The Seville name graced hardtop versions of the Cadillac Eldorado in the 1950s (notably in ’59, setting a world record for tail-fin size), before going into storage. Cadillac always operated on the belief that ‘big is beautiful’ when prosperous Americans were choosing quality automobiles. But by the mid-1970s it had become apparent that – shock, horror! – American tastes were changing, with smaller imported European cars grabbing an ever-increasing share of the market for luxury cars.
General Motors counter-attacked in 1975 with an all-new Cadillac Seville, just when the word ‘downsizing’ was reluctantly entering Detroit’s vocabulary. This inverted previous policy by making the smallest car in the range the most expensive, to compete with those classy Mercs and BMWs that were turning American heads. It was a pretty good move – the Seville would go through five generations into the 21st century.
The first generation was based on an extensively modified Chevy Nova platform, but humble origins were concealed by a smart body with clean lines that pointed the way ahead for American auto design. The public certainly liked Cadillac’s efforts as the car’s reduced size, huge selection of standard features and smooth performance made it a smash hit.
Initially there was little choice, in best Henry Ford tradition (remembering that Chrysler grew from the first Ford company in 1902 after Henry threw his spanners out of the pram). There was one body style (a four-door sedan) with one engine (a super-smooth Oldsmobile V8 with electronic fuel injection). At first there was even but one colour (though it was silver). A full colour palette was soon offered and a diesel version of the engine appeared in 1978, proving unpopular. Luxury packages (Elegante in 1978 and Gucci for 1979) were offered, and a considerably revamped second generation Seville appeared in 1980.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
1975 (until 1979)
5.7 l (350 cid) (petrol or diesel) V8
Top speed of 110 mph (177 km/h); 0-60 mph (97 mph) in 11.5 seconds
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
In 1979 only, the Seville offered a feature that would eventually become an industry standard – the trip computer. This served as an electronic fuel gauge and speedometer, and also performed calculations like miles remaining to empty and journey arrival time (if the destination was programmed in).