1976-1979 Cadillac Seville

The Seville marked a whole new approach for Cadillac when it was introduced during 1975. Demand quickly grew to nearly 57,000 of the 1978s. See more classic car pictures.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

The 1976-1979 Cadillac Seville introduced a new kind of luxury car. Bigger had always been better in the American luxury car market in which Cadillac flourished. But when a new breed of buyer began getting interested in smaller imported makes, GM's flagship steered a new course. Here is our introduction to the 1976-1979 Cadillac Seville.

The year 1975 won't likely go down in automotive history as "banner." The Mideast sheiks had recently turned off their oil taps; the U.S. economy entered rampant stagflation; safety and smog regulations loomed larger daily, as did bumper standards; Detroit saw sales drop, and now came the really serious invasion of small imports.

Classic Cars Image Gallery

No new American cars appeared in 1975, except one. On April 22, Cadillac released the "international-sized" Seville as a 1976 model. Today, most of us don't think of this Seville as being all that significant, but it was. Historically, the Seville started several revolutions.

It legitimized downsizing for both the American public and U.S. automakers, and thus led to smaller, lighter cars (a trend that large SUVs seem to have reversed of late). For better or worse, the Seville also introduced the "sheer look," a styling format that car companies around the world promptly copied. In addition, this car launched computer analysis as applied to chassis and suspension development; introduced electronic fuel injection in the U.S.; and it took the audacious step of simultaneously becoming the smallest, nimblest, most fuel-efficient, and -- significantly -- the most expensive sedan in the Cadillac lineup.

Before the Seville, downsizing was a four-letter word to most Detroiters. Designers and engineers hated the very idea. Marketers weren't convinced that Americans would accept smaller, lighter cars (as indeed they had not in the case of the 1953 and 1962 Dodges and Plymouths). And the money moguls pointed out that downsizing would cost billions -- maybe more -- yet might well return nothing.

Courageous Ford, though, became the first major Detroit manufacturer to successfully downsize one of its car lines with the 1974 Mustang II, which was based on the Pinto subcompact. As it turned out, Ford's timing couldn't have been better. The downsized Mustang arrived in October 1973 -- just as the Mideast was shutting down America's gas pumps. Within months, fuel prices doubled and Mustang sales tripled. Meanwhile, Detroit dreadnoughts circled every filling station in the country, and dealers in Japanese autos suddenly became millionaires.

Yet, U.S. auto manufacturers still viewed downsizing as a gamble. And sneer though they might at the Pinto in a Mustang suit, GM leaders knew that Ford had done the right thing -- a very gutsy thing at that. GM didn't like it, but Ford had come up with a better idea not once but twice, first with the original mid-Sixties Mustang and now with this new downsized model.

On the next page, read about how GM dreamed up the downsized 1976 Seville.

For more information on cars, see:

Origins of the 1976 Cadillac Seville

The origins of the 1976 Cadillac Seville are in "downsizing." GM decided to take the downsizing plunge with the Seville, given the 1974 Ford Mustang II's success. What better way to validate downsizing? If Cadillac could introduce a smaller model and make it a success, then, logically, the public would equate "downsized" with "better."

The idea has an ironic twist. Back in 1938, when Cadillac introduced the first 60-Special, that smallest sedan in the line was also the year's most expensive. So for 1976, GM would again introduce a downsized full-sized sedan, it would again stand at the top of the line, and it would again be the most expensive vehicle in Cadillac's showroom.

These decisions were not made lightly and certainly not easily because, at the time, General Motors was going through some important personnel changes. GM president Edward N. Cole retired in 1974, and his place was taken by another engineer, Elliot M. "Pete" Estes.

GM's chairman, Richard C. Gerstenberg, also retired in 1974, to be replaced by Thomas A. Murphy. Cole had been lukewarm on downsizing, Gerstenberg had vigorously championed it, and Estes and Murphy also favored smaller cars.

At Cadillac, unofficial downsizing studies had started around 1970 under division general manager George R. Elges. But Elges left on the last day of 1972, before anything came of them. Cadillac's next general manager was Robert D. Lund, and it was during Lund's tenure that most of the work on the Seville was done. Lund, though, left to head up Chevrolet in November 1974, and was replaced by Edward C. Kennard. Kennard unveiled the Seville in 1975 and made it a success in the marketplace.

Another critical personnel change involved Robert J. Templin. In 1973, Templin took over as Cadillac's chief engineer from his predecessor, the ailing Carl Rasmussen. Templin would play a major role in Cadillac's downsizing program.

On the next page, read Bob Templin's memories of the 1976 Cadillac Seville design process.

For more information on cars, see:

The 1976 Cadillac Seville Through Bob Templin's Eyes

When it arrived in dealerships in the spring of 1975, the only quick clue that the Seville was a Cadillac was its eggcrate grille.
When it arrived in dealerships in the spring of 1975, the only quick clue that the Seville was a Cadillac was its eggcrate grille.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

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.

For more information on cars, see:

The 1976 Cadillac Seville and the Chevrolet Nova

A vertical-bar grille was new to the 1977 Seville. So, too, was the availability of a painted metal roof.
A vertical-bar grille was new to the 1977 Seville. So, too, was the availability of a painted metal roof.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

Now let's look into the unlikely genetic link between the 1976 Cadillac Seville and the Chevrolet Nova. Bob Templin and his team had settled on the Chevy Nova's X-body as a base for the new 1976 Cadillac Seville, but that was just the beginning of the design process.

"Of course, the Nova was not a particularly good car. It was, you know, a very basic, low-priced, functional automobile; hardly the stuff Cadillacs were made of.

"But we said, 'Okay, if that's the best we can do, we'll take a look at it,' and we put together some running prototypes ... put the Eldorado's front-drive transaxle in them and borrowed the Olds 350 V-8 engine, and added all the things we thought a Cadillac ought to have, including GM's first electronic fuel-injection system.

"Then we went to GM's engineering policy group, which basically had to approve such things. About that time, Ed Cole called me and said, 'We'll stretch the Nova shell 3.3 inches to give you more room in the back seat.' The knee room is terrible in that particular body shell.

"So we said okay, and we went to the engineering policy group to get the money. Now keep in mind that we'd proposed the new car as a front-wheel-drive, fuel-injected V-8 sedan. Well, it came back approved as a rear-drive, fuel-injected V-8 sedan. Why rear drive? Because GM didn't have the plant capacity to build enough front-drive transaxles for the Seville's projected sales. Those were limited to the Toronado and Eldorado.

"The rear-drive requirement sort of disappointed us," Templin continues, "but nevertheless we were able to design around that. And then the real job began, because the Nova body was nothing special. We had a challenge. We had to make a Cadillac out of a Chevrolet, make this new car slick, and smooth, and sophisticated -- something that would really generate some appreciation. It had to be a true Cadillac.

"So I appointed a fellow who became a major force in my organization, a fellow by the name of Robert Burton. Bob Burton had contacts throughout the corporation and could get things done. We also had complete cooperation within Cadillac, because everybody was sold on the idea that this new car was going to be a winner.

"Well, Bob Burton did an absolutely miraculous job. We got into some new engineering techniques called Fast Fourier Analysis to get the vibrations out. The Nova had a front subframe ... not a good thing from a noise, vibration, and harshness standpoint. Burton did some marvelous development work using Fast Fourier Analysis and got the chassis quieted down. We had a 14-month deadline, but in less than a year we ended up with a really slick automobile."

Continue to the next page to read more about how the team used Fast Fourier Analysis to fine-tune the Cadillac Seville.

For more information on cars, see:

Fine-Tuning the 1976 Cadillac Seville

The base price of a Seville jumped by $880 in 1977, hitting $13,359.
The base price of a Seville jumped by $880 in 1977, hitting $13,359.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

Next came the work fine-tuning the 1976 Cadillac Seville. The 1976 Seville's design process relied on Fast Fourier Analysis. Fast Fourier Analysis is now used routinely in developing new cars, but in the early Seventies, Cadillac was virtually alone in pursuing it.

The technology is based on the work of French mathematician and physicist Baron Jean Baptiste Joseph Fourier (1768-1830). Fourier worked out a way to analyze harmonics and complex wave forms. He made it possible to measure the fundamental and harmonic content of vibrations. Fast Fourier Analysis uses sensors and computers to chase down automotive chassis vibrations so that engineers can damp them out before they get to the driver and passengers.

By placing up to 100 little accelerometers all over the X-car subframe, suspension and undercarriage, measuring the oscillations and then running these figures through a computer, Templin's engineers could pinpoint exactly where vibrations were coming from. Once they'd located the sources, they could quickly apply fixes.

On the next page, read about the Cadillac Seville's 14-month development process.

For more information on cars, see:

The 1976 Cadillac Seville Design Process

The wire wheel covers on this 1977 Seville cost extra.
The wire wheel covers on this 1977 Seville cost extra.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

The Cadillac Seville design process -- at 14 months in all -- was cruelly and unusually short. In those days, most new-car gestations took 24 to 36 months. But incoming GM president Pete Estes insisted on having the downsized Cadillac ready to sell in no more than 14 months.

Why? According to Cadillac's chief body designer, Stanley R. Wilen, "I heard Pete Estes in the lunchroom one day; Pete said, 'I've been given 14 months by the Cadillac dealers to deliver a car that'll be smaller and that'll have decent fuel economy. Otherwise, we're going to have problems keeping our Cadillac dealers from taking on franchises for BMW and Mercedes. And if the dealers do that, we'd be giving the importers a free distribution system inside our most prestigious division. We just can't let that happen.' So that's where the 14-month deadline came from." Actually, the Seville program received official corporate approval on December 21, 1973, and assembled cars left the plant on April 22, 1975, so the entire development period took precisely 16 months and 18 days. Even so, the car was done in near-record time.

Wilen vividly recalls the Seville's birth pains. "We were looking for a [styling] theme, and we couldn't find one. [GM design vice president] Bill Mitchell was pretty testy. He was getting ready to leave for Europe, and we still didn't have a theme for this new, smaller Cadillac.

"'Goddamit, don't you guys know what to do?' asks Mitchell. So I said to him, 'Bill, I don't know how to instruct my guys. I don't know what you're looking for. I need a clue.' There was no aesthetic history for this car; nothing to base it on.

"And he said, 'If I can't smell the garlic out there in the hall when I get back, I'll know you don't have it.' So I said, 'Bill, you just told me something!'

"I went up and made a tape drawing that same morning," Wilen recalls. "It had sort of an Italian flavor, and I called the car La Scala. And when Bill came back, he liked my tape. Bill called Ed Cole over, and Cole also thought it was good.

"So that became the theme car. They started modeling the La Scala downstairs in one of the Advanced rooms, and they put it into Advanced because we were so loaded with other production projects up in our studio.

"That's when it went on the X-car body. But going to the X-body put the rear wheels in the wrong place, and the windshield didn't have enough rake. Understand that the La Scala was only a theme. The poor guys downstairs had to try to capture the essence of that tape drawing without having a body that was really appropriate for it."

On the next page, learn how the Cadillac design team turned La Scala into a working 1976 Seville.

For more information on cars, see:

Building the 1976 Cadillac Seville

Instrumentation on the 1977 Seville was kept to a minimum, but a host of creature comforts came standard. Leather upholstery was available.
Instrumentation on the 1977 Seville was kept to a minimum, but a host of creature comforts came standard. Leather upholstery was available.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

Building the 1976 Cadillac Seville, the company's target car was now the 1973 Mercedes 280SEL. One preliminary styling proposal tried to make a Seville out of the German Opel Diplomat, per Templin's wish. This work was done in Cadillac's Advanced Studio, downstairs in the GM Design Staff complex. Cadillac Advanced was under the direction of Wayne A. Kady, creator of the 1971 Eldorado.

The Opel idea didn't last long, so Kady's staff next attempted to transform the X-car into Cadillac's new baby. Part way through that work, Kady got transferred to head up the Buick production studio, at which point Stanley F. Parker took over Cadillac Advanced, and started doing a longer Seville on the other side of Kady's Nova-like clay model. This version had longer doors and more rear-seat leg room.

Ed Cole questioned the cost of stretching the X-body, especially since an insert would have to be welded into the Nova floorpan, and the doors would have to be unique. "Well, Ed," said Mitchell's director of design, Irv Rybicki, "it will carry the Cadillac name." Cole promptly okayed Parker's longer format.

Meanwhile, before Kady left, his Seville theme car had been a semi-fast-back sedan. This sedan became a strong contender for production and eventually made it into fiberglass. The other serious candidate was Stan Parker's rendition of Wilen's La Scala.

Parker recalls that when Mitchell returned from one of his trips to England, " ... we had the [Seville] in clay, and Bill came rushing in and said, 'Goddamit, Parker, make that backlight damn near vertical. Make it look like a Rolls-Royce!' I said to myself, 'Well, maybe the guy's gone bananas,' but we tried it, and it worked."

In July 1973, Gordon Horsburgh, Cadillac's marketing director, held a research clinic in Anaheim, California. He trucked out the two full-sized fiberglass models of proposed Sevilles -- Kady's semi-fastback and Parker's notch-back -- and put them on display to sample the reaction of a specially selected audience. Half the participants were owners of European luxury cars, notably Mercedes, and the other half drove American luxury cars. Also on display were a new Mercedes and a BMW. Horsburgh recalls that, "The notchback Seville fiberglass model clearly won." That meant "go" for Stan Parker's proposal, the version that would see production.

By that point, however, all body-design work had to be finished in four short months, a seemingly impossible task. Donald W. Logerquist, who had been Kady's assistant on Cadillac's advanced staff, remembers the Seville program was so rushed that Parker's studio worked in two overlapping, 12-hour shifts, one directed by Parker and the other by Logerquist.

"Stan's people would come in at 8 A.M. and stay until 8 P.M. Our shift would start at 6 P.M. We'd work together with Stan's guys for a couple of hours, and then continue on our own until six in the morning." The pace was so grinding that a number of designers and modelers opted out. That's why Wilen called them "the poor guys downstairs."

Finally, Parker's people had the Seville in a near-finished state, and it went back upstairs into Wilen's studio for final release. Notes Wilen: "We had the first 10 minutes of the game and then the two-minute drill at the end. I only did the kickoff and the final drill. Parker and Kady did everything in between ... the whole thing, actually. The Seville had to be one of the toughest assignments I know about."

Continue to the next page to learn about styling on the 1976 Cadillac Seville.

For more information on cars, see:

1976 Cadillac Seville Styling

The Seville's stretched X-body platform opened up more rear-seat leg room.
The Seville's stretched X-body platform opened up more rear-seat leg room.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

The 1976 Cadillac Seville styling pioneered what came to be called the "sheer look," which turned out to be highly influential both within General Motors and throughout the industry. The term hinted at sheer stockings on a woman's legs: a smoothly filled, neatly packaged surface. It also took meaning from the sheer face of a cliff, as seen in the car's steep drops over fenders, grille and roof.

The Seville was designed to appeal to younger but conservative luxury-car buyers, so ornamental brightwork was limited to wheelcovers, rocker moldings and bumper strips. Early cars were even sold only with medium gray paint and gray leather upholstery. Like Mercedes and BMW, the new little Cadillac wore very little "jewelry" inside or out.

A padded vinyl roof was standard, however -- and had to be. This was because Fisher Body took the forward portion of the X-car roof stamping and simply welded on the Seville's unique sail panels and vertical backlight. There was no easy way to hide the welds except to cover them, so that's what Fisher did.

Overall, the 1976 Seville looked nothing like the inexpensive Nova. Its styling won a number of awards soon after the car's debut. Among them were Fortune magazine's designation as one of the 25 best-designed products in the U.S. and the Parsons School's prize as one of the 10 most beautiful automobile designs of the previous half-century.

The squarish, uncluttered sheer look appeared next on GM's downsized 1977 full-size cars, among them the Chevrolet Caprice and Impala, as well as Cadillac's own DeVilles. It also turned up at Ford on everything from the Fairmont to the Continental, and at Chrysler in the 1979 New Yorker/Dodge St. Regis, which were unabashed copies of the Seville.

The Seville ended up 27 inches shorter than a 1975 Sedan de Ville, eight inches narrower, and nearly 1,000 pounds lighter. Even at that, it still weighed 4,341 pounds. Some of that weight came from sound deadening and extensive rustproofing. The cowl, both rear quarters, the wheelhouses, and all door outers used Zincrometal-steel coated with zinc on the inside. Inner and outer rocker-panel surfaces were fully galvanized, as were most rear-end sheetmetal stampings, and hot wax was sprayed into all hidden body cavities.

On the next page, find details about the 1976 Cadillac Seville's features and specifications.

For more information on cars, see:

1976 Cadillac Seville Specifications and Features

Like most of its kind, this Colonial Yellow 1978 Seville is powered by the 350-cube fuel-injected gasoline powerplant.
Like most of its kind, this Colonial Yellow 1978 Seville is powered by the 350-cube fuel-injected gasoline powerplant.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

The 1976 Cadillac Seville specifications and features included interesting innovations. One was body bolts that used micro-encapsulated epoxy. When these bolts were tightened at the factory, the little capsules popped, the epoxy oozed out, and then hardened in place. Lock washers weren't needed. GM soon began using micro-encapsulated body bolts on other car lines.

Oldsmobile supplied the Seville's 350-cubic-inch ohv V-8, but Cadillac added an intake manifold of its own design, plus Bendix electronic fuel injection. The latter employed sensors for engine and ambient-air temperature, throttle position, vehicle speed, and manifold air pressure, plus a computer (or ECU, for "electronic control unit") that rested underneath the passenger's seat. Two fuel pumps, one inside the 21-gallon gas tank and the other mounted to the chassis, along with a pressure regulator and return line, fed the engine fuel rails. Each of the eight injectors shot atomized gasoline into the manifold just ahead of an intake valve.

This Bendix system was a speed/density type rather than the more modern mass-airflow design, which requires more computer memory. The Seville's ECU had to compute only one thing: injector band width (duration) versus manifold pressure. The number of injections per unit of time was tied directly to engine speed. The Seville V-8 delivered 180 horsepower at 4,400 rpm, 10 more than the Olds version with four-barrel carburetor.

Although the Seville arrived with a catalytic converter, fuel metering was so precise that the engine could pass 1976 California smog standards without one. But the main benefit of electronic fuel injection was improved drivability. Cars of the early Seventies typically suffered from hard starts, hesitation, and dieseling. The Bendix system solved those ills, although a few early CPUs failed in the field. The failures prompted Bendix and GM to add redundant and "limp-home" circuits.

The Seville's only available transmission was the three-speed Turbo Hydra-Matic 375, a smaller version of the THM 400. Brakes consisted of 11-inch discs up front and wide 11-inch drums aft. The live rear axle came directly from the Nova, but used a relatively high 2.56:1 differential ratio, which helped fuel economy. Mileage estimates ranged from 17 to 21 mpg, which for a 1976 Cadillac was phenomenal. Full-sized Cads were still turning in single-digit fuel figures.

Seville road tests put the car's 0-60-mph acceleration at around 13 seconds. Top speed ranged from 112 to 118 mph. These numbers rivaled those of the Mercedes 450SE. Magazine editors agreed that the Seville had better handling than most U.S. cars, but still wasn't up to its European competitors. The variable-ratio steering was admirably fast but lacked precision. Other than that, the car was quiet, the ride felt good, and the entire package seemed amazingly well put together. Assembly took place at Cadillac's Clark Avenue West plant in Detroit at the rate of 14.5 cars an hour.

One thing the Seville didn't lack was standard equipment, though a few journalists wondered whether Cadillac had not substituted gadgetry for substance. Where were the four-wheel disc brakes, they asked. And this was Detroit's idea of an "international" sport/luxury sedan's instrument cluster? The panel contained a speedometer, a fuel gauge ... and that was it! Where were the tachometer and gauges for oil pressure, volts, and temperature? Why must America's most expensive car have idiot lights?

On the next page, read about the Cadillac Seville's sales successes.

For more information on cars, see:

1976 Cadillac Seville Production

New for 1978 was the Elegante decor option. External features included a choice of two two-tone paint schemes, a brushed chrome upper bodyside molding, and chromed wire wheels.
New for 1978 was the Elegante decor option. External features included a choice of two two-tone paint schemes, a brushed chrome upper bodyside molding, and chromed wire wheels.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

Now we consider the 1976 Cadillac Seville production details.

For starters, there were some raised eyebrows about the Cadillac Seville's base price of $12,479. That seemed very steep when Cadillac's full-size 1975 Calais started at $8,184, the Eldorado coupe cost $9,935, and the Eldo convertible $10,354. Says Bob Templin: "There were still some people in the marketing department who maintained that smaller's got to be cheaper. They felt the Seville had to come in under the DeVille if it's going to sell.

"Well, by the time we put in all the engineering effort, even though we got the Nova body shell, but after we reskinned it and spent all that money on the exterior tools and stuff, the numbers were adding up. It was not going to be an inexpensive car. We said, 'Okay, let's throw the book at this car, put on every goody we can think of ... let's doll it up and make an absolute slick thing out of it, and price it above the DeVille.' So that's where we ended up."

"We introduced the Seville on the West Coast," Templin continues, "and I went to a couple of dealer introductions. These were by invitation only. The dealers had invited all their loyal customers. One dealer in Burlingame [just south of San Francisco] actually had a fountain with running champagne. It was a real event.

"The car took off in California like gangbusters. If a customer came into a dealership for regular Cadillac service, they'd let him drive a Seville home as a loaner. After his wife drove the Seville, she wouldn't give it up. The car was an absolute revolution for a lot of people. The thing was just so solid on the West Coast and, of course, it became a financial success very quickly. Any doubts anybody had about paying for the Seville's tools or about the car not succeeding in the marketplace [were erased once] the car took off and was very, very successful."

That's certainly true. According to Automotive News's annual industry reviews, Seville calendar-year production came to 36,826 in 1975; 39,275 in 1976; 49,190 for 1977; 59,794 in 1978; and 48,295 for 1979 (during which production shifted to a front-wheel-drive second-generation model). California remained the Seville's main market, consistently capturing 35 percent of total sales. Demand was also strong in Florida and along the upper eastern seaboard. It tended to be weakest, according to Gordon Horsburgh, in middle America, where large cars still ruled.

Continue to the next page to read about the 1977 Cadillac Seville and its reception around the world.

For more information on cars, see:

The 1977 Cadillac Seville Around the World

The last of the first-generation Sevilles rolled out for 1979, again with available Elegante trim.
The last of the first-generation Sevilles rolled out for 1979, again with available Elegante trim.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

What was the impact of the 1977 Cadillac Seville around the world? The Seville nameplate was not exactly a novelty when it was applied to Cadillac's new challenger to the luxury imports. The division had previously used the name from 1956 through 1960 on the two-door hardtop in the Eldorado line. But neither was it an automatic choice for the new car.

Two other names seriously considered were St. Tropez and LaSalle. But F. T. "Ted" Hopkins, Cadillac general sales manager, and Gordon Horsburgh, the division's director of marketing, dissuaded those who favored LaSalle by pointing out that the original LaSalle automobile had failed in the marketplace, whereas the Seville had not.

Besides, LaSalle was the name of a then-prominent French communist, and the term la salle ("the room") was also used for "bathroom" in French. St. Tropez fell away, and Seville won out.

A little-known sidebar to this success story began in 1977, when the Shah of Iran suggested that Sevilles be built in his country. According to Templin, "The Shah wanted a more cost-effective luxury car for his generals, and we heard that he had 1,000 generals in his army. Complete cars were delivered CKD [completely knocked down] in wooden crates and reassembled in Iran. The assembly operation was owned by a friend of the Shah. We don't know how many got built or paid for, because the Shah was deposed soon afterward, and the operation closed. The CKD kits had a special engine, however, with no emissions or fuel-economy constraints to meet which gave it a much higher top speed."

Cadillac's "international" car was also sold fully built in England and continental Europe, though with just 2,000 units assigned for export during the first production year. The UK price was £10,000 (then equal to around $20,000) fully equipped, including right-hand drive. But the car still impressed the normally nationalistic British. Autocar even dared a comparsion test between the Seville and the vaunted Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow, judging the Cadillac "more modern in line and styling" and "a vastly different animal from the average mass-produced American car." A bit later, Britain's Car magazine praised "very good steering" that "lets you use every inch of a narrow road with precision. There is so little body roll that passengers are scarcely aware of it, and the all-disc brake system is beyond criticism."

Rear discs were substituted for drums on the 1977 Seville, which also wore a grille composed of fine vertical bars instead of the 1976 model's Cadillac-traditional eggcrate format. Also new were two extra-cost wheel covers, one with a turbine-vane look, the other simulating wire wheels. Finally, a painted metal roof became available as a no-cost alternative to the padded top, Fisher having by now found the money to tool a weld-free roof. Air conditioning and automatic level control remained standard. A power trunk-lid pulldown and power-sliding glass AstroRoof remained among the few factory options. Base price rose to $13,359.

Continue to the next page to read about Cadillac's changes to the 1978 Seville.

For more information on cars, see:

The 1978 Cadillac Seville

With a big hike in base price and the limelight shifted to an all-new downsized Eldorado, perhaps it was inevitable that Seville production would decline for 1979.
With a big hike in base price and the limelight shifted to an all-new downsized Eldorado, perhaps it was inevitable that Seville production would decline for 1979.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

A more luxurious 1978 Cadillac Seville, the Elegante, arrived after its debut the previous April at the New York auto show. The production Elegante came with a non-padded roof, chromed Dayton wire wheels, full-length brushed-chrome beltline moldings, and a choice of two color schemes: Sable Black over Platinum, or Western Saddle Firemist metallic over Ruidoso Brown.

Inside were perforated leather seating areas trimmed in vinyl, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and a center console with a folding armrest, a writing tablet, and space for a phone or cassette tapes. The standard Seville got the chrome wires as a new option, and sail-panel opera lamps became available, as on larger Cadillacs. External changes on the standard Seville were limited to rear accent paint stripes and engraved taillight emblems, shared with the Elegante.

Another 1978 addition was the Seville's optional Delco trip computer. This presaged modern trip computers and could be called upon to provide information on instant fuel mileage, overall fuel mileage, fuel range, and estimated time of arrival.

But perhaps the most startling 1978 news was the midyear addition of an optional diesel V-8. This, too, was a 350 built by Oldsmobile to Cadillac specifications, but delivered only 120 horsepower versus 170 for that year's gasoline V-8. It made considerably more torque, however, and returned far better mileage: 21 mpg city and 30 highway by EPA estimates.

That extra thrift didn't come for free, however, the diesel adding $2,286 to the $14,161 base-model price. In retrospect, the diesel option seemed another timely move in 1978, considering the energy crisis that was about to break the following year. The engine was soon offered in other Cadillacs, but almost from day one, the Olds diesel was plagued by all manner of troubles that frustrated customers and tarnished Cadillac's reputation.

Lincoln, meanwhile, had followed the Seville's lead by introducing the 1977 Versailles, essentially a Ford Granada sedan with plush interior and full-house equipment. But this Lincoln was no threat to Seville, which outsold the Versailles in 1977 by three to one, and in 1978 by about seven to one.

On the next page, read about the first-generation Seville's final model year.

For more information on cars, see:

The 1979 Cadillac Seville

Seville styling would be widely copied by U.S. automakers into the Eighties.
Seville styling would be widely copied by U.S. automakers into the Eighties.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

There were virtually no changes for the 1979 Cadillac Seville, though inflation swelled the base price to $16,224. Cadillac's emphasis that year was on its first downsized Eldorado, hence the lack of attention to Seville. The Elegante was still around, though as a $2,755 option package.

The 1976-1979 Seville proved to be highly profitable, according to Gordon Horsburgh. It was also extremely influential, not just in terms of styling but also in making it easier for GM to downsize its other big-car lines with no loss of sales. Indeed, to the delight of all concerned, Cadillac's new 1977 DeVilles and Fleetwoods were even more popular than their larger predecessors.

Before the Seville, downsizing was a topic of tremendous controversy. More was riding on this gamble than just the Seville, but its swift, clear success helped make the case for smaller cars throughout GM and, in fact, throughout the U.S. auto industry.

The first-generation Seville continued in production for more than four years. By 1979, the K-car platform, as it was called, was starting to look dated, so Bill Mitchell added two doors and a distinctive bustleback rear end to the trim new E-body Eldorado coupe and turned it into his last noteworthy production car, the 1980 Seville.

Interestingly, this second-generation model had originated in Wayne Kady's advanced studio at the same time as the original 1976 Seville. It had what Mitchell called the "London look," which mainly referred to a sloped trunklid and deeply drawn "knife-edge" C-pillars in the style of certain Hooper-bodied Rolls-Royces. The 1980 Seville received mixed reviews at its launch and still provides a controversial cap to Mitchell's GM career. Even so, the 1981 Imperial and the 1982 Lincoln Continental copied the bustle-back, and the second-generation design lasted six years before Cadillac returned to a more 1976-like theme with a smaller new Seville for 1986. That season, though, the sheer look took a definite hit as Ford introduced the next styling trendsetter, the first Taurus.

For more information on cars, see: