The cars we loved.
Cadillac’s image was tarnished in the late 70’s with its efforts to keep up with the massive swings in consumer tastes forced by a boatload of new federal EPA regulations. New products based on small cheap cars and the abrupt downsizing of its larger fleet staples were Cadillac’s strategy to cope. Smaller more efficient luxury cars were coming out of Europe and Cadillac did not want to be caught with its paints down. In keeping with its ongoing technology theme established with the new Seville in 1975, the redesigned car was now based on a front wheel drive chassis shared by Buick and Oldsmobile, instead of the rear wheel drive Chevrolet (Caprice) sourced chassis of before.
One of the benefits of this new K body chassis was a slightly smaller car with more room inside for passengers due the efficiencies of front wheel drive. Cadillac’s version of this platform of was as elegant as it was trend setting. The angular lines would become standard for GM during the 80, but the rear is where Cadillac took an enormous design risk that eventually paid off with class leading sales. The “slantback” trunk design of the 1980 to 1985 Seville was one of the most distinctive GM luxury car designs since the boattail Riveras of the early Seventies. The trunk design was inspired by old English cars of the 30’s and 40’s, but with the modern twist of post modern angularity.
Unfortunately, the interesting design was not equaled from an engineering stand point. Cadillac took risks there too, but failed miserably, almost killing the reputation of the Seville before it could hang around long enough to gather up some name recognition. The heart of the Seville’s problems lie with the 1981 4-6-8 engine option. The ideal was innovative enough for the 80’s, an engine that could switch from 4 cylinders to 6 and up to 8 depending on driving conditions.
Power was only 145 for a 6 liter pushrod engine that must have weighed as much as a Toyota Yaris. The ideal of variable valve timing only lasted one year, but Cadillac was way ahead of its time in concept, but poor excruciation saw the option dropped after 1981. Subsequent V8 engine options only reached 135 hp with a popular Buick sourced V6 reaching 125.
Fortunately, the Seville’s sales (if not reputation) recovered somewhat from the disaterious experiment with variable valve technology, but the underpowered V6 engines did not help things much. Although reliable, it held back any pretentions of Seville’s as performance cars. Cadillac, having to settle for the title as style leader made the most of other innovations such as a trip computer that gave digital readouts of car status, a Symphony Sound cassette stereo system and puncture sealing tires. Shortly after its introduction, Chrysler and Lincoln rolled out their versions of the slantback look (with Chrysler Imperial being the best).
Today, Sevilles of this generation like most other Cadillacs of this vintage are boulevard gansta fare, often being restored and tarted up with all the tasteless acumen of today’s hip hop culture. Unmolested examples are extremely rare (and desirable), especially with the 4-6-8 engine option. Truly a modern classic in its own right, the 80-85 Seville was Cadillac’s first step in a long and bumpy process of reclaiming its style and engineering leadership.