The Cadillac Cimarron is an entry-level luxury car that was manufactured and marketed by the Cadillac division of General Motors for model years 1982–1988. The first compact Cadillac, the Cimarron competed with similarly sized sedans from Europe. Produced as a four-door sedan, the Cimarron used the GM J platform, with counterparts from Chevrolet, Buick, Oldsmobile, and Pontiac. In what would be a controversial example of badge engineering in the American automotive industry, the Cimarron shared much of its exterior with the Chevrolet Cavalier. The shortest-wheelbase Cadillac since 1908, the Cimarron was the first post-WWII model to use a four-cylinder engine since the 1914 Cadillac Model Thirty. Through its entire production, the Cimarron was manufactured at South Gate Assembly (1981–1982) and Janesville Assembly (1982–1988); both facilities produced the model alongside the Chevrolet Cavalier. In North America, the Cimarron was not replaced directly; the 2013–2019 Cadillac ATS and current Cadillac CT4 later became Cadillac's smaller offerings.


As General Motors prepared for the 1980s, Cadillac product planners considered the introduction of a sedan smaller than the Seville. While the model line had sold well following its 1975 introduction, Cadillac found in its research that a growing portion of Seville buyers were not conquest customers of European brands, but traditional American-brand buyers seeking a smaller sedan. To further diversify and modernize their product range to compete with European luxury sedans, Cadillac dealers requested a smaller car (slotted below the Seville) that could compete with the compact offerings of European brands.Yates, p. 71. In early 1980, General Motors began development of the Cadillac Cimarron on the GM J-car platform, leading to one of the shortest development programs ever undertaken by General Motors. In development since 1976 to replace the H-body, the J-car shifted to front-wheel drive and grew in size (to the compact-car segment). As with several GM platforms, the J-car was to be shared between Chevrolet, Pontiac, Oldsmobile, and Buick. While the creation of the Cadillac Cimarron was intended to give Cadillac a compact sedan that matched multiple European premium brands, the selection of the J-car platform within a year of its launch was met with heavy resistance. Pete Estes, GM president at the time, warned Cadillac general manager Ed Kennard: "Ed, you don't have time to turn the J-car into a Cadillac." Originally scheduled for mid-1980s release, the Cimarron was released in early 1981 for the 1982 model year to match the entry of the Chevrolet Cavalier, Buick Skyhawk, Oldsmobile Firenza, and the Pontiac J2000 (later 2000, 2000 Sunbird, Sunbird, and then Sunfire).

Model name

At its 1981 introduction, the copy text of original sales brochures associated the Cimarron nameplate with "fortitude, adventure and pioneering". The nameplate was chosen from a list that included J2000 (used on predecessor of Pontiac Sunbird); Carmel; Cascade; Caville (blend of "Cadillac" and "De Ville"); Envoy; and Series 62 (predecessor of Cadillac Calais). For 1982 production, the brand nomenclature was "Cimarron by Cadillac", although initially the Cadillac name did not appear anywhere on the car. For 1983, the naming was revised to Cadillac Cimarron; for the rest of its production, the Cadillac script appeared only on the grille.


The Cimarron used the front-wheel drive GM J platform with a wheelbase. Employing unibody construction, the suspension used front MacPherson struts (mounted to a subframe) with a torsion-beam rear axle, along with front and rear stabilizer bars. To distinguish the Cimarron from the Chevrolet Cavalier and its Buick, Oldsmobile, and Pontiac counterparts, Cadillac standardized many of the available features offered on J-platform cars at the time, including air conditioning, leather seats, alloy wheels, power mirrors, full instrumentation (including tachometer; the only Cadillac to do so at the time), courtesy lights, intermittent wipers, rear window defogger, and AM/FM stereo. Its interior featured simulated aluminum trim, notably foregoing simulated wood trim. Available options included automatic transmission, cruise control, tilt steering wheel, power windows, power door locks, power driver and passenger seats, sunroof, and a cassette player. With the exception of its upholstery and model-specific special suspension tuning, J-platform sedans from other GM divisions could be optioned nearly identically to a Cimarron, though doing so would raise prices close to the Cimarron's $12,131 base price.


For 1982, the Cimarron was equipped with a 1.8 L four-cylinder engine, producing (the first four-cylinder Cadillac since 1914 and the first engine below 2.0 L displacement since 1908). For 1983, the engine was enlarged to 2.0 L and given fuel injection, though engine tuning would drop peak output to . For 1985, a 2.8 L V6 (shared with the Chevrolet Cavalier and Oldsmobile Firenza) was added as an option, producing ; for 1987, the V6 became standard. The four-cylinder engines were paired with a 4-speed manual (later a 5-speed), with a 3-speed automatic as an option; the 3-speed automatic was the sole transmission with the V6.

Model history

For 1983, the grille was updated, with Cadillac replacing the center-mounted Cadillac crest with an offset Cadillac script. For 1984 and 1985, Cimarron was offered with a special option package called D'Oro, which is Italian and Spanish for gold. This was essentially a gold trim package. For 1984, it only came in black, with a tan leather interior. Gold accents were added to the following: aluminum alloy wheels, grill, fine gold accent stripes on the belt line, bumper rub strips, hood centre line, and a unique D'Oro hood badge. Also included were blackout bumpers with smoke grey fog lamp covers. Inside there was D'Oro plaque on the instrument panel, and the 3-spoke steering wheel had all metal spokes in gold finish. For 1985, the hood was redesigned, introducing a "power dome" along with a new grille; dependent on trim, grille badging was either a Cadillac crest or script. As an option, silver grooved lower-body trim was introduced. The D'Oro trim package continued, offered in white or red exterior colors (with tan leather interior). The grooved lower-body trim was standard, color-keyed to match the body; 14-inch wheels were included as standard equipment. For 1986, the exterior underwent a revision to the rear fascia, including wrap-around taillamps. A new option included a premium Delco-Bose sound system. For 1987, the front fascia was revised as it received composite-lens headlamp units (the first American J-body to do so); the alloy wheels were redesigned. For 1988, the model line was withdrawn from Canada; for its last year in the United States, the Cimarron received several engineering updates. Following the 1988 model year, GM removed the Cimarron from J-car model range. While the Cadillac division sought to continue the model line, GM considered funding redesigns to the Eldorado/Seville, deVille, and Fleetwood as a higher priority. File:1982 Cadillac Cimarron, front left.jpg|1982 Cimarron File:1982 Cadillac Cimarron, rear left.jpg|1982 Cimarron, rear File:1983 Cadillac Cimarron Ultra - interior.jpg|Dashboard, 1983 Cimarron Ultra File:Cadillac Cimarron (5810874724).jpg|1985 Cimarron D'Oro File:1988 Cadillac Cimarron.jpg|1988 Cimarron

Reception and legacy

The Cimarron's market failure is one in a series of events throughout the 1980s and 1990s which caused Cadillac's share of the US market to decline from 3.8% in 1979 to 2.2% in 1997; it is routinely cited as the nadir of GM's product planning: *Noted automotive journalist Dan Neil included the Cimarron in his 2007 list of ''Worst Cars of all Time'', saying "everything that was wrong, venal, lazy, and mendacious about GM in the 1980s was crystallized in this flagrant insult to the good name and fine customers of Cadillac." He added that the Cimarron "nearly killed Cadillac and remains its biggest shame." *''Forbes'' placed the Cimarron on its list of "Legendary Car Flops," citing low sales, poor performance and the fact the car "didn't work, coming from a luxury brand." *CarBuzz called the Cimarron a "textbook example of what goes wrong when a carmaker tries to badge engineer an economy car into a luxury car." *Author Hannah Elliott said the Cimarron "appealed neither to Cadillac's loyal followers, who appreciated powerful V8s and Cadillac's domestic luxury edge, nor to buyers who favored Europe's luxury brands, whose cars out-handled and out-classed the Cimarron in every way." *CNN Money described the Cimarron as "in all important respects, a Chevrolet Cavalier. It also added thousands to the price tag. In all, it was neither a good Cadillac nor a good value. Today, GM executives will readily admit that this was a bad idea." *In its introduction of the Cadillac BLS'', Car and Driver'' said that Cadillac product director John Howell kept a picture of a Cimarron on his wall, captioned "Lest we forget".Hutton, Ray
2006 Cadillac BLS
Car and Driver, June 2006.
Since the withdrawal of the Cimarron after the 1988 model year, Cadillac has not produced a direct successor to the model line. Subsequent Cadillac sedans derived from other GM vehicles, including the Cadillac Catera (Opel Omega) and the Cadillac BLS (Saab 9-3) were not compact executive cars, in terms of size. The smallest current Cadillac sedan (the Cadillac CT4 and its Cadillac ATS predecessor) is a compact executive car larger than the Cimarron, sharing no common body panels with other GM sedans.

Yearly American sales


External links

Derek Kreindler's Autoblog article on the Cimarron
{{Cadillac Cimarron Category:Compact cars Category:Front-wheel-drive vehicles Category:Sedans Category:Motor vehicles manufactured in the United States Category:Cars introduced in 1982