1980-1989 Cadillac

1986 Cadillac Eldorado and 1986 Cadillac Seville
Flush-mount "composite" headlamps were among the new features of the downsized 1986 Cadillac Eldorado.
Flush-mount "composite" headlamps were among the new features of the downsized 1986 Cadillac Eldorado.

The 1986 Cadillac Eldorado and 1986 Cadillac Seville were all-new and represented the Cadillac line's second wholesale downsizing since 1977.

The new-generation 1986 Cadillac Eldorado remained a coupe only, the 1986 Cadillac Seville was solely a sedan, and they were again twins under the skin.

Unfortunately, as it would turn out, they also shared a new 108-inch-wheelbase E/K platform with the redesigned 1986 Buick Riviera and 1986 Oldsmobile Toronado. The Cadillacs, of course, had a 4.1 V-8 (again situated transversely) instead of the Buick-sourced V-6 used in the Riv and Toro.

The General Motors designers who developed the 1986 Cadillac Eldorado and 1986 Cadillac Seville managed similar interior space within smaller envelopes. And smaller they were. Compared to their immediate predecessors, the 1986 Cadillac Eldorado and 1986 Cadillac Seville lost 16 inches in length and 350-plus pounds in curb weight.

Styling was decidedly conservative, with the 1986 Cadillac Seville shedding its controversial "bustle" for a conventional notchback profile.

The 1986 Cadillac Seville shared a raft of interesting new features with the Eldorado: floor-mounted shifter (for a mandatory four-speed overdrive automatic transaxle), flush-mount "composite" headlamps, and more electronic gadgets than ever.

Unfortunately for Cadillac, these cars proved even bigger sales duds than the ill-conceived Cadillac Cimarron, which had bowed for 1982.

From a strong 40,000 a year for 1984 and 1985, sales of the 1986 Cadillac Seville dropped by half. Sales of the 1986 Cadillac Eldorado plunged by more than two-thirds from the annual 76,000-plus orders garnered by the 1984 and 1985 versions.

The 1986 Cadillac Seville sold poorly for a number of reasons.

The reasons were obvious enough: bland looks that were too close to those of the workaday GM compact sedans that began arriving at other divisions in 1985, and dimensions that just weren't impressive enough for Cadillac's image-minded clients.

A famous Newsweek article on GM's declining fortunes graphically highlighted the problem by picturing the $27,000 Cadillac Seville tail-to-tail with a $8,800 Oldsmobile Calais; it was tough to tell them apart.

Worse, workmanship slipped badly due to equipment problems at the highly automated new Detroit-Hamtramck plant dedicated solely to E/K production. Typical of the woes: robots painted each other instead of cars.

Over the next two model years, Cadillac attempted to correct some of its earlier mistakes. Was the carmaker successful? Read on to find out.

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.