Junkyard Find: 1978 Cadillac Seville Elegante

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin

As 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.

I 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.

The 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).

8-track player, of course. Note the rear-defog and power-antenna switches.

This Bendix-injected Oldsmobile 350-cubic-inch V8 made 170 horsepower.

It’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.

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.

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  • Halftruth Halftruth on Sep 30, 2014

    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.

  • Krhodes1 Krhodes1 on Sep 30, 2014

    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.

    • Skor Skor on Sep 30, 2014

      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.

  • FreedMike I like the looks of the Z, but I'd take the Mustang. V8s are a disappearing breed.
  • Picard234 I can just smell the clove cigarettes and the "oregano" from the interior. Absolutely no dice at any price.
  • Dartdude The Europeans don't understand the American market. That is why they are small players here. Chrysler Group is going to die pretty soon under their control. Europeans have a sense of superiority over Americans that is why the Mercedes merger didn't work out and almost killed Chrysler. Bringing European managers aren't going to help. Just like F1 they want our money. We need Elon Musk to buy out Chrysler, Dodge and Ram from Stellantis.
  • Michael S6 I would take the Mustang for the soundtrack. However, practically a BMW M340ix or M240ix would be my choice.
  • Michael S6 Took my car for oil change on Friday and dealership was working on paper. Recently one of the major health care system in our area was hacked and they had to use paper backup for three weeks. What a nightmare.