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Image: 1976 Cadillac Seville


Cadillac Seville

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Image: 1976 Cadillac SevilleThe Seville, Cadillac's international size luxury car, entered its first full model year in 1976. Introduced on May 1, 1975 as a 1976 model, the Seville accumulated production of 16,355 units before the end of the 1975 model year. The Seville was created in response to the invasion of luxury imports which had continued to grow, and was by the early seventies encroaching into Cadillac's traditional domestic market. The popularity of the imports was confusing to Cadillac at first, since they offered few comparisons with the luxury cars U.S. customers had been buying for decades.

The luxury imports had rather uninspired styling, and interiors could best be described as utilitarian. Yes, real wood trim was provided in some cases, and while the seats could be ordered with genuine leather upholstery, they were rather hard although they did provide good support. The overall impression of the interior package was rather uninspired. And it was not lost on the U.S. car makers that these luxury imports were used as taxi cabs in some European countries. The whole concept of a taxi being imported with a premium price tag eluded understanding at the time.

Cadillac knew it needed to respond, and the decision to move forward with the project was made in late 1973, with a target date for launch set for 1975. The 16 month development period was tight, and set a new record at GM for development of an entirely new car. In fact, it beat the former record by almost two months!

In typical Cadillac fashion, it chose to emphasize the best of two extremes: smaller, utilitarian luxury import appearance with firmer ride and handling, versus traditional American luxury with the finest interior fittings and sensational yet restrained styling. The Seville was the end result. But there were concerns that Cadillac's customers would not respond in a positive manner to a Cadillac that was so different.

The Seville was developed from the basic GM "X"-car platform that was originally designed for the Chevrolet Nova, Pontiac Ventura, Oldsmobile Omega, and Buick Apollo. These were all considered compacts at the time, an area unfamiliar to Cadillac. The Seville was given a new "K"-body designation, and would consist of one body style, a four door notchback sedan with a five passenger seating capacity and completely new styling. The Seville was built on a 114.3-inch wheelbase, and had an overall length of 204 inches. Compared to the Sedan deVille, the Seville was 27 inches shorter, eight inches narrower, and weighed a half a ton less. The question everyone at Cadillac was wondering was: Would people buy a small Cadillac?

The exterior sheet metal and upper body structure were unique to the Seville. Cadillac knew that its new car could have no resemblance whatsoever to GM's lower priced compact models, which would have been in production for years by the time the first Seville hit the streets. Seville's overall styling was conservative, which was in line with the imports. Power for the new Cadillac was provided by a 350 cubic inch (5.7 litre) V-8 engine sourced from Oldsmobile Division. Olds built the engine to Cadillac specifications with a Bendix electronic fuel injection system. The Seville engine developed 180 brake horsepower, and had a 8.0-to-1 compression ratio. A Turbo Hydra-Matic automatic transmission was standard, as was a very long list of luxury amenities and features. The manufacturer's suggested retail price was $12,479 made the Seville the most expensive production Cadillac built since the ultra exclusive Eldorado Broughams of the 1957-1960 era.

Standard equipment of the Seville was expansive and included all of the typical Cadillac features, such as power steering, power brakes, power windows, 50/50 divided front power seats with manual passenger recliner, Automatic Climate Control air conditioning, quartz digital clock, accent paint stripes, etc. Also included was a padded vinyl roof, automatic level control, power door locks, AM/FM signal-seeking stereo radio, automatic power antenna, whitewall steel-belted radial ply tires, tilt and telescope steering wheel, even a Fuel Monitor System was included.

Fuel economy was rated by the EPA in mileage tests which showed the Seville got 21 miles per gallon on the highway and 15 miles per gallon in the city. And while Seville's compact exterior dimensions may have suggested a less roomy interior, its overall height was about the same as other luxury cars, which gave the impression of interior roominess and comfort.

The standard interior was upholstered in a smooth-textured luxury cloth called Mansion Knit. Seven colors were offered, and included Dark Blue, Light Gray, Black, Dark Blue-Green, Light Ivory-Gold, Light Buckskin, or Dark Firethorn. Optionally available was soft, supple Sierra grain Leather, which came in White, Antique Light Blue, Antique Dark Blue-Green, Black, Light Ivory-Gold, Antique Light Buckskin, Antique Dark Firethorn or Antique Light Gray.

The name Seville was revived from an Eldorado hardtop coupe built from 1956-1960. The Eldorado had always been at the top of the Cadillac line, which was where the new Seville would be positioned, so it was determined this would be a better choice than LaSalle, a name Cadillac's marketing staff had seriously considered for a time. The LaSalle name had identified a lower priced line of Cadillacs that ended in 1940, and represented one of Cadillac's few marketing failures.

Seville production began in March, 1975 in Cadillac's home plant in Detroit. The former Eldorado assembly line was well-suited to the Seville's special assembly considerations, as Cadillac wanted to ensure top quality for the car. Despite Seville's unique dimensions, it was instantly identifiable as a Cadillac. Up front, an eggcrate grille was flanked by dual rectangular headlamp units, under which dual parking/turn signal lights were housed. Side marker and cornering lamps wrapped around the front fenders. The body lines were straight, crisp, and uncluttered. The upper body structure featured a generous glass area, with a rear roofline that was almost upright in angle. Large round wheel openings dominated the profile, and the front overhang was quite short compared to typical Cadillac standards.

From the rear, Seville styling continued to be very clean and sleek. Taillamps wrapped around the edges of the rear fenders to serve as side markers, and back-up lights flanked the license plate, which was recessed in the center of the deck lid drop off, which was cut out to accommodate the assemblies. Cadillac script appeared on the lower right corner of the deck lid and on the exterior mirrors, and Seville script appeared low on the front fenders, just behind the front wheel openings. The traditional Cadillac wreath and crest appeared on roof sail panels, at the top center of the deck lid to conceal the trunk lock, and as a stand-up, spring-loaded hood ornament.

A few changes were made that differentiate 1976 Seville production from 1975 production. For 1976, all of Cadillac's 15 standard and six optional Firemist paint colors were available, and the optional power Sunroof or glass Astroroof were made available as well. The Seville had to be considered a huge success for Cadillac as production totaled 43,772 by the end of the year. Cadillac dealers reportedly were delighted to accept quite a few Mercedes-Benz models as trade ins for new Sevilles, as customers discovered the attractiveness of Seville's efficient size and fuel economy, coupled with more luxurious interiors and creature comforts that weren't available on the imports, even as options.


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