1976 Cadillac Seville
1976 Cadillac Seville; photo courtesy Sites.Google.com/site/tinusklos. Click image to enlarge

Article and photo by Bill Vance

During the 1970s, the North American automotive scene underwent some fundamental changes. Two oil embargoes and increasing environmental concerns brought tightening fuel economy legislation and exhaust emission standards. In addition to rising sales of small cars from Japan and Europe, there was a gradual encroachment of foreign cars like Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Jaguar into the luxury segment, traditionally the preserve of Cadillac, Lincoln and Chrysler.

Cadillac had long billed itself as “The Standard of the World” and was king of the America luxury car market for decades. It was therefore alarmed to find these interlopers eating into sales, and decided to respond with a new kind of car.

The result was the Seville, a smaller and more economical car that retained all the traditional Cadillac qualities, an acknowledgement that perhaps foreign manufacturers were right; luxury and prestige were not always linked to gargantuan size. And to really push the envelope Cadillac, would charge $15,000 for it, the most expensive Cadillac of all.

The new Cadillac Seville came as a four-door sedan only and arrived in the spring of 1975 as an early ’76 model. It was developed in a mere 18 months, a remarkable feat that could only be accomplished by using some off-the-shelf components.

The foundation for the Seville was General Motors’ unit construction, rear-drive X-car Chevrolet Nova, Pontiac Ventura, et al. Cadillac dressed it in new external sheet metal and camouflaged it so well many didn’t realize its humble heritage.

The Nova’s wheelbase was stretched from 2,819 to 2,903 mm (111.0 to 114.3 in.). At 5,182 mm (204 in.), overall, it was 178 mm (7.0 in.) longer than the Nova, still large, but the shortest Cadillac product since the last LaSalle in 1940.

Compared with the regular Cadillac, the Seville was also 678 mm (26.7 in.) shorter, 203 mm (8.0 in.) narrower and had 119 mm (4.7 in.) less wheelbase. Although small by Cadillac standards it was almost exactly the same size as the Mercedes-Benz 450SE, one of its market targets. At 1,971 kg (4,345 lb), the Seville was some 454 kg (1,000 lb.) lighter than other Cadillacs, but still 111 kg (245 lb) heavier than the 450SE.

The Seville used the X-car’s coil spring front suspension with harshness reduced by adding rubber bushings between the tops of the springs and the body. Extra absorbing material and bracing struts were added and the solid rear axle’s leaf springs had teflon inserts between the five leaves. Brakes were disc front and drum rear and a steering damper was added.

Connect with Autos.ca