Cadillac Cimarron

The Cadillac Cimarron is an entry-level luxury car that was manufactured and marketed by the Cadillac division of General Motors from the 1982 to 1988 model years. The first Cadillac produced within the compact segment, the Cimarron was intended to compete against similar-sized sedans from European automakers.[1][2]

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 (2,570 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)

Produced solely as a four-door sedan, the Cimarron used the GM J platform, with counterparts from Chevrolet, Buick, Oldsmobile, and Pontiac. In what would be among the controversial examples of badge engineering in the American automotive industry, the Cimarron shared much of its exterior with the Chevrolet Cavalier (which was marketed at half the price of the Cimarron[3]).

Through its entire production, the Cimarron was produced at South Gate Assembly (1981-1982) and Janesville Assembly (1982-1988); both facilities produced the model line alongside the Chevrolet Cavalier. In North America, the model line has never been directly replaced, with the 2013-2019 Cadillac ATS becoming the closest match in size (sharing no body panels with any other GM vehicle).


As General Motors prepared for the 1980s, Cadillac product planners considered 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 Sevilles were purchased by traditional luxury-car buyers wanting a smaller car. To diversify and modernize their product range, and complement the Seville which competed with premium European luxury sedans, Cadillac dealers requested a smaller car that could compete with compact European sedans.[4][5]

In one of the shortest development programs undertaken by General Motors, development of the Cimarron began in early 1980,[6][5] even though other vehicles of the GM J-platform had been in development since 1976.[7] 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."[6]

Originally scheduled for mid-1980s release,[4] the Cimarron was released in early 1981 along with the Chevrolet Cavalier, Buick Skyhawk, Oldsmobile Firenza, and Pontiac J2000 (later marketed as the 2000, then 2000 Sunbird, then finally just Sunbird). With the Seville competing with mid-size/large European luxury sedans, the Cimarron was marketed as a sportier sedan, competing with the Audi 4000, BMW 320i, Saab 900, and Volvo 240.[2]

Model nameEdit

At its 1981 introduction, the copy text of original sales brochures associated the Cimarron nameplate with "fortitude, adventure and pioneering".[8] The nameplate was chosen from a list that included J2000 (used on predecessor of Pontiac Sunbird); Carmel; Cascade; Caville (portmanteau of Cadillac and De Ville); Envoy; and Series 62 (predecessor of Cadillac Calais).[9][10] For 1982, the brand nomenclature was "Cimarron by Cadillac", although initially the Cadillac name did not appear anywhere on the car. [6][3] For 1983, the nameplate was simply "Cadillac Cimarron".[6]


The Cimarron used the front-wheel drive GM J platform with a 101.2 in (2,570 mm) wheelbase. Employing unibody construction, the front suspension is a MacPherson strut configuration (mounted to a front subframe), with a rear suspension using torsion beam axle, 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.

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] Its interior featured simulated aluminum trim, notably foregoing simulated wood 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.[6][3]

For 1984 and 1985, Cimarron was offered with a special option package called D’Oro, which is Italian and Spanish for gold. This was essentially a gold trim package. For 1984, it only came in black, with a tan leather interior. Gold accents were added to the following: aluminum alloy wheels, grill, fine gold accent stripes on the belt line, bumper rub strips, hood centre line, and a unique D’Oro hood badge. Also included were blackout bumpers with smoke grey fog lamp covers. Inside there was D’Oro plaque on the instrument panel, and the 3-spoke steering wheel had all metal spokes in gold finish.

For 1985, Cimarron’s received a new redesigned bulging "power dome" hood and new grill, creating a more unique effect to differentiate it from other J-car sedans. As well, there was a new grooved Lower-body Silver Accent Molding optional on regular Cimarron’s.

The special Cimarron D’Oro package continued for 1985, and was offered now in white or red exterior colours, still with the tan leather interior. D’Oro also received the new grooved lower-body-side Accent Molding as standard equipment, colour-keyed to match the exterior. As well, this package for 1985 included the new 14” wheels as standard equipment.

In 1986 Cimarron had new wrap-around tail lamps.

For 1987, Cimarron received flush aerodynamic headlamps, creating a truly unique front end design effect. This was Cimarron’s final year in Canada. It was sold in 1988 for one more year in the U.S.

Reception and legacyEdit

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."[3]
  • 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]

Since the withdrawal of the Cimarron after the 1988 model year, Cadillac has not produced a direct successor to the model line, shifting from the premium compact segment to compact executive cars for its smallest sedans. The division would again develop model lines through the rebadging of other GM vehicles during the 1990s and early 2000s, sourcing them from its European subsidiaries.

For the 1997 model year, the Cadillac Catera was introduced as a compact executive car for North American markets. The Catera was produced by Opel in Germany, rebranding the Opel/Vauxhall Omega MV6 as a Cadillac. The only rear-wheel drive model line sold by Cadillac at the time, over 95,000 vehicles were sold from 1997 to 2001. For 2005, Cadillac introduced the Cadillac BLS for European markets, manufactured by Saab in Sweden. Derived from the Saab 9-3, the BLS was sold as a four-door sedan and as a five-door station wagon. While visibly sharing door stampings with the 9-3, the rest of the BLS was restyled using the Cadillac "Art and Science" design language. 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.

Following the discontinuation of the Catera, Cadillac model lines produced by the division have reverted to division-exclusive chassis architectures; with the exception of the Cadillac Escalade SUV, Cadillac vehicles share no body panels with any other GM vehicles.

Yearly American salesEdit

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 Ristic-Petrovic, Dusan. "1982 Cadillac Cimarron Brochure". Retrieved August 30, 2018.
  3. ^ a b c d "Rebadged Disasters: Cadillac Cimarron". November 11, 2012.
  4. ^ a b Yates, p. 71.
  5. ^ a b Dunne, Jim (January 1981). GM Designs for the '80s. Popular Science. Bonnier Corporation. p. 88.
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ Yates, Brock: The Decline and Fall of the American Automobile Industry, p. 24. Empire Books, 1983.
  8. ^ Ristic-Petrovic, Dusan. "1982 Cadillac Cimarron Brochure". Retrieved August 30, 2018.
  9. ^ Witzenburg, Gary. "The Name Game", Motor Trend, 4/84, p. 86.
  10. ^ Witzenburg, p. 86.
  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 linksEdit