Cadillac Cimarron

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Cadillac Cimarron
Cadillac Cimarron 2 -- 07-01-2009.jpg
Manufacturer Cadillac (General Motors)
Production 1981–1988
Model years 1982–1988
Assembly United States: Janesville, Wisconsin, (Janesville GM Assembly Plant)
South Gate, California, (South Gate Assembly)
Body and chassis
Class Compact
Body style 4-door sedan
Layout Transverse front-engine, front-wheel drive
Platform J-body
Related Buick Skyhawk
Chevrolet Cavalier
Oldsmobile Firenza
Pontiac J2000/2000/Sunbird
Opel Ascona
Vauxhall Cavalier
Holden Camira
Isuzu Aska
Engine 1.8 L L46 I4 (gasoline)
2.0 L LQ5 I4 (gasoline)
2.8 L LB6 V6 (gasoline)

4-speed manual
3-speed automatic

5 speed manual
Wheelbase 101.2 in (2570 mm)
Length 177.8 in (4,516 mm)
Width 66.3 in (1,684 mm)
Height 54.0 in (1,372 mm)

The Cadillac Cimarron is a front-engine, front-wheel drive four door compact sedan manufactured and marketed by Cadillac for model years 1982-1988 — over a single generation.

As a rebadged variant of General Motors' J-cars, the Cimarron was manufactured alongside the Chevrolet Cavalier, Buick Skyhawk, Oldsmobile Firenza, and Pontiac J2000/2000/Sunbird at GM's South Gate Assembly and Janesville Assembly plants. Total Cimarron production was 132,499 units.


1982 Cadillac Cimarron

Starting in 1976 GM began developing the J-body, an economy car platform intended to be shared across all its passenger car divisions.[1] It had a 101.2 in (2,570 mm) wheelbase, torsion beam rear suspension, and standard 4-cylinder engine. The unibody's front subframe carried a MacPherson strut front suspension and transverse engine/transmission unit.

Although Cadillac had planned to introduce the Cimarron later in the 1980s, it was rushed into production early as a counter for a wave of popular similarly sized luxury European imports at the insistence of Cadillac dealers.[2] The result was a small, slow car whose generic economy car roots were obvious.[2]

Pete Estes, GM's president at the time, warned[3] Ed Kennard, Cadillac's general manager:

The name was selected from a list of seven finalists, including J2000 (later used on the Pontiac), Carmel, Cascade, Caville (similar to Seville and DeVille), Envoy, and Series 62, with a preference for an initial "c".[4] Cimarron topped the list in favorable reaction, though ironically, it evoked economy, while Caville suggested the opposite.[5]

Design and sales[edit]

Rear of a 1982 Cimarron showing Cavalier-style taillights

The Cimarron was introduced on May 21, 1981, initially marketed as "Cimarron, by Cadillac", and featured a straight-4 engine (the first 4-cylinder Cadillac since 1914, and the first Cadillac with an engine below 2 litres since 1908) and a four-speed manual transmission (Cadillac's first manual since 1953), with a three-speed Turbo-Hydramatic automatic optional – along with a high level of standard equipment including air conditioning, leather interior, alloy wheels, accent stripes, locking fuel filler door, power mirrors, courtesy lights, intermittent wipers, rear window defogger, AM/FM stereo radio, tachometer, tuned suspension, and stabilizer bars[6] – pushing its base price to US$12,131 ($31,957 today), nearly double its J-body siblings. The price was otherwise commensurate with other J-body models equipped similarly.[citation needed]

The Cimarron received a cool market reception with first-year sales of 25,968 – a third of projections.[3] Buyers rejected the Cimarron, recognizing it as a largely undisguised rebadged variant of a less prestigious car. Its standard four-cylinder engine was criticized for its lack of both power and refinement, and though a V6 became optional on 1985 models and was made standard in 1987, it still left questions about the Cimarron's value.[7]

1988 Cimarron

Despite having grown comparatively more refined and more distinctive by its production end, buyers stayed away, and the car was discontinued after 1988 with a final year production 6,454 units. The last Cimarron was manufactured on June 3, 1988 – with 132,499 examples manufactured over its seven-year production.

The Cimarron was put into production due to several economic factors. The United States had entered into a recession, following the effects of the 1970s energy crisis, and the United States Congress having passed the Energy Policy and Conservation Act, establishing Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards. Sales of large luxury sedans declined in favor of smaller, fuel efficient products with luxury features installed. Smaller luxury vehicles were imported into North America from both Europe and Japan, and GM responded with a small luxury sedan.

Reception and legacy[edit]

The Cimarron's 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;[8] it is routinely cited as the nadir of GM's product planning:

  • Noted automotive journalist Dan Neil panned 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."[9] He added that the Cimarron "nearly killed Cadillac and remains its biggest shame."[9]
  • 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."[11]
  • 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."[12]
  • 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."[13]
  • Car and Driver said a subsequent Cadillac product director, John Howell, kept a picture of the Cimarron on his wall captioned, "Lest we forget."[14]


  1. ^ Yates, Brock: The Decline and Fall of the American Automobile Industry, p. 24. Empire Books, 1983.
  2. ^ a b Yates, p. 71.
  3. ^ a b Bonsall, Thomas E. (1997). "Trouble In Paradise: The Story of the Cadillac Cimarron". Archived from the original on January 18, 2001. Retrieved 2009-10-04. 
  4. ^ Witzenburg, Gary. "The Name Game", Motor Trend, 4/84, p. 86.
  5. ^ Witzenburg, p. 86.
  6. ^ "Cimarron '83". Cadillac Devison of General Motors. Retrieved October 2, 2012. 
  7. ^ Consumer Guide: Auto '86, p. 23. Publications International, 1986.
  8. ^ Flammang and Kowalke, pp. 149-189
  9. ^ a b Dan Neil. "The 50 Worst Cars of All Time". Time Magazine. 
  10. ^ "Rebadged Disasters: Cadillac Cimarron". November 11, 2012. 
  11. ^ "Rebadged Disasters". 
  12. ^ "Legendary Car Flops". Forbes. May 2010. Retrieved Jan 30, 2014. 
  13. ^ "GM's Junk Heap: Cadillac Cimarron". CNN Money. May 2009. Retrieved 2009-06-02. 
  14. ^ Hutton, Ray, 2006 Cadillac BLS, Car and Driver, June 2006.

External links[edit]