By on September 20, 2021

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.

1999 Cadillac Escalade in California junkyard, emblem - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe 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.

1999 Cadillac Escalade in California junkyard, Vortec 5.7 engine - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe 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.

1999 Cadillac Escalade in California junkyard, grille badge - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsSince 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.

1999 Cadillac Escalade in California junkyard, Arlington build sticker - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsI’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!

1999 Cadillac Escalade in California junkyard, interior - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsSome junkyard shoppers have yanked out just about the entire interior of this truck, perhaps to swap into a Suburban.

1999 Cadillac Escalade in California junkyard, gauge cluster - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsJust 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™.

Become a TTAC insider. Get the latest news, features, TTAC takes, and everything else that gets to the truth about cars first by subscribing to our newsletter.

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

30 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1999 Cadillac Escalade...”

  • avatar

    I remember when this and the Lincoln Navigator first came out we referred to them as Truck DeVilles and Lincoln Towntrucks respectively. Say what you want, but Cadillac and Lincoln were not caught short in the booming luxury SUV catagory

  • avatar

    “Still, the Yukon and Suburban were more or less the same truck as the far costlier Cadillac version”

    The Google is telling me that the Denali was $43k and the Escaldate was $46k c. 1999. Seems reasonable for nicer leather, carpets, more sound deadening, etc.

  • avatar

    Did anyone else see the entire overhead console flex when that OnStar was pushed in the second video? Oof.

    Well, it wasn’t as if GM was known for its superb quality or QC.

  • avatar

    I always get a kick out of seeing pickups with the Cadillac Escalade nose clip installed. Cadillruck.

  • avatar

    I remember when these first came out and how GM was taken to the mat with such a cynical cash grab on a Tahoe. They didn’t even bother to change the gauges or upgrade the work-grade quality pickup dashboard. The Navigator caught them sleeping, so it was a quick softer leather and Bose stereo slap job and call it a Cadillac. At least it got vastly improved in the next generation.

    And after driving a family member’s Tahoe for a long time, how GM was able to call those “brakes” in a vehicle this heavy…wow. In any kind of weather, it verged on terror with sudden stops. They were not made to slow down over 5,000 lbs of truck, cargo, and people. But with America being BoF SUV happy at this time, who cares if they might be death traps to you and those around you? 11 MPG? Gas was under a buck a gallon. This really symbolized the late 1990s – big, shiny, rich facade, but hiding a whole lot of bad on the inside.

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah the brakes were not great on these. A marina I worked at in the early 2000’s had a couple of 90’s suburbans as shop trucks. I never thought the brakes were bad around town, but a few times with a bigger boat behind it they really didn’t want to stop. Including one time backing 8k lbs down a launch ramp the brakes just kept squalling and slipping until they finally grabbed just before the back bumper hit the water.

  • avatar

    Cimmaron 2: Electric Boogaloo… no wait that’s the ELR.

  • avatar

    CaddyDaddy is wondering if a bad intake manifold sucked all the oil into the combustion cycle and took out the lower end. Undersized brakes, weak kneed 4L60E, and Fuel Pumps that should be replaced every 75K mi. as a maint. item. Yes… these were not bad, but a $10K price premium over a Tahoe, Yikes! A license for GM to print money from stupid people. I’m guessing a slipping trans and then failed fuel pump left this on the side of I-225 in Aurora, CO. Tagged by CSP and then towed. The BHPH lot on East Colfax was contacted by the towing company and passed on picking it up and paying the towing and storage fees. Off to the Crusher!

  • avatar

    I haven’t seen a GMT400 of any kind on the road for ages, they thinned out when gas got expensive and pretty well disappeared in the banker’s recession afterwards. I’ve heard time and again that they were put together better than the 800s that replaced them but I have trouble believing that when I still see those mid 00s GM trucks all the time.

    • 0 avatar

      In rural Indiana at least there are tons of 400s still going strong; that said the 800s are still thick on the ground here too so I can’t disprove your statement.

      • 0 avatar

        No shortage of GMT400 series in the Midwest. They are holey rollers with durable powertrains, plentiful parts and easy to repair without specialized equipment or a lift.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m surprised you don’t see more. I live in Ct which doesn’t tend to have tons of old trucks but I see GMT 400’s everywhere. I Suburbans still hauling kids and lots of low trimmed pickups still working for a living.

    • 0 avatar

      Two well known situations presumably took many GMT400s out the road:
      1. Road salt
      2. Cash for clunkers.

      Most GMT800 truks were not old enough to be traded in during cash for clunkers. And they still had good value or at least better than what C4C was offering back then. But GMT400s like 1st and 2nd gen Explorers were heavily traded in and crushed over a decade ago.

      Road salt has taken many GMT400s and GMT800s, it’s just that GMT400s have had contact with it for way longer than the next gen.

      Having said so, there are a few GMT400s still kicking around in the south.

      • 0 avatar

        “Road salt” Agreed. That’s killed off most of them in the Great White North. My son’s friend just bought a GMC variant with the 4.3. It’s actually in very good shape. The majority I see still on the road are just “bush-beater” trucks.

    • 0 avatar


      The GMT400 vs. GMT800 question has always been interesting to me.

      I recently did some work on my nephew’s 2002 Silverado (5.3L, ~250K miles), including some road trips.
      [GMT800 was 1999-2006]

      Which allowed me to compare it to my 1995 Sierra (5.0L, ~140K miles).
      [GMT400 was 1988-1998]

      I would take his truck over mine.

  • avatar

    The “Built In Texas by Texans” thing was originally used on a sticker in the back window of Fords built in the former Ford plant on East Grand Avenue in Dallas, in the mid ’50s to early ’60s (I remember seeing them on new Fords when I was a kid). The sticker had a lone star on it, and a rope border. The plant closed in 1970, but the buildings are still there, repurposed.

    Here’s a vendor that sells a repro version:

  • avatar

    I seem to remember reading somewhere that the “tarted-up Yukon” program was originally offererd to Cadillac, and they passed. GMC ended up with it, which was the original Yukon Denali. Then, when Lincoln started printing money with the original Navigator, Caddy re-thought things, and got on board with the Escalade. That was supposedly why there was virtually no difference between the 1st-gen Escalade and the 1st-gen Yukon Denali. Other than the MSRP.

  • avatar

    The GMT400 was a good Chevy pickup, but in no way ready to have a luxury badge hung on it. The GMT800 Escalade was so much more credible.

  • avatar

    The bosses at GM deserve zero credit for development of the Escalade.

    A group of Miami area dealers, fed up with zero product to sell to growing numbers of GMC, Suburban, and Range Rover buyers, repeatedly asked the nincompoops in Detroit for a premium priced SUV to sell. GM management trotted out their idiot MBA spreadsheet jockeys and said no.

    Got so bad the dealers threatened to take Suburbans and convert them into Cadillacs themselves before Detroit relented.

  • avatar

    “…but the bosses at GM get credit for jumping on the Next Big Thing…”

    You misspelled “Monkey See, Monkey Do”. It’s what they do best, but GM has yet to come up with an original concept that’s had any real commercial success to speak of.

  • avatar

    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?

    • 0 avatar

      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.

  • avatar

    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.

Read all comments

Recent Comments

  • ToolGuy: Now I kind of want a leather gaiter.
  • ToolGuy: That’s not exactly a ‘complaint’ it’s more of a ‘clue’ – which...
  • Secret Hi5: How do insurance companies deal with collisions that involve “self-driving?” Do insurance...
  • Art Vandelay: Any car I’ve leased I haven’t leased because I wanted to keep it, I leased it because I...
  • Lou_BC: @JMII – I’ve had dealerships point out how inconvenience it was to travel to get a vehicle. I...

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Who We Are

  • Adam Tonge
  • Bozi Tatarevic
  • Corey Lewis
  • Jo Borras
  • Mark Baruth
  • Ronnie Schreiber