By on January 9, 2018

Image: 1992 Cadillac AllanteThe 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!

Image: 1992 Cadillac AllanteMuch 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.

Image: 1992 Cadillac AllanteThe 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.

Image: 1992 Cadillac AllanteSay 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.

Image: 1992 Cadillac AllanteManufacturing 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.

Image: 1992 Cadillac AllanteAll-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.

Image: 1992 Cadillac AllanteAll 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.

Image: 1992 Cadillac AllanteGauges 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.

Image: 1992 Cadillac AllanteThe 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.

Image: 1992 Cadillac AllanteThis 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).

Image: 1992 Cadillac AllanteThere 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.

Image: 1992 Cadillac AllanteToday’s Allanté is listed in the cultural backwater of Cincinnati, and is asking $7,000.

[Images via seller]

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74 Comments on “Rare Rides: The Cadillac Allanté, Which Was a Race Car in 1992...”


  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Doubt that anyone after the first 6 months paid anywhere near MSRP for one of these. On at least 2 occasions when The Old Man flipped a lease on his Caddy, he was offered a very deep discount to take an Allante instead.

  • avatar
    readallover

    Personally, the Bundy Bounce sold me on one.

  • avatar
    Blackcloud_9

    OH! The buttons!
    Lots and lots of glorious buttons!

  • avatar
    Fuzzilini

    I just remember this as the car Robin Williams drove in Cadillac Man. Even then I thought the only person who would ever lease one is someone who worked for Cadillac and could get it for less than the exorbitant price.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    I’ve known two people that owned Allantes, and both cars were red. They drove the cars sparingly (as a second or third car). One was a committed GM (he also owned a Cimarron and a Cavalier at the time), and the other was primarily a German car guy that daily drove a E30 325e convertible. The first guy moved to Minnesota a couple of years back, and took the Allante with him. The second guy sold his, and replaced it with an R129 500SL. He still owns the R129, which has been less reliable than the Allante’ (and much more expensive to fix).

  • avatar
    phila_DLJ

    I’m still in awe of how this was manufactured. Any time your production process involves SPECIALLY MODIFIED 747s, you’re doing it wrong! How many 747s did GM buy/rent for this nonsense? Who thought that kind of gross inefficiency could be mitigated by sales?

    Speaking of 1986, in Star Trek IV, two humpback whales were transported to the Bering Sea by—you guessed it—a specially modified 747. Unfortunately, this was not filmed.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    Baffles me that anyone picked these turds over a Mercedes SL. But I suppose very few actually did…

    • 0 avatar

      I can see it at the beginning, when the old old 560SL was still around. But not after 1989.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        Even the old SL was 10X the car that the Allante was. The next generation was so far ahead it might as well have been a starship. Which explains why I see both of those generations of SL on a daily basis despite being 30+ years old, but I think I have seen one Allante in the past 10 years.

        When I am too old and fat to get in and out of my Spitfire, I plan to track down one of the handful of stickshift R129 300SLs that Mercedes imported to replace it.

        • 0 avatar

          I agree with you of course, but there was [at the time] such a thing as a very wealthy and die-hard American purchaser.

          This car was for him, and he’s largely dead now. Or he can buy an automatic Corvette.

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      At least the SL had a jump seat for the dogs. I’d love to get a XLR-V but no back seat.

    • 0 avatar
      spookiness

      Behold the most magnificent car ad of the late 80’s, 60 full seconds of “Cadillac Style”:
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-IG9EsoFCm4

      I love how at .37 the annoyed Allante driver shakes her head and passes the Benz. The video has everything, I love every second. They even put the Cimarron on for about 2 seconds. I’ve watched this a hundred times, know every scene, every lyric to the jingle. It never gets old.

  • avatar
    CaptainObvious

    I dunno…

    Then – I wouldn’t have touched it.

    Today? Maybe.

    With the “better” engine it might be nice to ride around in on sunny days.

  • avatar
    ajla

    I had one of these long, long after they were discontinued, the top is a major hassle and the brakes are scary to fix if they have a malfunction, but other than that it was one of the more enjoyable vehicles I’ve owned. I got rid of mine partly due to brake fears and partly because it wasn’t a super well-kept example in the first place.

    FWIW, the 4.5L in the Allante was a “high-output” version rated at 200/270, so pretty much what the later 4.9L had.

    My heart will always belong to the Trofeo though.

    • 0 avatar

      The Trofeo is for working class poors. This is BIG money time here.

      I didn’t know that about the 4.5, but I feel that engine in general had to be inferior to the more modern and sturdy 4.9.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        There was no 4.9 for this model. The 4.5 debuted in MY89, previous MYs had a modified 4100. My understanding is the modified 4100 was less sh*tty than its contemporaries.

        FUN FACT: “Of the 2,523 built for 1990, only five were exported – four to Canada and one to Germany.”

        “Production for 1993 was the highest. Of the 4,670 Allantés manufactured for the 1993 model year, 115 were for export – France (1), Austria (2), Belgium (5), Germany (5), Switzerland (6), Japan (11), and Canada (85)”

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cadillac_Allanté

    • 0 avatar
      Featherston

      Internet information on *what* exactly (besides displacement) Cadillac changed from the HT-4100 to the 4.5 to the 4.9 is scant, but it seems like the fundamental improvement in reliability occurred with the 4.5. As such, it’s not really fair to tar it with the same brush as the HT-4100.

      Have there been any other mass-produced aluminum block/iron head engines besides these V8s and the Chevy 2300 (the Vega’s engine)? I can’t think of any.
      – – –
      Addendum: @ 28 – Yes, I just read on some old message board that the Allanté’s 4100 had some similarities to the 4.5. What those comprise, I’m not sure.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        I don’t believe so.

        The 4.1 at some point went from TBI to Multiport FI, probably in MY86 or 87 as MY85 still had TBI (had one). Earlier models leaked coolant and some of the blocks melted from overheating. I seem to recall the computer being an issue as well. I was verbally told for MY87 the 4100 was “fixed” but never told details. This seems to be true since I had seen a handful of MY87 FWDs still running as late as 2010/11. Most of the old pre MY91 E/C-body Caddies I have seen are 4.5s though (nose and front end change for MY91 Cs, E was all new for MY92). Most Allantes I have seen are MY88+, don’t recall seeing an MY87 ever.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        Old Skodas had aluminum blocks and iron heads. Motor in the tail too.

      • 0 avatar

        I was under the impression that the 2.2l that Chrysler was using in the 80’s was a mix of metals block/head. (obviously not a V8)

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    I’ve long wanted to drop a 4.9 in one of these, especially an Allante from early production. Trust no 4100…

    This seemed to be an answer to a question no one asked. Were Cadillac dealers or customers clamoring for something above the Eldorado?

  • avatar
    sirwired

    What’s with that quadruple-DIN (quintuple) stereo? It’s just a CD and Tape deck; no idea why it took up such a gigantic amount of room; surely they had something less-rediculous in the parts bin.

  • avatar
    Sub-600

    It looks like a gussied up Cimarron. Don’t fall for it.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    My mom’s then-boss bought a Northstar Allanté in 1993.

    He went out of business two years later.

    I’m not sure the two events were unrelated.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    The Allanté got its own designation of V-body, but was basically a sawn-off of the contemporary E-body platform, making it a close relative to the Buick Riviera, Buick Reatta, Cadillac Eldorado and Oldsmobile Toronado of the era.

    I’ve driven one of these—albeit a ’93 with the Northstar—and the word of the day is torque-steer; this car had it in spades.

    Of course, no one in the market for a Mercedes-Benz SL-Class batted an eye, but the Allante did attract a cult following among Cadillac collectors and holds steady resale values these days.

  • avatar
    Null Set

    I still think the Allante is one of the most beautiful designs Cadillac has made. In this case the Italian contribution paid dividends, aesthetic if not financial. Compare to the brutish, insectoid XLR that followed, if you don’t agree.

    • 0 avatar
      Featherston

      “In this case the Italian contribution paid dividends, aesthetic if not financial.” Agreed, I saw a well-kept Allanté street parked a few years ago, and the exterior design has aged very well. They look better in person than in photos.

      So sue me, but I like the XLR. The big grain of salt is that I like the Art & Science design language–I know a lot of people don’t–and the XLR may be the most Art & Sciency of them all.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        I’m a big fan of the XLR. It was the purest and most successful expression of Art & Science. Too bad the only version faster than a base Vette was the unicorn XLR-V.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          Tainted by Northstar… forbidden fruit…

          • 0 avatar

            The XLR could’ve been better, if not for that other permanent GM halo, Mr. Vette. It was artificially restrained.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            Supercharged Northstar is less failure-prone than regular Northstar.

          • 0 avatar
            Kyree S. Williams

            This is true. The supercharged-Northstar-powered XLR-V and STS-V have both held up pretty well, mechanically.

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            Secondhand knowledge says the RWD Northstars are tougher than the FWD ones.

          • 0 avatar
            Featherston

            Worth noting is that the longitudinal Northstars are, by definition, later Northstars. I’d be interesting to know reliability stats for early FWD vs late FWD vs RWD.

            Sample size of one, but relatives (owners 1 and 2) had an LD8 Northstar (’99 model year) for 11 years and about 115,000 miles. No problems with it. Who knows what happened to it after they traded it in, though. Nice engines when working, certainly.

      • 0 avatar
        JohnTaurus

        I liked the XLR too.

  • avatar
    Heino

    What a shame, I think of the De Tomaso Pantera, Iso Grifo, and Facel Vega as examples to emulate the European/American marriage. Instead we get this and the TC by Maserati both FWD. This is the equivalent of pulling your pants up and wondering wtf you were thinking last night.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    BEHOLD ITALIANO-AMERICAN LUXURY.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      28, I have a slight sense if smug self-satisfaction this evening. I diagnosed and repaired a 2008 Fusion though a dating app! Like 55 miles away, lol.

      Guy put it in a ditch last night in the rain, wouldn’t start afterwards. I told him where the fuel pump shutoff switch was, sure enough, it was tripped. Running perfect again, which is not a word that can describe the front bumper. At least the airbags didn’t pop, and it’ll live to see another day.

      I actually fixed a guys 1994 Accord back in the summer, also met on a dating app. I actually had to do that one in person. I traced the issue to a burnt (literally) starter. It evidently shorted and caused a fire, which thankfully didn’t burn the whole car, just some wiring (small amount), a coolant hose and the starter itself.

  • avatar
    Fred

    I always think of GM being a bunch of bean counters. Then they come up with something like this “yea let’s fly half completed components half way around the world” Maybe that’s the exception to prove the rule.

  • avatar
    NeilM

    Re the headline, I’ll point out that pace car and race car are not the same thing, which is why we spell them differently.

    Love that front strut brace — a breadstick would do as much good.

  • avatar
    SMIA1948

    I had a black 1993 Allante around 2000 – 2004. What people don’t get about this car is that it had the roomiest interior and the biggest trunk (16 cubic feet) of any post-war 2-seat convertible. It also didn’t constantly get the bottom of its front bumper torn off like my 1996 SL600 did. And, it was vastly more reliable than my 2004 SL55 AMG.

  • avatar
    JohnTaurus

    The 1992 I posted about before is still on craigslist. If its there after I get back from my 30 day job that’s coming up in February, I may just pick it up and figure out *something* to do about the brakes. Its just so elegant and unique.
    https://gulfport.craigslist.org/cto/d/1992-cadillac-allante-great/6447492856.html
    Maybe by then he’ll take a grand or less.

    If not, I’ll try to find me an Oldsmobile. I found a decent but unrestored 1966 Satrfire hardtop coupe for under $4k. Runs/drives, console/floor shift/buckets. Its sweet.

    I’ve got several vehicles I want to get, I’m thinking a 1st or 2nd gen Explorer 4×4 (OHV if its a second gen) and some Honda (98-02 Accord sedan? 97-01 Prelude?) with 3 pedals.

    I found a super clean 1993 Explorer 5 speed 4wd in Texas for $2k. Black with silver lower tone and the deep dish alloys. Handsome rig.

    Of course, my Taurus will get some upgrades. I just bought my rear springs/struts, so those are goin on soon. Gotta do at least one motor mount, a new windshield and maybe repair the A/C.

    If I was to get the Sarfire, I would likely have to forego the Honda for now.

  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    Yet another bad move, of the many GM has made since 1980. What a boondoggle…

  • avatar
    scott25

    Considering how unloved they were, there’s a surprising amount of survivors. Probably the most numerous 80’s American convertible other than the pony cars and Corvette nowadays.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    I’m more of a Reatta man, myself. I’m pretty sure my dad still has his ’91 Malibu Blue ‘vert.

  • avatar
    Nigel

    My parents bought a brand new silver ‘87 after driving it back to back against an SL. He thought the SL cramped and primitive. He owned it for three year and put about 30k miles on it. At the time the car was dynamite. A real looker and it was a comfy cruiser. Never had a problem with it. The Bose stereo was at the time incredible.

    The interior dash is dated but the lines on the body were and are sharp. Talked the old man into letting me take it to the prom.

  • avatar
    RHD

    I have an neighbor with one of these in his driveway with a For Sale sign on it. It has been for sale for many months now. I’m not even interested enough in it to find out what the asking price is.
    It is interesting to see how little demand there is for this mediocre if somewhat stylish car.

  • avatar
    skor

    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.

  • avatar
    christophervalle

    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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