Automobile Remembers The 1976-1979 Cadillac Seville13
During the petrol crisis that struck the U.S. in the mid to late 1970s, it flipped the industry upside-down. Gone were the days of four-barrel, four on the floors and The Beach Boys singing about daddy taking the T-Bird away. American automakers had to adapt, and adapt quickly.
Cadillac was no exception, and much like is happening today, it responded to the influx of imported BMWs and Mercedes-Benzs. It responded with the “compact” Cadillac Seville. The Seville name is derived from the hardtop version of the ’56-’60 Eldorado, but besides the name, not much else was shared with its predecessors.
In fact, the Seville had much more in common with the Chevrolet Nova, based on the same X-platform. The Cadillac may have been called “international sized” by Cadillac, but really it meant the extra length was cut, while the heft remained. The Seville still weighed in at over 4,000 pounds.
It’s weight wasn’t the only large piece of the car. The price tag on the Cadillac Seville was stratospheric. Automobile says this was a ploy to further match the imported German rivals. But as marketing brochures proclaimed, the Cadillac Seville was “America’s Answer.”
In a turn of events from past Caddys, the Seville wasn’t supposed to exude swagger, much like the boat-like fin-donning forefathers. Instead, the Seville was made to represent social responsibility and restraint. It sought out a buyer who was looking for a refined taste in automobile, or the same people turning to Mercedes.
Social responsibility wasn’t part of the powertrain operation, though. Borrowed from Oldsmobile, the 350 cubic-inch V8 could run with an S-Class, but at a bargain price to the German luxury machine. Rear springs were supplemented with Teflon liners and additional bushings made for a quiet and vibration free ride. Even though the Seville was born of a turbulent economy, skyrocketing gas prices and a bushel of bits from the corporate parts bin — it was a winner. Sales exploded to 45,000 in the first year it was introduced.
It seems Cadillac, maybe without noticing, is looking back on the overlooked Seville after all these years. In the middle of a renaissance, the American luxury brand is looking for its place after arguably decades of poor and underwhelming product. Perhaps Cadillac could learn a thing or two from the 1976 Seville.
We encourage you to visit the full story on the Seville, which includes opinions from the owners of the Seville. You can find all of that and more, here.
- Sweepstakes Of The Month: Win a 2023 Corvette Z06 Convertible. Details here.
This was my all-time favorite Cadillac. Still looks elegant today.
What a great car. Had a 1976 for 23 years. One of the best styled cars that kept in style for so long and still looks timeless today.
Very telling. In 1976 this was “America’s answer”, in 1997 Chevrolet’s new Malibu was “the car you knew America could build”, today Chrysler advertises with “America’s Import”.
Sadly, each of these lines admit or at least imply having built vastly inferior products – always up until this brand new one.
Imagine BMW running an ad in Germany – “the car you knew Germany could build”, or the new Lexus in Japan: “Japan’s Import.” The lines would make no sense whatsoever in those countries and would actually be offensive to the public. It is unfortunate the lines make whole lot of sense here.
The patriotic bunch that are Americans has had to go to imports for quality automobiles for generations now. I would consider all acquaintances I have who drive Japanese and European nameplates people who bleed red white and blue. It’s just that somewhere along the way they got tired of poorly made American cars and chose rides that didn’t come with headaches as standard equipment.
I hate to rain on your parade but most of the last paragraph is a perceived bunch of BS brought on by various media types including the car rags. Back in the day the imports were really no better, but we were always led to think otherwise.
Ah, it’s been a conspiracy all along.
Many times people will tell me how great their five to ten year old FOMOCO / GM / Chryler has been and then by the way mention it’s on its third transmission, the fuel pump went out last year, and they have to get it in for a major recall.
Does. Not. Happen. Elsewhere.
I lived in Germany for two years, and most recently visited just last summer.
Germany is a different society than the USA. They are much more ‘socialist’ in the American vernacular. Plus there’s a huge desire to not import american technology or products, because their society feels that they can do just as good or better than products generated from profit-driven American enterprise.
Are their products ultimately any better? Maybe in someways, but not universally. Just ask anyone who’s ever owned a VW.
In their home markets, bmw is a police car. Mercedes-Benz a taxi. You don’t see very many tarted up models in the home market such as those that are imported into America.
For what it’s worth, I also speak French and have spent time in France. A similar sentiment is present in that ‘socialist’ society.
I have no direct personal experience with Japan, but wouldn’t be surprised if it was comparable.
For the most part American consumers believe what they’re told. That’s why they once believed unfailingly in Detroit, but now pray at the alter of Munich and Tokyo.
I have no objection if anyone takes an opposite view to the one I’ve articulated above. But please begin by explaining if you hold a valid passport.
Two valid passports, USA and EU
1. “Tarted up models” – Germans like sleeper cars, so the V10 Audi A8 that just blew by you on the ‘Bahn may not be bright red and may not say V10 on the trunk lid as is the case on the US versions going 15 mph on Rodeo Drive.
2. Also, poor German cops and Taxi drivers who have to drive BMW (5series) and MBs (E class)
3. Americans are the most patriotic people in the world, and for good reasons. I think they would all drive American cars if they were even remotely competitive.
4. Not “socialist”, maybe “nationalistic” preferring their own over Yankee stuff. The only one “socialist” has been GM (gov’t bailout, reward for failure), German companies have had no problem being profit driven.
“America’s Answer” had nothing to do with perceived or actual quality. It was necessitated by the fact that, unlike Germany or Japan, America had no national energy policy to shape the direction of the automobile industry.
The wild and woolly marketplace of the 1970s was initially driven by cheap gasoline even though, behind the scenes, the US had become dependent on Middle East oil supplies. When the 1973 energy crisis occurred huge numbers of customers did a 180 degree turn and suddenly wanted smaller cars: hence “America’s Answer” a few short years later.
The quality and design of American cars had much more to do with antagonistic labor unions, make-work manufacturing processes and unpredictable energy prices than with our inability to actually engineer and manufacture great vehicles.
So very true and well put and is also a rebuttal to magirus’ comment.
Well I have first hand experience with cars of the 70’s and I hate to say it they all were crap. 73 on till we got to 77-78 there was true crap build here in America.
As for the imports they were reliable in running but they would rust apart while even the poorly built American cars kept on running. A s neighbor said years ago about is winter beater Vega. It may use oil and look like crap but it keeps going. He even sent it to the junk yard and someone bought it and drove it two more years.
the fact is most companies had crap in the 70’s Japan, America and Germany all suffered short cuts in MFG while focused on trying to meet new EPA regulations. Audi, BMW and VW ran fine but rotted away fast here in America with road salt.
The Japanize got their cars going first in the 80’s as the American car companies struggled with their direction. GM could not decide FWD/RWD and size, Chrysler only could be a minivan and Fords just were cheaply built and had head issues and so many had many small issues like failing headlamp lens.
Right now things are evening up globally as most are building good cars today. GM, Ford and Chrysler are doing better after their money crisis of the 90’s and will be formable automakers in the future.
They all have made mistakes and they all have had labor issues. The greatest thing right now is image and to earn that back and it takes time and good product as we are now seeing.
As for the Seville it was a nice looking car for the time but it really was an X body car that suffered the normal things most X bodies did. The least they could have done is adapted coil springs for the rear.
My family had great luck in the 80s with Ford’s. Perticulary the Fox platform cars (Mustang) 5.0’s were great and all. But those 2.3’s were industructable. To get the Km we got out of the ball joints, tie rods and bearings in today’s cars would be unheard of. Chrysler 2.2s were prone to head gasket failures and I remember my dad telling me that the junkyards in our area were no longer taking the Vega’s because they were full. The problem with the Fox was rust! No argument there. But when I was living in western Canada they were fine. As for Honda’s I used to hate them and talk crap, but my friends had such good luck with them I’m now a believer. Again the problem with them was rust, till 1996. Now you got the late 90s early 2000s GM trucks running for ever but completely rotting out.
All cars in that era were the worst cars in my opinion . The domestics were not ready when the oil crisis hit . So they had to re-engineer their cars to get better fuel economy and to compete withe the influx of Japenese cars coming to our shores . The Japanese had the vehicles to address the problem from OPEC , and that is how they got a foot hold in our market . And unfortunately the consumers of the time remember the reliabiity of those cars and continue to this day to buy Japenese . Even the warranties at the time were only 12 mos. or 12,000 miles and it seemed that as soon as your warranty was up the car started to come apart . People don’t easily forget things like that and it is the job of the domestics to convince those buyers that the cars of today are so much more than before . JMO
GM introduced an optional at extra charge warranty of 3 years / 36,000 miles for the 1979 model year.
It was the beginning of what we now know as GMPP that I think tops out at 7 years / 100,000 miles.