By on September 29, 2014

18 - 1978 Cadillac Seville Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee MartinAs Aaron Severson explains in great detail in his excellent Ate Up With Motor piece, the 1976-1979 Cadillac Seville (which was essentially a Chevy Nova under the skin), accelerated the long decline of the Cadillac Division that continued with the Cavalier-based Cimarron and didn’t really turn around until Cadillac started building trucks for rappers and warlords in the 1990s. Having driven a $50 1976 Nova many thousands of miles, I can assume that ’78 Seville ownership was very similar, though with a plusher interior and (slightly) more engine power. Here’s a brown-on-gold-on-brown-on-yellow-on-ochre-on-umber-on-brown-on-beige-on-copper example that I spotted a few weeks ago in a San Francisco Bay Area wrecking yard.
01 - 1978 Cadillac Seville Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee MartinI couldn’t find any figures for the cost of the Elegante option package, but I did learn that the exterior colors on this car were Western Saddle Firemist and Ruidoso Brown.
03 - 1978 Cadillac Seville Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee MartinThe list price of the ordinary, garden-variety non-Elegante ’78 Seville was $14,267, about 52 grand in 2014 dollars. The top-of-the-line Nova Custom went for $4,220 in 1978 (the 1978 BMW 530 was $14,840 and the 1978 Mercedes-Benz 280E was $16,606, but neither was available in Ruidoso Brown).
11 - 1978 Cadillac Seville Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin8-track player, of course. Note the rear-defog and power-antenna switches.
15 - 1978 Cadillac Seville Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee MartinThis Bendix-injected Oldsmobile 350-cubic-inch V8 made 170 horsepower.
19 - 1978 Cadillac Seville Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee MartinIt’s probably not a coincidence that Cadillac buyers defected en masse to Mercedes-Benz and BMW about this time (and a few even bought Datsun 810s and Toyota Cressidas). On the plus side, the going rate on a Seville of this era has been down in rusty-Lumina territory for the last 15 years.

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

Recommended

107 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1978 Cadillac Seville Elegante...”


  • avatar
    FormerFF

    I do remember brown GM cars during this era. It makes me glad that brown is now totally out of fashion.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    I have one of these (1979) I know it will never beat it’s “tarted-up Nova” byline, but then I guess a Bentley is a tarted up VW and a Rolls Royce is a tarted-up BMW, so there’s that

  • avatar
    kmars2009

    It was awful, but so were most Cadillacs in the 70’s…not to mention ugly! 1980 bustle back Sevilles were a huge improvement in styling. I still think build quality was, and is, not that great. I love seeing Cadillacs with their head liners falling and paint deteriorated beyond recognition. If you had to buy American, Lincoln was the better choice…and still is. Personally, I say spend the extra bucks and get a Mercedes.

    • 0 avatar
      PonchoIndian

      Its funny you say that, the only cars in this area I see with paint failing and headliners falling apart these days are the 98-03 Honda Accords and similar era Civics.

      For being so “ugly” is sure did set a new styling trend for most of the industry and sold like hotcakes for a large amount of money.

      • 0 avatar
        mr.cranky

        The only people that cared about that “styling” were part of the country club, leisure suit crowd.

        I for one, am glad that the Japanese came along and ate the lunches of GM, Ford and Chrysler. If they hadn’t, we’d probably still be driving brougham-mobiles.

  • avatar
    Justice_Gustine

    There was an advertisement being shot for the ’76 Seville, it was along the shore of Pebble Beach at a turnout near bird rock. Nice California day with calm waves, blue skies and gulls soaring.

    It was my friend Tony and I tossing bread in the air to attract the gulls. We were out bike riding and stopped to see what was going on when a man offered free lunches if we’d work the bread tossing.

  • avatar
    ajla

    “Seville of this era has been down in rusty-Lumina territory for the last 15 years.”

    Yea, I wish. When I shopped these two years ago, good examples were going for $7k+.

    • 0 avatar
      matador

      I don’t know about a 1978 Seville in particular, but Cadillac’s are cheap hoopties around here.

      I bought a 1995 LeSabre for $700 from a guy who fixes salvaged and broken vehicles. He ALWAYS has a cheap Cadillac available. Under $1000 will get you a mid 90s STS, a late-90s Deville, or pretty much anything from the 80s that he finds.

      If only the Northstar was a better engine. The Buick 3800 is a much, much better choice for a cheap car that will be neglected by a 16 year old girl.

      Old Cadillacs are very cheap here.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    I think the word I’d use to describe this car is: woeful. Thinking of how truly awful this and (most) other American cars were at the time, considering the gaudy-as-you-like styling on the Eldorado. Or the ungainly large Seventy-Five or Fleetwood Talisman, with their paisley and fake wood interiors. I can’t believe the price was up there with Mercedes, and undoubtedly didn’t have half the quality. From everything I’ve read, trim started falling off within a year or so. My dad always talks about how badly things rusted back then, as well.

    So, what was this like for people living through it? This car was 8 when I was born, so I missed it all. In the greater context of America at the time, were these just glitzy gross items for coke dealers and old people who remembered fondly the Cadillacs of yore? I just have this image of big hair and polyester suits, a businessman’s lunch where you have three martinis and nap in your office afterward, inbetween bouts of harassing your secretary.

    But all my imagery is from TV and film.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      Compared to other American cars of this era the 1st gen Seville probably ranked better then most, but considering it was pretty “old school” mechanically it was way overpriced.

      • 0 avatar
        nickoo

        The disco novas were some of the best of the era if they had the straight six 350th combo. We owned two of them and they both went over 200k. Rust is what brought them down. But that was a problem with nearly all late 70s cars.

      • 0 avatar
        snakebit

        Discussing the merits of the 1976-1978 Seville while peering at this Elegante in the boneyard is absurd. First you have the decrepit remains of the car, then it’s an Elegante model, which is like buying a perfectly good, fresh piece of fish, and then leaving it in the broiler too long.

        To me, the basic 1976-78 Seville was one of the better Cadillacs. I’m a little weary of folks who haven’t driven a ’75 Nova with a 350 and two-speed Powerglide and very basic interior, and the ’76 Seville with its FI Olds 350 and Hydramatic, and leather individual front seats, and dismissed the Seville. Probably the same guys who continue to call a Continental Mark III just an expensive Thunderbird.

        I started my automotive career in a MB and BMW dealership, so I’m very aware of their products in the late 1960’s, and yes, as a skinny 19 year old, I was much more comfortable in a 280SE MB TEX front bucket seat than my uncle’s ’67 Cadillac front seat. But, as the linked article said, luxury back then was equated with two feet more length and bench leather seats.

        I think the fact that the AACA Museum housed, at last read,actor Betty White’s 1978 Seville(a gift to her from her late husband Allen Ludden) speaks a little to the issue that the mid-1970’s Seville was a distinctive car of its time.

        • 0 avatar
          CJinSD

          Should GM still have been selling Powerglide cars in the mid-’70s, 15 years after Chrysler had practically standardized Torqueflite across its entire range? ‘This car is worth the money because our less expensive cars are so punitively sparse’ doesn’t work well when there are external competitors. In the case of the Seville, it actually did work initially. Eventually the price of treating customers like complete dupes caught up with them though.

          • 0 avatar
            bomberpete

            Powerglide was very rare from the late Sixties until its final phaseout in 1973. From Wikipedia:

            – The Powerglide lingered on as a low-cost automatic transmission option primarily for the six-cylinder Chevrolet Nova and four-cylinder Chevrolet Vega until it was phased out after the 1973 model year…

            – Powerglide continued to serve as Chevrolet’s main automatic transmission through the 1960s, when a new three-speed automatic transmission called Turbo-Hydramatic 400 (1965 introduction) began to be phased in. They were introduced in Buicks and Cadillacs the previous year….

            – By the late 1960s, demand for two-speed automatic transmissions was dwindling as buyers were demanding three-speed units (Ford, Chrysler and American Motors had already switched entirely to three-speed automatics by this time). In 1969, the three-speed Turbo Hydramatic 350 (THM350) was introduced as a light-duty companion to the Turbo-Hydramatic 400, and made available on virtually all Chevrolet cars and trucks with six-cylinder or small and medium-sized V8 engines, as well as intermediate sized cars of other GM divisions.[2]

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

        • 0 avatar
          snakebit

          bomberpete,

          I went to my archives to research Chevrolet for 1975. I should say that I don’t rely on Wikipedia for accurate automotive history, because I found that when errors are pointed out to them, they have a unwieldy, time-consuming method of verifying the corrections, and for other reasons related to competition for who can submit the highest number of entrys versus verification of each.

          When I checked my archives, I found no listing for Powerglide for Nova, Camaro, Vega, or Monza. Now, I got to test both a 140CID Monza automatic and the California emissions Monza V8(a 350 V8 coupled with a Turbo-Hydramatic, according to my notes). I had the four-cylinder Monza listed as a Powerglide-it certainly shifted and performed poorly consistent with a two-speed automatic. Thinking back, this was a press car and the test was done around August 1975, so perhaps the transmission was not shifting properly, and I just assumed it felt like a Powerglide. So I concede that I was wrong about the Nova option of Powerglide that year.

          On whole, though, I still assert that the comparison of the 1975 Nova to its platform mate, Seville, is very much wrong-headed.

          As an aside, Chevrolet didn’t just ‘phase in’ the the Turbo-Hydramatic 400. In about March 1965, when Chevrolet began fitting full-size Chevrolets with the 396CID 325hp option, the companion automatic used was the TH-400 (a four-speed manual option was listed for 396-fitted Impala and mid-year Caprice’s, but no one believes they were used in production of the big Chevrolets, only on the mid-year Chevelle Z-16.

    • 0 avatar
      bryanska

      This is a great question, and one I’ve been answering since Jalopnik decided the 1990s were a horrible shameful period during which we should all have committed suicide.

      Think of it this way: nothing is good or bad until thinking makes it so. Back in 1978, a Cadillac was a “good” car. Nobody can say they were “bad”, otherwise Mercedes would have outsold them. Or someone else. If they were so bad, how was the 1978 Eldorado a smash hit selling six years even with the objectively worst engine lineup they’ve ever offered?

      Living in the 80s were just like living any other time. Historical revisionists like Michael Ballaban like to pretend everyone was having an awful time up until 2014. But it doesn’t hold water. Yes, today is better than yesterday. It’s been like that for thousands of years.

      Thirty years from now, things will be awesome. Let’s hope we aren’t crapping on the 2015 CTS just because “ew, gearshift levers”.

      Just because the plasticky PT Cruiser looks like the year 2000, doesn’t mean it wasn’t a sales blockbuster and critical favorite. People loved it then; who are we to revise that?

      Nothing is more unreal than seeing someone 20 years younger than you interpret your life “in hindsight”. It’s insulting, belittling, and just wait till your life is laughed at.

      Abe Simpson said it: “I used to be ‘With It’. Then they changed what ‘It’ was. Now what ‘It’ is, is weird and scary. And it’ll happen to YOU!”

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        Thanks, good points. :)

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        Every generation goes through this. How could my parents live without TV? How could I have grown up without a smartphone or computer? How did we make it through the malaise era? It was only the malaise era in retrospect. When all cars became crappy you had to make do with what was available, if it weren’t for the Japanese it would have taken a lot longer for cars to improve

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        @bryanska

        Being a ’69 model year myself, I completely agree! The 80’s and ’90s were actually pretty great, though looking back at my college years and those following, I have no idea how I lived on so little money!

        Though I will also say, as I noted for CoreyDL, even back then Cadillacs were considered a bit flashy and tacky, at least in my conservative, old money town in Maine. But Maine has always been a little odd.

      • 0 avatar
        Superdessucke

        Deep. All I know is that this thing looks like the Jolly Green Giant took a big dump in the middle of a junkyard. Elegante? How Elegant are you now? Baaahhhh!!

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          If you think this is bad, check out the Gucci versions.

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            Overwrought luxury was cool until it became a parody of itself with the Broughamifcation of just about every American car, the Gucci Cadillac is a classic example of too much bad taste for the masses…

            … let ’em eat cake

          • 0 avatar

            I agree Lie2me, something of the same could be said of larger American pickups of today like F150 and other. Too large, too square, too much chrome. Dangerously close, if not already parodies.

            That said, American cars of that era are interesting. Now, I have a hint of sympathy for them, but a couple of years ago they did look old. Cars do follow fashion and not all fashion is in good taste, though sometimes something or other stand the test of time.

            but opera windows, vinyl roofs and fake RR grills were tasteful and even then probably questionable, for a very short time frame.

        • 0 avatar
          bomberpete

          There was a time before 1995 that in addition to rent (cooking gas included), my “utilities” consisted of electricity, a landline phone and one credit card.

      • 0 avatar
        gasser

        I agree that these were “good” cars. I drove Sevilles a lot as my FIL and BIL each owned one. They were great at the time. I seem to remember that they were about $5K cheaper than a Mercedes 450SEL (which was in the low 20s) They were smooth, powerful, very comfortable and quiet. I also had driven Nova V-8s and these were NOT the same car.
        Many people had not yet adjusted to the firmer Mercedes/European ride, and preferred the Cadillac float. The price of both the car and service put others back in the Cadillac camp. Most Cadillac buyers traded theirs in every two or three years and for that period of time, the build quality and material was just fine. The swoopy Daimler back that the 1980 Seville ushered in was what killed Seville.
        As one salesman said to me, “they took a car that was 1/3 of my business and just killed it.”

      • 0 avatar
        George B

        bryanska, people living in the Malaise Era knew that new cars were not as desirable as decade-old used cars that shared the road at the same time. In addition, GM was so aggressive at reusing body panels across brands that a large chunk of the population could see that this Cadillac Seville was a very expensive Nova. Not that the Nova was a horrible car for its time, but that the Cadillac version wasn’t special in any way to justify the higher price. Back then you had to start buying Mercedes to get visibly higher status to go with paying luxury car money.

        The big change coming out of the Malaise Era was that cars became fun to drive. The cars were light weight and many had rack and pinion steering and multiport fuel injection. Compared to today, those 80s and 90s cars are underpowered, but they were finally an improvement over the past after a lost decade.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      In Maine, they were mostly driven by old people, and middle-aged first generation “”/Americans who had “made it”. Note, by that I mean the Italian/American store owner or the Polish/American guy with the chain of dry cleaning stores. The old money all drove the other big GMs, Fords, or Chryslers, at least those who hadn’t gone European. Cadillacs were much too flashy. My Grandparents bought an ’85 Olds 98 when my Grandfather retired in late ’84 – the only time my Grandfather expected to be seen in a Cadillac was when he died. Hasn’t happened yet! We did have a Cimarron in the family though – my Grandmother’s cousin, who was a state senator for decades, had a late V6 one for a long time.

      LOTS of Mercedes, Volvo, and Saab around, even back then. Saabs and Volvos weren’t all that expensive back then. Loaded mid-size Ford money, not BMW/Mercedes money. Audi was big here too – FWD was a big selling feature in this climate. They competed with Saab/Volvo.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        Your grandfather must be at least 90! Did they have the Olds until they stopped driving?

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          He’s almost 92, and still going strong!

          Oddly enough, he bought the Olds and then decided he hated it. I ended up driving the Oldsmobarge more than he did, I got my license in Fall ’86. He just drove his truck. At the time, my Grandmother still had a fairly long commute, so she was driving their previous new car, an ’82 Subaru. She slid that off I-95 in a bad snowstorm one day in early ’87, and refused to drive it ever again, so she started driving the Olds and I got the Subaru (way more fun, 5spd). They kept the Olds until she stopped driving about 10-12 years ago, but one of my cousins still has the thing AFAIK. She only worked for a couple more years after that, so it had very few miles on it, like 45K, when it was 15+ years old. And always garage kept, so it was pretty much mint. It lived up to the old adage that GM cars run badly longer than other cars run – it NEVER, from day 1, ran quite right. But it never broke down either. Just kind of a crappy, but expensive car. Cost $20K in Sept. ’84.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        “Saabs and Volvos weren’t all that expensive back then. Loaded mid-size Ford money, not BMW/Mercedes money.”

        What a concept.

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          It’s a concept that almost put both of them under. Saab and Volvo had no choice but to go upmarket. They were too small to be sustainable at their volumes at the prices they were charging. Cost of production in Scandinavia was just way to high. They had no money for future development. This is ultimately why both got bought out. And then even at near German prices they still couldn’t make it work. Saab admittedly got screwed over by GM, but Ford did well by Volvo and they are still in trouble.

      • 0 avatar
        jdowmiller

        I really appreciated reading these insights. I’m fascinated by cars of the 1970s and the cultural context in which they existed. I’m blown away by the cost of this vehicle in particular. $50G plus?! And such a total piece of crap! Who could and would by these? Werent interest rates in the high teens at that point?

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          That’s $50K in today’s, money, it was $14K back then. Yes, interest rates were very high when this car was new.

          You have to put it in context of the times. This was the end of the “buy American” era. People bought them because they had always bought them. This Cadillac was not a bad car for the time. As American cars went, it was pretty good. It was good-sized, and what was thought of as very luxurious for the day. While a Mercedes 300D was a great car too, and tough as nails, it was also slow, loud, and NOT luxurious at all for the taste of the average American. It was just expensive and built to last. Which didn’t mean much in a time when people who could afford this sort of thing just bought a new car every year or two. And there were Cadillac dealers all over the place. The Europeans were concentrated on the coasts, and the Japanese were still making little tin boxes, not luxury cars.

          Interesting to note what inflation was doing in those days – in the 5 years between this car and when my folks bought their Olds 98 in ’84, the price of the equivalent Cadillac went up *$10,000*. In just five years.

        • 0 avatar

          I think you are being harsh, it wasn’t a piece of crap, it was pretty good for it’s day.

          • 0 avatar
            matador

            I don’t get the whole “Malaise” thing.

            I drive a 1987 Chevy R10 pickup that’s the base Custom Deluxe model. No A/C, no dash vents for heat, actually (floor and defrost, only).

            It’s not bad. It’ll cruise at 65 MPH effortlessly, and is amazingly comfortable. It drives much better than my 1995 F150, in fact. It’s a bad truck for what? A speaker built into the dashboard? Using metal on the interior? Wraparound gauge cluster designs? I don’t see any advantage to a newer truck for me. This has fuel injection, and that’s the only major difference that I can think of from the Malaise era (Other than front disc brakes, maybe)???

            I really can’t fins anything all that bad about it. Of course, I’d rather have the Scottsdale with air conditioning, but still, the Scottsdale was an “average” trim.

            For being made in the automotive “dark ages”, it isn’t bad at all.

    • 0 avatar
      ponchoman49

      I never remember parts falling off the interiors and the Mercedes during the same time era suffer many of the same issues as these cars along ith faded peeling paint and misaligned interior bits plus faded carpets and seats etc. At least Caddy and Lincoln used real leather for the seats instead of the lumpy ugly brown and black used in the Mercedes

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    Weren’t these cars not only based on the Nova, but also more expensive than the big-boat Caddies? I also recall they were kind of a hit. Less for more…

    I have to admit, at least on the outside in non-ridiculous color schemes, I have always thought this a very good looking car.

  • avatar
    sirwired

    I wonder what the story behind this is? The interior is in remarkably clean-looking shape; did it die an early death and live in the proverbial barn for a couple decades, or was it a garaged car driven by grandma to church and the hairdressers and her kids had it towed away when she died?

    I wonder what the warning tape said? Perhaps it’s leftover police tape from something illegal (or horrible) found in the trunk?

  • avatar
    Jimal

    See, when I hear “based on the Nova” what I also hear is “based on the first generation Camaro”, which tells me that if I had a big enough yard to stash such things, a Seville with all the modern stuff that is available off the shelf for first generation Camaros underneath would be an interesting project. Not necessarily good or worth while, but interesting.

  • avatar
    Crabspirits

    I’m struggling to figure out the package on the floor. Something-ED 7…

    People like to blame this car for a lot. I think with the fuel injection and lux plastic, it had enough to differentiate itself from the Nova. It’s a shame about the pedestrian tail lights though.

    I don’t think there was much Cad could do to stem the flow of it’s customer base to the imports. Consumers are fickle sometimes and all it takes is for something that’s just new to come out, and they leave you. Not to say that they didn’t have their reasons. Take video game platforms for example.

    I’ll bet a lot of Benz and BMW drivers at the time wished their cars floated like their old caddy did.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Between 1974 and 1999, my father always had a Lincoln or Cadillac. Keeping each one no longer than 2 years and often trading them in annually.

    During the 1970’s the Lincolns were far superior to the Cadillacs in styling and ‘plushness’.

    Some of his staff favoured European marques. He would occasionally bring one home for a weekend (or week) and invariably we preferred the Lincolns.

    The Lincolns also provided more ‘status’ when driven to the local high school, disco, etc. Just exuded what 2 decades later would be called ‘bling’. The Europeans were underpowered, noisier and as mentioned their interiors were austere, not meeting the then current definition of luxury.

    Audis, Saabs and Volvos did not even register as luxury vehicles. They were cross shopped with upmarket Fords and Pontiacs. BMW’s were largely seen the same way, only sportier. Of course this was in Canada so the U.S. experience may have been different.

    My favourite is/was a 1975 Mark IV (Designer Series).
    He was also very pleased with his STS’s with the Northstar engine. Even though one did die on him after only about 4 months of use.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      I like the final version of the STS, nice and big with AWD, and you didn’t have to have the N* towards the end. But the interior crossed it off the list for me.

    • 0 avatar
      Willyam

      My grandfather did this as well. He was drafted to the southwest sometime in the early 80’s, and the small-town-sensible Monte Carlo’s with swivel-out seats gave way to all sorts of cars named “Seville” and “Brougham” and “Fleetwood” and what-not. Every two years on the button, and they’d drive all the way to see us with some Caddy with the extra-garish(TM) option package for the desert – mostly pin stripes and gold wire wheels. They traded one because they said the sill panel was catching their clothes. But if you retire well, why not just get sick of the color every 24 months and try another one? They never dealt with the 50-thousand-mile limit that most GM owners of the day experienced, the steering wheel was tiny and light, and the velour was DEEP. I remember the blasting A/C and the constant “dong” of warning bells and the green glow of LED radios.

  • avatar
    PonchoIndian

    These are more than just a tarted up Nova, and don’t drive like a tarted up Nova.

    • 0 avatar

      I agree much more than a Nova, better in every way and quite tunable, and it kept the Nova’s abuser friendliness and performance parts interchangeability,
      I’m not understanding all the Seville hate, I think its from people who have never driven one,

    • 0 avatar
      ponchoman49

      The Seville for 1976-79 was a far different car from the Nova than the silly Ford Granada turned into a Versailles with a Lincoln grille and tire hump out back. They didn’t even bother to tart up the engines using the same 2 BBL 302 and earlier 351’s as the Ford and Mercury cars. Cadillac spent a lot more separating this car from it’s more humble Novas roots.

  • avatar
    PartsUnknown

    That gargantuan ashtray is not to be trifled with.

  • avatar
    Duaney

    Aaron Severson is way off base regarding the Seville. Yes, some of the tooling and engineering of the Nova was used, but there’s only a small area of floor stamping that’s the same. It’s all Seville otherwise. The 75 Nova used the vastly upgraded front suspension of the other GM intermediates, and the Camaro-Firebird, so that component started as your “Grand Prix” front suspension, and the Seville took that system as a start, but then re-engineered it to Cadillac quality. The rear suspension, although leaf springs is Seville only with air ride shocks. Cadillac used the Olds 350, fuel injected it, and also used the Hydramatic 400, full constant velocity driveshaft joints were also used. Not at all a “Nova”. As far as leading Cadillac downward, totally false as the Seville was a great success, as the most expensive Cadillac other than the Fleetwood 75 series, sales were great, Cadillac had a home-run with their first “Personal Sized” Caddy.

    • 0 avatar

      Yes, many of these were sold. But that’s part of Aaron’s point – a point I’ve experienced firsthand from contact with people beyond my income level:

      To the wealthy, exclusivity is as important as styling and build quality. Maybe more so. Since Cadillac had been aggressively pursuing market share since the late 60’s, Mercedes was looking better and better to Cadillac’s target market.

      Combine that dynamic with the decontenting rampant throughout Detroit at that time, and the best you could hope for with Seville is that it wouldn’t accelerate the brand’s decline into mediocrity.

      The attitude should’ve been more like Porsche: Always build one less car than the market demands. GM will do well to remember that if they want their upcoming flagship to be a hit.

      • 0 avatar
        hachee

        “To the wealthy, exclusivity is as important as styling and build quality. Maybe more so. Since Cadillac had been aggressively pursuing market share since the late 60′s, Mercedes was looking better and better to Cadillac’s target market.”

        I’ve been saying the same thing for a long time, or at least thinking this should be true. But somehow, MB and BMW sales just keep getting bigger and bigger, so exclusivity just might not mean as much to most people. You’d think Jaguar would sell more, just because they’re more exclusive by virtue of not selling too well. I guess this is a bit of a Catch-22!

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          I don’t think the exclusivity thing really means all THAT much anymore (if it ever really did), at least for cars below $100K or so. And even above that, I think it is more about making the statement that you can afford that level of expenditure. Is a Bentley really worth 2X+ an S-class?

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      Even though this is all true people will always consider the Seville a badge engineered Nova. It wasn’t like this when the Seville was first introduced only after the Cimarron debacle did people start to take a closer look at Cadillacs and declare the original Seville a Nova. I place the blame squarely on Cadillac for their contemptuous attempt at passing off the thinly veiled Cavalier as a Cadillac forever tainting all Cadillacs with skepticism

      • 0 avatar
        bomberpete

        The first Seville, the ’77-’80 B-body Devilles, and the ’79-’80 Eldorado were the last “good” Cadillacs, at least if they didn’t have Olds diesel engines.

        They sold well and met the expectations of their buyers. They were a respite from the first Energy Crisis and ’74-’75 recession. Still, the rot was setting in. Since 1971, Cadillac had to chase volume like all divisions. The Deville was already competing with the Electra and Ninety-Eight.

        The Eighties were far worse. This included the bustleback Seville, the Cimarron, the Allante, the downsized 1986 Eldorado/Seville, the V8-6-4, the 4100 alum V-8, putting Buick V-6s as base engines, the fallout from Roger Smith and his stupid 1984 reorganization, absolutely horrible quality with all of the above, Lincoln smartly succeeding with tried-and-true forumlas, better quality and ads making fun of Cadillac’s Me Too styling, and the Germans playing carpe dieme with American luxury car buyers.

        Just when the horror of Roger Smith was retiring, Cadillac bored out the aluminum V-8 to 4.9 liters and put some nice design touches on the Deville.

        Then someone else built the Cadillac that GM could and should have been designing all along. You may have heard of it: the Lexus LS 400. That’s when Cadillac truly became an also-ran.

      • 0 avatar
        bunkie

        I still remember reading the Car & Driver review of the fist Seville. They did mention that the car was loosely based on the Nova. What sticks in my memory is that they complained that the car went so far in removing the driver from the experience that they coined a new term for driving the Seville: “foozling”.

        And that’s what it’s all about and what is needed to put this car in context. The mid 70s were a scary time for a lot of people. The disruption of the ’60s was an open wound, cheap gas was gone and a lot of people wanted to be isolated as much as possible. The whole “European luxury cars are superior” notion hadn’t yet taken hold in the larger part of the car-buying public. This car showed a way forward: somewhat downsized, but with radial tires, fuel injection, a butter-smooth ride and an interior that, for its time, was impressive. No wonder it sold well.

    • 0 avatar
      Featherston

      I don’t think Severson is off base so much as Murilee’s take on Severson’s piece is. The Ate Up with Motor post is very evenhanded and explains the improvements (which others and you have pointed out were quite genuine) in upgrading the Nova’s X platorm into the K platform. For example: “Reviewers were consistently impressed with its suppression of noise, vibration, and harshness; contemporary road tests found that the Seville was significantly quieter than either the Mercedes 450SE or the Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow.”

      The take home message of Severson’s article was that GM didn’t apply the same diligence in creating the Cimarron.

      The Cadillac saga goes far beyond the Seville and Cimarron, of course. The division’s decision to chase volume predated the K platform project by several years.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    A ’77 or ’78 Seville was my grandfather’s first Cadillac in a long line of Caddies and Lincolns after “stepping up” from full size Fords and Chryslers. I remember him looking back fondly on his first Seville, but not so fondly of the 8-6-4 Deville that followed. He really look a liking to the bustle-back FWD Seville, then went to Lincoln in the form of a FWD Continental when Cadillac made the Seville too small in the late 80s. He actually liked the FWD Conti too, when it wasn’t spending weeks at a time in the dealer service department.

    In the context of the day these cars weren’t objectively “bad” (the 8-6-4 was bad but the car was fine after it was deactivated), the people who bought them generally liked them. Though now we look back now through our future tainted glasses and wonder what they were thinking. Hindsight and all that.

  • avatar
    Willyam

    Western Saddle Firemist and Ruidoso Brown. Modern palette names mostly don’t have that kind of ring.

    Orinoco Flow blue, anyone?

  • avatar
    TrenchFoot

    Come on Cadillac. Are we really to believe that a power-antenna needs a switch? And you have to label it “Auto Antenna”? I know it was 1978, but come on.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Land Cruisers still have a power antenna switch.

    • 0 avatar
      gearhead77

      Yes. I believe I remember driving a Grand Marquis circa 2000 that still had a switch for the antenna.

      It took a long,long time for power mirrors to appear on both sides of a domestic car too(or two “wing” mirrors at all). Remote mirror meant there was a remote adjuster somewhere in the middle of the console. And it was nearly useless, considering how that cable had to move.

      What days we live in! Dual power mirrors, not powered antenna and rear defrost are almost standard issue now.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        Dual mirrors, NO antenna, and rear defrost – ha.

        Either it’s in the glass or in the roof fin with the sat nav receiver.

      • 0 avatar
        bomberpete

        I had to rent a Grand Marquis on a business trip during that era.

        Four days. It sucked. In addition to that big stupid dashboard and all the dated features, taking it on curvy roads with the base suspension was nauseating.

        I was in my mid-thirties at the time and thought, the Good Old Days maybe weren’t so good.

  • avatar
    stevelyon

    When I was a kid, my best friend Bryan’s parents each drove a Seville. His mom’s was a ’78, dad’s was a ’77. I remember mom taking great care of her car; always washed, always looked great. It was a yellow cream color inside and out, and even though it got driven year-’round in Minnesota, I don’t ever remember seeing any rust on it. Bryan’s dad, however, treated his car like crap. By ’83 or ’84, it was rusty, beat-to-hell, and the interior was falling apart. I remember seeing a few warning lights permanently illuminated on the strip of idiot lights along the top of the cluster.

    They were an interesting couple; they traded both Sevilles in on a single, fully loaded Toyota Cressida in ’85. I remember thinking (I was 14 in ’85) that the Cressida was a far better car.

  • avatar
    stingray65

    The 1st generation Seville were good cars for the era, but those in the know were aware of the lack of real engineering put into this very premium priced car. Mercedes, BMW, Jaguar gave you independent rear suspension (and resulting bigger trunks and larger backseats), and OHC/alloy head motors (with good power and decent fuel economy), and the Germans also offered beautifully finished paint even on the door jam area and long wearing interiors. Everything on the Seville was superficial – nice, but only on the surface, which sold a lot of cars and made GM a lot of money, which led them to spend even less on product quality and technology as the 80s and 90s rolled along. This turned out to be real problem with the Seville.

  • avatar

    “Ruidoso” means noisy in Spanish.

    “Noisy Brown” sounds like a private eye (maybe their assistant) or a GI condition.

  • avatar
    Nigel

    My dad bought my mom a factory fresh one that that was black and silver two tone over gray interior with actual wire wheels. Not the wirewheel hubcaps but the real deal. All the other wives who my mom knew who drove Lincolns, Chryslers, Mercedes, Jags, etc all though it was the greatest thing ever. Nobody thought of it as a tarted up Nova. For the time the intior was rather restrained and was not the puffed pleated coffin look popular at the time, but a restrained look. The Oldsmobile engine under the hood for the time hustled the car along quite nicely. It was a much better ride than dad’s ’76 Eldorado. Compared to some of the Mercedes at the time that had single speaker radios and hand cranked windows the Caddy was a dream riding on a cloud. It’s easy to mock today, but at the time it gave my mom six years of joy before being traded for an ’84 Eldorado taht everyone in the family hated for six as being underpowered and crappily put together interior. The humpback Seville that replaced it was never an option.

    I think the designed has aged a lot better than most 70’s luxury cars. This was during Cadillac peak years. I don’t think this model caused folks to flee to Mercedes or BMW. I always thought the second generation of FWD “E” bodies and the first gen “C” bodies did that in spades. If one was going to ‘badge’ engineer this was the way to do it, and not the Cimerron or Catera.

  • avatar
    bomberpete

    I wouldn’t mind a restored ’76 with the egg crate grill, a modern EFI small block and THM, dualies, the red interior, fog lights, rear discs, Koni shocks, F-body handling bits and nice 60-series whitewalls from a name-brand company like Michelin or Bridgestone.

  • avatar
    bomberpete

    That Nova was a damn good platform for cop cars and Camaro/Firebirds.

    I was 12 when the Seville came out. I grew up in Status Symbol Land, the striving suburbs of NYC. The families I knew were mostly Jewish and Italian. The parents mostly came out of the Depression. where poor Brooklyn and Bronx boys had made their dreams a reality in trucking, the Garment Center, a chain of stores, etc.

    To them, the symbol of “making it” was still the Cadillac, with Lincoln #2 and the Mercedes moving up the chart with a bullet. But M-B and BMW were still a few years away from reaching greater appeal to the upwardly mobile.

    Some people like my uncle — a Coupe de Ville man if there ever was one — were aghast at Cadillac’s nerve to charge 13 Large for something so Small.

    That didn’t matter. The Seville caught on quickly. It dotted the landscape of Westchester, the North Shore, the Five Towns and similar areas across the country.

    The downsized GM B-body cars were also an instant hit and game-changer. That included the DeVille. I have a Car & Driver review of it from June 1978; David E. Davis Jr. said the DeVille made the Seville feel like a relic of the Fifties.

    He was right. But within a few years, GM lost the plot completely with Cadillac.

  • avatar
    skor

    I remember these cars well. The 70s Sevilles were very popular with the suburban petit bourgeois where I grew up in North Jersey(a few miles west of Manhattan). These were NOT bad cars in their day. Yes, the car shared its hard points with the Nova, but this was not a Nova. Compared to the styling atrocities that were most 70s American cars, these were clean and rather tasteful. Looking at this car for the fist time you would not have thought ‘Nova’. GM certainly did a better job with this Seville than Ford managed to do with the Lincoln Versailles….a Ford Granada with a JC Whitney continental kit bolted on the back.

    The Seville wasn’t the reason why Cadillac started to hemorrhage customers back in the 70s. Cadillac lost customers because most of their cars were horrendously styled, build quality was abysmal, and then there were the twin disasters of V8-6-4 and the now infamous diesel.

    The 70’s Seville was actually a bright spot for Cadillac back in the 70s’ likewise Cadillac’s recent resurgence didn’t begin with trucks for ‘rappers and warlords’. Cadillac’s resent rise started with another Seville, the 1992 Seville, of which I own an example. A beautifully styled car inside and out….unfortunately the build quality is lousy.

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      Yes, the Seville looked like a GM sedan…only better. They took the arcing curves of the late 70s models and got them just right. Not perfect, and too expensive, but they certainly have their good points.

  • avatar
    bomberpete

    skor – Forgive me for omitting Bergen County and its environs. Your suburban petit bourgeois sound just like mine.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    What hurt Caddy most, these or when they went FWD with the DeVilles and there was so little difference between them and the Buicks and Olds that shared the same platform?

  • avatar
    bomberpete

    The first gen Seville didn’t do the real damage. Electras and 98s were pretty much the same car as DeVilles, resulting in brand erosion long before the mid-Eighties.

    I’d say everything after 1980 did a lot more damage: V8-6-4, diesels, 4100 V-8, Cimarron, downsized ’86 Seville/Eldo, absysmal quality from all, Lincoln, M-B and Lexus. To me, the lookalike Caddy, Buicks and Olds were minor in comparison.

  • avatar
    MWolf

    While I dislike the Sevilles of this era, since they remind me more of a badge-job on an Oldsmobile than a Cadillac in terms of looks, I wouldn’t say all Caddies from this point onward were disappointing.

    Once they moved past the 8-6-4 that was too ahead of its time to be practical for normal use, they had some decent cars. The 4.1 was rough around the edges, but if you didn’t let it overheat, you were ok.

    I had a ’90 Sedan Deville. It was a surprisingly fun car to drive. It had plenty of power and was extremely comfy.

    The Sevilles never quite looked like tead Cadillacs, in my opinion, until the mid 90’s.

  • avatar
    Kevin Jaeger

    This car certainly wasn’t one of the deadly sins that killed Cadillac, but you can see the complacency in it that opened the door to competitors.

    In 1978 the Japanese were still considered cheap econoboxes for poverty-stricken people who couldn’t afford the gas a real car required. BMW and Audi were producing niche products that no one considered to be Cadillac competitors. And it was just slowly beginning to dawn on people that the Cadillac was nowhere near as well built or durable as a Mercedes, but few people seriously considered imports anyway.

    This car largely met the expectations of the people buying it at the time. It was close to being the best domestic car you could buy, but the fake wood and poor build quality left them thoroughly exposed to what was about to hit them.

    Once BMW, Audi and Mercedes were all offering direct competition to Cadillac and the Japanese were offering far superior quality in their lesser models, Cadillac really needed to step up their game. Instead they responded with FWD junk like the Cimarron and self-destructing engines like the 8-6-4. When people expected simply the best, Cadillac was exposed as superficial bling on some poorly built junk. But that was later – I don’t think they lost too many customers from this Seville, even though the trim was a bit of a joke.

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    The end of American luxury came when they switched from crushed velour to vinyl tuck and roll.

  • avatar
    Joss

    Fixed mast antenna were vulnerable to bend it artists or tin snips.
    75 petit bourgois 504 had a retracting locking manual antenna to beat the vandals.

    So to my memory that explains power switch.

    Seville sports many more welds than Nova. Twilight sentinel & trumpet horns.
    Much better value than a Silver Shadow. And likely shad tweaked the tranny, a/c and other electronic components from GM.

  • avatar
    chicagoland

    “…I can assume that ’78 Seville ownership was very similar…”

    Don’t ever assume anything. Arm chair analysts now love to dump on the first gen Seville. But it was a better attempt at a smaller luxury car than the Cimarron. The HT4100 was way worse, too.

    Cadillac was criticized for making ‘gas hogs’, but then if they do then it’s “name debasement”. WTF?

    Just tired of the ‘reivisionistas’ looking back and making assumptions. PFFFFFT!

    • 0 avatar
      skor

      Yup, it was not any one thing that nearly sank Cadillac, it was a seemingly never ending series of disasters. Bad build quality, look-a-like styling (remember the Lincoln ad where the parking valet couldn’t tell the diff between a Cadillac, Buick and Olds?), Cimarron, V8-6-4, diesel, 4100, Northstar, etc. After all that it was astonishing they had ANY customers left at all.

  • avatar
    wmba

    When I look at this sad sack of a car, I wonder: did the project leader for the 1962 Chevy II chassis live long enough to puff his chest with pride at the ’67 and ’70 Camaros, the elegant Firebird Rockford drove on the TV show, only to have his esthetic pride dashed by this gargoyle?

  • avatar
    jimbob457

    Not to belabor retelling history, but in the late-70’s external events clobbered Detroit iron – first, get the lead out – second, pollution control – third, the energy crisis.

    My wife’s ’76 Seville was, imo., one of the more successful of a meh lot of hasty attempts by Detroit automakers to adapt. At least it looked good (in two-toned grey with wire wheel hubcaps), it had a good “stance”, and it ran OK despite a goofy fuel injection system.

    What happened in later years? Oh dear.

  • avatar
    Halftruth

    This is not a bad car at all. I think it was right sized but came to market a little late. My brother had one and it was nice- much more than a tarted up Nova. Sure they cheaped in some areas but overall, I think these were decent for the time and better looking than anything Merc or BMW were putting out. People may have fled to the German makes but to me, that’s akin to frying pan into the fire. At least the Cadillac was cheaper to fix.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    I think the most interesting thing about this car is that they took the shared platform of a MUCH cheaper car, and made it almost the most expensive Cadillac. In modern terms, this is very much like the VW Golf vs. Audi A3 – shared platform, but unless you are a car geek you would never know it. But it is as if Audi took the A3 and positioned it just under the A8, more expensive than the larger A4 and A6. That took some balls, and it was by all accounts very successful for GM!

    As I mentioned before, I always thought these were good looking cars on the outside, at least in non-tacky color schemes. The “Go for Baroque” interiors did nothing for me even as a kid though, I always thought that sort of thing was tacky. I was a Euro-snob from a fairly tender age, having spent my formative years in the back of an old (even then) 911, and my sundry close relatives VWs and Land Rovers.

    • 0 avatar
      skor

      The original Seville was a good money maker, but GM did not achieve its desired goal. The entire point of the Seville was to attract younger import buyers. To their horror, the Seville was a big hit with ‘ladies who lunch’. The ladies…middle age and up….loved the Seville because it was a lot easier to maneuver than a full sized Caddy.


Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • sgeffe: There was a discussion something like this on VTEC.net earlier this week. A 5th-Gen (1992-1995) Civic EX...
  • Ce he sin: You seem to have re invented the Nissan e-Power system which works just as you’ve described. The...
  • PrincipalDan: https://www.thetruthaboutcars. com/2011/08/when-gm-couldnt-th ink-outside-the-box-rememberin g-pro-tec/...
  • Lie2me: “Despite being manufactured in Canada, the Dodge Charger and Challenger feel like the most American...
  • tankinbeans: They finally get the styling right and we can’t have it. Sonofasnitch. When will we get to...

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Staff

  • Contributors

  • Timothy Cain, Canada
  • Matthew Guy, Canada
  • Ronnie Schreiber, United States
  • Bozi Tatarevic, United States
  • Chris Tonn, United States
  • Corey Lewis, United States
  • Mark Baruth, United States
  • Moderators

  • Adam Tonge, United States
  • Corey Lewis, United States