The 1982 Cadillac Cimarron's standard five-speed manual transmission was unpopular with consumers.

The Cadillac Cimarron

The 1982 Cadillac showroom contained the smallest Cadillac in decades.

The 1982 Cadillac Cimarron was basically a high-zoot version of GM's new 101.2-inch wheelbase J-body compact. The basic underskin design was also used for the far more prosaic Buick Skyhawk, Pontiac J2000, Oldsmobile Firenza, and perhaps most troubling, the entry-level Chevrolet Cavalier.

Being a Cadillac, the Cimarron was naturally loaded to the gills, resulting in an initial base price of $12,000. That looked very steep when a similar Chevy Cavalier or Pontiac J2000, for example, could be had for half as much with comparable equipment.

The 1982 Cadillac Cimarron did have a few J-car exclusives, like leather upholstery and and optional sliding-glass "Astroroof." But its humble origins were so obvious that nobody took it for a real Cadillac.

The powertrain of the 1982 Cadillac Cimarron was certainly no "Standard of the World." It consisted of a noisy 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine of just 88 horsepower. A five-speed manual transmission was standard, Cadillac's first shift-it-yourself gearbox in three decades. Most buyers specified the optional four-speed automatic.

Cimarron was a frank embarrassment to Cadillac, a flagrant act of "badge-engineering." Still, it was a logical development. GM needed to boost its fleet-average economy until its larger cars could be downsized again, and also to help stem a rising tide of upscale imports (typified by the BMW 3-Series) that were starting to erode Cadillac sales.

But the decision to field this gilded J came at the 11th hour, and it showed. The resulting criticism stung.

The 1988 Cadillac Cimarron was Cadillac's last; the model was discontinued after 1988.

As a result, Cadillac immediately began distancing Cimarron from lesser Js, adding more standard features and ringing in a mild facelift and a lush "D'Oro" submodel for 1983. Chevy's 2.8-liter V-6 was a Cimarron option from mid-1985 and became standard for 1987. Cadillac also tinkered with Cimarron's suspension to impart a more "European" feel.

But buyers always stayed away in droves, and Cadillac struggled to sell an average 20,000 Cimarrons per year through 1986. Demand then slid to less than 15,000, and the model was unceremoniously dropped after model-year 1988.

Surprisingly, Cadillac sales would be on the upswing starting in 1982. Continue to the next page to learn more about this promising sales period.

For more information on Cadillac, see:

  • Cadillac: Learn the history of America's premier luxury car, from 1930s classics to today's newest Cadillac models.
  • Consumer Guide New Car Reviews and Prices: Road test results, photos, specifications, and prices for 2007 Cadillacs and hundreds of other new cars, trucks, minivans, and SUVs.
  • 1970-1979 Cadillac: See how Cadillac maintained its hold on the premium market by adroitly addressing changing consumer demands.
  • 1990-1999 Cadillac: Import competition and a stale image rock once-proud Cadillac. Here's the low-down on Cadillac's come-down.