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1976-1979 Cadillac Seville

Seville 1976 only The only new American car introduced in 1975 seems to have a bug that just won't go away. No, it wasn't a reskinned Chevy Nova, nor did it share its body shell with any other car. This vehicle was unique, a true masterpiece by Cadillac, and conveyed yet another "Standard of the World." It also set GM's styling theme for at least a decade to come, and showed that ingenuity at General Motors in the early 1970s was far from dead.

I've always liked sensibly-sized, four-door sporty cars. Even the Ford Granada ESS caught my eye for a while back in the day, until the reality set in that it was little more than a trim package. Sporty sedans give better-than-average handling and performance, and you can pack one up and go cross-country in comfort with friends if you wish. This Seville seemed to have everything I liked in a car at the time... in droves.

Seville rear seat picasa Originally, the Seville was to begin life as a modified Nova, and that's where those rumors began. But in early development, the Cadillac design team decided that the Seville's rear passenger floor area needed about three more inches of legroom than a four-door Nova body offered.

So new rear doors were crafted, the floorpan was changed, and extensive structural modifications were made. GM declared the Seville's body shell as the K-Body, though it did share parts from the Nova's X-Body and the Camaro/Firebird's F-Body.

The first-year Seville had an "eggcrate" grille, similar to the ones in all of the other Cadillacs that year. From the next year on, a more upright grille with vertical bars was fitted. That was just before the customizers found this car and, shall we kindly say... "exagerrated" it.

The buyers got every bell, whistle, light, convenience, and gadget that Cadillac could muster. And they should have, since this was one of the most expensive cars in America at the time.

Shockingly priced ($12,479 in 1975) above the cost of a full-sized Cadillac (Around $5,000 for a Calais), the trim Seville gave you your money's worth. Until the Seville was introduced, "smaller" meant "cheaper," but this car turned that thinking around. Maybe this was the Seville's greatest contribution to the marketplace.

Seville Picasa The "Sheer Look" was the term that GM used for the Seville's breakthrough design. It took its meaning from the sheer face of a cliff, as seen in the car's steep drops over the fenders, grille, and roof. And from ladies' stockings.

Also, if one steps back and looks at this car, you might notice its resemblance to other GM downsized cars, including the 1977 Chevrolet Impala, some Chevy Malibu wagons, and the 1980s X-Cars. But this Cadillac had "sheer" first.

The Seville's roof was its own story. According to How Stuff Works, "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."

Seville rear Picasa 2 That assembly process sounds a little cobbled-up to me, especially for such an expensive car -- but that's how they did it. Initially, Fisher Body could not afford to press the roof in one piece. But starting in the second model year the roof panel was finally a stamping in its own right, and Cadillac could eliminate the vinyl coverings. The unpadded, painted roof seemed more European and less gaudy ("less is more" certainly applies here), and looked both formal and elegant.

Ford and Chrysler were caught off-guard by the introduction of the Seville, and their unabashed copies soon appeared. Lincoln rushed out the Versailles, and Chrysler introduced the 1979 New Yorker / Dodge St. Regis. However, the Seville was so properly engineered and built that it never saw much sales competition from those hastily-conceived cars.

Upscale Seville trim packages would eventually include the Biarritz, d'Elegance, Elegante, and Gucci. Wheel and wheel cover options were increased as time went on, but there were no significant body or interior styling changes during this first generation. I'm glad they left well-enough alone.

Seville dash cadillac forums com There were a few valid criticisms, of course. Even though the Seville drove easily and quick, its handling was still below par of the European cars. Many of them had rack-and-pinion steering, the Seville did not.

Only one transmission was offered, a 3-speed automatic. Rear drum brakes were used the first year. And its gauge cluster was typical GM of the time... a speedometer, fuel gauge, and idiot lights... no tachometer or other gauges, not even a proper clock. To tell the time, you looked at the radio.

Just one gasoline engine was offered, the Oldsmobile Rocket 350. It was modified for the Seville, and featured Bendix electronic fuel injection. Later a diesel option came along, and yes, this was the famed GM 350-CID V-8 diesel that won few friends.

There are diesel fans, and there are not. Diesel engines absolutely have their places, but I feel that the less smoke that comes out of the tailpipe of a Cadillac, the better.

The Seville was totally redesigned for 1980, went to front wheel drive, and was very mechanically-similar to the two-door Eldorado. Cadillac was soon to introduce its next small four-door car, and maybe the less said about that one here, the better. But this first-generation Seville made its mark on the world, and was Cadillac's last truly successful, original car for a long time.

 --That Car Guy (Chuck)

Credits: The 1976 Seville image is from 100MegsFree4.com. The Seville rear seat photograph is from HowStuffWorks.com, as is the two-tone Seville image. The profile shot is from AutomotiveMileposts.com. The dash/gauge image is from www.CadillacForums.com .

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On the heels of that late 60's/early 70's Caddies, this car was a tragedy. Certainly they had to go a new direction, but it is sad this is the direction they went. This was great for the Impala, but not so great for the Caddy. It ranks among my top 3 all time most hated Cadillacs.

And I love diesels, but this was as bad as it got when they rolled that stinker down the production line. It's not too often a car is so bad (the diesel) that it kills a whole segment of the car industry for 20+ years.

This is one of my absolute favorite cars, at least from a looks perspective. It just seems to be perfectly proportioned front and rear, the line running from stem to stern is at just the right curvature (fourth photo down), and the slightly canted rear window finishes the top off nicely without looking foreshortened. It looks like it's gliding effortlessly down the highway even when it's standing still. Muscular, but elegant.

Whether it lives up to it is another story, but the looks of it just blows my skirt up something awful.

You mention that Chrysler's answer to the Seville was the new 1979 New Yorker and Dodge St. Regis... those were full-size cars and not in the least any competition for the Seville. I would submit that the Chrysler LeBaron and Dodge Diplomat, both introduced in 1977 (same year, incidentally, as the Ford Granada-based Lincoln Versailles) were much more of a likely answer as they were also based on the compact F-body platform (Dodge Aspen, et al), even though they were known as M-bodies, which I've never completely understood since they were indentical to the F platform (marketing, perhaps? Who knows).

I do, however, agree with you that none of Chrysler's efforts (whatever they were) and the Lincoln Versailles were any real competition for the Seville.

My grand mother bought a brownish diesel one new. Oh boy. I think they put 2 new engines in it in 1 .5 years, dealer covered.

The diesel problem was due to so many factors it is nearly impossible to trace it to only GMs stupidity (very tipical GM.) I know gentlemen who owned Olds 350 diesel equipted cars that went hundreds of thousands of miles but those guys bought their cars during the last 2 years of diesel production, when GM had everything hammered out and dealers practically couldn't give them away. (Again typical GM.)


I love the first generation Seville and wish my Dad's 1987 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme sedan (which was stylistically a copy of the 1st gen Seville) had all that extra leg room. That back seat was catastropically small.

http://books.google.com/books?id=Uc8DAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA114&dq=Popular+Mechanics+Oldsmobile+Diesel+owner+survey&hl=en&ei=Q4-JTfPiJYyqsAOxgpCQDA&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CD0Q6AEwAA#v=onepage&q&f=false

Check out this Popular Mechanics owner survey for the first Oldsmobile Diesels. They were one of the best received cars in PM's history to that point. There is an important lesson for anyone who believes GM's cars are now magically transformed. Give it a decade.

Educatordan... my Mom had a 79 Silver Cutlass Supreme the same time Gramma had that brown Seville. Interesting era. Her Cutlass was certainly more reliable. Eventually she traded it for a 87 Mazda 626 LX touring sedan.. damn that was a sweet styled car. I would dig the turbo that came about 1 year later in the same 4 door hatch guise. anyway, the Cutlass had that spinning over boosted steering USA cars were known for, the hood ornament.. so Americana.

I disagree with Big Chris - I like these and always have. They were much more tasteful than the personal luxury cars that followed, and while today I prefer the massive land yachts, if I had been a car-buyer at the time I would have been extremely happy to see a real "precision-size" luxury car debut.

My father was a Cadillac man and among his series of Caddies over the years was one of these Sevilles. He didn't like it because it was smaller than his previous Coupe Deville, but I loved it.

As a teen, I would sneak out that Seville. It would roast the tires off the stoplight and doing bootleg turns behind the local supermarket was much easier than in dad's previous land yacht! These were little Hot Rod Caddies.

Lots of memories from a misspent youth...

I have had a 78 Seville some 14 years and love the car so much I replaced the engine with a fresh built 500 Cadillac and then added a built 200-4r overdrive transmission and with 3:08 cogs she cruses at 80 and 2000 rpm.
I overhauled the front suspension with stiffer coils and factory shocks all around. All the features work and it has a new windshield, vinyl top, plastic exterior parts, New wire wheels and tires. The car is all white with black leather interrior and she drives so nice. I rented a new Cadillac 4 door in Denver a while back and it isn't the driver the Seville is.
I found a NOS Gyromatic Safety Control and plan to take the rear bumper box apart and install the gyro inside out of sight.

With over 500 ft. pounds of torque the car is a bullet and since it has no speed governor it can eat the Mercedes sedan with ease.
If I drive around 70 on the freeway in cruse I get just under 20 mpg.
We use it for trips and keep it garaged...

29

i am realy serious about buying a cadillac saeville 1975-1979so if anybody has one serious seller call me 1 717 525 8621 or email me

Ronald mills. I have a 1977 Seville. 75k original miles. Email me at hollywood528 @ gmail.com

Looking for a low mileage 1979 seville, non smoker. Just wondering if it can tow and if so, capacity? Thanks in advance, John

I own a '78 Cadillac Seville Elegante and it's just a beauty I think.
Exterior an interior looks awesome, espeacialy in Elegante-trim. It was really a masterpiece of design Cadillac designer did with that car.

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