Junkyard Find: 1978 Cadillac Seville Elegante

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin
junkyard find 1978 cadillac seville elegante

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.

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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.

  • Alterboy21 The gov't has already mandated control of your vehicle. 10 years ago they required cars to have ABS and traction control.I am not sure I agree that automatic breaking is ready for primetime, but taking control of a cars driving behavior is not new ground for the NHTSA. 
  • Parkave231 Collector's Edition hood ornament or GTFO.
  • Dave M. Once again Mustang remains solely on the throne. But obviously the day of the ponycar has long passed....
  • Art Vandelay The car so nice they killed it…twice
  • Ryan The hybrid EX model lists at about CAD$39,000 in Canada, including delivery charges. No Premium package is available for it here.