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14 Forgotten Classic Cadillac Models You Probably Never Knew Existed

Vukasin HerbezDecember 17, 2017

There are luxury car brands and there is Cadillac. This name is synonymous with prestige, opulence, luxury and power. It is one of the longest surviving upscale brands they established in 1902. Today, after 115 years, Cadillac is still going strong. Cadillac is one of the symbols of the U.S. car industry marking its quest for over the top designs, comfort and quality.

Despite the turbulent history and lots of ups and down, Cadillac still provides the automotive American dream. It also an extremely desirable nameplate in the car world. From the beginning, Cadillac has presented itself as the “Standard of the World.” This sentence was not only a long time marketing slogan, but it was reality.

During the 1920’s and 1930’s, Cadillac was the best selling American luxury brand by constantly introducing new technology and advanced components. After the Second World War, its competitors were mostly gone. So, Cadillac shined as the leader in the luxury field a position for many years.

But modern times hit Cadillac hard. What buyers once considered a luxury automobile was no longer interesting to new generations of buyers. Cadillac and GM needed to transform themselves into a modern upscale lifestyle company. The transition process is over, and the legendary Cadillac will live to see another 115 years on the market.

Here is a list of 14 forgotten Cadillacs. These cars didn’t become famous and car buyers soon forgot them. Some of those cars were good, but they didn’t have a chance. Others were bad, so people have forgotten them. You may know some of the cars on this list, but some will surprise you.

  1. Cadillac V16

Back in the early days of the automotive industry, luxury car buyers had lots of choices. There were several highly regarded domestic upscale brands like Packard, Pierce-Arrow, Lincoln, Imperial, Auburn, Marmon, Duesenberg and Cord. And there was Cadillac. Despite having the big General Motors as its parent company, Cadillac needed something to attract wealthy buyers and generate sales. And what better way than to introduce something outstanding and over the top.

In those days, V8 engines were a novelty, so just a few brands produced such engines. Most luxury models had straight eight-cylinder powerplants with a lot of torque. They were also smooth-running units. Cadillac decided to introduce a brand new, V16 engine to deliver performance and power on a whole new level.

The Cadillac V16 had a displacement of 452 CID or 7.4-liters and produced 185 HP. Despite its relatively small power figures, this engine delivered unmatched torque, smoothness and effortless acceleration. The timing of the introduction couldn’t be worse, though. The stock market crashed, and the Great Depression started just a few months before they offered the V16 for sale.

However, the qualities of the V16 found its way to the buyers. In 1940, when production stopped, GM had built more than 4,000 of those magnificent machines. The V16 was available in all body styles. Specialized body shops produced most of them. They could even personalize them according to the wishes of the buyer.

  1. M5 Stuart Light Tank

Most people don’t know Cadillac was a big name in military hardware production. But, they produced tanks and tank engines for decades after the Second World War ended. Everything started in late 1941 when the United States was attacked on Pearl Harbor, entering World War II. The automotive industry immediately stopped producing passenger cars. Instead, they started producing military equipment, vehicles, weapons, planes and tanks.

The Cadillac factory was responsible for tank production. They used Cadillac engines in military machines due to their big power and quality. During four years of war, Cadillac produced several tanks and light armored vehicles. They even produced components for aircrafts.

Their most famous product was the M5 Stuart Light Tank. It was a light armored vehicle the U.S. armed forces and many allied armies used in the war. Even long after the war, during the 60’s, Cadillac had several military contracts. Their engine division provided drivetrain components and engines for various military vehicles.

  1. 1959-60 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham

Cadillac had a pivotal year back in 1959. Standard models became famous for their flamboyant styling, huge fins and cultural significance. However, the 1959 model year brought one elegant model that is still obscure. However, it is one of the finest Cadillac cars they ever produced: the 1959 Eldorado Brougham.

Following the mold Cadillac set with the 1957-58 Eldorado Brougham, they produced almost bespoke limousines for the most discriminating customers. While the standard 1959 sedans were outrageous in appearance, the Eldorado Brougham had a more restrained style. The Italian house, Pininfarina, designed it with some subtle differences.

The car was the most expensive Cadillac product to date and production was limited. Cadillac and Pinifarina produced exactly 200 cars in their two-year model run. They built 99 cars in 1959 and 101 cars in 1960.

  1. Cadillac Calais

Cadillac introduced the Calais in 1965 as an entry-level Cadillac model. The company realized they needed an affordable car in their lineup than the somewhat expensive DeVilles. So, the Calais became the most affordable way to own a new Cadillac.

During its 11 years of production, the Calais served well and was a reasonably popular choice with buyers. The easiest way to distinguish the Calais from the rest of the model range was that it had less chrome trim, no vinyl roof option and no convertible version. In fact, the only real difference was the equipment level and Calais buyers got fewer convenience options in general.

The production of the Calais stopped in 1976. But in 1977, the Seville replaced it as a new, entry-level Cadillac model. Although Cadillac produced many Calais over the years, today they are still confused for DeVilles. In fact, most mainstream enthusiasts have forgotten them.

  1. Cadillac Fleetwood Castilian Estate

The 70’s were all about excess, so which company was ready to present the automotive opulence and excess than the mighty Cadillac? Back in the day, Cadillac was at the top. It had the biggest engine, which was the 500 CID, 8.2-litre V8. Their cars were almost 20 feet long and the luxury inside was second to none. But, despite offering sedans, coupes and convertibles, Cadillac needed something more like a station wagon.

In the mid-70’s, station wagons were only for suburban families and small businesses. But the Cadillac marketing guys wanted to offer a super luxury long roof based on the Fleetwood, their biggest, most expensive model. They wanted to cash in on the extravagant body style and unusual combination. However, they abandoned the regular production of such a model since the tooling and establishing a separate production line was not financially viable.

So, Cadillac turned to an outside contracting company, Coach Works LTD from Chatsworth, California. They called the finished product the Castilian. It was a massive station wagon they built on Cadillac’s biggest platform. They equipped it with their biggest 500 CID V8 engine. Customers could order those limited production models through a Cadillac dealer. But Coach Works LTD built them and then delivered them to the customers.

All Castilians had fully optional equipment, power everything, the finest leather and an automatic sunroof. Unfortunately, the cost of this conversion was almost $10,000. This brought the price of the Castilian close to $20,000. This was a lot of money for 1976. That is why the production was limited and today seeing a Castilian is a rare occurrence.

  1. Cadillac El Mirage

Before you learn about the rare and extravagant Cadillac El Mirage pickup, you should be sure you don’t confuse it with another beautiful 2013 Cadillac concept car. Cadillac called it the Elmiraj. Both cars are pronounced the same, but they are quite different. The El Mirage was a massive half Cadillac, half truck the built on a 1975-76 DeVille platform with a big truck bed behind the front seats.

The same company that built the fantastic Castilian Estate wagon built the El Mirage. The El Mirage featured the same engine and drivetrain. But the interesting design feature was a small golf bag door on the back for golfers who needed a Cadillac to get to the golf course. However, production was limited and car historians believe they made less than 20 of those magnificent pickups. Today, they are the elusive unicorns in Cadillac history.

  1. Cadillac Seville Gucci

If you think that designer editions of current models are an innovative trend in the car industry, think again. A full 40 years ago, Cadillac offered a special model they called the Seville Gucci. They presented it in cooperation with the famous Italian fashion house. Cadillac marketed the Seville Gucci for two years as their most opulent package available.

The idea of combining fashion and cars is not new. Cadillac’s arch rival, Lincoln, was among the first companies to introduce fashion limited editions. When Cadillac presented the Seville in 1977, they thought it would be good to spice things up a little with European style. So, for 1978 and 1979, they showed the market the new Seville Gucci.

This special version was the original bling-mobile since it was shiny, opulent, extravagant and filled with kitschy details. Customers could choose three colors, white, black and brown. The interior included the Gucci monogram pattern and logos. Even the vinyl top had the Gucci pattern. And if you chose a full optional package, you would get a set of Gucci luggage for the trunk of your Seville.

  1. Cadillac Eldorado Touring Coupe

In 1979, Cadillac Eldorado got a significant restyling with the introduction of the eighth generation of this legendary model. The big, heavy coupe was gone and Cadillac had a new, smaller and nimbler car. They kept the front wheel drive. Cadillac shared much of its components and designs with the Buick Riviera and Oldsmobile Toronado in cost-cutting measures by General Motors.

The Eldorado was a flashy, prestigious coupe, but the most interesting model was the Eldorado Touring Coupe. Cadillac realized a new platform had more potential than just a comfy cruiser. So, they introduced the Touring Coupe package for dedicated drivers, which was a sporty version of the luxurious Eldorado.

The Touring Coupe had fewer color choices and chrome trim. It also lacked a vinyl roof, white walls tires, stiff suspensions, sharp steering, bucket seats and a center console. Even though many motoring magazines praised it, the Eldorado Touring Coupe was not a big seller and drivers soon forgot about it.

  1. Cadillac Cimarron

Today, most luxury brands have downsized their lineup of models, offering affordable, compact versions of their big sedans. But, back in the early 80’s, this move was something unheard of and hard to understand. In those days, Cadillac had an identity crisis and sought for a way to reinvent itself to fight foreign competitors.

After long meetings with product development managers, they decided to introduce a small Cadillac with a lower price to attract more customers. The problem was that Cadillac didn’t have a small platform so they turned to Chevrolet. They borrowed the modest Cavalier chassis, along with a small, slow four-cylinder engine. Although Cadillac dressed the Cavalier with unique trim, new colors and a new name, the Cimarron wasn’t enough.

The sales were poor, and Cadillac was under fire from brand loyalists for ruining their image. All over the industry, the Cimarron was a laughing stock. To this day, it is one of the worst examples of downsizing ever. Most car fans believe they should forget about this model.

  1. Models with the Infamous L62 V8-6-4 Engine

Back in the early 80’s fuel efficiency and cost savings were the most sought-after imperatives in the car game. So, manufacturers were experimenting with different engine and drivetrain options. Cadillac decided to install a fancy electronic cylinder deactivation system on their gasoline V8’s. The idea was similar to today’s modern systems in many models with big engines.

When cruising around town, the car uses only four cylinders. The engine deactivates the other cylinders electronically, stopping the fuel delivery and shutting down the spark plugs. When the driver needs more power, the engine activates two more cylinders. This makes the engine a V6. So, when drivers push the throttle to the end, all eight cylinders fire right up, delivering full power. Everything worked great on paper and customers were interested.

As soon as they delivered the first examples, the problems started. Simply, the electronic system was unreliable. The engines had a tendency to get stuck in one mode, often as four-cylinders. After a few years on the market, Cadillac discontinued this option. It took a long time to recover from its lost reputation.

  1. Cadillac NART Zagato

One of the strangest road-going Cadillacs was the fantastic NART Zagato. It was a car with a Cadillac and Ferrari connection in an interesting way. Back in the late 60’s, the first sign of tightening emission laws threatened the import sports cars, especially exotics like Ferrari. Luigi Chinetti, an exclusive Ferrari importer for North America realized domestic customers would look for alternatives if foreign cars would not meet the emission regulations.

So, he thought of a plan of making exotic cars with domestic components. Since Cadillac just introduced the mighty 400 HP V8 with 500 CID, Chinetti bought the Eldorado with that engine. He then sent it to Italy, to the famous Zagato design house.

In Italy, they turned the Eldorado into a two-seater sports coupe with brand new styling and mounted an engine behind the passenger seat. They abandoned front wheel drive, making it a rear wheel drive coupe. Unfortunately, due to production delays and GM’s lack of interest, they only produced one Cadillac NART Zagato.

 

  1. Cadillac Catera

The 90’s were tough times for Cadillac. The foreign competition dominated the market and Cadillac products looked outdated and slow. Cadillac had to do something, so they decided to downsize. They would attack the BMW 5 series with a smaller, modern looking car. But, such a car didn’t exist in the U.S., so Cadillac turned to GM’s European division, Opel, for assistance.

In those days, Opel had an executive mid-size sedan they called the Omega. It had a modern design, rear wheel drive and a selection of optional extras. Somebody at Cadillac thought it would be a good idea to import Omegas from Germany and sell them as Cadillac Cateras to fight Mercedes and BMW on the American market.

The plan just might have worked, except for one thing. Omega couldn’t fight Mercedes and BMW because it wasn’t that good of a car. Importing it to the United States didn’t make it better, either. Unfortunately for Cadillac, that is exactly what buyers thought. Despite the good initial sales, the Cadillac Catera sank, was discontinued in 2001 and soon forgotten.

  1. Cadillac CTS-V Wagon

For years, Cadillac was without a proper performance series needed to compete with BMW or Mercedes and finally, the V-Series was born. It was all that Cadillac lovers dreamed of: powerful engines, world-class handling and suspension setups, and exclusive production. Even the competitors took notice when Cadillac rolled up with the brand new V-Series models.

Arguably the most successful was the second generation CTS-V model produced between 2008 and 2014. Under the hood was a supercharged 6.2-liter V8 with 556 hp making the CTS-V the most powerful performance sedan on the market. The suspension and the rest of the drivetrain were advanced and up to the task, so CTS-V was considered a full package and one of the best driver`s cars available. Cadillac produced three body styles and CTS-V could be had as a sedan, a coupe, and interestingly, as a wagon too.

The rarest of the three, the CTS-V Wagon shared all mechanic components with the rest of the V-Series models. However, the wagon body style was something Cadillac buyers didn’t expect. The car was still a blast to drive and extremely fast, it was just that the majority of the customers turned to sedans or coupes. Some buyers even weren’t aware that the wagon existed. That is why the CTS-V Wagon is very rare but somewhat of a forgotten model and a definitive future collectible.

  1. Cadillac ELR

The ELR should have been a success but turned out to be a failure. Sadly, it is a forgotten model even though it is just two years old. Drivers eagerly expected GM’s premium plug-in hybrid, but as soon as they introduced it, the market seemed to ignore it.

Despite the cool looks and premium appointments, the ELR had an underachieving drivetrain. It consisted of a 1.4-liter engine, an electric motor and a pack of lithium-ion batteries. The power output was somewhat satisfying at 217 HP. However, the electric-only range was disappointing at just 37 miles.

At the end, the base price of $76,000 seemed too much for what the car had to offer consumers. Cadillac sold less than 3,000 units, which was embarrassingly low. As a result, Cadillac discontinued the model after just two years on the market.

These are the most interesting forgotten Cadillacs. Although the idea seemed good on paper, they never got the attention or the sales Cadillac expected. If you happen to see one of these dinosaurs driving down the road today, consider yourself lucky.

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