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Blake Noble

Worst Car Showcase: Part II

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Worst Car Showcase Presents: The Cadillac Cimarron

1988%20Cadillac%20Cimarron.jpg


Cadillac, since the dawn of its inception until the late 1970s, branded itself as the “Standard of the World.” Everyone who was anyone the world over aspired to own one; owning a Cadillac was a cornerstone of the American dream; lusting over those characteristic sharp lines was just as natural as lusting over a centerfold model in Playboy. Cadillac cars were at the top of the automotive food chain with their vast, vault-like interiors and massive, powerful engines and no other luxury car could ever come close.

cimarron_82.jpg


However, after OPEC formed and the 1970s gas crunch marched its way upon America’s shores, Cadillac’s image slowly began to tarnish. Compared with the luxury makes from Germany, Cadillac offered too many cars that had too much flash and that burned through too much gas. Cadillac’s first attempt at a smaller model, the Seville, was successful, but it still was a dinosaur of a car.

cadillac_cimarron_pub_83.jpg


Then Mercedes-Benz shook the whole game up with the predecessor to today’s C-Class in 1982, the venerable W201, better known as the 190. Cadillac scrambled to create a competitor using what they could to create a premium small car and decided on GM’s J-Body platform, better known as the Chevrolet Cavalier. In a nutshell, the Cimarron (and the other J-Bodies, for that matter) would soon be recognized as the supreme epitome of automotive rebadging, a figurehead that would eventually highlight everything that was wrong with GM in the 1980s by the end of that decade. You see, in the late 1970s and early 1980s, GM figured that it could develop more cars at cheaper costs if they just applied brand-specific front and rear-ends, suspension tuning, and maybe an interior for one or two of the cars being developed if there was a small bit of money left over. In reality, the cars wound up having more differentiation under their cloned exteriors, where it didn’t seem to much matter to most consumers, and GM still spent almost the exact same amount of money in R&D costs.

I’m curious to know what GM executives were smoking and shooting up during that period of time.

1983-Cadillac-Cimarron-Car-.jpg


So, in order to make the standard, junky, dreary, crude and rude Cavalier adhere to the “Standard of the World” standard, Cadillac threw on a mildly different grille with the Cadillac script tucked shamefully away in one corner, draped different kinds of cloth on the seat frames and door panels, developed a shock absorber system that would make an attempt to prevent the thrashy, buzzy four-cylinder engine from waltzing around the engine bay like Michael J. Fox, and threw out an “Astroroof” option to buyers not available on the Cavalier … or the Pontiac J2000 … or the Buick Skyhawk … or the Oldsmobile Firenza … or the Opel Ascona … or the Vauxhall – well, you get the idea. Cadillac also made power windows, locks, air conditioning, and power steering standard. Thus, since the Cimarron came with features that were honestly unremarkable as standard equipment back then as they are now, Cadillac felt the upward push in base price was justified; the Cimarron carried a burdening base price of $12,181 back in 1982 (somewhere in the ballpark of $30 grand in today’s dollars), double that of any other J-Body. Curiously, there wasn’t any sort of upgraded engine in mind for Cadillac’s “Cadvalier” at launch: the Cimarron still used the standard Cavalier’s anemic, horrible 88-horsepower four-cylinder engine – which was Cadillac’s first since 1914 – and its clunky, unintuitive four-speed manual transmission – which was another first of sorts for Cadillac since it hadn’t made a manual transmission available on any of their cars since 1953. And, for an extra bit of dough, you could have sprung for an optional three-speed automatic, a tried and true slushbox that made an already horrible car a painfully slow nightmare to drive. Performance figures, such as not-to-sixty times, will go on unmentioned here, but let’s just say the foot-powered Flintstone-mobile could absolutely slaughter you in a drag race down the quarter mile.

ad_cadillac_cimarron_interior_1984.jpg


And Cadillac knew what a massive, steaming pile the Cimarron was, and blatantly disowned the car during the first two years of its life like the proverbial red-headed step-child it was. Early examples of this crap-mobile were branded as the “Cimarron by Cadillac,” and dealers were told not acknowledge the car as a Cadillac and tell customers that it was not, of course, a Cadillac, as if that was fooling anyone. Traditional Cadillac buyers didn’t accept the car with warm, loving arms, either: only 25,968 examples were sold its first year. That’s a far cry from the 75,000 examples Cadillac was so terribly confident they could sell when these little monstrosities first hit the dealer‘s pavement.

1982%20Cadillac%20Cimarron.jpg


Sitting back and reflecting on things, it’s actually quite remarkable when you realize that the folks at GM kept this thing in production all the way up until the 1988 model year, as the car seemed to be initially doomed as the Titanic on its maiden voyage upon its debut. Caddy did make something of an effort to make the Cimarron a little more than the other J-Body clones, but it just wasn’t enough: a 2.8 liter V6 engine finally became an option in 1985 (but then again, it was an option on all of the other J-Body cars as well) and then became standard in 1987, just one year prior to its demise. As for addressing the “me-too!” appearance, Cadillac would eventually give the Cimarron an upgraded grille and aerodynamic headlamps, a poor excuse of a fix.

1988-cimarron-interier.jpg


In the end, the 1980s were not a good time for Cadillac. The folly of both the Cimarron and the V8-6-4 engine almost drove the prestigious brand to bankruptcy and forced consumers to write the Cadillac name off of their shopping lists. According to popular automotive culture, current Cadillac product director John Howell has a photo on his wall with a caption that sums everything up best: “Lest we forget.” Edited by YellowJacket894
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Seeing this was as ripping the scar tissue right from a long-forgotten wound.

Thank you for assembling this zeitgeist.

Very nice work.

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haha, i had a friend at office depot that had 2 caddys. i dont remember what the other was but the one he usually drove was a caterra hehehehehe.

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"The Cimarron was initially planned on a Buick X-chassis, but was later swapped to a J-chassis because the President of General Motors, Pete Estes, felt that this car should have the latest technology." (sauce)

I was not aware the J platform had any technology.

It should've at least moved to N when that came out. Not that it was a great platform either, but it would've allowed more interior and exterior differentiation.

Edited by §carlet §wordfish
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The Cimarron was a product of the late-70s/early 80s gas crisis. It was obviously put together quickly without a whole lot of resources. My dad and I went to the unveiling at the local Cadillac dealer, and there was a crowd there. The saleslady was quite proud of the leather seating surfaces.

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Probably the worst GM car of all time, certainly the most damaging. Front drive, overweight, underpowered, based on a Chevy platform, a recipe for disaster. Good luck to the SRX and DT7, they are about to continue where the Cimarron left off and that will be the final blow to the Cadillac brand.

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Oh, I don't know. The Vega certainly was a huge opportunity lost. Just when the Japanese imports started to gain a rusted out foothold on our shores in the early 70's, GM met them with a car that not only rusted out like the Japanese, but had a totally junk engine.

Built on the T-car chassis, OH YES, the Opel Kadett was also on the T platform... coincidence? Thanks, Opel!

Edited by ocnblu
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>>"Early examples of this crap-mobile were branded as the “Cimarron by Cadillac”..."<<

I wonder if any armchair historians remember that early examples of another crap-mobile were branded as the “Camaro by Chevrolet".... :rolleyes: :rolleyes: :rolleyes:

-- -- -- -- --

This CONTINUAL periodic dredging up of the Cimarron still refuses to acknowledge the aclaim the car recieved when it debuted. >>"the car seemed to be initially doomed as the Titanic on its maiden voyage upon its debut."<<

Uhhh- no; it wasn't, but no one should let research slow them down.

We've been over this before, and more than once. Year 2 got a 5-spd manual and a V-6. Again- I'm no fan of this car; were I in the position to 'yea or Nay' it, I'd give it a NAY! in a split second. However...

I think a lot of it has to do with the directions the top luxury car manufacturers came from.

Merecedes' bread-n-butter sedans in the '60s & '70s could not crack 85 MPH, had no luxury features, tinny construction, cheaply-engineered hardware... they were typical eurojunk. I know these intimately- my Buick used to bunk with a circa '68 mercedes sedan. No wonder the brand made no headway in the U.S. until they adapted the American car building model in the '80s. Pure junk.

Cadillacs were in contrast; aspirational, innovative, immensely powerful, cross-country saloons, oozing class & amenities. mercedes' came from the low end of the scale, Cadillac from the top. The magnitude of this perception cannot be overstated : note- there are no slamfests on the 84-MPH mercedes of the late '60s, cars with crank windows & coarse upholstery. They're 'quaint', and 'struggling in the aftermath of WWII' :rolleyes: .... but the then-aclaimed Cimarron is nothing but the Elephant Man in the side show; whipped, beaten and maligned without mercy, all the while the detractors grin ear-to-ear, oblivious of their misery-inspired hard-on.

You don't like it? Fine; that's your perogitive. Just STFU about the car already. It's almost 30 years old and enough is enough.

Unless, of course, the goal is to irrrevocably tie the current Cadillac product with a 30-yr old entry-level try and sully whatever cred Cadillac has fought hard to regain in recent years. If so, then by all means- CARRY ON !

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The only reason it was acclaimed (or so you say) at first was that the media was already well into their anti-GM agenda, and they knew the car was garbage, so they figured they'd tell people it was great so they would go drive it then see it was complete crap.

Or some line or garbage like that. The car was &#036;h&#33;, sold at 1/3 of GM's projections and GM STILL hasn't learned a lesson, they're just counting on brand loyalists buying their blatant rebadges.

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I can see both sides of this particular coin, perhaps because (like Balthazar) I lived through this time period. That the Cimmaron was unmitigated junk is beyond question, but as Balthazar reminds us, it was actually well-received at the time. At that time, FWD econo-junk was being pushed as the latest and greatest (it wasn't, of course). This was a dark time for anyone who loved cars, the light at the end of the tunnel only showed-up with the debut of the third gen f-bodies in '82 and the Mustang 5.0 GT in '83 (I think it was '83). In '84 the C-4 debuted and the slow-steady improvement began. The J-body cars were pure crap, just like the X- bodies before them. This is the time when Detroit went wrong, and hasn't yet been forgiven for it.

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>>"Early examples of this crap-mobile were branded as the “Cimarron by Cadillac”..."<<

I wonder if any armchair historians remember that early examples of another crap-mobile were branded as the “Camaro by Chevrolet".... :rolleyes: :rolleyes: :rolleyes:

-- -- -- -- --

This CONTINUAL periodic dredging up of the Cimarron still refuses to acknowledge the aclaim the car recieved when it debuted. >>"the car seemed to be initially doomed as the Titanic on its maiden voyage upon its debut."<<

Uhhh- no; it wasn't, but no one should let research slow them down.

We've been over this before, and more than once. Year 2 got a 5-spd manual and a V-6. Again- I'm no fan of this car; were I in the position to 'yea or Nay' it, I'd give it a NAY! in a split second. However...

I think a lot of it has to do with the directions the top luxury car manufacturers came from.

Merecedes' bread-n-butter sedans in the '60s & '70s could not crack 85 MPH, had no luxury features, tinny construction, cheaply-engineered hardware... they were typical eurojunk. I know these intimately- my Buick used to bunk with a circa '68 mercedes sedan. No wonder the brand made no headway in the U.S. until they adapted the American car building model in the '80s. Pure junk.

Cadillacs were in contrast; aspirational, innovative, immensely powerful, cross-country saloons, oozing class & amenities. mercedes' came from the low end of the scale, Cadillac from the top. The magnitude of this perception cannot be overstated : note- there are no slamfests on the 84-MPH mercedes of the late '60s, cars with crank windows & coarse upholstery. They're 'quaint', and 'struggling in the aftermath of WWII' :rolleyes: .... but the then-aclaimed Cimarron is nothing but the Elephant Man in the side show; whipped, beaten and maligned without mercy, all the while the detractors grin ear-to-ear, oblivious of their misery-inspired hard-on.

You don't like it? Fine; that's your perogitive. Just STFU about the car already. It's almost 30 years old and enough is enough.

Unless, of course, the goal is to irrrevocably tie the current Cadillac product with a 30-yr old entry-level try and sully whatever cred Cadillac has fought hard to regain in recent years. If so, then by all means- CARRY ON !

On this we agree ...

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But a 1970s S-class could do 120 mph with the inline 6, or 130 mph with the V8, and up to 140 mph with the 6.9 liter V8. But what does it matter what Mercedes built in the 60's and 70's when the Cimarron was an 80's car? Mercedes has always had a solid reputation for tank-like well engineered cars, they had it in 1909 and still have it in 2009. Cadillac doesn't have the reputation now that they did 50 or 100 years ago because of junk like the Cimarron, Catera, and old geezer sedans of the 80s and 90s.

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>>"Early examples of this crap-mobile were branded as the “Cimarron by Cadillac”..."<<

I wonder if any armchair historians remember that early examples of another crap-mobile were branded as the “Camaro by Chevrolet".... :rolleyes: :rolleyes: :rolleyes:

-- -- -- -- --

This CONTINUAL periodic dredging up of the Cimarron still refuses to acknowledge the aclaim the car recieved when it debuted. >>"the car seemed to be initially doomed as the Titanic on its maiden voyage upon its debut."<<

Uhhh- no; it wasn't, but no one should let research slow them down.

We've been over this before, and more than once. Year 2 got a 5-spd manual and a V-6. Again- I'm no fan of this car; were I in the position to 'yea or Nay' it, I'd give it a NAY! in a split second. However...

I think a lot of it has to do with the directions the top luxury car manufacturers came from.

Merecedes' bread-n-butter sedans in the '60s & '70s could not crack 85 MPH, had no luxury features, tinny construction, cheaply-engineered hardware... they were typical eurojunk. I know these intimately- my Buick used to bunk with a circa '68 mercedes sedan. No wonder the brand made no headway in the U.S. until they adapted the American car building model in the '80s. Pure junk.

Cadillacs were in contrast; aspirational, innovative, immensely powerful, cross-country saloons, oozing class & amenities. mercedes' came from the low end of the scale, Cadillac from the top. The magnitude of this perception cannot be overstated : note- there are no slamfests on the 84-MPH mercedes of the late '60s, cars with crank windows & coarse upholstery. They're 'quaint', and 'struggling in the aftermath of WWII' :rolleyes: .... but the then-aclaimed Cimarron is nothing but the Elephant Man in the side show; whipped, beaten and maligned without mercy, all the while the detractors grin ear-to-ear, oblivious of their misery-inspired hard-on.

You don't like it? Fine; that's your perogitive. Just STFU about the car already. It's almost 30 years old and enough is enough.

Unless, of course, the goal is to irrrevocably tie the current Cadillac product with a 30-yr old entry-level try and sully whatever cred Cadillac has fought hard to regain in recent years. If so, then by all means- CARRY ON !

Uh, wow, I guess?

First, all sources show that the Cimarron did not receive a V6 engine until 1985, not 1983 as you stated. It did get a five-speed manual in 1983, as you said, but I didn't make mention of that in my article.

Second, the whole mission objective of this series is to roast the &#036;h&#33;tiest cars in automotive history. The Cimarron is one of them because of the damage it dealt to the Cadillac brand. It isn't meant to undermine Cadillac's regained reputation, that's an absurd accusation.

Edited by YellowJacket894
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Wow, some people need to calm down. I'm so, so sorry GM isn't perfect and has sold a few less-than-optimal cars in its day. Heaven forbid we ever talk about it here :rolleyes:

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>>"1970s S-class"<<

An s-class is FAR from a "bread-n-butter" sedan. Try reading.... and look into a '60s mercedes 250.

>>"Mercedes has always had a solid reputation for tank-like well engineered cars"<<

Bull&#036;h&#33;. Maybe the top line was well-built, but the mainstream lines were run of the mill and no better.

>>"But what does it matter what Mercedes built in the 60's and 70's when the Cimarron was an 80's car? "<<

I dunno. What does it matter that the Cimarron was an '80s car and it's 2009 ??

The point is two-fold : we have yet to see the Cimarron laid to rest history- it's corpse is repeatedly dug up & poked & prodded... to what end ?? I'll tell you to what end- that it is STILL brought up in reviews of current/recent Cadillacs, and it continues to spread it's festering aroma over the current line. YOU'VE ALL read examples of this- anyone think it's fair or justified ??

Point 2 - If we can go back and dance around the corpse of the Ciamrron in 2009, we should also be willing, able & apparently eager to go back & dance around the corpse of laughably-uncompetitive distant-past models of other brands, esp luxury ones. However, that never happens.

Why ?

-- -- -- -- --

>>"It isn't meant to undermine Cadillac's regained reputation, that's an absurd accusation."<<

But intentional or not, that's what ends up happening- esp when it permeates modern 'journalism'. Not that your piece will directly do that --(and I have no beef w/ you, YJ)-- it's just that after reading this same bashing for decades, it gets really, really tiring.

-- -- -- -- --

>>"I'm so, so sorry GM isn't perfect and has sold a few less-than-optimal cars in its day. Heaven forbid we ever talk about it here."<<

Ye-eeaahhh... that's what I am all right: a raving, blind loyalist who continually brags on GM's lifelong perfection. Nice summation, new here? :rolleyes:

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But intentional or not, that's what ends up happening- esp when it permeates modern 'journalism'. Not that your piece will directly do that --(and I have no beef w/ you, YJ)-- it's just that after reading this same bashing for decades, it gets really, really tiring.

I see your side of the argument.

The reason the Cimarron is repetitively chosen is because it's such an easy target to pick; you can find a million different ways to bash the exterior, powertrain, etc. The same can also be said for the Pontiac Aztek (which I will cover in the future; the next installment, however, is going to be the Chevrolet Beretta/Corsica).

I'm seriously thinking about making a blog for these articles so that I can expand the scope of the series to non-GM cars. That was another factor that made me chose the Cimarron for this article; since this is a GM forum, I tend to stick with GM cars. And GM, god bless 'em, has made a garden variety of &#036;h&#33;ty cars in their 100 years in the automotive industry.

This is probably what I'm going to go to college for first: automotive journalism.

Then, perhaps, automotive design if the American auto industry can correct itself. I'd actually love to work for Ford.

Edited by YellowJacket894
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Hmmm... so far, the Vega and Cimarron were fair targets. Not so sure about the Chevrolet L-cars, though. I'll wait to see how you spin it.
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Then, perhaps, automotive design if the American auto industry can correct itself. I'd actually love to work for Ford.

A preemptive move into design would position you well in any nascent renaissance.

Were I looking to gain a foothold in the Industry or in the craft of styling automobiles I'd immerse myself in it and shop whatever skills I possessed with as much passion I could muster.

Hell, you could be in the vanguard of the correction.

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Yeah right Corsica and Beretta were failures ... :rolleyes: That's why the Wilmington plant made a 1000 units a day, and GM had two plants producing them Wilmington, DE and Linden, NJ. Automotive journalism you say? Don't give up your day job ...

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Yeah right Corsica and Beretta were failures ... :rolleyes: That's why the Wilmington plant made a 1000 units a day, and GM had two plants producing them Wilmington, DE and Linden, NJ. Automotive journalism you say? Don't give up your day job ...

Here we go again, right when I thought we were on better terms with each other. <_<

The Corsica/Beretta weren't failures, but they most certainly weren't great cars. That's my opinion steeped in personal experience. I've had an aunt on my dad's side of the family who owned one that bought the farm with about 90,000 miles on the odometer. I've also had an aunt on my mom's side of the family who owned two of them; and she wound up having a mechanic taking the good engine out of the car that was just about rusted in half and putting it into the car that had a solid body but with an engine that had a cracked block. And it still wasn't reliable (she wound up selling it for a thousand bucks and buying a Lumina). I know you might hold them in a higher regard than just any other person; you supervised the plant that built them after all and I can understand why it ruffles your feathers PCS and why your opinion is different than mine.

You're letting your emotions override your maturity here.

Edited by YellowJacket894
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Opinions are like assholes, everyone has one ... Even when the L car was at the end of it's model life (a decade later), and as the last L car rode down the assembly line, the Wilmington plant was still making 750 units a day.

Edited by Pontiac Custom-S
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The Corsica was underwhelming, its part of the reason Toyota was able to shoot past GM in the midsize segment.

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Opinions are like assholes, everyone has one ...

Opinions are also like assholes in that they all stink as well.

Even when the L car was at the end of it's model life (a decade later), and as the last L car rode down the assembly line, the Wilmington plant was still making 750 units a day.

Ford made the Pinto for almost a decade and managed to sell 3,127,322 of them total (production totals for each year are here: http://auto.howstuffworks.com/1971-1980-fo....htm/printable). All I'm saying is that how many cars a plant cranks out each day, week, month, year, and decade isn't really indicative of a quality vehicle or not and that's my filthy, stinking opinion. :AH-HA_wink:

I do respect you for overseeing a plant that many that cars made, though. I can't imagine how stressful it could have been at times.

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First, I did not oversee that plant, I was an Opel employee assigned to that plant to help with the upcoming LS series which was based off the Opel Vectra, with time my role expanded greatly.

Perhaps you need to know about the subject matter before you start to write about it. Is that not the first rule of journalism?

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First, I did not oversee that plant, I was an Opel employee assigned to that plant to help with the upcoming LS series which was based off the Opel Vectra, with time my role expanded greatly.

Perhaps you need to know about the subject matter before you start to write about it. Is that not the first rule of journalism?

Hey.

How many folks would remember you PCS?

Did you leave on good terms?

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