Now let's consider the 1976 Cadillac Seville through Bob Templin's eyes. Templin, Cadillac's chief engineer on the Seville project, retired from GM in 1987 and moved to Austin, Texas, where he founded an engineering consulting firm. In a telephone interview, Templin pointed out that all five GM car divisions, including Cadillac, were already working on downsizing programs when he took over as chief engineer. Cadillac, though, was the only division that hadn't already produced a smaller car.
Chevrolet, for example, had three: the small Vega, compact Nova, and mid-sized Chevelle. Pontiac ultimately offered its own versions of all three cars. Oldsmobile and Buick also shared the Nova's X-body and the Chevelle's A-body.
"The prevailing wisdom at the upper levels of GM at that time," explained Templin, "was that Cadillac sell 'em by the ton and sell 'em by the yard. Bigger was better. The corporation believed that Cadillac should never get involved in a small car.
"But when George Elges was general manager of Cadillac in the early 1970s, he and his then-chief engineer, Carl Rasmussen, had done their own market studies, and these indicated a strong interest in a smaller Cadillac, particularly among women. Women found big cars awkward to park and hard to get into and out of at shopping malls. Women really didn't want all that size, but they did want the luxury and comfort and prestige of a Cadillac.
"These studies were stored in the files when I came into Cadillac," Templin says. "Carl Rasmussen had gone on sick leave, and I took his place as chief engineer. Our immediate objective was to try and find a way to do this smaller car. Of course, the divisions had some freedom inside GM in those days, but they also had to go to the corporation for funding. The corporation essentially bankrolled the divisions.
"Now, at that time, a fellow by the name of John Meyer was on GM's board of directors. Meyer was also the chairman of Mellon Bank in Pittsburgh. John Meyer's wife had noticed at her Pittsburgh country club that more and more members were showing up in Mercedes, and Mercedes were smaller than Cadillacs, but had just as much luxury and status. So John kept asking Ed Cole and Dick Gerstenberg why Cadillac didn't look at a smaller car.
"This gave us the chance to make a case to get the money to tool this smaller car. Well, there just wasn't anything around that we could adapt -- no body shell ... at least we didn't think so at the time. So we went over to Germany and looked at the highest-priced Opel sedan, the Diplomat, and thought, well, maybe we can restyle that and turn it into a smaller Cadillac.
"We found out, though, that Opel worked to much tighter tolerances and smaller flanges than we did here in the States, so our manufacturing people at Fisher Body said, 'No dice; we can't work with Opel pressings. They just wouldn't fit our production system.'
"So we gave up on Opel and were pretty discouraged. Then all of a sudden, Ed Cole, who hadn't been enthusiastic about a downsized Cadillac at all ... basically he'd let us go on assuming that the idea would die of its own weight ... got the idea that maybe we could use one of GM's smaller body shells, one already in production. And he specifically proposed the X-car, the Chevy Nova."
On the next page, read Bob Templin's memories of designing the 1976 Cadillac Seville with the X-car body.