Junkyard Find: 1998 Cadillac Catera

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin

The Cadillac Catera, a rebadged Opel Omega that was supposed to entice car shoppers about 50 years younger than the typical (non-Escalade) Cadillac buyer of the time, disappeared from the streets of North America without leaving much of a trace. Sufficient Cateras remain, however, to ensure that examples will show up in wrecking yards from time to time; in this series, we’ve seen this ’97, this ’98, and now today’s find.

Just 77,582 miles on the clock— that’s just about new!

With a 200-horse twin-cam V6 under the hood and rear-wheel drive (but no manual transmission option), The General hoped to claw back some formerly Detroit-centric car shoppers who’d switched to BMWs in the 1980s.

“I’d been doing the BMW thing for a while. I just thought I’d see what else was out there.”

Sadly for GM, their German-built Cadillac didn’t break any sales records. The interior does seem nice, though.

“Ziggy,” the Catera’s cartoon-duck mascot, didn’t help the car’s image as much as GM had hoped.

There’s a Catera racing in the 24 Hours of LeMons, and we always have high hopes for it. On paper, it should be able to compete with the BMW E30s and Alfa Milanos.

However, the Catera’s weak points (engine, transmission, suspension, brakes, electrical system, ECU, fuel system) have conspired to limit the car’s on-track time. Maybe its next race will be different!

The good news for Catera racers is that parts are cheap and plentiful— you can find them in the junkyard or just buy a whole parts car on Craigslist for 300 bucks.

Murilee Martin
Murilee Martin

Murilee Martin is the pen name of Phil Greden, a writer who has lived in Minnesota, California, Georgia and (now) Colorado. He has toiled at copywriting, technical writing, junkmail writing, fiction writing and now automotive writing. He has owned many terrible vehicles and some good ones. He spends a great deal of time in self-service junkyards. These days, he writes for publications including Autoweek, Autoblog, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars and Capital One.

More by Murilee Martin

Join the conversation
2 of 103 comments
  • Superdessucke Superdessucke on Jul 07, 2013

    Couldn't zig and zag its way out of an early death I see...

  • Stereorobb Stereorobb on Sep 19, 2013

    Caddys second attempt in recent times to build a cheap compact fast luxury sedan, much like the cimmeron it was a epic fail. I don't see too many of these anymore and there fading away pretty fast. Kinda interesting cars though. Also they offered v8s in limited numbers of these but I've never seen one in the wild. They fall apart easy so there are not many of them left, and will probably be extinct in a few more years

  • Grant P Farrell Oh no the dealership kept the car for hours on two occasions before giving me a loaner for two months while they supposedly replaced the ECU. I hate cords so I've only connected it wirelessly. Next I'm gonna try using the usb-c in the center console and leaving the phone plugged in in there, not as convenient but it might lower my blood pressure.
  • Jeff Tiny electrical parts are ruining today's cars! What can they ...
  • CEastwood From zero there is nowhere to go but up . BYD isn't sold in the U.S. and most Teslas are ugly azz 90s looking plain jane drone mobiles . I've only seen one Rivian on the road and it 's not looking good for them . I live out in the sticks of NW NJ and EVs just aren't practical here , but the local drag strip thrives in the warmer months with most cars making the trip from New York .
  • Lorenzo Aw, that's just the base price. Toyota dealers aren't in the same class as BMW/Porsche upsellers, and the Toyota base is more complete, but nobody will be driving that model off the lot at that price.
  • Mike The cost if our busing program is 6.2 million for our average size district in NJ. It was 3.5 last year.