1985 Cadillac Seville Roadster 4.1-litre V8

1985 Cadillac Seville Roadster 4.1-litre V8

We’re going to have to take the ‘Roadster’ epithet with a pinch of salt. Sure, to all intents and purposes this car looks like a convertible. It’s certainly what I thought it was, every time I passed it. You see, it was parked outside a neighbour’s house for a week or two. And I happened to know that my neighbour is the proprietor of Hill Farm Automotives, which was selling the 1950 Studebaker Land Cruiser that too km’ learned Colleague Mark Dixon down Memory Lane a while ago.

Dollar takes on the euro 1985 Cadillac Seville Roadster 4.1-litre V8

Check out the roof: finished in cloth, complete with the tell-tale ripples over the underlying frame. How on Earth could such a large, four-door car maintain its stuctural integrity with a soft-top?

Turns out it’s a rare Seville option: the entire thing is ersatz. This ‘Roadster’ is a conventional sedan. though maybe ‘conventional’ isn’t quite the word. Certainly in the UK, where Cadillacs of this era weren’t generally sold: its proportions and detailing, even its shape, make sure it stands out, even in this somewhat apologetic shade of beige. But in the US, too, as the Seville is relatively compact: a range-topper smaller than the largest Caddy, in an attempt to woo younger buyers who’d been turning to the German competition. Oh, and it’s front-wheel drive, too.

‘The whole thing heaves like a small boat as you settle in and slam the hefty frameless door with a ker-chunk’

‘The whole thing heaves like a small boat as you settle in and slam the hefty frameless door with a ker-chunk’

The Seville name had first arrived as a two-door hardtop version of the 1956 Eldorado, and reappeared in 1975 on Cadillac’s ‘first small car’. Small is relative, however: the ’75 Seville was the same size as a Rolls Silver Shadow, even if it was dwarfed by its larger De Ville stablemate, which was fully half a tonne heavier. Cadillac referred to it as ‘internationally sized’, and expected it to steal sales from such luxurious imported cars as the Mercedes-Benz S-Class and BMW’s E3 3.0 saloon and subsequent 7-series.

That generation was rear-wheel drive and shared hardware with various more humble GMX-body products, including part of its roof panel, which required a vinyl covering to hide the join.

The second generation arrived in 1980, replacing a car that had been quite successful (215,000 sold in five seasons), even if it hadn’t exactly seen off the Germans. This time, market research suggested that it had been popular with older women, who wanted a trad Caddy that was smaller than their husband’s.

It remained around the same size, but junked the live axle platform of its predecessor and instead shared the front-drive layout of the Eldorado, Buick Riviera and Olds Toronado.

Yup, it’s a front-wheel-drive V8 saloon. Yet this Seville was all about the styling, with a razor-edge bustle-back look that drew inspiration from the 1930s designs of British coachbuilder Hooper & Co. And, like the previous Seville, it was penned by a proper GM name too, none other than Bill Mitchell, recruited by Harley Earl all the way back in 1935. This was his swansong: Mitchell retired after 19 years as VP of design, and the ‘Bill Mitchell era’ was over.

Although the Seville is far better suited to British roads than any full-size Caddy, it’s still rather long at 17ft (5.2m) between bumpers. That makes its intimate interior all the more surprising: it’s a six-seater, but there’s no front bench, just an extra-wide driving seat with a folding armrest-cum backrest.

Each perch is swaddled in deep-buttoned leather padding, and you face a broad expanse of Formica. The whole thing heaves like a small boat as you settle in and slam the hefty frameless door with a ker-chunk.

It couldn’t be further removed fromamid-1980s Merc in any respect, really, whether we’re talking styling, interior ambience or dynamics. Fire up and the surprisingly modest 4.1-litre V8 announces itself quietly with a whoosh. There’s a four-speed auto with column selector; pull it into Drive and away you go.

Despite peak torque of 200lb ft, the Seville is suprisingly restrained in its acceleration. Figures suggest 0-60mph in 12sec and a top end of 109mph, though that was academic in a land restricted to 55mph. Instead, with one hand on the wheel and an elbow on the padded door top, simply cruise your way around, enjoying a ride that plumps its way over bumps, scarcely disturbing the calm with much more than a quiver.

If you want to get noticed in a prime slice of beige 1980s Americana, call +44 (0)1536 219129 and have ¢G11,950 at your disposal.

‘The whole thing heaves like a small boat as you settle in and slam the hefty frameless door with a ker-chunk’

Clockwise, from left Super-soft seating and fake stitching galore inside; outside, distinctive styling but no soft-top; 4.1-litre V8.

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Mary 1 year ago #
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