Thursday, October 9, 2014

What Were They Thinking?: Cadillac Cimarron

In regard to the present post, What Were They Thinking is more a marketing problem than one of styling, yet the styling was wrapped up in the marketing.

The subject is the Cadillac Cimarron, produced for the 1982-88 model years.  As this Wikipedia entry mentions, the Cimarron was intended as an entry-level Cadillac product.  (And an evaluation by automobile columnist Dan Neil is here.)  This was at a time when American car makers were trying to reduce the size of large segments of their product lines in response to buyer demand influenced by gasoline shortages in the 1970s.  General Motors came up with what they called the J platform for the 1982 model year, and the 101.2 inch (2570 mm) wheelbase cars were offered by all five of GM's American brands as well as for Opel (Germany) and Holden (Australia).

One problem, as the Wikipedia entry notes, was that the Cimarron was rushed into production.  This meant that there wasn't enough time for stylists to distinguish the appearance of the Cimarron from less-expensive J cars such as the bottom-of-the-line Chevrolet Cavalier.  But who knows? -- perhaps the product development budget never would have had room for drastic styling differences.  In the event, the relatively expensive Cimarron and inexpensive Cavalier looked pretty similar, so Cadillac's prestige reputation took a hit below the waterline.


Two views of the 1982 Cadillac Cimarron.

Here are views of the 1982 Chevrolet Cavalier line. Click on the image to enlarge.

The J cars were designed a few years before rigorous attention to aerodynamic efficiency became a common styling practice in the USA.  So they are in line with the so-called "three box" styling of the 1970s where bodies had taut, nearly straight lines, roofs were thin and flat, and greenhouses featured proportionally large areas of glass.

Given that context and the short-wheelbase package, J-car styling was competently done.  The cars were conventionally attractive, but not heart-stoppingly beautiful.  But the Cimarron was clearly a tarted-up Cavalier.  From a marketing standpoint, it was a cheap and cheap-looking Cadillac.  In the omniscience of retrospect, General Motors should never have produced it.

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