Rare Rides: The Cadillac Allante, Which Was a Race Car in 1992

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis

The year is 1986. There’s a new, V8-powered convertible on the horizon from Cadillac — the Standard of the World. This particularly special convertible is slotted above the Eldorado in the product lineup. And it was designed by a famed Italian house.

You’re drooling by now, 1986 person. Vamanos, to Allanté!

Much like Chrysler’s TC by Maserati, the Allanté was intended as a halo vehicle for the Cadillac brand. It would blend American engineering know-how and the flair and passion of Italian design, via Pininfarina.

The first factory convertible from Cadillac since the demise of the Eldorado for 1985, General Motors set its sights firmly on the European competition. Both the always-convertible SL from Mercedes-Benz and the sometimes-convertible grand touring Jaguar XJS were targets of the Allanté.

Say that again: Allanté. It rolls off the tongue like a warm pudding, doesn’t it? The name was selected by General Motors after a computer generated a list of 1,700 names which fit the criteria GM typed into it. (I would very much like to see this particular mid-80s computer.)

I wonder if Cadillac’s management was reading through the list alphabetically, got bored about halfway through the A section, and settled on Allanté.

Manufacturing the Allanté was a complicated affair. Bodies were initially finished by Pininfarina in Italy, then shipped (at great expense) via specially modified 747s to Hamtramck Assembly in the similarly picturesque locale of Detroit.

All-American power resided under every Allanté hood. First, Cadillac used the much-maligned 4100 V8, before switching it out for the less-bad 4.5-liter in 1989, right as the rest of the Cadillac line moved to the vastly superior 4.9-liter V8. The old 4.5 stuck around until the final year of the Allanté in 1993, when Cadillac decided it was time for a bit of an upgrade: the Northstar. This is all happening in front-drive, by the way. No need for old-fashioned rear-drive in this segment.

All Allanté models sold until 1990 came with a standard aluminum removable roof (60.5 pounds worth), in addition to the convertible top. All this exclusivity and roofing didn’t come cheap — base price in 1987 was $54,000, or $119,785 today. For reference, the ’87 560SL was $55,300, and the XJS was a very affordable $44,850.

Prices rose over the years, with the metal roof becoming optional for 1990. In 1992, the soft top version was $58,470, and you’d hand over $64,090 if you wanted the hardtop. Only soft top models were sold in 1993.

Gauges were either digital and unreliable, or analog and less trouble prone. From what your author has seen, most original buyers chose the whiz-bang digital frippery.

The interior of the Allanté had many different components to other Cadillacs, contrary to the parts bin nature of competitors SL and XJS. Note standard multi-adjustable Recaro-designed seats, which were replaced by cheaper Lear units in 1993.

This red beauty hails from 1992, and it’s a special one as you’ve noticed: This particular Allanté is an Indianapolis 500 pace car. Cadillac provided a limited sample of 1993 Allantés to the pit crew and staff of the 1992 Indianapolis 500 race, along with some additional 1992 models (figures unknown).

There were also three actual ’93 pace car examples with roll bars and modified air intakes. Despite the fanfare created by the Indy 500 appearance, 1993 would indeed be the last year for the Allanté. Cadillac convertible customers would have to hold onto their money if they wanted an encore — the XLR was a ways off.

Today’s Allanté is listed in the cultural backwater of Cincinnati, and is asking $7,000.

[Images via seller]

Corey Lewis
Corey Lewis

Interested in lots of cars and their various historical contexts. Started writing articles for TTAC in late 2016, when my first posts were QOTDs. From there I started a few new series like Rare Rides, Buy/Drive/Burn, Abandoned History, and most recently Rare Rides Icons. Operating from a home base in Cincinnati, Ohio, a relative auto journalist dead zone. Many of my articles are prompted by something I'll see on social media that sparks my interest and causes me to research. Finding articles and information from the early days of the internet and beyond that covers the little details lost to time: trim packages, color and wheel choices, interior fabrics. Beyond those, I'm fascinated by automotive industry experiments, both failures and successes. Lately I've taken an interest in AI, and generating "what if" type images for car models long dead. Reincarnating a modern Toyota Paseo, Lincoln Mark IX, or Isuzu Trooper through a text prompt is fun. Fun to post them on Twitter too, and watch people overreact. To that end, the social media I use most is Twitter, @CoreyLewis86. I also contribute pieces for Forbes Wheels and Forbes Home.

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  • Skor Skor on Jan 13, 2018

    Nicely styled car, otherwise and overpriced, over-hyped, POS. The first engine used in this car....the 4.1HT...was a disaster. The 4.1 was rushed into production after Cadillac's spectacular fail known as V-8-6-4. GM addressed most of the issues of the 4.1 with the introduction of the 4.5HT. While reliability was up, the 4.5 was an under-powered slug of an engine. GM realized that the 4.5 was no great shakes so they made some more changes and came up with the 4.9HT The 4.9 was no competition to V8s from Europe or Japan....or even Ford for that matter.....but it was a decent little mill that was reliable, produced decent power/torque and was reasonable as regards gas consumption. BTW, the 4.1/4.5/4.9 series of engines was the last engine GM produced that was exclusive to Cadillac. When you buy a Cadillac now, you get a Chevy engine. So, now that GM finally got the HT engine right with the 4.9, that's what they used in the Allante? Right? Wrong. The next engine GM stuffed into the car was the Northstar 4.6, GM's new trick overhead cam V8. The first gen Northstar was an even bigger POS than the 4.1. Eventually GM fixed the problems with the 4.6 then stopped production. It's amazing that Cadillac still exist as a brand.

  • Christophervalle Christophervalle on Jun 15, 2019

    Didn't JR Ewing drive an Allanté in at least one season of Dallas? They were mostly a M-B family, though.

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  • Varezhka And why exactly was it that Tesla decided not to coat their stainless steel bodies, again? My old steel capped Volant skis still looks clean without a rust in sight thanks to that metal vapor coating. It's not exactly a new technology.
  • GIJOOOE “Sounds” about as exciting as driving a golf cart, fake gear shifts or not. I truly hope that Dodge and the other big American car makers pull their heads out of the electric clouds and continue to offer performance cars with big horsepower internal combustion engines that require some form of multi gear transmissions and high octane fuel, even if they have to make them in relatively small quantities and market them specifically to gearheads like me. I will resist the ev future for as long as I have breath in my lungs and an excellent credit score/big bank account. People like me, who have loved fast cars for as long as I can remember, need a car that has an engine that sounds properly pissed off when I hit the gas pedal and accelerate through the gears.
  • Kcflyer libs have been subsidizing college for decades. The predictable result is soaring cost of college and dramatic increases in useless degrees. Their solution? More subsidies of course. EV policy will follow the same failed logic. Because it's not like it's their money. Not saying the republicans are any better, they talk a good game but spend like drunken sailors to buy votes just like the libs. The sole function of the U.S. government is to take money from people who earn it and give it away to people who didn't.
  • CecilSaxon Sounds about as smart as VW's "SoundAktor"