1979 Cadillac Seville
1979 Cadillac Seville. Click image to enlarge

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Review and photo by Bill Vance

During the 1970s, the North American automotive scene underwent some fundamental changes. Two oil embargoes and increasing environmental concerns resulted in tightening exhaust emissions standards and fuel economy legislation. Another trend was the gradual encroachment of foreign cars like Mercedes-Benzes, BMWs and Jaguars into the luxury segment, which had been the preserve of Cadillacs, Lincolns and Chryslers.

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

The result was the Seville, a car that was smaller and more economical yet retained all of Cadillac’s traditional qualities. It was an acknowledgement that maybe the importers were right – maybe luxury and prestige didn’t have to be associated with gargantuan size. And to really push the envelope, Cadillac made it, at $15,000, the most expensive Cadillac of all.

The new Cadillac Seville, which came as a four-door sedan only, 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 basis for the Seville was the General Motors unit construction, rear-drive X-car, the Chevrolet Malibu, Pontiac Ventura, et al. Cadillac dressed it in all-new external sheet metal, which camouflaged it so well that many didn’t realize its humble heritage.

For the Seville, 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 Malibu, but still the shortest Cadillac product since the last 1940 LaSalle.

The result was a car that was 678 mm (26.7 in.) shorter, 203 mm (8.0 in. narrower), with a 1,373 mm (4.7 in.) shorter wheelbase than the “regular” Cadillac. But although it was small by Cadillac standards, it was almost exactly the same size as the Mercedes-Benz 450SE, one of its market targets. The Seville’s 1,971 kg (4,345 lb) 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, although with insulating rubber bushings inserted between the tops of the springs and the body to reduce harshness. At the rear was a solid axle and leaf springs, with teflon inserted between the five leaves for a smoother ride. Brakes were disc front, and drum rear.

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