Will It Ever Be Worth This Much? 1984 Cadillac Cimarron

By Nathan Avots-Smith

I will probably be run out of here on a rail for admitting this, but I have an odd fascination with the Cadillac Cimarron. Yes, I know that it’s the ultimate example of Detroit’s most cynical badge engineering, but I grew up in ’80s GM cars, including the ’84 Chevy Cavalier that looked near-identical enough to the Cimarron to give Cadillac decades’ worth of grief, and the idea of this tarted-up Cavalier just kind of tickles me. Plus, I can just close my eyes and already smell that thick carpet and feel that thin felt headliner. Of course, part of what makes a Cimarron good for a cheap laugh is that, well, they’re usually so cheap—like, under a grand for a running, reasonably reliable car. Today, however, I find myself face-to-face with this ’84 Cimarron on craigslist in Redding, California, with just 29,000 miles on the odometer and a stiff $4,600 asking price, and I have to ask: will a Cimarron, no matter how nice, ever be worth real car money?

Here’s the thing: as Cimarrons go, this one is really nice. Look at how supple the red leather (remember red leather?) looks. Just for emphasis, here’s the backseat, too:

Even the headliner has barely started to sag! The 29,000 mile claim checks out here. It’s remarkably clean under the hood, too, if you can stomach the sight of a Cadillac powered by an 88-hp inline four. The exterior wears its original blue California license plates and what I’m sure is its original white paint, and aside from a partially-missing badge on the passenger door and the usual degradation of the plastic bumper caps, it also looks pretty flawless.

Yeah, with the front end chopped off in this photo, this could very easily be a Cavalier. Those handsome alloy wheels, though, belie Cadillac’s aspirations, and this seller must be a Cimarron true believer, as their ad parrots the party line that it’s a “European style small car.” I feel a lot of sympathy for the seller, who cites that they need money as a reason for the sale; it’s tough when you’re in that situation and your most salable asset is a Cadillac Cimarron. Plus, it’s easy to mistake notoriety for collectibility, and perhaps someday the Cimarron will turn that corner—it happened to the Edsel and Corvair, for instance. But right now a $4,600 ask seems incredibly optimistic for a Cimarron, even though this is probably as nice as they get. It would be a shame, though, to see a 29,000-mile car become an $800 throwaway car just because that’s what the market says Cimarrons are. You can weigh in with how crazy you think I am in the comments!

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Comments

  1. John

    My sister had an 84 cavalier . That thing was bulletproof. Good luck to the seller.There are few cars that I don’t like, so no surprise that I like this one.even if that Cadillac badge makes me laugh every time I see it.

    6+

  2. DrinkinGasoline

    Ahh, the Cadaleir…for those with Cadillac tastes on Crapalier budgets. There were quite a few of these in the housing projects back in the day. The (white title) owners would say : “I can live in my car but I can’t drive my house”. Poor priorities all the way around. 🙁

    5+

    • Superdessucke

      When these were new they did not sell for Cavalier budgets. They were very expensive, and of course a total rip-off.

      Cadillac dealers pampered the original owners but really they were getting it shoved right up their keister with lilac-scented Vaseline.

      If you bought a new one you must feel like a dupe. A pain that probably stings more and more with time, even thirty-some years later. One of the reasons GM is where it is now.

      4+

  3. Mike

    I truly can’t believe they thought they would pull away people from BMW and Mercedes with this guised up Cavalier.

    10+

  4. King Al

    It was an invisible Cadillac. Sumptous seats. Offer ’em $800, buy it and drive the snot out of it.

    10+

    • Jose Cantu

      $800 bucks may be about $300 too high. (smile)

      4+

  5. sir mike

    It’s really amazing GM stayed in business through the 80’s.And the asking price of this is a joke.

    13+

    • John Griffith

      It is a miracle that any car manufacturers lived through the 80s. Government regulations and foreign competition almost killed American car products!

      1+

  6. Sam

    My ex wife’s first new car was an 85 Cavalier…it was bullet proof other than alternators.

    For a couple grand this would be fun. Did they offer the 2.8 v6 engine option?

    The first gen Seville was based off a Nova.

    5+

    • Nathan Avots-Smith Staff

      The 2.8 V6 was available in Cimarrons starting in ’85. Folks swear by ’em, and I gather that they’re worth a little more (although not this much). The transformation from Nova to Seville in 1975 really makes you wonder what Cadillac could have done with more time, but the Cimarron was rushed to market so that it could launch with the other J cars in 1982. Too bad, but seemingly typical of ’80s GM.

      6+

    • John T

      At least the Chevy Nova that the Seville was based off of was a decent car (IMO) unlike the Chevy Cavalier that the Cimarron was based from. I recall reading in one of the monthly automotive magazines that the mid to late 70’s Nova was actually based off of the early 70’s Camaro.

      2+

      • RoselandPete

        Could be but I always heard the other way around–that the Camaro was originally based on the Nova. GM later admitted that it was a mistake killing the Nova. I used to see Novas all over the place.

        1+

      • Superdessucke

        Yes, the very expensive Seville was essentially a Camaro/Nova, though disguised somewhat well. The Lincoln Versailles was much less of an attempt to distinguish a premium priced automobile from the lesser model it took 90% of its parts from.

        But those two cars sold relatively well because the Big Three’s major luxury brands still had a lot of brand equity at the time. The success of those two cars certainly set the stage for this monstrosity. Quite frankly, it’s a Christmas miracle that Ford didn’t try to make a Lincoln out of the Escort/Lynx.

        But eventually this caught up with them and killed GM and Ford’s reputations. If it wasn’t for the SUV craze of the 1990s, I think both companies would be long gone by now.

        2+

  7. Wiley Robinson

    The only way it will ever be worth anything is if some cult following of these cars rises up, which I wouldn’t hold my breath for. I think K-cars have more fans than the Cavalier and it’s clones do.

    PS: I had an 83 Skylark. It was the epitome of cost reduction being the #1 goal. Everything simple broke on it because it was so cheaply designed.

    9+

    • DrinkinGasoline

      Yep, My 84 X Body was the same. The 2.8 help up while everything around it fell apart.

      2+

  8. Steve R

    That area is economically depressed, it won’t find a buyer at that price.

    Steve R

    2+

  9. nessy

    When this “Import Fighter” as they called it was introduced in the summer of 81, the base price was 12k when a Cavalier, which was the same car, started out around 6k. For a while, you were able to have this car with a 4 speed and Cadillac ads stated, “Now, you can have a sporty slick shifting 4 speed transmission for that sports car feel” Then they went on to say it was the first time in over 30 years that a manual transmission Cadillac was offered. Was that to be considered a “good thing” at the time? The showrooms each had a Cimarron roped off, on display right in the middle of the floor while the beautiful Fleetwood Broughams and Eldorados took a back seat to this tin can. I do remember a big styling upgrade on this car, maybe for the 85 or 86 model year where the car now had better looking and larger wheels and tires, and a full body kit which improved the looks alot.. However…. still…. No thanks.

    10+

  10. jw454

    I worked in the factory that made the plastic “Cimarron” name plate that went on the right side of the instrument panel. We made several thousand pieces every week so…., some body must have been buying these cars.

    On a side note: when we closed that plant in the early nineties I threw away several dozen boxes of those nameplates in every color that was offered along with many other O.E.M. GM parts. That was before “Just-in-time” manufacturing was even a thing in the U.S.

    9+

  11. Royal

    I knew a nice girl in college who had her father’s hand me down Cimarron. and it held up well with the rigors of a twenty mile plus round trip to school and back every day through snowy winters over four years plus grad school. If I had the money and could get out to California easily, I would consider buying it. I mean it is a clean sedan that has less than 30K with modern day options all for under 5K. A 2.8 would be nice, but they had their issues so for around town driving, this wouldn’t be all that bad. White with Red looks nice too not considering the cars these days all have either black, tan or gray interiors unlike decades ago where you could get blue, green and red as well.

    5+

  12. VR LIVES

    I think somebody has started to day drink, or it was a very long weekend. You can’t even drink a Cavalier pretty, and boozing and car buying don’t mix either. You will thank me in the morning.

    9+

  13. Fred w.

    Interesting that there are so many stories of Cavaliers and Cimarrons that were fairly trouble free (including my sisters, which she drove for 10 years of so without issues). Yet they were at the bottom of the reliability lists at the time. The price of this one is nothing but wishful thinking.

    3+

    • Nathan Avots-Smith Staff

      My mom’s ’84 Cavalier was her act of rebellion—the first car she bought without any influence from her dad, and, not coincidentally, her first American car (it replaced a Renault LeCar). She had no issues with hers, either, and she liked it a lot and my parents drove nothing but GM for about 15 years after that.

      3+

  14. 68 custom

    bought a wrecked 88 with the 2.8 and most other option. it was Blue on Blue. put her back together for about 300 dollars worth of parts, even found everything in the same color! after I put it back together i took it for a spin. it was just an ok Cadillac but one hell of a nice Caviler. sold it to a single mom for cheap she told me she got over three years out of it while abusing it 24/7.my take, needs to be an 88 with the 2.8 or forget it and then a cheap DD.

    4+

  15. Joe Nose

    Don’t want a Cavillac. Would rather have a Sevova like this. https://worcester.craigslist.org/cto/d/cadillac-seville/6203290614.html

    But without the tummy reflection and slash a zero off the ask.

    3+

    • Alan (Michigan)

      That shot belongs on a “Best Of Craigslist” posting!

      Too bad about the moldy interior. The remainder of the car looks decent.

      0

  16. RoselandPete

    I also have an odd fascination with these cars. I once sat in one and thought to myself that this is the nicest small Chevy that I ever sat in.

    3+

  17. Tommy D

    I really like, but I don’t think I’d own it 🙁

    2+

  18. Nat P

    I like it but it is sad that was the best Caddy could do. It could have been so much better.

    0

  19. DrinkinGasoline

    The Big Three all made the same mistakes during the 80’s. The Cimarron, the Lincoln Versailles, and the Chrysler gussied up K Cars. They were all trying to appeal to an upscale audience with what they already had rolling off the assembly lines to minimize costs, and it worked, if only for a short time. With that said, they still do it. The Lincoln MKC is a Ford Edge, the Cadillac SRX is a Chevy Equinox, etc,etc….The Silverado and Sierra have been built on the same assembly line since late 1996. The only difference are the build sheets as they come down the line. The buying public continues to buy into this “nameplate branding” and as long as that continues, the manufacturer’s will continue to take advantage of it. Cattle following the @ss in front of them being led to slaughter.

    2+

  20. Jim Voegele

    It’s a Cadavalier!

    1+

  21. Tom Member

    Will it ever be worth this much? 1984 Cadillac Cimarron

    answer: NO

    1+

  22. Miguel

    Anybody that has ever bought used cars knows the rack and pinions on these are trash.

    Even with low miles I doubt it will last much longer if it works today.

    0

  23. mark

    Come on!. The cheapest most basic Chevy in the line up with better made plastic and a new name………and let’s just call it a Cadillac so we can charge several thousand more for it. JUNK!

    2+

  24. Big Len

    Bought a V6 from by boss for cheap to use as a commuter car. It was most of the most reliable cars I’ve ever owned. I put 160,000 miles on that sucker and had no issues, except for the usual maintenance. I was stunned.

    1+

  25. CMARV

    I bought one of these around 1988 ,in great shape , it was a 4 speed car I paid $200 for it . The engine had a bad rod bearing , I put a Cavalier power plant in it along with a new clutch kit (I think I gave $250 for the engine) . I couldn’t sell it fast enough after I was able to drive it a couple miles . It did have a nice interior .

    0

  26. Gary Merly

    Gone!!???

    0

  27. George

    A lawyer friend of mine bought an ’84 Cimarron new. It was a real turd & he dumped it quickly as he could @ a huge loss.These some interest when they first hit the street 4 here was a Cadillac @ an affordable price 4 those who had always wanted a Cad but lacked the lettuce to letthem buy 1. They soon found that that each was truly a “Cad” in stripping buyers of the $ and their dignity–i.e. most thought the nuts to pay close on double the Cavalier cost for the same car w/ a $1000 worth of J.C. Whitney trim dazzle. They were underpowered to the max & accordingly quite thirsty. Didn’t start worth poop as they flood out easily. Once that happened U could put the gas pedal to the floor or 2 the radiator, it didn’t matter. GM sent a dealer advisory have someone there who knew how 2 properly start a car–& I have found precious few those, and start every Cimorrough in inventory and let them heat up B4 shopper’s hit the lot due to their tendency 2 flood on cold starts. {below 55 degrees F!} When that happened–as I did w/most salesmen/women, it was necessary to remove the plugs and dry them off before the engine would start. That’s hardly any inconvenience for any owner to do!

    2+

  28. Don H

    Um pour mans Cadillac, maby not.

    0

  29. David Miraglia

    The 1980’s was badge engineer mania. If I had to buy a Cadillac. I would avoid the Cimmaron like the plague. Technically it was a Chevy wanting to be a Caddy.

    1+

  30. JRP

    I worked in a Cadillac dealership when these came out. We didn’t have one roped off in the showroom. Everyone in the dealership had a hard time not laughing at the owners of these glorified cavaliers behind their backs. The salesmen never tried very hard to sell these things. In fact they hid the sales literature to keep it out of customers view. We were all ashamed to have them in the dealership. Sad times for Cadillac 😔

    1+

  31. Fred Paschke

    The write up reminds me of a little boy who wanted a pony. His step father told him to muck out a stall of manure that was five feet deep and twenty feet across. Step father left and boy started humming.
    Upon returning in three hours the floor was almost bare and the boy was laughing and giggling.
    ” Hey whats this? Why you so happy.”?
    The boy answered, ” Must be a pony in here somewhere.

    0

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