The Cadillac Seville is a luxury-type car that was manufactured by the Cadillac division of American automaker General Motors from 1975 to 2004, as a smaller-sized top-of-the-line Cadillac. The name of "Cadillac's first small car" was selected over a revival of LaSalle and the GM design staff's preference, LaScala, primarily because, notes GM Marketing Director Gordon Horsburgh, "It had no negatives."
Origin of the Name
Seville is a Spanish province and the capital city of that province, renowned for its history and its treasures of art and architecture. The Spanish master painters Diego Velázquez and Bartolomé Esteban Murillo both were from Seville. The Seville name first entered use by Cadillac as the designation for the two-door hardtop version of the 1956 Cadillac Eldorado. 1960 was the last model year for the Eldorado Seville.
The Seville, introduced in 1975, was Cadillac's answer to the rising popularity of luxury imports in the U.S. from Europe, such as Mercedes-Benz and BMW. Historically, these imported luxury cars had been cheaper, less luxurious and significantly smaller than Cadillacs. Over time they had evolved, becoming quite luxurious and even more expensive than the much larger Cadillacs. As the market share of these imports continued to climb, it became obvious that the traditional American automotive paradigm of "bigger equals better" was no longer in full effect in the marketplace. The Seville became the smallest and most expensive model in the lineup, turning Cadillac's traditional marketing and pricing strategy upside down.
Initially based on the rear-wheel drive X-body platform that underpinned the Chevrolet Nova (a unibody with a bolt-on subframe, common to both GM X and F bodies), the Seville's unibody and chassis were extensively re-engineered and upgraded from that humble origin and it was awarded the unique designation "K-body" (rather than "X-special" following the format of the A-special Chevrolet Monte Carlo/Pontiac Grand Prix and B-special Buick Riviera). Cadillac stylists added a crisp, angular body that set the tone for GM styling for the next decade, along with a wide-track stance giving car a substantial, premium appearance. A wide chrome grille flanked by quadruple rectangular headlamps with narrow parking and signal lamps just below filled the header panel, while small wrap-around rectangular tail lamps placed at the outermost corners of the rear gave the appearance of a lower, leaner, and wider car. The wrap-around taillights might have came from a design sketch of a rejected Coupe DeVille concept.
Seville engineers chose the X-body platform instead of the German Opel Diplomat in response to GM's budget restrictions—GM executives felt reengineering an Opel would be more costly than the corporate X-car. Another proposal during the development of the Seville was a front-wheel drive layout similar to the Cadillac Eldorado. This proposal also met with budget concerns since the transaxle used for the Eldorado was produced on a limited basis solely for E-body (Eldorado/Toronado) production, alongside the GMC motorhome of the mid-1970s (which has a derivative of the E-platform drivetrain).
This was the first time Cadillac began engineering one of its vehicles based on components previously used in a Chevrolet model.
Introduced in mid-1975 and billed as the new "internationally-sized" Cadillac, the Seville was almost 1,000 pounds (450 kg) lighter than the full-sized Deville. The Seville was thus more nimble and easier to park, as well as remaining attractive to customers with the full complement of Cadillac features. More expensive than every other Cadillac model (except the Series 75 Fleetwood factory limousines) at US$12,479, the Seville was successful in the marketplace. It spawned several imitators, including as the Lincoln Versailles, and later the Chrysler LeBaron/Fifth Avenue. To ensure the quality of the initial production run of Sevilles, the first 2,000 units produced were identical in color (Georgian silver) and equipment. This enabled workers to "ramp up" to building different configurations.
Early Sevilles produced between April 1975 (a total of 16,355) to the close of the 1976 model year were the first Cadillacs to use the smaller GM wheel bolt pattern (5 lugs with a 4.75 in (121 mm) bolt circle; the 2003–2009 XLR also uses this pattern). The first Sevilles shared only a strict minority of components with the engineering starting point, the GM X-Body. The rear drums measured 11 in (280 mm) and were similar to the ones used with the Nova 9C1 (police option) and A-body (Chevelle, Cutlass, Regal, LeMans) intermediate station wagons. Starting with the 1977 model year, production Sevilles used the larger 5 lug — 5 inch bolt circle common to full-size Chevrolet passenger cars (1971–76), Cadillacs, Buicks, Oldsmobiles, Pontiacs, and 1/2 ton Chevrolet/GMC light trucks and vans. It also received rear disc brakes, a design which would surface a year later as an option on the F-body Pontiac Trans Am. 1975-76 models had a mandatory vinyl top due to the fact that the roof section was originally tooled up in two parts; the rear section around the C-pillar was pressed especially for Cadillac, and a regular X-body sedan roof pressing was used for the forward parts. Due to customer demand a painted steel roof was offered beginning in 1977, which required a new full roof stamping.
The engine was an Oldsmobile-sourced 350 cu in (5.7 L) V8, fitted with Bendix/Bosch electronically controlled fuel injection. This system gave the Seville smooth drivability and performance that was usually lacking in other domestic cars of this early emissions control era. Power output was 180 hp (130 kW), Gas Mileage was 17 MPG City/23 MPG Highway (The Deville and Fleetwood were still getting in the single digits) and performance was restrained with zero to 60 mph (97 km/h) taking 11.5 seconds. A diesel 350 cu in (5.7 L) LF9 V8 was added in 1978, but that engine was known to be poor in both performance and reliability.
The Seville Cadillac was manufactured in Iran under the brand name of "Cadillac Iran" from 1978 to 1987 by Pars Khodro, which was known as "Iran General Motors" before the Islamic Revolution. A total of 2,653 Cadillacs were made in Iran during this period. This made Iran the only country assembling Cadillacs outside the U.S. until 1997 when Cadillac Catera was based on Opel Omega and built in Germany for U.S. market. Cadillac BLS, built in Sweden for European market, but never available in U.S. market, was introduced in 2006. Even though Cadillac Allante had its Italian origin, its final assembly was done in the U.S.
1978 Seville Elegante
1978 Cadillac Seville Elegante with rare "Ruidoso Brown metallic over Western Saddle Firemist" paint option
Other Cadillac models had "named" luxury option packages ("d'Elegance"/"Biarritz") and from 1978 through 1988 Seville was available with the "Elegante" package. For 1978 this package added a unique black/silver two-tone exterior paint combination and "perforated-style" leather seats in light gray only. Real wire wheels were also standard as were a host of options. In 1979 a second color combination was added-a two-tone copper shade and a matching leather interior. In 1985, a monotone paint combination became available; however numerous dual-shade combinations remained more popular. The price for this package increased over time, beginning at US$2,600 in 1978 and peaking at US$3,995 in 1987.
1978–1979 Cadillac Trip Computer
The Cadillac Trip Computer "Tripmaster" was a unique optional feature available midyear during the 1978 and also the 1979 model years at a cost of US$920. This option replaced the two standard needle-type gauges with an electronic digital readout for the speedometer and remaining fuel. The trip computer also included numerous calculations at the touch of a button on a small panel located to the right of the steering wheel. These included miles to empty, miles per gallon, and a destination arrival time (which needed to be programmed by the driver, to estimate arrival time based on miles remaining). Though preceded by the British 1976 Aston Martin Lagonda sedan, Seville was the first American automobile to offer full electronic instrumentation. This system predated Lincoln's system by one year, although the 1978 Lincoln Continental Mark V was available with a "Miles-To-Empty" feature (i.e., an LED readout of miles left to travel based on the fuel remaining). A digital instrument cluster was not available on the Seville and Eldorado again until their 1981 through 1985 configurations, though the "Trip Computer" itself was no longer available.
1979 Seville Gucci
In 1979 Seville was available with an aftermarket package provided by a Miami-based firm. An agreement with Gucci, the famous leathergoods and clothing company, produced a limited-issue "Gucci Seville". Available in only three colors-white, black, and medium brown-the exterior featured many indicators of the Gucci identity. A vinyl top covering only the "c-pillar" and featuring the famous Gucci interlocking double "G" fabric pattern, the interlocking "G" on the wire wheel covers, a red/green stripe across the lower edge of the trunk lid, and an interlocking double "G" hood ornament decorated the exterior. Inside, the headrests wore the double "G" pattern with a leather trim, the headliner wore the pattern, and the instrument panel bore the iconic Gucci script above the glovebox. Inside the trunk was a full set of Gucci luggage. The cost of this package pushed the Seville price tag to about US$23,000.
1976–1979 Seville Convertible
A number of custom coach builders made modifications to the 1975-1979 Seville, to include shortened 2-seat 2-door convertibles, a 2-door convertible with a back seat, a 2-door pickup truck, 2-door coupes, 2- and 4-door lengthened-hood Sevilles with a fake spare tire in each front fender, and a lengthened-wheelbase standard 4-door Seville.
For the 1980 model year, Cadillac moved the Seville to the 114 in (2,900 mm) wheelbase K-body, based on the front-wheel drive E-body Eldorado, Buick Riviera and Oldsmobile Toronado. Returning to some of the original concepts floated for the 1975 edition (the March 2008 issue of Collectible Automobile featured an early concept of what evolved into the downsized 1977 Cadillac DeVilles and Fleetwoods — one of the concepts which was withdrawn looks similar to the second-generation Seville), The rear styling was intended to invoke the look of Daimlers of a past era (though British Leyland were building cars with this feature even then). In the U.S., The bustle-back styling was imitated by the 1982–1987 Lincoln Continental sedan, and the 1981–1983 Chrysler Imperial coupe.
The new model, one of the last vehicles designed by GM's Bill Mitchell, featured front-wheel drive and independent rear suspension. The Seville initiated features that would become more traditional in later years. In 1981, "memory seats" — a feature not seen on a Cadillac since the Eldorado Broughams of the late 50's — became available again. This option allowed two memorized positions to be recalled at the touch of a button. Also for 1981 was a digital instrument cluster. The "Cadillac Trip Computer" was a precursor to this option in 1979. For the '81-'85 Seville and Eldorado, it was considerably less expensive, at US$200 in '81, and did not contain the many features of Trip Computer, but rather, just a digital speedometer and fuel gauge. "Puncture-sealing" tires were also new for '81. In 1982, Seville offered heated outside rear-view mirrors with the rear defogger option. Inside, a "Symphony Sound" stereo tape system was available. For 1983, a new "Delco/Bose" stereo cassette system was offered at US$895. It featured a brushed gold-look front panel and bulbous lower interior door speaker assemblies giving almost an aftermarket installation look to the system. This was also the last year for the availability of an 8-track stereo system for Seville. On the outside, Seville was available with a "Full Cabriolet Roof" treatment option, which gave Seville the dashing look of a four-door convertible. Cadillac may have provided this due to the popularity of a similar option, available since 1979, on the Lincoln Continental automobiles and Cadillac's own "Phaeton" series of De Ville models in 1978 and 1979.
In hip hop culture, this generation of Sevilles were known as "slantbacks." Sales were respectable at first, but disastrous experimentation with diesel engines (an Oldsmobile sourced 5.7 V8, plagued with head gasket problems) and the ill-fated 1981 V8-6-4 variable displacement engine (1980s technology could not make it work reliably), along with poor quality control and lackluster performance from engines severely detuned to meet more stringent CAFE standards, began to erode the Seville's standing in the marketplace. A new but underpowered 4.1 liter V8 was fitted to post-1981 models. It was prone to the block becoming porous and coolant mixing with the oil, resulting in catastrophic engine failure. Some later cars were also fitted with the 4.1 liter Buick-derived V6, which was a reliable enough engine, but was not designed for fitment to "full size" cars, and performance was rather lacking.
In 1986, an all-new, much smaller body attempted to combine the crisp angularity of the original Seville with the rounded edges of the new aerodynamic aesthetic. The series featured a transverse-mounted V8 driving the front wheels. The smaller size and conservative styling were regarded as bland, and customers stayed away. Despite the lack of popularity, the new Seville/Eldorado chassis featured an advanced transmission and engine control system that offered EPA fuel consumption figures of nearly 30 mpg-US (7.8 L/100 km; 36 mpg-imp) on the highway using a small fuel injected V8. The new model featured a worldwide production car first—a computer system that monitored the car's systems and the engine. The BCM/ECM (Body Computer Module/Engine Computer Module) was paired with an electronic dashboard using high intensity vacuum fluorescent displays and utilized GM's expertise derived from the acquisition of Hughes Electronics, makers of communications and spy satellites. This expertise was later carried forward to many GM models and brands making GM the leader in cutting edge electronics for automotive use. Unfortunately, with sales way below expectations the new model was considered a disaster, and an exterior refresh was rushed for 1987 as a 1988 model. This was the final Cadillac Seville generation to have annual facelifts for the grilles.
The big news for 1988 was the introduction of the Seville Touring Sedan which came equipped with GM's FE2 Touring Suspension. It featured special 15 inch alloy wheels, special springs, rear sway bar, and a special 15.6:1 steering ratio for enhanced handling, a grille mounted Cadillac emblem, special cloisonne trunk lock cover, and a unique four-place interior. 1988 Seville Touring Sedan production totaled 1,499 units. The first 1988 STS's were custom built in June 1988 by Cars and Concepts and announced at the 1988 Detroit Grand Prix. These were available to VIP's within General Motors, the Cadillac Division, some major shareholders and a short list of dignitaries. A special label was affixed to the lower corner of the driver-side front door by Cars and Concepts identifying it as one of the original STS's. 2014 Survivability rate*: 14% (210 remaining).
For 1989, the first "production" STS's were sold to the public as a "Limited Edition" with an option code of YP6. Features from the initial concept 1988 model were carried over to the 1989 LE production model year with the addition of a retuned European-feel suspension package for more precise steering control and firmer feel of the road. The features of the STS over the standard Seville included hand-stitched beechwood ultrasoft leather seats, anti-lock braking, touring suspension, a 3.3:1 drive ratio; 15-inch cast aluminum alloy wheels and Goodyear Eagle GT4 blackwall tires. Additional STS features: Grille with flush-mounted wreath-and-crest, modified driver's front fender with the cornering light moved to the front facia and headlight monitors removed, matching body color front lower airdam and bodyside moldings, matte black export license pocket with bright bead, matte black front bumper impact pads and rear bumper guard vertical inserts, matching body color outside rearview mirrors with black patch, modified (from Eldorado) rear reflexes (moved to the bumper), modified export taillamps with three-color European-style lenses, STS nameplate on the decklid and an STS exclusive cloisonne deck lid lock cover. The STS interior had a 12-way power front seat, manual articulating front seat headrests, center front armrest with cassette and coin/cup storage console trimmed in ultrasoft leather, net-type map pockets, rear bucket seats with integral headrests, center rear console and rear storage compartment, leather-wrapped front and rear door trim panels, door pull straps and overhead pull straps, high-gloss elm burl real wood appliques on door trim panels and switch plates, horn pad and bar, instrument panel and front and rear consoles, Beechwood Thaxton floor carpet and a decklid liner in tara material with STS logo. Other standard STS features (these were options on the standard Seville) were: automatic door locks, illuminated driver and passenger side visor vanity mirrors, illuminated entry system, rear window defogger, theft-deterrent system and trunk mat. Only 4 exterior colors were available for the STS this year: White Diamond; Sable Black; Black Sapphire; or Carmine Red. 1,893 Seville Touring Sedans (STS) were produced for the 1989 model year. The first 1989 STS's were leftovers from the Cars & Concepts run of the 1988 production year and had the special sticker located on the lower part on the inside of the driver's door. These were produced prior to December 1988 for the 1989 production year and are very rare. The last 6 digits of these VIN numbers would be below 808000. As with the 1988 model, a special 3.25" x 2" black/silver chrome label was affixed to the lower inside area of the driver-side front door by Cars and Concepts identifying it as one of the original STS's. As of 2014, the survivability rate* of this 1989 model is at about 3% (approximately 57 remaining) per the NHTSA and Broxterman Auto Survivability Rate Chart - BASRC).
In 1990, the Seville got a new fuel injection system which brought the horsepower up to 180. Front park lamps were no longer mounted in the fender on any models, and the Seville STS underwent some major changes. These included new side and rear body color fascias which gave the car a sportier, more aggressive look. Also added was dual exhaust with bright stainless outlets, a larger STS trunk script, standard Teves anti-lock braking system with rear discs, and 16-inch machine finished alloy wheels on Goodyear Eagle GT+4 tires. A driver's side airbag was also added to Seville and STS. While the engine was the same as used in regular Seville models, the transmission had a special final drive ratio of 3:33:1 for better acceleration. The 1990 STS also received its own body designation of 6KY69, and prices started at $36,320. 1990 STS limited production totaled the same as the previous year with 1,893 vehicles. 2014 Survivability rate*: 4% (76 remaining) per the NHTSA and Broxterman Auto Survivability Rate Chart - BASRC).
There were no body changes in 1991, but mechanically there was a new 4.9 liter V8 under the hood coupled to a 4T60E electronically controlled transmission. The new V8 no longer used the A.I.R. system, and additional refinements to the internals brought the horsepower up to 200. The only change to the STS was the removal of the rear bucket seats for a full-width bench, and new front seats with larger side bolsters taken from last years Eldorado Touring Coupe. 2,206 were produced. 2014 Survivability rate*: 5% (110 remaining) per the NHTSA and Broxterman Auto Survivability Rate Chart - BASRC).
*Survivability rate = Approximate remaining vehicles of this production run that are remaining on the earth and driveable.