Junkyard Find: 1999 Cadillac Escalade

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin

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™.

Murilee Martin
Murilee Martin

Murilee Martin is the pen name of Phil Greden, a writer who has lived in Minnesota, California, Georgia and (now) Colorado. He has toiled at copywriting, technical writing, junkmail writing, fiction writing and now automotive writing. He has owned many terrible vehicles and some good ones. He spends a great deal of time in self-service junkyards. These days, he writes for publications including Autoweek, Autoblog, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars and Capital One.

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  • 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.

  • Lichtronamo Watch as the non-us based automakers shift more production to Mexico in the future.
  • 28-Cars-Later " Electrek recently dug around in Tesla’s online parts catalog and found that the windshield costs a whopping $1,900 to replace.To be fair, that’s around what a Mercedes S-Class or Rivian windshield costs, but the Tesla’s glass is unique because of its shape. It’s also worth noting that most insurance plans have glass replacement options that can make the repair a low- or zero-cost issue. "Now I understand why my insurance is so high despite no claims for years and about 7,500 annual miles between three cars.
  • AMcA My theory is that that when the Big 3 gave away the store to the UAW in the last contract, there was a side deal in which the UAW promised to go after the non-organized transplant plants. Even the UAW understands that if the wage differential gets too high it's gonna kill the golden goose.
  • MKizzy Why else does range matter? Because in the EV advocate's dream scenario of a post-ICE future, the average multi-car household will find itself with more EVs in their garages and driveways than places to plug them in or the capacity to charge then all at once without significant electrical upgrades. Unless each vehicle has enough range to allow for multiple days without plugging in, fighting over charging access in multi-EV households will be right up there with finances for causes of domestic strife.
  • 28-Cars-Later WSJ blurb in Think or Swim:Workers at Volkswagen's Tennessee factory voted to join the United Auto Workers, marking a historic win for the 89- year-old union that is seeking to expand where it has struggled before, with foreign-owned factories in the South.The vote is a breakthrough for the UAW, whose membership has shrunk by about three-quarters since the 1970s, to less than 400,000 workers last year.UAW leaders have hitched their growth ambitions to organizing nonunion auto factories, many of which are in southern states where the Detroit-based labor group has failed several times and antiunion sentiment abounds."People are ready for change," said Kelcey Smith, 48, who has worked in the VW plant's paint shop for about a year, after leaving his job at an Amazon.com warehouse in town. "We look forward to making history and bringing change throughout the entire South."   ...Start the clock on a Chattanooga shutdown.