Junkyard Find: 1999 Cadillac Escalade

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin
junkyard find 1999 cadillac escalade

Starting in the 1997 model year, The General’s Cadillac Division glued Cadillac badges and some puzzling cartoon-duck advertising to the Opel Omega and called it the Catera. I’ve photographed just about every junkyard Catera I’ve found because they seem like relics from a long-ago past when Detroit car companies believed Americans would buy their European-market cars… or cars, period. Another Cadillac from the same era fits right in with American automotive trends of the last couple of decades, though, because it helped create them: The Cadillac Escalade. Here’s a first-model-year Escalade, found in a Silicon Valley self-service yard a few months back.

The Escalade was (and is) based on the GMC Yukon Denali, and the 1999-2000 version looked nearly identical to its much cheaper GMC-badged sibling. No matter; while many car shoppers turned up their noses at a Chevy Cavalier with Cadillac badges 15 years earlier, Escalade sales started off strong and then got even better. Granted, Ford had broken the trail a year earlier with the Lincoln Navigator, but the bosses at GM get credit for jumping on the Next Big Thing much more quickly than they had when Dearborn blindsided them with the original Mustang.

The Vortec 5700 V8 in the first Escalade belongs to the original small-block Chevrolet engine family that began life in the 1955 model year; a couple of decades earlier we’d have called it a good ol’ 350 (and lawsuits might have ensued had it gone into a Cadillac at that time). With just 255 horsepower and 330 lb-ft of torque dragging its close-to-three-tons bulk around, the first-generation Escalade was much more sluggish than its LS-powered successors.

Since trucks had to meet less stringent emissions, fuel economy, and crash-safety standards than cars and the Escalade was built with cheap off-the-shelf Yukon hardware, the first-ever Caddy truck offered a giant helping of luxury at a fairly low price. Escalade drivers sat up high and lorded it over the DeVille occupants who groveled like worms far beneath them. Once rappers began name-dropping the new Escalade, the average age of Cadillac buyers finally inched downward. For Cadillac dealers, life was good.

I’ve started peeling off these GM assembly-plant stickers and putting them on my junkyard toolbox. The Arlington one is tough to remove in one piece since it’s shaped like Texas.

Still, the Yukon and Suburban were more or less the same truck as the far costlier Cadillac version, as Michigan racers at GingerMan Raceway kept pointing out to me when I reviewed the ’11 Escalade Hybrid for Popular Warlord Magazine. The way they said this fact was telling, mostly with some variation of “Sure, I can afford an Escalade, mind you, but I bought a Yukon because I didn’t want to throw away money.” Hey, if you want the Joneses to eat their livers when they see the badges on your new truck, you must pay for those badges!

Some junkyard shoppers have yanked out just about the entire interior of this truck, perhaps to swap into a Suburban.

Just over 100,000 miles on the odometer, which doesn’t seem like much in a time when the majority of commuters seek to drive the biggest and cushiest truck they can afford.

With my Escalade, there are no roadblocks. Eat your livers, proles!

Comes with VHS player and OnStar.

For links to 2,200+ more Junkyard Finds, be sure to visit the Junkyard Home of the Murilee Martin Lifestyle Brand™.

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3 of 30 comments
  • Oldskooltoy Oldskooltoy on Sep 20, 2021

    So the pic of the gauge cluster shows almost half a tank of fuel…. I believe here in Florida they drain all the fluids before putting it out for the carcass pickers.. is the gauge just incorrect?

    • Scoutdude Scoutdude on Sep 21, 2021

      There are two basic kinds of analog gauges. One that return to 0 when power is removed and those that hold their last reading until it is powered up again. So for it to show 0 from draining the tank the key would have had to be turned on with a charged battery after the fuel was drained.

  • Superdessucke Superdessucke on Sep 21, 2021

    It was from a proud time in America. Planes hadn't yet hit the Twin Towers so it was an age of innocence. Gas was cheap, the stock market was booming, led by brash dot.commers who seemed to have the world by the shorthairs. And this and the Lincoln Navigator naturally sold like absolute hotcakes. Indeed, The Matrix was designed to 1999, the peak of our civilization. Now it's just a disheveled pile of scrap metal and plastic. Time marches on indeed.

  • Poltergeist Make sure you order the optional Dungdai fire suppression system.
  • Prabirmehta I charge my EV at home 100% of the time. The EV is used for in-town driving and the gas guzzling SUV is used for out of town trips. This results in a huge cost saving and rare trips to the gas station.
  • Conundrum Three cylinder Ford Escapes, Chevy whatever it is that competes, and now the Rogue. Great, ain't it? Toyota'll be next with a de-tuned GR Corolla/Yaris powerplant. It's your life getting better and better, yes indeed. A piston costs money, you know.The Rogue and Altima used to have the zero graviy foam front seats. Comfy, but the new Rogue dumps that advance. Costs money. And that color-co-ordinated gray interior, my, ain't it luvverly? Ten years after they perfected it in the first Versa to appeal to the terminally depressed, it graduates to the Rogue.There's nothing decent to buy on the market for normal money. Not a damn thing interests me at all.
  • Inside Looking Out It looks good and is popular in SF Bay Area.
  • Inside Looking Out Ford F150 IMHO. It is a true sports car on our freeways.