1980-1989 Cadillac

The Cadillac Allante
The 1988 Cadillac Allante was Cadillac's response to the Mercedez-Benz 560SL.
The 1988 Cadillac Allante was Cadillac's response to the Mercedez-Benz 560SL.

The Cadillac Allante was Cadillac's most ambitious car of the 1980s. This sharp two-seat convertible was introduced for 1988 and aimed squarely at the big-bucks Mercedes-Benz 560SL.

The first two-seat Caddy since 1941, the Cadillac Allante bowed with great fanfare on a shortened front-drive chassis borrowed from the Cadillac Eldorado. Wheelbase was a crisp 99.4 inches.

Cadillac Allante power initially came from Cadillac's mainstay 4.1-liter V-8 tuned for a competitive 170 horsepower via multi-point (instead of single- or dual-point) injection, roller valve lifters, high-flow cylinder heads, and special intake manifold.

Italy's renowned coachbuilder Pininfarina was contracted to construct the basic Cadillac Allante body -- more snob appeal that way -- but styling was largely Cadillac's own, even if the presence of Pininfarina badges led many to conclude otherwise.

The Cadillac Allante was built with a costly "Airbridge" arrangement that seemed to many a needless extravagance.

Cadillac contracted with Pininfarina, Italy's famous coachbuilder, to design the body of the 1988 Cadillac Allante.

Modified Cadillac Eldorado understructures were flown in special 747 jets to a new Pininfarina plant set up in Turin, Italy, especially for Cadillac Allante production. Fully trimmed body shells (galvanized unitized hulls with aluminum hood and trunklid) were then air-shipped back to GM's Detroit-Hamtramck plant for drivetrain installation and final assembly.

Cadillac Allante standard equipment included a lift-off hardtop to supplement the manual soft top. A cellular telephone was the lone option.

Though a pleasant, capable tourer and an entirely new breed of Cadillac, the Cadillac Allante failed to make the hoped-for impression. Cadillac predicted 4,000 sales for calendar 1987, but moved only 1,651 of the 3,363 cars built to that point. Deliveries for the first full production year totaled 3,065, versus a planned 7,000. Production for model-year 1987 was just 2,569.

The result was an embarrassing pile-up of unsold Cadillac Allantes, hefty rebates to clear them, and a further gut-punch to Cadillac prestige. In fact, trade weekly Automotive News named Allante its 1987 "Flop of the Year." Division chief John O. Grettenberger dismissed that dubious honor, and wide coverage of the car's slow start, as "just the latest round of GM bashing."

Still, for what it was, the Cadillac Allante seemed very expensive: $54,000 at announcement, $56,500 for the little-changed 1988 Cadillac Allante.

Perhaps even worse, the Cadillac Allante depreciated by a third the minute it left a showroom, whereas a Mercedes SL actually went up in value. An assortment of troubles with the Cadillac Allante -- wind and water leaks, squeaks and rattles, horns that didn't work, heaters that worked too well -- hardly helped matters. Neither did the sedate styling and lack of a power-folding roof.

Cadillac scrambled to improve the Allante for 1989. Read on to learn what changes were made -- and whether they were successful.

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.