ’91 New Yorker or hope that friends’ beater rides were operational so we could cruise. My dad was cool and felt my situation, since he never went without a car since 16 years of age, so shortly after relocating he surprised me with an ’88 Sunbird GT Turbo, red and black with the corny fender flares and covered headlamps. It only had 49,000 miles on it but it was previously owned by a young woman who must have had no idea of how to maintain a car. It was clean and presentable but both the engine and transmission showed their true colors very quickly and I was in just as big a hurry to be rid of it. As long as it was still cool, the tranny slipping issue wasn’t evident and I sunk enough $$ under the hood to keep it going well enough for the time being, so off to the small private dealers I went. I knew enough what to and what not to look for. Yes I understood the Cimarron was also a J-car but understood it had some additional refinements and at least did not have that awful 1.8 OHC Turbo engine that my Sunbird had. I drove two of them, both ’85s. The first a 2.0 litre in a burnt-orange color and pukey tan leather interior. Analog gauges. Full power. It was a decent little car and well maintained but felt too underpowered and being a base model it looked just like a regular Cavalier. The second was an ’85 Cimarron D’Oro. 2.8 MPFI V6. White with lower body cladding, front spoiler, nicer alloys and the previous owner had it repainted in a monochromatic scheme including the alloys and got rid of all the cruddy gold tape-stripes. Only gold was the grille. Had a nicer light-tan leather interior, digital dash, up-level stereo with the full-logic tape deck and equalizer. Also had a little luggage rack/spoiler combo on the trunk. It was a most cool little car, felt far sturdier than the 2.0 base model but it wasn’t as clean as I cared for and I could see bubbles coming through around the windshield seal and a few other spots that meant cancer coming through..so I passed. Essentially it was a gussied-up Cavalier RS V6 sedan, but there were definite and apparent upgrades compared to the Cavaliers or Sunbirds. I won’t say the initial price hike was justified at all and sadly used, they didn’t go for much more than a Cavalier. My friend and classmate did have hers for a good few years, until her junior year in College and it still looked great and rode well. They were cheapies loaded up but not the worst thing built during the time and if you saw through the ruse, then you knew what you were getting into and what NOT to expect out of a subcompact. Laugh if you will, I decided to go with a clean and low-mileage ’87 Escort GT in burgundy with the gray lower body effects and interior. I actually cleaned it up further, sold it and made a few bucks off it. Took those extra bucks and bought myself a beautiful ’87 Mercury Sable LS Monochrome Edition (yes it’s a legitimate special edition, google or wiki it) just in time for Senior year. I forgot all about Cimarrons once I got that smooth Sable!

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      I can’t quite tell is your AV a 940 or an 850? Looks like a 900 series to me.

      • 0 avatar
        Allan850glt

        It’s my old ’93 945 Turbo. Was Volvo number two out of the six I’ve owned and the one I kept the longest. It was a total tank and I loved it. Sold it to a buddy pretty cheaply when I bought a ’96 960 Wagon and then eventually bought it back. He briefly drove it and then parked it for a couple years. Did it no good whatsoever. I brought her back home and got her running again but she had too many gremlins about her to make it worth going any further so I scrapped her with the hope that her many good parts (lovely body ’til the end) will save others. As we speak, I push my ’95 855 GLT 5speed on a daily basis..bought her from the original family that picked her up from the factory through the Volvo Tourist and Diplomat program. Spent her first two years in Germany and the remaining seventeen pounding away the potholed, frequently snowy Buffalo roads. Yes I love my old Volvos. Out of six, only the ’93 got scrapped. The others are still around town, even my first ’88 745 GLE.


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