By on June 7, 2021

2001 Cadillac Catera in Colorado junkyard, RH front view - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsStarting in the late 1950s, officers in The General’s Michigan command post pushed hard to get Americans to buy German-built Opels. Buick dealers sold Kadetts, GTs, and Mantas well into the 1970s, and Isuzu-badged Kadett Cs could be purchased here as late as 1984. One of the most ambitious attempts to move Opels out of North American showrooms took place during the 1997 through 2001 model years when the Opel Omega B became the Caddy That Zigged. Here’s a final-year Catera in a northeastern Colorado yard.

2001 Cadillac Catera in Colorado junkyard, decklid badges - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsBy the 1990s, the Cadillac Division desperately needed to attract younger buyers. Perhaps a leaner, more European sedan with rear-wheel-drive and an irreverent ad campaign featuring one of the ducks from the Cadillac logo would do the trick!

2001 Cadillac Catera in Colorado junkyard, grille badge - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe Catera did not lure hordes of sub-80-year-old buyers into Cadillac dealerships, but building Cadillac-badged Chevy Suburbans (starting in 1999) sure did. Once the Escalade started showing up in rap videos, it didn’t matter that the Catera had flopped.

2001 Cadillac Catera in Colorado junkyard, speedometer - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThese cars started showing up in junkyards at a fairly young age, but this one made it to age 20… and just past the 100k mark.

2001 Cadillac Catera in Colorado junkyard, interior - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsIf I’m ever made Global Warlord For Life, my first act upon taking office will be to outlaw purple-tinted window film.

2001 Cadillac Catera in Colorado junkyard, build tag - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsSince the Catera was built in Germany, its VINs begin with the letter W (a hangover from the old days of West Germany and still used in US-market German-built cars to this day).

2001 Cadillac Catera in Colorado junkyard, engine - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe Catera had a 200-horsepower V6 engine and rear-wheel-drive, but you couldn’t get one with a manual transmission.

2001 Cadillac Catera in Colorado junkyard, RH rear view - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsSince this car lived on the same platform as the Holden VZ Monaro, it’s a close cousin to the 2004-2006 Pontiac GTO. That means that it shouldn’t be too rough a swap to put a GM LS V8 and manual transmission into a Catera… and, sure enough, such swaps have taken place. The low-budget version would feature a truck-sourced cast-iron Vortec 5300 and whatever transmission came out of the donor vehicle. Then you’d have the opportunity to buy every junkyard Catera differential in your time zone.

2001 Cadillac Catera in Colorado junkyard, interior - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsMSRP on the base ’01 Catera was $31,305, or about $47,745 today. That got you a car with more power than a new BMW 525i sedan (200 versus 185 horsepower), and at a substantially cheaper price than the $35,400 525i. BMW also charged you $1,275 extra for an automatic transmission, which nearly every American 5-Series buyer got, while the Catera came with one as standard equipment. On top of that, the Catera’s interior featured High Zoot leather everywhere. Of course, you could buy a brand-new Daewoo Leganza for a mere $14,399 that year, which would get you plenty of Opel engineering via the South Korean outpost of the GM Empire. Was the Catera worth more than twice as much as a Leganza?

2001 Cadillac Catera in Colorado junkyard, front view - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe Saturn Division took one last shot at North American Opel glory, shortly before its demise, with the American-market Astra. Prior to that, The General spent a billion bucks putting plastic body panels on the Opel Vectra. Now that Opel has switched sides, the danger of Ziggy’s return to battle has abated.


Cindy Crawford was issued a Catera— bought or leased— via Wizard Ziggy.

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38 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 2001 Cadillac Catera...”


  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    I have been to exactly one Cadillac Dealer Council meeting in my life (around the turn of the century). Escalade brand team was showing a new ad and [sort of] soliciting feedback.

    (Might have been this one:)
    https://youtu.be/L4ZnUr49MEo

    Direct quote from one Council member: “It’s as bad as the duck.”

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    Enjoyed the link to the LS swapped version. The original CTS-V. The GM 54 degree V6 has been a troublesome package in pretty much whatever chassis it was sold in.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    This is further proof that pretty faces *don’t* sell cars.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    A co-worker proudly bought herself a 2-year old Catera back in the day. She was a low-pay scale member of our organization who worked very hard. She was so proud to finally own a Cadillac. I can’t begin to tell you the aggravation that car brought her when the typical GM Opel maladies showed up. After 2 years of constant repairs (and under 50k miles total), she finally took a bath and traded it in on a new Hyundai.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Its impressive the Ellesmere Port POS motor did not self immolate earlier on this example (timing belt tensioner pulley or valve cover gasket).

    “Worse for GM, the earlier push for leases meant that the cars mechanical woes came back to haunt the company when the leased lemons came back to the dealer. Not only did lessors not want to buy their troublesome rides, but they frequently proved hard to sell off-lease because of the car’s known issues.”

    https://www.curbsideclassic.com/automotive-histories/automotive-history-1997-2001-cadillac-catera-caddys-dead-duck/

  • avatar
    statikboy

    “If I’m ever made Global Warlord For Life, my first act upon taking office will be to outlaw purple-tinted window film.”

    I think making manual transmissions available – no, required – in all trim levels of all models in perpetuity would be a more helpful use of your Power.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Got my vote. Can we also add an edict stating only one CUV model per marque be made available?

    • 0 avatar
      mdoore

      The purple color and bubbles tells the world “I did it myself” using a $15.95 auto parts store tinting kit that intentionally will cover all but 1/4th of your last window.

    • 0 avatar
      dukeisduke

      What I’ve always heard is that the film doesn’t start out purple, but turns purple from owners cleaning it with Windex and similar cleaners – a definite no-no.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    Gah! I’ve been scouring the local-to-me (as in, within 100 miles since none are close) pick-a-part websites for a Catera. I own a 2006 GTO and the door handles on my car are made of plastic and there was some issue with the formula that makes the paint chip off over time and use. Catera’s have the same door handle design but they are made of metal. I have a grand plan of repainting my GTO and replacing the door handles as part of that. Next time if you wouldn’t mind grabbing a set for me, Murilee, I would appreciate it!

    I have a really big soft spot for these. In 1995 I went to Italy and I kept seeing a very attractive car every now and then. I finally saw one parked and went to look at it and noted it was an Opal Omega. Instantly I thought GM should be selling cars like that here in the States. Imagine my surprise when it turned out they did just that. And interestingly enough, I didn’t realize they were RWD until well into the 2000s.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      E-bay was of no help?

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      A couple of options

      Car-part.com, you can search wrecking yards across the US and Canada and most of them will ship the part.

      partsmarket.com is a similar thing except they all ship and you deal with the middle man for payment and warranty.

      I’ve used both options successfully.

      Then there is row52.com which lists the vehicles for self serve yards again across the US. They don’t ship but there is a place where people can sign up to be parts pullers for a particular yard. So once you find a place with a suitable donor you can contact one of the parts pullers listed for that yard and negotiate with them directly on the cost to pull and ship the parts. I’m sure many will take pictures before they start so you can verify it is the part you want. I have not used any of their parts pullers but of course each one is an individual so they will vary.

      • 0 avatar
        Land Ark

        Thanks for the info.

        Ebay wants $50 for the only driver’s side listed.

        Car-part has them, but the only reasonably priced ones were declared not available when I called.

        I’ll check out row52 – it’s been a long time since I checked that.

        But, I’d prefer to pay the $10 my local yards charge even though it likely means I spend more in gas getting there and back. It’s the principle! Plus it gives me an excuse to go wander around the yard if they ever get one.

    • 0 avatar
      MRF 95 T-Bird

      Try to scour some of the Cadillac dealers. It’s possible that some might have NOS parts like this on the shelf.
      I know of some Lincoln Mercury dealers who still stocked parts for some of their “orphaned” captive imports Capri and Merkur.

  • avatar
    gass-man

    The purple tint is usually not on-purpose. It’s cheap tint that uses an inferior dye that fades to purple over time. It’s a red flag on a used car, for sure.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      Yup it is faded to purple. I’m not sure why that is a red flag on a used car though. On the one hand it could mean they shopped around for the cheapest place to do the tint but it is also possible that the dealer shopped around for the cheapest place that would come out and do the tint, or that the person just got screwed and paid top dollar for sub par product because they don’t know the difference.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Whenever the topic of worst engines comes up, the Ellesmere 54 degree V6 makes my top 3 without blinking. The Chrysler LH 2.7L 60 degree V6 is ahead of it. I think there are several you could then debate of belonging in the top 3.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    I had a friend who bought one of these. He was so proud of the great deal and all the GM Visa points he got toward the purchase of another GM. He was so disappointed when the car went south on him, but to cash in on those GM points he had to buy another GM. So, he traded the Catera in on an equally problematic Seville… and the cycle continued

  • avatar
    ajla

    These cars really deserve more hate than they get. Their saving grace is that they sold so poorly when new that most people have forgotten about them.

    • 0 avatar
      A Scientist

      “These cars really deserve more hate than they get”

      Indeed! The 80s gave us the Cimmaron, the 90s gave us….this. I was a teenager working part-time for a GM dealership washing cars when these came out. They were utterly pathetic little sh*tboxes. Poor quality all around. I can remember back then thinking “THIS is a Cadillac?!”

  • avatar
    CaddyDaddy

    Parents leased one of these in Phoenix. A/C was very weak, typical of most Euro cars of the time. CaddyDaddy had to shuttle it from the Colorado Front Range to Winslow, AZ. I would describe it as comparable to a modern KIA. Meh…. Caterra was totaled when Mom ran over a 22.5″ Semi steel wheel on I-10 at highway speeds outside of Quartzite. It was replaced by a 02′ DTS which burned oil at a quart / 500 miles which GM said was acceptable. Sold the DTS to a local plumber at 16K miles. Threw a rod at 20K, GM bought it back from 2nd owner under a factory extended warranty. Both Cadillacs were 100% driveline garbage.

    Non-DOD LS engine Tahoes and Gas non turbo BOF Ford SUVs ever since. All have been 200K + mile problem free experiences. Caddydaddy will admit we have been lucky on the Triton 5.4L.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      “CaddyDaddy had to shuttle it from the Colorado Front Range to Winslow, AZ”

      Please tell me it was on a flat-bed Ford, please…

      “Well, I’m a-standing on a corner
      In Winslow, Arizona
      Such a fine sight to see
      It’s a girl, my Lord
      In a flat-bed Ford
      Slowin’ down to take a look at me”

    • 0 avatar
      DungBeetle62

      The folks had a Sedan DeVille of similar vintage. Engine behaved, but there was some crazy fix needed on the suspension that was going to cost $4000 – after the car had just timed out of warranty and was still well within the mileage range. Mom ended up with a CPO Lexus ES300 within a month. Another month later Dad had jettisoned his umpteenth not-yet-problematic (but inevitably going to go there) Blazer/Trailblazer/Jimmy for a used RX. The only GM products they kept after that were a pair of Corvairs.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    The Omega this was based on was a fairly successful car in Europe, without extraordinary reliability problems.

    It’s really kind of impressive how badly Cadillac and GM North America managed to screw it up when importing it.

    • 0 avatar
      Dan

      All manner of self destructing European crap has stayed successful in Europe at the same time that it was destroying brands here. Toyota expectations come from Toyotas, they didn’t have either.

  • avatar
    Imagefont

    I have an 18 year old Honda that runs flawlessly. It spends a lot of time waiting for me at the airport and there’s no point buying a new car just for that. But it shocks me when I see newer cars than mine with far fewer miles (245k in my case) that have been scrapped. What a waste of money, material and resources.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      2001 isn’t newer than your 18 year old Honda.

      Math.

    • 0 avatar
      SaulTigh

      I have a 20 year old Honda with 130k on the clock that still runs flawlessly after a couple of acceptably cheap repairs and normal maintenance. It’s a terrible time to buy a car anyway but even if it weren’t for the supply chain issues, I see no need to replace it. Gets me where I’m going and beats walking.

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    As a plus, you don’t have to remove the intake manifold to change the failure proned thermostat if you LS swap it like you do on the V6.

    Had this motor in a Saturn VUE…what a thirsty, gutless and not especially reliable turd.

  • avatar
    sckid213

    I root for Cadillac and hate that the Catera existed.

    I will say – it did show well. I remember checking them out on the showroom floor, and the interior had that German tautness and soft rubber finishes that was very in-fashion as “luxury” at the time.

    Also, I’m probably the only one that remembers the demented weirdness with “Who is Lisa Catera” and then it being a TV show character. (Actually I just checked wiki and there’s a blurb about it on the Catera page so I’m not the only one!)

  • avatar
    SirRaoulDuke

    The linked V8 swapped car is a true John Lingenfelter LPE build. That’s a hell of a car, for sure.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    BTW, in the Cadillac crest they were called “merlettes”, not ducks.

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