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

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
rare rides the cadillac allante which was a race car in 1992

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]

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2 of 74 comments
  • 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.

  • SCE to AUX Probably couldn't afford it - happens all the time.
  • MaintenanceCosts An ugly-a$s Challenger with poor equipment choices and an ugly Dealership Default color combination, not even a manual to redeem it, still no sale.
  • Cha65689852 To drive a car, you need human intelligence, not artificial intelligence.Unfortunately, these days even human brains are turning into mush thanks to addiction to smartphones and social media.
  • Mike1041 A nasty uncomfortable little car. Test drove in 2019 in a search for a single car that would appease two drivers. The compromise was not much better but at least it had decent rear vision and cargo capacity. The 2019 Honda HRV simply was too unforgiving and we ditched after 4 years. Enter the 23 HRV and we have a comfy size.
  • SCE to AUX I wonder who really cares about this. "Slave labor" is a useful term for the agendas of both right and left."UAW Wants Auto Industry to Stop Using Slave Labor"... but what will the UAW actually do if nothing changes?With unrelenting downward pressure on costs in every industry - coupled with labor shortages - expect to see more of this.Perhaps it's my fault when I choose the $259 cell phone over the $299 model, or the cheaper parts at RockAuto, or the lower-priced jacket at the store.Do I care about an ethical supply chain? Not really, I just want the product to work - and that's how most consumers are. We'd rather not know.Perhaps the 1990s notion of conflict-free, blood-free, ethically-sourced diamonds will find its way into the auto industry. That would be a good thing.