By on August 10, 2015

07 - 1988 Cadillac Allante Down On the Junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin

For many years, I wandered junkyards in search of one of the rare Detroito-Italian cars of the late 1980s — the Cadillac Allanté and the Chrysler’s TC by Maserati. Finally, just this year, it happened: I found this 1989 Allanté in Southern California, then this TC by Maserati in Northern California, and now we’ve got this 1988 Allanté here in Denver.
04 - 1988 Cadillac Allante Down On the Junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin

This is the most desirable of all the HTV100 engines, with its tuned intake manifold. 170 horses in 1988.

02 - 1988 Cadillac Allante Down On the Junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin

The production process for these cars involved specially-equipped Boeing 747s flying complete bodies from the Pininfarina shop in Cambiano, Italy to Hamtramck, Michigan. As you might imagine, this was somewhat costly for The General and the ’88 Allanté listed at $56,533. That’s an amazing $114k in 2015 dollars.

01 - 1988 Cadillac Allante Down On the Junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin

Since that kind of money would have bought you a brand-new 1988 Mercedes-Benz 300SEL (or, for a few more grand, the 420SEL), the Allanté didn’t steal away many German-luxury-car shoppers with its front-wheel-drive pushrod V8.

11 - 1988 Cadillac Allante Down On the Junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin

Urban legend has it that TC by Maserati and Allanté hardtops, in any condition, are worth an easy $1,000. Here is definitive proof that such is not the case in the real world; this hardtop has been sitting on the ground at this yard for weeks now. Perhaps someone will grab it at this weekend’s All You Can Carry For $59.99 sale.

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88 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1988 Cadillac Allanté...”


  • avatar
    Joss

    Quite a rare sight in my neck of the woods. For some reason I only remember seeing them in red…

    Didn’t they come later with the Norstar? I seem to recall there was something with the dash – analogue or digital. There was a fair amount of technology packed into the suspension. I think Allante was the most powerful front drive on the market for a while.

  • avatar
    dolorean

    “Robin Williams is a car salesman with a problem. He has two days to sell 12 cars or he loses his job. This would be a difficult task at the best of times but he has to contend with his girlfriends (he’s two timing), a missing teenage daughter and an ex-wife. What more could go wrong ?.. a lot, enter a crazy jealous Tim Robbins with a machine gun..”

    Ah, Cadillac Man.

  • avatar
    PRNDLOL

    If I read this article correctly this is the first featured TTAC Junkyard Find car to fly across the world in an airplane.

  • avatar
    RideHeight

    “the ’88 Allanté listed at $56,533”

    *snort*

    That’s THREE V-6 Troopers.

    • 0 avatar
      Fred

      or about 6 Corrolas

      • 0 avatar
        dolorean

        Pfffft! Corrolas. Why get that when you coulda got yourself some True American icons that would stand the test of time! and one Frenchie for them Benjamins: Ford Escort GT, Chevy Cavalier Z24, Dodge Omni R/S, Buick Skyhawk Sport, Oldsmobubble Firenza GT, and Renault Feugo! Turbo.

        Thank the Flying Spaghetti Monster we don’t live in those times anymore.

    • 0 avatar

      Or one LaForza. Speaking of vehicles with bodies built by Pininfarina.

    • 0 avatar
      Joss

      Yeah but compare that to the price of the equivalent Jag or Mercedes of the day. Really you need the Northstar.

      • 0 avatar
        dolorean

        The better buy was the ’91 Isuzu Impulse RS desgined by Giugiaro boasting a natuarally aspirated 1.6L that could be turboed and boasted suspension that was contracted and specially tuned from Lotus. It also could be had with the very desirable Nishiboric passive rear-wheel steering (ala Honda Prelude).

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        “Really you need the Northstar.”

        On Allante, the only winning move is not to play.

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          Now all we need to do is make a movie about the Allante with Matthew Broderick and Ally Sheedy.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I have an odd affinity for global thermonuclear conflict and any aftermath. I cooked up a vague story arc set in an alternate US where a limited war did in fact take place.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            Interesting. I’m sure we came close a few times.

            Now I’m off the watch the Treehouse of Horror VIII vignette, “The Homega Man”.

            “Die, you chalk-faced goons!”

          • 0 avatar
            RideHeight

            “I have an odd affinity for global thermonuclear conflict and any aftermath.”

            I’d be a lot more comfortable if you changed that to *regional* thermonuclear war.

            Then we’d just have to point all our shop fans east and find other employment for Americans in Asian language departments.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            MARGE: “Friends with mutants? Right.”

            Theoretically a limited conflict is survivable, but of course all bets are off in an “On The Beach” scenario.

            This is a half decent movie about a limited conflict partially based on the book “Trinity’s Child”:

            youtube.com/watch?v=rM-hcgv0J3k

          • 0 avatar
            RideHeight

            I’m sure there are very mature studies in the most secure forms of storage for extracting oil from highly radioactive environments.

          • 0 avatar
            319583076

            @28-Cars-Later

            Have you read “End Zone” by Don DeLillo? Protagonist is consumed with nukes. Also, have you seen the website “nukemap”? Hours of fun, guaranteed!

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            @RideHeight

            I have no doubt… although you’d think that technology/technique would be broken out for Fukushima with all the radiation shorting out robots and all…

            @319583076

            I have not read that book but I am familial with nukemap, ah yes very interesting indeed.

  • avatar
    threeer

    How ironic…I just completed a 21 hour driving marathon from Vermont to Alabama and actually saw an Allante cruising the interstate, top down, somewhere in Virginia (I think…I saw 11 states all told). Still looked pretty good, actually.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    That price made me pucker. Jesus Christ. I want to know this car’s whole story

  • avatar
    ajla

    I’ll say this for the Allante. Way over-priced when new, but I bought one for $1300 in 2013 and it didn’t cost me a fortune to keep on the road.

    I doubt I could say the same if I had a $2000 SL or XJS.

  • avatar
    Fred

    I thought both of those cars were pretty nice, considering their time. What I don’t understand is how and why the bean-counters (especially GM) bankrolled them.

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      Times were good for GM in the mid-80s. Sales were healthy, and GM was throwing money around all over the place: Saturn, the W-bodies, this thing. The early ’90s recession nearly killed them, and led to the period of severe beancounter austerity in the ’90s.

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    IIRC, the floorpans were flown from Detroit to Italy where they were skinned by Pininfarina and then flown back.

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      Who OKed this insane business model?

      • 0 avatar
        indi500fan

        I don’t have the exact details (I was far too low on the pyramid to really know the facts), but it was strongly rumored that many enjoyable business trips to Italy and women were involved.

        The purchase of Saab was similar, if you remember one of GM’s major domos wound up divorcing and marrying a girl from Sweden.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        I suspect boats could have kept up with demand.

      • 0 avatar
        dolorean

        “Who OKed this insane business model?”

        As I recall from previous discussions upon this and the Chrysler TC, the thought was that GM was losing out to BMW and Mercedes due to the European sexy design and the premium price. Yuppies had already proved that they were well and truly ready to plunk down what was considered a lot of money for a German mark (not to mention German bier!) and the GM Execs thought they could steer some of that desire to an American. They were wrong.

        The business plan on paper was sound. Honestly wasn’t a bad set-up. Had it worked, the Alliante would’ve been quite the gambit. However, like the Delorean that foreran it in similar design and action, it’s demise was mostly due to the economic recession of the late ’80s. Yuppies lost their Popped-Colar Polo shirts in the Savings and Loan debacle of ’87. The rest of it was just a mess of terrible logistics and poorly executed operations.

        • 0 avatar
          DweezilSFV

          GM tried the same thing with the “N” Bodies. The yuppie market was referred to as a “New Values” customer who would be shopping BMW and the like.

          With an Iron Duke or cut down 3.8 V6 [3.0 in this application], world class engines as standard or optional, who wouldn’t have wanted to jump on GM’s offerings like the Allante ?

          Allante means “snore” in Italian.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            Ultimately, the issue was that the product sucked. Very few people who could afford a Mercedes were going to be interested in this turd.

  • avatar
    Lightspeed

    Back in the day I sold GM parts at a dealership. I had a customer who bought and sold Allantes. His license plate read, “MRCADDY” He was a very large man with many business dealings and a real character. In the summer, he wore a white suit, Panama hat and cowboy-boots. Once, I was dealing with a real idiot who was getting stupid and insulting towards me. Mr. Caddy was waiting for me and chuckling all the while. I finish with the idiot and he says, “just say the word and I can have someone take care of him.” A great guy, never haggled about prices, always pleasant, but loved a pretty crappy car.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    I just feel like posting this, because I can.

    youtu.be/fvC_EVe4oGU?t=3000

  • avatar
    bullnuke

    Yeah, all the above is true but the good old Allante gave us the “Bundy Bounce”. This alone made the Allante worthwhile.

  • avatar
    priapism

    My mom had one of those growing up. She was a loyal Cadillac customer and somehow got talked into buying this thing.

    It didn’t even compare to the Germans it was supposed to compete with. FWD handling was mediocre at best, the power was way down from competitors. The top was so mind-numbingly complex we only put it down once or twice in the two years we had it. Which is good, because the electronic gauges were completely unreadable in direct sunlight. The interior was pretty, I’ll give it that, and the brakes were pretty damn good (for one stop, anyways). OEM tires were car-specific and a PITA to track down, as I recall.

    The last year they got the Northstar and some much improved handling. THAT was the car it should have always been.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      So you obviously grew up very wealthy. How was this car looked upon by the other wealthy late 80’s persons?

    • 0 avatar
      Steve Biro

      “The last year they got the Northstar and some much improved handling. THAT was the car it should have always been.”

      How many GM cars can we say that about, right? How many times have they brought out an essentially good design and vehicle at the beta test level but didn’t “finish” it until its final year or two of production before they killed it?

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        Fiero!

      • 0 avatar
        Lack Thereof

        I suspect this is a very long list.
        The X-cars would qualify.

        The updated 1983 Citations were basically identical to the “ringers” that Car & Driver (and other mags) drove and loved in 1979. Of course, by that point it was too late – sales had fallen off a cliff before the end of ’81. Over half the X-body’s total production run was sold in its 1st year.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        I used to agree with the idea that GM often produced cars that delivered on their early promise right before cancellation, but the last Allantes made had some of the first Northstar V8s. It’s hard to call a car fixed when it is fitted with an undeveloped engine with a fuse.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      Oh Lord yes. The top operation was so very terrible. Probably the number 1 reason I sold mine.

    • 0 avatar
      Maymar

      I feel like, in regards to the power, GM was chasing a moving target (which, yes, is classic GM). It would’ve been the 380SL in production while the Allante was in development, and that thing was a dog. Unfortunately, by ’87, the 560SL was out, and Cadillac didn’t have anything for FWD that would measure up.

      Of course, Mercedes also lowered the bar quite a bit with the R129 300SL.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    I love the absurd WASP nature of old Cadillac ads. The woman in the large hat and white suit is most definitely called Buffy.

    And what fool put a Northstar badge on this older 4.5? Who they think they’re fooling?

  • avatar

    From looking at completed auctions on eBay, it looks like a good condition Allante hardtop is worth $200-$500. Although you could get $150 for just the back window, and another $100 or so for the side glass. Probably worth grabbing if you see one and can get it cheap.

  • avatar
    jacob_coulter

    I still think it’s one of the most beautiful Cadillac designs in the last 25 years. Probably because it wasn’t designed by Cadillac. Angular designs like that just seem to hold up well to my eyes.

    I’ve toyed with the idea of buying a cheap one even though I know it will be a money pit. Just always wanted one.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      For the right price -price being key- not horrible with the 4.5. Just don’t expect a DD unless you buy some low mile 12K example.

      • 0 avatar
        DweezilSFV

        There’s an immaculate one up the street from me, a few doors down. Red, driven regularly, covered a lot of the time. Had a rear bumper mishap that hasn’t been repaired.

        Worst Cadillac design ever. Looks like a convertible Corsica.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Chris wanted to rush home after school, in that afternoon heat of early May. He knew it was left at the front door today – he had checked the progress four times already between classes. Carefully he slid his finger across the cracked screen, tapping refresh on his Safari browser, his face almost flushed when he saw that green check mark and the DELIVERED printed large. A triumphant word if there ever was one! The package had taken over a week to arrive.

    “Hurry up!” He directed toward his friend Eric, who urged his beige ’06 Corolla forward, heading through each characterless stop sign on those tired roads, maintained faithfully by the HOA of Delbrook Estates. Bi-levels and wood-clad contemporaries passed by at a faster rate, each the same basic box – only the numbers on the mailbox or an artfully placed exterior path to tell them apart. “This sh-t isn’t even six cylinders, what are you doing?”

    Eric snapped his head, “All four of them WORK, so what would you know about that sh-t!”

    Chris shut up. His Ally wasn’t running, a couple weeks before it had started running rough. She’d had problems holding her oil before, and he had let the level get a little too low one week. Hey, new COD and all. He knew his dad was getting impatient having to steer around his fading black beauty in the driveway every day. Chris was jealous; he knew the real star who belonged in the garage was Ally, not dad’s XC70. And certainly not his mom’s 2-liter purple X3.

    A casual “See ya,” and Chris waited until Eric was out of sight, sprinting up to the front porch of the light green bi-level, cutting open the box with his trusty Gold Key. Shifting the peanuts out of the way, there it was. That bold gothic font stared at him, “32 V NORTHSTAR.” This is what he needed. He knew the Northy wasn’t added til later, and there were a couple other kids with an STS or a DTS – and they had the Northstar too. Had to buy a used one, so it wouldn’t be too shiny. He could park right up next to them now, with his unique Northstar coupe. His was better.

    “Yesss.” He had already used some Goo Gone on the old silver MotorHaus LLC sticker the dealer had put on there years ago. It got most of it off, exposing that aged paint underneath, the damaged clearcoat had gone sometime while Chris was in elementary school.

    Leaning down and making sure the plaque was level, he knelt behind Ally, dipping his knee in recently spilt oil in the process. The trail grew thinner and narrower as it went; down to a trickle by the time it reached the end of the sloped driveway. It had puddled there in a crack with some now-wilting dandelions. “Damn, gotta get dad to take me to Napa, get some thicker 25W30. Then it won’t come out as much.”

    It was done. Leaning back, he snapped it with Instagram, putting it on Facebook right away. “New pwr 4 Ally. C U soon. #race #northy #nochallengers.” Chris would wrench on it later, this week probably. There was a new sniper DLC for COD and he had to check it today. His dad wasn’t home yet anyway. Maybe he could open up the top of the 4.5 and get a look at some of the seals. That was the only thing she needed, some new seals. Then he could unleash all those horses on the road out of Delbrook. That would be fcking sweet. Whatever – COD time, rest of the day.

    Next morning Eric showed up to pick up Chris as usual. Chris’s phone buzzed. “We’re ur car. northstar fly it away?.” He jumped the last three stairs down to the main-half floor, then three more to the kitchen. A note was on his still-unopened backpack that he’d dropped on the island, the cream tile greeted him warmly as usual in the light from the Kenmore oven hood. His father scribbled in all caps, as faded architects tended to do.

    “SCRAPPED IT. BE HOME BY 4:30. WILL GET YOU THAT PURPLE DEL SOL OVER AT ELMWOOD MTRS. –DAD”

  • avatar
    rave323

    I have a a desire to pull the seats out of this car and make furniture out of them. Fine Italian Leather! All of the travel work should not sit in a junk yard.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Throughout the 80’s and 90’s The Old Man got a new Caddy every year. Once 2 in a year as the Northstar engine crapped out after 4 months and GM took it away on a flatbed and gave him a new car.

    One year the sales rep that he dealt with was begging him to get an Allante either for himself or for our mother. At a near give away price. I couldn’t believe it as the lease rate being offered was less per month than I was paying on a Grand Caravan.

    So just how much did the General lose on each one of these?

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Alot. The Allante was ridiculous from inception, it was like a game of Mad Libs. We want a [halo] car and a [convertible] but we don’t have a platform appropriate… oh wait we do but we can’t use Y-body… oh just take that [Eldorado] over there, make it [sporty looking], and let’s build the body in [Italy] for some added [class].

      This sums up the whole project:

      youtube.com/watch?v=EoKwX5fLJ5E

  • avatar
    jpolicke

    Who owned the 747s that they used for the transport? [Please don’t tell me GM paid for them as well] Wonder what became of them after they pulled the plug in 1993.

  • avatar
    hawox

    cadillac allantè vs mercedes SEL? such hard decision…

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    Back around 1987-88 I saw Capt. Lou Albano driving an Allante in suburban NYC. Probably rolling in some nice dough from peak era wrestling and walked into the Cadillac dealer and said give me your top model.

    It is somewhat surprising to see this in the junkyard since the aluminum body and space frame chassis tend to hold up wetland don’t rust. It probably had a electrical gremlin, the digital cluster was a issue on these as well as other GM vehicles of the Roger Smith era or a mechanical malady with the 4.5 though it was a vast improvement over the HT 4.1.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m inclined to agree. When I did valet parking, I drove a number of Buicks and Cadillacs from this era that had all sorts of problems with the digital cluster. Even the ones with the non-digital ones had issues – although that may be a result of neglect, I’m not too sure.

  • avatar
    rave323

    There are businesses that will diagnose and fix electronic issues with automobiles. GM Passlock and other gremlins. That may have saved some of the car sitting in junk yards.

  • avatar

    Interesting, I did not know the Allante was one of those “crossover” cars (i.e. with a special European body and American engine).
    I knew about the Chrysler TC by Maserati, and in fact, I drove one when I was in valet parking (at the time I had no idea what the hell it was. It said Maserati, but it was a Chrysler???)

    And speaking of Italian cars, I just happened across an ’83 Alfa Romeo at the junkyard (you can click my name to see it). First one I’ve ever seen.

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