The history of the Cadillac Seville
The name Seville was
first used in the Cadillac lineup in 1956. Cadillac had introduced its
top-of-the-range, ultra luxurious Eldorado as a limited production car
in 1953. At the then staggering price of $7750 (a Coupe de Ville cost $3995
and a Convertible $4144), only 532 were sold. The next year, the Eldorado
was in fact a specially trimmed convertible and its price was reduced by
more than $2000. In 1956, Cadillac decided to bring out a hardtop version
of the Eldorado. To distinguish between the two models, the convertible
was called Eldorado Biarritz and the hardtop got the name Eldorado
Seville. So as a matter of fact, the first Sevilles were not four door
sedans, as we know them today, but ultra-luxurious two door hardtop coupes.
The 1956 Eldorados stood out from the "regular" Cadillacs with a more performant
engine. The Eldorados were equipped with two four-barrel carburaters (as
opposed to one 4 bbl) and their engine was rated at 305 HP @ 4700 rpm.
The other Cadillacs got a 285 HP engine. For 1957 and 1958 the Eldorados
were even more distinguishable. They got their own tail fin treatment,
known as shark fins. They protruded like sharp razor blades, from
the slender down curving rear fender and were only a hint at the outrageous
fins that would appear on all Cadillacs two years later. Again the Eldorados
got a beefier engine with two four-barrel carbs. Only minor facelifts were
applied on 1958 Cadillacs. All cars now had standard dual headlights and
again some more chrome here and there. The automotive industry experienced
its worst post-war recession and Cadillac's output dropped by 16% to 121,778
cars. Chrysler had given America big tailfins in 1957, but Cadillac was
to "out-fin" every other car maker with its 1959 lineup. Each and every
model sported huge razor sharp spacecraft-like tailfins. From each fin,
two cone-shaped taillights emerged. If they were lit, nobody could do away
with the resemblence to the exhaust flame of a rocket. Chrome was also
abundantly present on these spaceships. As if the front grille did not
shine enough already, Cadillac mounted a rear end grill, just beneath the
trunk lid. Excentricity had reached its peak in 1959, and from then on
the tailfins would diminish in size, just to disappear altogether in 1965.
The Eldorados lost their own specific body shape and were now specially
trimmed and better equipped versions of the Coupe and the Convertible.
They also had a better performing engine (again 20 HP more than the standard
one), but this time they had triple two-barrel carburators. 1960 was the
last year for the name Seville to appear on a Cadillac until 1975.
By 1975 a lot had changed
on the American car market. The Arab oil embargo of 1973 certainly had
not done any good to those smooth running gigantic engines Cadillac used
to put in its cars. Furthermore the imports were on the move, and the American
buyers realized that they could get luxury cars from abroad. For Cadillac
the toughest import to compete was Mercedes-Benz. And this latter reason
was the main impulse for the development of the 1975 Seville.
Imports were a lot smaller
than the gigantic Cadillacs that were floating over America's freeways
in the early seventies, so Cadillac decided it should go for a "compact"
car. Several alternatives were discussed in the early seventies, amongst
them a retrimmed version of the Opel Diplomat. Eventually, taken into consideration
the limited time available and the budget restrictions imposed by GM management,
it was opted that the corporate X-body would be used as a basis for the
new Seville. However, changes to this platform were so drastic that an
all new designation was given to the body: the K-body. Halfway 1975 a new
Cadillac appeared on the American market. At 27" shorter, 8" narrower and
800 lbs lighter than a regular DeVille, it truely was a revelation . This
new Seville featured Oldsmobile's proven 350 cid V8, but was now equipped
with electronic fuel injection, an industry first on the American
market. Though it was the smallest Cadillac, it was nonetheless the most
expensive one too (except for limited production Fleetwood 75 series).
At a list price $12,479, it featured almost everything a man could dream
of, plus a whole range of options and toys could be specially ordered.
This car was still rear-wheel drive and did not even have independent rear
suspension. It also got some criticism because of its rear drum brakes,
but nevertheless this was a splendid automobile which gained a lot of praise
all over the world. The Seville received its much asked for rear discs
in 1977. As a matter of fact, surveys have later shown out that Cadillac
succeeded in slowing down Mercedes-Benz' growth in the US, with the introduction
of the 1975 Seville. In 1980 Cadillac had another surprise with its all
new Seville. Reminding many people of the pre-war Hooper bodied Daimlers,
the Seville sported now a razor sharp rear deck. This was a no-way-in-between
car. Those who loved, loved it tremendously, those who hated it,
hated it as much. At least, it was a recognizable car and is already now
regarded as a classic by many collectors. It had many improvements over
the previous Seville: front wheel drive and independent rear suspension
amongst them. However, dark times were looming at the horizon for Cadillac,
and it would take more than a decade for the GM flag division to rise to
its former superiority.
The first problem arrived
already in 1979 when GM, in a crash-program on fuel economy, started to
put diesel engines in its cars. Even Cadillacs were delivered with 350
cid diesel V8's. These engines were soon renowned for being troublesome
and unreliable. Furthermore, in 1981, Cadillac made available what should
be the best-of-both-worlds: the V8-6-4. This was a variable displacement
engine, running on 8, 6 or 4 cylinders, depending on power demands. On
the drawing board this seemed a very good idea, however in practice it
was disaster. Cars stalled in the middle of busy freeway traffic or while
climbing steep hills. The only remedy was to cut two wires, in order to
override the computer, so that the engine would always work in 8 cylinder
mode. If all this was not bad enough, GM decided on a corporate downsizing
for the 1985-86 model years. The 1986 Seville and Eldorado were the main
victims of this unfortunate move. These two new cars were mere shadows
of their predecessors. They were excellent cars in their own right though.
They had excellent handling, great fuel economy, good reliability,
but they simply did not look like Cadillacs. Looking back now, it is probably
easy to criticize Cadillac management and design, but one must remember
that the early eighties was an extremely difficult period for the American
automotive industry. It was generally accepted that fuel prices would triple
by the mid-eighties and all manufacturers were seeking alternatives to
their still big cars. When fuel prices had only risen by a little bit in
1986, Cadillac presented its two new mouse-cars. The public did not like
them, and Seville production plummeted from 39,755 to 19,098 units. From
then on, Seville production would hover around 22,000 units for the next
couple of years, except for 1991 (a healthy exception with 33,128 units).
Starting in 1989 Cadillac attempted to make the Seville more attractive
to a younger audience. As a move to get some potential BMW or Audi customers,
a special de-chromed sporty version of the Seville was available: the STS
. A special touring suspension had been available on the Seville in
earlier years, but now the car had its own look. This is the first time
in Cadillac history that the STS designation would appear. It is not enterily
clear whether STS stands for Seville Touring Sedan, Sport Touring Sedan,
Seville Touring Suspension or Sport Touring Suspension , but the idea
was OK. This was only a minor indication of what was to come in the all-new
Seville for 1992.
GM realized that they had
gone the wrong way with Cadillac, and a complete line restyle was due for
1992-1993. The first two cars to change were the 1992 Seville and Eldorado.
Significantly larger than their predecessors, the new Seville/Eldorado
pair was the talk of the automotive industry. They still featured the classic
4.9 liter pushrod V8, found in all other front wheel drive Cadillacs, as
engineering found it wise to delay production of the long awaited Northstar
for another year. The car's interior was an instant hit. Even BMW design
was surprised why they had not thought of this kind of interior.
From the outside the new Seville (especially the STS), looked mean and
aggressive, but also distinctive and restrained. The public loved it as
much as the press and sales rose to over 43,000 for the 1992 model year.
In 1993 Cadillac finally made available the Northstar system. This made
the Seville and the Eldorado the best performing front wheel drive vehicles
in the world.