The General’s Cadillac Division had lost much of its status as a world-class styling and engineering innovator by the 1980s, while younger rich Americans signed on the line which is dotted for European luxury machines packed full of futuristic technology. Something needed to be done to win back the hearts of those buyers, and that something was the Cadillac Allanté two-seater. Here’s a final-model-year Allanté, complete with one of the very first Northstar V8 engines, found in a Denver yard.
The overhead-valve Cadillac V8 engine of 1949 shook up the automotive world, and the double-overhead-cam Northstar V8 of 44 years later had a similar effect. Finally, a high-revving, smooth-running modern V8 to compete with those pesky European and Japanese carmakers! Only the Allanté got the Northstar at first, with other Cadillac models following soon after. After the underwhelming power output of the pushrod HT4100 V8s used in the 1987-1992 Allantés, the upgrade from 200 horses to 290 helped boost sales of the ’93 to the highest annual figure ever achieved by the model: 4,670 cars.
Unfortunately for GM, production costs of the Allanté proved to be murderous in the long run. Shortened Eldorado frames were loaded onto specially-fitted 747s in Detroit and flown to Pininfarina’s new Allanté factory in Italy. After Pininfarina built the bodies, they got loaded onto the 747s, flown back to Detroit, trucked to the Hamtramck assembly plant, and given running gear there. GM called this system the “Allanté Air Bridge” and it cost plenty.
The cars looked both futuristic and Italian, which they were, but the Allanté’s price tag stood at heights far above those of the rest of the Cadillac line: $59,975 in 1993, or about $108,500 in 2020 dollars. You could buy a rear-wheel-drive BMW 850Ci with a 282-horse V8 and manual transmission for a mere 10 grand over the Allanté’s cost that year, or a Jaguar XJS convertible for just $56,750. The Allanté had front-wheel-drive and a not-so-modern four-speed automatic transmission, which hurt sales among the enthusiast types who flocked to Cadillac showrooms for the CTS-V a decade or so later.
No European machine of 1993 could top the Mars Base appearance of these vertically-arranged, all-pushbutton HVAC/audio controls, though.
These cars have a fanatically devoted group of aficionados today, as we learned when a 24 Hours of Lemons team dared to race one in California, but the price for a non-perfect Allanté approaches scrap value nonetheless. This is the seventh junkyard example I’ve photographed, just in the last few years, and I’ve walked by a few more without shooting them.
The only way to travel is Cadillac style.