By on November 7, 2016

1980 Cadillac Seville in Colorado Junkyard, LH rear view - ©2016 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

Our last three Junkyard Finds have been Deutschland machines, and before that we had four trucks in a row. That means that we are overdue for some genuine Malaise Era Detroit luxury, and I have found a genuine first-year Bustleback Seville for the occasion.

1980 Cadillac Seville in Colorado Junkyard, LH front view - ©2016 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

The 1976-1979 Seville was based on the distinctly downmarket Chevy Nova, and it set in motion a ruinous decline of the Cadillac brand image (which hit its nadir with the wretched Cavalier-based Cimarron). For the 1980 model year, the Seville went to the more sophisticated Eldorado/Toronado front-drive platform. This golden-brown ’80 now resides in a Denver self-service wrecking yard.

1980 Cadillac Seville in Colorado Junkyard, bustleback - ©2016 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

The odd-looking rear body was based on some concept drawings done by Cadillac stylists in the 1960s, and it was supposed to remind Cadillac’s elderly buyers of the prestigious Cadillacs and LaSalles of their younger days. At least it wasn’t quite as hideous as the Cutlass Salon fastback.

26 - 1980 Cadillac Seville in Colorado Junkyard - Photo by Murilee Martin

Looks just like 1936!

1980 Cadillac Seville in Colorado Junkyard, engine - ©2016 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

The miserably unreliable V8-6-4 engine wasn’t available on the Seville until 1981, although you could get the equally miserable Oldsmobile diesel engine in the ’80. This one has the standard 145-horsepower 368-cubic-inch Cadillac V8. Yes, 145 horsepower out of six liters. 1980 was a rough year.

1980 Cadillac Seville in Colorado Junkyard, seat fabric - ©2016 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

Inside, plenty of fake wood and itchy-looking beige velour fabric. What are the chances that this car’s original owner listened to X on the 8-track player?

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93 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1980 Cadillac Seville ‘Bustleback’...”

  • avatar

    Ugly then. Ugly now.

  • avatar

    When I was a pre-teen, my next door neighbor had grandparents who would show up in one of these. Even to my pre-love affair of the car eyes, the back end of this just looked wrong.

    When I was a teenager my old man had a ’81 Cadillac with the dreaded 8-6-4 engine, wired to always run in 8. In that mode it wasn’t that bad of a car.

    There is actually a family connection to that awful engine: my uncle, a now retired tool & die man, did the design work on the machines that created some of the parts for that engine. Or at least that’s how I heard it.

  • avatar

    Optional MPG Sentinel! Such *luxury*.

    • 0 avatar

      Not only that, if you pressed the right combination of buttons it would do a system diagnostic!

      Silly as it seems today, this was leading edge stuff back then. My dad’s ’80 Eldorado had one. BMWs had that vacuum fuel economy gauge. Other than Caddy or BMW, I can’t recall anyone who had this feature.

      • 0 avatar


      • 0 avatar

        I remember a fuel economy vac gauge in a friend’s ’65 Baracuda.

        • 0 avatar

          Those economy gauges that simply read manifold vacuum are a strange historic curiosity. There were really just two main reasons to use vacuum to estimate “good” or “bad” fuel economy. One was an artifact of most conventional carburetors, fuel enrichment below an approximate vacuum (usually by a crude auxiliary fuel valve or an almost as crude metering needle inside the carb). The other reason was simplicity- there’s not a lot to go wrong with a direct reading vacuum gauge, and instead of numbers on the dial you can put anything you want- colors or symbols to tell the driver what is good or bad.

          Funny thing is, gasoline engines can be most efficient at wide open throttle and low rpm (almost “lugging” it in the highest possible gear), but for drivability, most carmakers and customers prefer to compromise efficiency by maintaining a moderate level of vacuum and keeping the last bit of throttle travel in reserve for quick throttle response- and they used to improve that quick throttle response by [email protected]#&ing extra fuel into the engine on demand. A big reason for using extra fuel is because the fuel might not go evenly to all of the cylinders and the engine might stumble if one or two cylinders got momentarily starved.

          These young people today don’t know how good they have it…

        • 0 avatar

          My ’64 Grand Prix had one, mounted on the console, in front of the shifter. Manual transmission cars had a tach there instead.

    • 0 avatar

      It was fun in my dad’s ’81 Cadillac to hit the gas pedal and watch the “on the fly” mileage drop to 1. Go down hill without hitting the gas pedal and you could get a mighty 30mpg – for a few seconds.

      With my old man driving – lots of highway – he averaged 15mpg. When I had to borrow the car in college, 12mpg was normal.

  • avatar

    The panoply of hideous vehicles that has succeeded these in no way diminishes their groundbreaking ugly.

    You’d think a guy my age would look back with kinder eyes but, no, some crimes can’t be forgiven.

  • avatar

    In a way, we are on our way back to this. Trunk lids keep getting higher and more shallow.

  • avatar

    Bloody expensive depreciating crap of their day. Wonder how the blue rinse gauged that trunk with no backup camera?

    Say best of all it was a Cadillac with four doors and front drive. Not you Cim.

  • avatar

    I’d take one with the 368 or the V8-6-4 (snip one wire and you are back to big block Cadillac goodness). Yeah it’s kitschy, yeah it’s a reminder that Bill Mitchell was way past his prime in design, but dang it, at least it was unashamedly AMERICAN. Not a BMW in a Cadillac suit, not a MB in a Cadillac suit.

    • 0 avatar

      Variable displacement was a good idea. It certainly helps the Chrysler 300 avoid getting wretched fuel economy. It was just rushed into Cadillacs before it was ready.

  • avatar

    I go back and forth with these. I sort of like them as a historical item – but I do realize they’re rather awful as cars. Then I think about how poorly they were made.

    And overall, if you wanted this sort of bustleback sedan, I think the Continental did it better. And it looked legit in two-tone, and was a better car to boot (even with fragile transmission).

  • avatar

    But it says “Cadillac” on it. Therefore it MUST be luxurious!!

    • 0 avatar

      You sound like the people over at The Brougham Society who post pictures of their Cimarrons constantly.

      Don’t TELL them it’s not a real Cadillac.

      • 0 avatar

        an acquaintance in high school had a Cimarron, and carried himself like that.

        • 0 avatar

          (chuckle) and a lot of Escalade owners… because those trucks are soooo much more than a tarted up Suburban (leather seats *are* an option on the Suburban, right??). If shiny things, faux luxury, and conspicuous consumption are somebody’s thing, it’s none of my business how other people spend their money. But I reserve the right to snicker and make snide comments.

          • 0 avatar
            bumpy ii

            House down the road from me has two first-gen Escalades in the yard. One of them has a lift kit and swamp tires.

  • avatar

    This car’s pimp hand is MIGHTY.

    But if it was anything like my dad’s Eldorado from the same year, its’ build was weak.

  • avatar
    GS 455

    I love all the bustlebacks: The Seville, the 82-87 Lincoln Continental and the 81-83 Chrysler Imperial. If I had the room I’d have all 3. Where I live I’ve only seen 2 for sale in the last couple of years and they were sold in one day at asking prices over $6000.

    • 0 avatar

      I grew up adoring the german cars of the 90s, and that’s what i buy now. i’ve never liked old American cars.

      But I LOVED this one when I encountered it this summer. Some young kid in a metal band he agreed to paint our condo before going for sale showed up in exactly this car, down to the color.

      It had some rust, but it ran well and he used to to carry his tools “until he got a truck.” In between the trunk lid that glided into place and wire wheels, I kinda loved it. He was trying to selling for 3k. Awesome kid, did a great job.

  • avatar

    I guess beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Remember this was a John Mitchell design, he also did the first Riviera. GM signed off on the styling and it was well received when new. I think it’s beautiful. As far as quality, I own several of these, and as a full time mechanic, they’re well built. The aluminum 4100 engine can blow head gaskets, but some of that is lack of maintenance. When you compare a car like this to a tin can 60’s Mustang, that everyone fawns over, there’s simply no comparison.

  • avatar

    Great backseat for getting it on, on. Good times!

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    The period 1979 to 1981 was an interesting one for D3 luxury vehicles.

    The Old Man had been a dedicated Mark driver. Mark III, Mark IV’s (our favourite) and Mark V’s. With the downsized Mark VI he decided to look elsewhere. Sorry, but no Panther love from him.

    The Eldorado had been downsized in 1979 and shared its platform with Olds and Buick.

    The bustle butt Seville was better than the previous generation’s Nova based platform. But he did not think that it had the same visual appeal nor the prestige, based on the public view of the previous model.

    The Imperial came out later and I tried mightily to convince him to get one. But by then Chrysler’s prestige value was negligible.

    So he opted for a Fleetwood Brougham. Stayed loyal to Cadillac for the rest of his life. Primarily driving a new STS each year once they arrived. Only had one catastrophe with the North Star, probably because he changed vehicles annually.

    And while he stayed loyal to domestics, from the mid 80’s on for his wife it was only Hondas or Accuras.

  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    My dad owned one of these, a 1983, which in terms of equipment was very nice. It was an Eleganté version with all available options and the Touring Suspension, in two-tone silver and burgundy with dark burgundy leather interior. The wood on the dash was real wood.

    I actually liked the car quite a bit, until a buddy of mine commented that it reminded him of a dog with a bad case of the worms sliding its hiney on the carpet.

    That ruined it for me.

  • avatar

    The first-generation 1975-1979 Seville might have been a parts-bin special but it ended up being a fairly decent (and decent-looking) car. It showed that there was at least some potential in Cadillac becoming a serious player in the international luxo sweepstakes. That ended when GM released this awful-looking thing which I’m sure left Mercedes, Jaguar, and BMW in howls of laughter.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      Exactly. The original Seville (this car’s predecessor) was a foray into a modern, internationally-oriented Cadillac, and it was successful. I believe it even cost more than the Eldorado at the time, and still found plenty of buyers, especially among women who complained that contemporary Cadillacs were otherwise difficult to park. However, GM’s problem (a mistake that has come to pretty much characterize the company) is that it saw no real reason to mess with success, from a corporate sphere. “If a model is successful, don’t follow it up with an even better version or with similar techniques across the model range; just rest on your laurels until the competition catches up with and passes you.”

      As for the Seville itself, this bustleback ruined it outright. Sales rebounded briefly in the 90s for the Seville nameplate, but it has mostly been a troubled model.

      • 0 avatar

        The 1979 E-body coupes and the 1980 Seville had plenty of technical upgrades and the chassis started from a blank slate. Styling is a matter of taste, but the coupes were well liked when they were new.

        The Seville probably should have been more Pininfarina than Park Ward, tho.

    • 0 avatar

      Agreed. If I were stocking my dream garage, there’d be a place for 1st-gen Seville. This model…no. The styling is a bad joke, and the rest of the car is early-80s GM disaster.

    • 0 avatar

      @ tonyola, Kyree, @ Russycle – Agreed. The first-gen did not “set in motion a ruinous decline of the Cadillac brand image.” The first-gen was a *response* to a decline that already was in motion. And it was, at worst, a partial success.

      You three probably already have read it, but Aaron Severson has an insightful take on the first-gen here:

      • 0 avatar

        The first generation taught Cadillac that their buyers would pay top dollar, as in most expensive base price of any Cadillac, for a Chevy Nova with either of two Oldsmobile engines. That’s how it killed Cadillac.

        The best thing about the first Seville was its Fiat 130-inspired skin. Once GM standardized that look across their line, it lost whatever illusion of being special it once held.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    In the 70s, the luxury market was shifting away from baroque American luxury-car styling, and toward demure, understated offerings from Europe. GM captured some of that fleeing import market itself with the “Sheer Look” of the original Seville, which was highly successful.

    And then they follow it up with *this*? What was Bill Mitchell thinking?

  • avatar

    Noted: all the dead Northstars in the background.

  • avatar

    The lines of the trunk remind me of the coachbuilt cars by Hooper in England in the early to mid 50’s, that style was a trademark for them. It was particularly obvious on the “Empress” body that was put on Rolls Royce, Bentley and Daimler chassis.

    Ann example on a Daimler DB18 chassis:

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      That’s no coincidence. Bill Mitchell was very impressed with the Hooper-bodied cars he saw in England (Rolls-Royces in particular). They inspired, among other things, the original 1963-65 Buick Riviera, which is one Mitchell’s best ever designs.

      So you’re correct that this Seville was inspired by the Empress Hooper body.

      This second-generation Seville was the opposite of the Riviera, a very unsuccessful implementation of Hooper’s design cues. Extra-tacky factory options like the fake luggage straps did not help matters.

    • 0 avatar

      The way I heard the story is that at some point in the early 1980s, when someone said that the bustle-back Seville was part of a general trend (Lincoln and Imperial did similar cars around that time), Bill Mitchell indignantly said that the Seville’s was stolen from Rolls-Royce not the other domestic automakers.

  • avatar

    If you paint it green the trunk looks like “angry Kermit” on the Muppet Show.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    I can get past the styling, but not that mess under the hood.

    Indeed, 1980 was a rough year, the low point being that Operation Bear Claw you cite.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    The bustle-back Seville as well as the later Lincoln Fox Conti and the Imperial were influenced by the Daimler (Jaguar based) and the Rolls Royce.

    The E and K-body was one of GM’s better designs. Less yacht like than the 66-78 models but with 4 wheel independent suspensions, 4 wheel discs and fuel injection they were advanced for their era.

    I once owned a 80 Toronado with the Diesel and most options. I bought it from the 2nd owner who had a new Goodwrench motor installed under warranty. It was a nice luxurious ride with great handling and got a economy car like 28 MPG highway. I got a couple of years out of it with normal maintenance. The Diesel met its demise and I sold it. If it had the Rocket V8 I might still own it.

  • avatar

    The ’75 and a half Seville was not the beginning of the end of Cadillac. That car was the height of sophisticated style in tis day.

    I grew up in a high prestige part of Seattle, Washington Park, where the takeover of Mercedes and BMW among the wealthy was all but complete by the time the Seville arrived. But Washington Parkers bought Sevilles. I can name one society lady who traded in a 280 SE for one. And she kept it for years.

    What really killed Cadillac, sadly, was this flamboyant car. The first Seville was exquisitely restrained and elegant. It was in perfect taste. But the bustle back car was aimed at an entirely different buyer. Not one was sold in Washington Park.

    That was the end of Cadillac.

    • 0 avatar

      “But the bustle back car was aimed at an entirely different buyer.”

      Yep, fat nouveau riche crudesters with perms and loud jewelry who would be indicted for fraud before the decade was out.

    • 0 avatar

      It’s simply lazy to say the 1975 Seville was the beginning of the end of Cadillac ( which is coincidentally still with us today) . No what lost a considerable amount of market share was the 1980’s era Cadillac’s with so many missteps it wasn’t even funny. The Cimarron, the Bustle back Seville, the 8-6-4, the 5.7 diesel, the HT4100, low calorie 125-135 HP V8’s that lasted until 1987, early 440 trans-axle failures, the shrunken C and E-body cars and reverting to an old fashioned carbureted V8 when literally all it’s competitors had more modern fuel injection in the full sized Brougham all conspired to reduce Cadillac to where it is today or hardly the standard of the world.

      And to think much of this could easily have been avoided is the killer here. This generation of Seville could easily have been styled more like the 1975-79 versions, the 8-6-4 mess could have been avoided by simply taking the fuel injected version of the 368 and tying it to the 4 speed overdrive automatic transmission which would have achieved better mileage than the 1980 non overdrive cars or the ill conceived 8-6-4 which didn’t work most of the time anyway.

      The HT 4100 could have been held off until the new FWD cars came online and with further development could have been a much better engine like the 4.5 and 4.9 were. And all of this would have saved the division in development costs for the Eaton supplied cylinder shut down tech and rushing the 4100 into production early before it was more thoroughly developed. It’s astonishing the lengths they went to in ruining there image literally overnight. Bad management is seriously detrimental to good business practice.

  • avatar

    My Mom had the ’86 Lincoln Continental Valentino designer series. It was way nicer than the Seville, however, she also considered the Imperial FS at one time.
    The Seville was never on her list, even she could see what garbage GM produced in the ’80s.

  • avatar

    With the exception of “turd”, I was always at at a loss for words to describe these.

  • avatar

    When I worked in a restaurant in high school the cook used to drive one of these – keep in mind this is 2001. He tried to sell it to me for only $100; you can imagine the condition. I briefly thought about it and then came to my senses.

  • avatar

    An old man car from the days of my youth. My first job was a valet for some club and these cars would pull up with some monied up fat old man and they were invariably assholes.

    To this day I hate that car.

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