The 1959 Cadillac will forever be known as the peak of the tailfin in American automotive design. Inspired by World War II fighter aircraft, particularly the P-38, fins first appeared on the 1948 Cadillacs. But a decade later they had reached their stylistic and practical limits. This year's models were instantly recognizable by the twin rocket ship taillights integrated into its truly massive fins. This particular hardtop was built on February 24th, 1959, and equipped with every available option and is an AACA Senior Award winner.
Cadillac first used the name SeVille in 1956. It was a hardtop version of the Cadillac Eldorado Convertible. The Eldorado was Cadillac's top-of-the-line offering and was the pinnacle of luxury for the GM nameplate. Produced in limited numbers, the Eldorado would set the buyer back $7750. Only 532 examples were sold in the first year. The following year Cadillac reduced the price of the Eldorado by more than $2000 making it more reasonable and affordable for more buyers. A hardtop version was introduced in 1956. The convertible was dubbed the Eldorado Biarritz and the hardtop was the Eldorado SeVille.
Under the hood a four-barrel engine could be found and offered 305 horsepower. This was an increase in power by 20 over the other Cadillac's.
As the years inched toward the start of the 1960's, the designs of the Eldorado became very body and unique. Tailfins, known as shark fins, could be found at the rear of the vehicle. The engines were improved and the vehicle was given minor facelifts to coincide with the outrageous fins. Chrysler may have introduced the tailfins in 1957 but it was Cadillac that out-did every other vehicle on the road. In 1959 every vehicle produced by Cadillac had the fins with built-in taillights. When the lights were lit, the vehicles resembled rockets or space ships. The Eldorado's continued this extravagance with lots of chrome.
The name 'SeVille' lasted until 1960. It would not reappear on a Cadillac until 1975. The 1950's and 1960's was a great time for the American Automobile. World War II had ended and the world was longing for sporty automobiles. The muscle car era may have lasted a short time but many new designs and engineering marvels were introduced. These increases in power and reduction of weights brought about a greater level of social responsibility. Accidents were on the rise as these vehicles which were extremely dangerous roamed the world a quarter mile at a time. The government was forced to intervene and did so by increasing regulations and safety requirements. Marque's shifted their focus from mid-sized, lightweight vehicles with massive horsepower to large and luxurious vehicles. The engines paled in comparison to what they used to be. The oil embargo sent manufacturers struggling to keep up with the ever-changing marketplace. The high cost of fuel had consumers searching for fuel efficient vehicles. Many consumers shifted to the import market who has long been builders of small and practical vehicles with potent engines that are been performance minded and fuel friendly.
Cadillac continued to evolve. During the mid-1950's their greatest import competition was probably Mercedes-Benz. In response to the vehicles Mercedes was offering, Cadillac re-introduced the SeVille in 1975. The angular body sat on a wide-tracked 'K-body' platform which had the underpinnings of the Chevrolet Nova and based on GM's X-body. In comparison to the DeVille, it was nearly 800 pounds lighter. On the interior, it was given many of the standard Cadillac amenities. Its small body was attractive and easy to drive. In reality, they were re-bodied Chevrolet Nova's with Cadillac amenities.
Under the hood was an Oldsmobile 350 cubic-inch V8 with electronic fuel injection which was an industry first. It may have been the smallest Cadillac on the market its price tag was more expensive than anything else than offered by Cadillac. The base price was $12,479!
The rear-wheel drive vehicle had an independent rear suspension which provided a comfortable ride for its occupants. One of its shortcomings was the rear drum brakes which was heavily criticized by many as being inadequate for the heavy vehicle and large engine. In response, Cadillac applied disc brakes in 1977.
In 1979 Cadillac offered a diesel powered eight-cylinder engine. They were quickly discontinued after proving very troublesome and unreliable.
In 1980 a new SeVille was introduced. Its rear trunk area was the most unique and drew on the design of the pre-war Daimlers. It was at a slant, similar to the slope of the rear window. The changes continued to the mechanical components. Under the hood the eight-cylinder engine was replaced with a six-cylinder engine that came in a variety of flavors, producing horsepower that ranged from 105 through 145. The body now sat on a 114 inch K-body platform.
Production of this four-door series, known as the 'slantbacks', lasted from 1980 through 1985.
In 1986 the SeVille continued to change and become smaller. A variety of eight-cylinder engines could now be found under the hood, transversely mounted and driving the front wheels. The design continued to become more aerodynamic and the edges rounder. Many consumers disliked this new design and as a result, sales slowed.
Production lasted from 1986 through 1991. In 1992 Cadillac introduced the next generation of SeVille's which borrowed the designs of many European automobiles. It was well received an in 1992 earned the prestigious Car of the Year by Motor Trend. It was listed in the Ten Best list of Car and Driver.
One year after the introduction of the fourth-generation SeVille, Cadillac offered the impressive Northstar System which included a quad-cam 32-valve aluminum V8. Sitting on a 111 inch wheelbase, the body was held in place by a new unequal-length control arm rear suspension.
The STS package was introduced in the early 1990's with the name representing SeVille Touring Suspension, Seville Touring Sedan, Sport Touring Sedan, or Sport Touring Suspension. The SeVille Luxury Sedan (SLS) in 1994 offered consumers a 4.9 liter HT-4900 V8 engine which was later upgraded to a 270 horsepower LD8 Northstar engine. The STS package also had started with the 4.9 liter HT-4900 unit but later upgraded to the 295 horsepower L39 Northstar engine in 1993.
This generation of the Seville will be remembered for its poor build quality and mechanical problems. Despite this, it had taken large strides in the right direction as far as design and mechanical modernization. There were many improvements offered that brought it back in front of its competition.
The next generation of the Seville arrived in 1998 and would continue in production until 2004. It still was built on the K-body configuration and sat on a 112.2 inch wheelbase and had a length of 201 inches. Its curb weight was nearly 4000 pounds and it was available with two flavors of the V8 engine. The STS was offered with the 4.6 liter L37 Northstar engine which produced an impressive 300 horsepower and 295 foot-pounds of torque. The SLS version came equipped with the LD8 Northstart 4.6 Liter V8 which produced 275 horsepower and 300 foot-pounds of torque.
In 2004 the Seville was discontinued and replaced with the rear-wheel drive STS. Production of the front wheel drive Seville STS ended on May 16, 2003. The SLS endured a few months longer, lasting until December 5, 2003. By Daniel Vaughan | Sep 2006