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Cadillac's Seville Turns 35

Image: 1976 Cadillac SevilleMay 1, 2010—Happy Birthday to the Cadillac Seville, which was introduced 35 years ago today.

In April 1975, Cadillac announced the production of a new "international sized" luxury car, the Seville. By May 1, 1975, the 1976 Seville was in dealer showrooms and luxury car buyers were snapping them up as fast as they could, despite a base price of $12,479, an incredible $2,000 higher than the Cadillac Fleetwood series, and the highest of any American made passenger car at the time! In its first short year, 16,355 were built and sold to happy owners.

And those happy owners included the likes of Elvis Presley, who was famous for buying Cadillacs, and he purchased a new Seville for his girlfriend Linda Thompson. Alan Ludden, the television game show host and husband of actress Betty White, surprised White with a Seamist Green 1977 Seville that she named Parakeet and maintained for 25 years. Fred Astaire and Isabel Sanford both owned Sevilles, and a Seville even had a brief starring role in Mel Brooks' movie High Anxiety (1977), when the late actress Madeline Kahn (September 29, 1942 - December 3, 1999) in her role as heiress Victoria Brisbane was told to be discreet, and complied by showing up in her Demitasse Brown Metallic Cadillac Seville, which was completely overlaid with a beige print design which of course matched the dark brown and beige designer jumpsuit she was wearing! Nothing conspicuous about that, she blended right in...with her Seville!

The Seville was designed and built to compete with the luxury imports from Mercedes, BMW, and Jaguar which were beginning to permeate the market at the time. The challenge for Cadillac was to shatter the "bigger is better" attitude that had flooded the domestic luxury car market for so many years. With its base platform that of the modest Chevrolet Nova, Cadillac knew it would need to create something truly spectacular to pull off this feat. And spectacular is what Cadillac gave us.

All new styling with unique body panels that weren't shared with any other car set the tone for the Seville. Crisp, clean, and elegant lines immediately put onlookers on notice that this was something special. The elegant interior was trimmed and fitted with the best materials available, and virtually everything one could want on a luxury car was provided as part of the standard equipment package. Subframes were used front and rear that were isolated from the passenger compartment to reduce noise and vibration. A 350 CID V-8 engine built by Oldsmobile powered the Seville, and was modified by Cadillac to include electronic fuel injection. Performance was lively, and handling was precise.

The Seville was built on its own special line at Cadillac's Clark Avenue assembly plant to ensure the highest level of quality control. The line was deliberately set to assemble just 14 cars per hour, a very low figure compared to the industry standard of the time.

The first 2,000 cars built were finished in Georgian Silver Metallic (paint code 13) with matching vinyl roof and interiors. Advertising also depicted the same color scheme, which Cadillac did intentionally so that when people entered dealer showrooms they would see what they expected to see, as far as color went. Cadillac knew people would be shocked at the overall size of the Seville the first time they saw one in person, so they didn't want anything else getting in the way during that first meeting, such as an unexpected color combination.

The Seville created its own competition in the form of the Lincoln Versailles that came along for 1977. It too was based on a less expensive Ford/Mercury platform, but didn't hide its origins as well as the Seville did. Soon, less expensive cars would imitate the Seville's design, which is the sincerest form of flattery, but none were able to match its quality, luxury, and Cadillac style—that elusive combination that makes the Sevilles of this era timeless classics, even though 35 years have passed since their introduction.

Note 1: The Cadillac Seville vehicles built during the 1975 model year were all titled as 1976 models.

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