Way back in 2007, I kicked off the Down On the Street series (which was supposed to be a one-time reference to the title of a Stooges song beloved by me and the late Davey J. Johnson) with the first of what would turn out to be hundreds of interesting street-parked cars: a 1984 Cadillac Cimarron d’Oro. That led to something of a Cimarron obsession, and I’ve spent the past 15 years documenting every semi– intact Cadillac J-Body I find during my junkyard adventures. You’d think they’d all have been crushed by now, but such is not the case; I found this loaded Brown Overload Edition ’85 in a yard near Pikes Peak earlier this year.
Sometimes car companies get a bit carried away with a new idea that, for a myriad of reasons, doesn’t translate so well in its execution. Toyota (and other Japanese companies) did exactly this when they invested in the very unsuccessful line of WiLL cars and other consumer products in the early 2000s.
Today we look at a 1980s domestic example of an idea that fell flat. It was the time Cadillac thought applying lipstick to a Cavalier-shaped pig would make the BMW and Mercedes-Benz 190E customer come a’callin. It’s time for Cimarron, a J-body joint.
Auto manufacturers don’t always get things right on the first try. Altering existing product takes time and lots of money, two things which aren’t always easy for OEMs to pull together.
Today we ask: When did a vehicle change or evolve during its production, only to still fall short of expectations?
The General got his money’s worth out of the J Platform, which began with the 1982 Chevrolet Cavalier and ended 23 years later with the Pontiac Sunfire. Buick’s only J-body was the 1982-1989 Skyhawk, which took the name of the much more successful rear-wheel-drive H-body Skyhawk of the 1970s.
Here’s a sporty five-speed ’84 Skyhawk in a Denver-area self-service yard.
I wanna live with a Cimarron girl
Life would be crappy, on the side of the road
With my Cimarron girl
Apologies to Mr. Young. Even more apologies to anyone who has ever heard my attempts to sing. And more to those enthusiasts at j-body.org, who might consider punishing anyone who dares slander the pride of Janesville.
When will Cadillac’s long Cimarron nightmare be over? You’d think that the Caddy-badged Chevy Cavalier would be just a bad memory, but no— actual real-world examples of Cimarrons keep popping up all over the country! In this series, we’ve seen this ’82, this ’82, this ’83 Cimarron d’Oro, and now I’ve found this white ’86.
Sometimes I just have to choose a Junkyard Find car based on its potential for a good Crab Spirits Story™, and that’s what’s happening today. The Cadillac Cimarron— well, there’s not much we need to say here about the image-tarnishing disaster that finished the brand-devaluing job GM started a few years earlier with the Seville (other than the fact that it took many years to undo the damage and convince car buyers that Cadillacs weren’t just badge-engineered bait-and-switches. The Cimarron never sold very well, and the J-body cars weren’t known for longevity, so Cimarron sightings are extremely rare today; we’ve seen this ’82 and this ’83 Cimarron d’Oro, plus the very first Down On The Street car. Here’s an ’82 that I found during a recent trip to California.
We’ve made it pretty plain that the floor is definitely open here at TTAC for reader contributions of all types. Most of all, we’d like you to contribute cash via Paypal, or buy something from Derek’s Amazon wishlist, but if pressed we will also accept Sunday Stories, reader-ride reviews, editorials, and all sorts of other features.
It’s possible, however, that you don’t want to write for TTAC at all. You want to write for a major automotive publication or the “wheels” section of a newspaper. If that’s the case, you’ll need to learn how to slam the holy hell out of a manufacturer without appearing to have done so. One of the most frequent ways in which this happens is the “First Paragraph Of The C/D First Drive” technique. It goes like so:
As part of the ongoing “What Could GM Have Been Thinking?” series of Junkyard Finds this week, we’ll follow up the ’89 Oldsmobile Toronado Trofeo and the ’90 Oldsmobile Cutlass Calais International Series with a car that really makes you wonder what sort of weird Malaise Era drug The General’s marketing wizards must have been huffing, snorting, smoking, or maybe mainlining in order to stand up at a meeting, pound fist on table, and proclaim “Cadillac must slap its badges on the J Platform!”
What exactly is it that magnetically stops us in our tracks to look at a junky old car sitting at the curb and ponder it? Yes, it might unleash a treasured or long-forgotten memory of our youth. Or it might dredge up experiences we’d just as soon forget. But for most of us, there are only so many cars that afforded us memories of happily spilling our bodily fluids within or that spewed its hot fluids in our faces. In the bigger picture, since old cars aren’t exactly fossils or butterflies, they tell the highly variable story of the humans that created them: that rare spark of true brilliance, or the flights of imagination, for better or for worse. But all too often, it’s really schadenfreude. Yes, there are few things guaranteed to make one feel better about one’s own foolish mistakes and shortcomings than to chortle at someone else’s. And today, I’m going to need a really big helping of schadenfreude if it’s going to keep me from slipping into empathy for this car. Because the truth be told, we’ve all built our own personal Cimarrons. Or at least come mighty close to it.
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