Cadillac Cimarron

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Cadillac Cimarron
Cadillac Cimarron 2 -- 07-01-2009.jpg
1987-1988 Cadillac Cimarron
ManufacturerGeneral Motors
Model years1982–1988
AssemblyUnited States: Janesville, Wisconsin, (Janesville GM Assembly Plant)
South Gate, California, (South Gate Assembly)
Body and chassis
ClassCompact executive car
Body style4-door sedan
LayoutTransverse front-engine, front-wheel drive
RelatedBuick Skyhawk
Chevrolet Cavalier
Oldsmobile Firenza
Pontiac J2000/2000/Sunbird
Engine1.8 L L46 I4 (gasoline)
2.0 L LQ5 I4 (gasoline)
2.8 L LB6 V6 (gasoline)
Transmission4-speed manual
5-speed manual
3-speed automatic
Wheelbase101.2 in (2570 mm)
Length177.8 in (4,516 mm)
Width66.3 in (1,684 mm)
Height54.0 in (1,372 mm)
SuccessorCadillac BLS (FWD)
Cadillac Catera (RWD)

The Cadillac Cimarron is an entry-level luxury car manufactured and marketed by the Cadillac division of General Motors from 1981 to 1988 as a four-door sedan across a single generation.

Marking Cadillac's entry into the compact segment[1] and using the GM J platform, the Cimarron was introduced and marketed concurrently with rebadged J-platform variants from each of its divisions, and was manufactured at South Gate Assembly and Janesville Assembly. Following South Gate's closure in 1982, assembly continued in Janesville.

The Cimarron is noted as a nadir of GM's product planning for its low sales, poor performance and ill-conceived badge engineering.


As General Motors began to prepare for the 1980s, Cadillac product planners sought to develop a sedan smaller than the Seville. While the Seville had sold well, in its research of buyers, Cadillac learned that in place of import buyers, many examples of the 1976-1979 Seville were purchased by traditional luxury-car buyers seeking a smaller car. To diversify (and modernize) their product range, in addition to the Cadillac Seville competing against premium European luxury sedans, Cadillac dealers began to demand a vehicle competing against compact European sedans.[2][3]

One of the shortest development programs ever undertaken by General Motors, development of the Cimarron began in early 1980,[4][3] even though other vehicles of the GM J-platform had been in development since 1976.[5] While General Motors wanted Cadillac to better compete with other luxury brands, the use of the J-platform to do so was met with heavy resistance. Pete Estes, GM's president at the time, warned Ed Kennard, Cadillac's general manager: "Ed, you don't have time to turn the J-car into a Cadillac."[4]

Originally slated for a mid-1980s release,[2] the Cimarron was released in early 1981 alongside the Chevrolet Cavalier, Buick Skyhawk, Oldsmobile Firenza, and Pontiac J2000 (eventually renamed Sunbird). While the Seville competed against mid-size/large European luxury sedans, the Cimarron was marketed as a sportier sedan, competing against the Audi 4000, BMW 320i, Saab 900, and Volvo 240.[6]

Model name[edit]

At its 1981 introduction, the copy text of original sales brochures associated the Cimarron nameplate with fortitude, adventure and pioneering.[7] The nameplate was chosen from a list that included J2000 (used on predecessor of Pontiac Sunbird); Carmel; Cascade; Caville (blend of Cadillac and De Ville); Envoy; and Series 62 (predecessor of Cadillac Calais).[8][9] For 1982, the brand nomenclature was "Cimarron by Cadillac", although initially the Cadillac name did not appear anywhere on the car. [4][10] For 1983, the nomenclature was simply "Cadillac Cimarron".[4] Given its resemblance to the better-known Chevrolet Cavalier, and the lack of true luxury features to distinguish it from its J-car cousin, the Cimarron was derisively dubbed "the Cadalier", or "the Chevrollac."


The Cimarron was built using the front-wheel drive GM J platform, using a 101.2 in (2,570 mm) wheelbase. Using unibody construction, the front suspension consists of a MacPherson strut configuration (mounted to a front subframe), with a rear suspension using torsion beam springs, along with front and rear stabilizer bars.[11]

For 1982, the Cimarron was equipped with a 1.8 L four-cylinder engine, producing 88 hp (66 kW) (the first four-cylinder Cadillac since 1914 and the first engine below 2.0 L displacement since 1908). For 1983, the engine was enlarged to 2.0 L and given fuel injection, though engine tuning would drop peak output to 86 hp (64 kW). For 1985, a 2.8 L V6 (shared with the Chevrolet Cavalier and Oldsmobile Firenza) was added as an option, producing 130 hp (97 kW); for 1987, the V6 became standard. The four-cylinder engines were paired with a 4-speed manual (later a 5-speed), with a 3-speed automatic as an option; the 3-speed automatic was the sole transmission with the V6.

In an effort to distinguish the Cimarron from the Chevrolet Cavalier and its Buick, Oldsmobile, and Pontiac counterparts, Cadillac standardized many of the available features offered on J-platform cars at the time, including air conditioning, leather seats, alloy wheels, power mirrors, full instrumentation (including tachometer; the only Cadillac to do so at the time), courtesy lights, intermittent wipers, rear window defogger, and AM/FM stereo.[11] The interior of the Cimarron was devoid of wood trim, with the dashboard featuring simulated aluminum trim.[12][13]

Available options included automatic transmission, cruise control, tilt steering wheel, power windows, power door locks, power driver and passenger seats, sunroof, and a cassette player.[12][13] With the exception of its upholstery and model-specific special suspension tuning, other J-platform models could be optioned nearly identically to a Cimarron though doing so would raise prices close to the $12,131 base price of the Cadillac in 1982.[4][10]

Reception and legacy[edit]

The Cimarron's market failure is one in a series of events throughout the 1980s and 1990s which caused Cadillac's share of the US market to decline from 3.8% in 1979 to 2.2% in 1997;[14] it is routinely cited as the nadir of GM's product planning:

  • Noted automotive journalist Dan Neil included the Cimarron in his 2007 list of Worst Cars of all Time, saying "everything that was wrong, venal, lazy, and mendacious about GM in the 1980s was crystallized in this flagrant insult to the good name and fine customers of Cadillac."[15] He added that the Cimarron "nearly killed Cadillac and remains its biggest shame."[15]
  • Forbes placed the Cimarron on its list of "Legendary Car Flops," citing low sales, poor performance and the fact the car "didn't work, coming from a luxury brand."[10]
  • CarBuzz called the Cimarron a "textbook example of what goes wrong when a carmaker tries to badge engineer an economy car into a luxury car."[16]
  • Author Hannah Elliott said the Cimarron "appealed neither to Cadillac's loyal followers, who appreciated powerful V8s and Cadillac's domestic luxury edge, nor to buyers who favored Europe's luxury brands, whose cars out-handled and out-classed the Cimarron in every way."[17]
  • CNN Money described the Cimarron as "in all important respects, a Chevrolet Cavalier. It also added thousands to the price tag. In all, it was neither a good Cadillac nor a good value. Today, GM executives will readily admit that this was a bad idea."[18]
  • Car and Driver said a subsequent Cadillac product director, John Howell, kept a picture of the Cimarron on his wall captioned, "Lest we forget."[19]

From 2005 to 2009, Cadillac would again offer a compact sedan developed from the heavy use of badge engineering, introducing the Cadillac BLS as its smallest model line. Derived from the Saab 9-3, the BLS was manufactured by Saab in Sweden as a four-door sedan and as a station wagon. While Cadillac used "Art and Science" design language to style unique front and rear fascias and elements of its roofline, the BLS visibly shared all four doors with the 9-3.

Sized slightly smaller than the CTS, the BLS was never offered in the United States and Canada and was sold in Europe, the Middle East, South Africa, South Korea, and Mexico.

Yearly American sales[edit]

Model Year Total sales
1982 25,968
1983 19,194
1984 21,898
1985 19,890
1986 24,534
1987 14,561
1988 6,454


  1. ^ Corporation, Bonnier (August 1985). Popular Science. Bonnier Corporation.
  2. ^ a b Yates, p. 71.
  3. ^ a b Dunne, Jim (January 1981). GM Designs for the '80s. Popular Science. Bonnier Corporation. p. 88.
  4. ^ a b c d e Bonsall, Thomas E. (1997). "Trouble In Paradise: The Story of the Cadillac Cimarron". Archived from the original on January 18, 2001. Retrieved October 4, 2009.
  5. ^ Yates, Brock: The Decline and Fall of the American Automobile Industry, p. 24. Empire Books, 1983.
  6. ^ Ristic-Petrovic, Dusan. "1982 Cadillac Cimarron Brochure". Retrieved August 30, 2018.
  7. ^ Ristic-Petrovic, Dusan. "1982 Cadillac Cimarron Brochure". Retrieved August 30, 2018.
  8. ^ Witzenburg, Gary. "The Name Game", Motor Trend, 4/84, p. 86.
  9. ^ Witzenburg, p. 86.
  10. ^ a b c "Rebadged Disasters: Cadillac Cimarron". November 11, 2012.
  11. ^ a b "Cimarron '83". Cadillac Devison of General Motors. Retrieved October 2, 2012.
  12. ^ a b Ristic-Petrovic, Dusan. "1982 Cadillac Cimarron Brochure". Retrieved September 4, 2018.
  13. ^ a b "Directory Index: Cadillac/1983_Cadillac/1983_Cadillac_Cimarron_Brochure". Retrieved September 4, 2018.
  14. ^ Flammang and Kowalke, pp. 149-189
  15. ^ a b Dan Neil. "The 50 Worst Cars of All Time". Time Magazine.
  16. ^ "Rebadged Disasters".
  17. ^ "Legendary Car Flops". Forbes. May 2010. Retrieved January 30, 2014.
  18. ^ "GM's Junk Heap: Cadillac Cimarron". CNN Money. May 2009. Retrieved June 2, 2009.
  19. ^ Hutton, Ray, 2006 Cadillac BLS, Car and Driver, June 2006.

External links[edit]