Collectible Infamy: 1985 Cadillac Cimarron

By Nathan Avots-Smith

This may be, as its seller claims, “one of the nicest, cleanest Cadillac Cimarron examples left in the world,” but does its $5,900 asking price mistakenly equate rarity—and infamy, let’s be blunt—with value? In the long term, I think the answer will be no, and the time to preserve examples like this is definitely now, but let’s take a closer look and see if it all adds up in this moment. Find this baby Caddy (or fancy Cavalier, if you’re feeling less charitable) here on eBay out of Waukee, Iowa with just a couple of days left to snag it at the Buy It Now price.

If I had to pick a favorite year for the Cimarron—and I’ve admitted a strange fondness for the little buggers before—’85 would be it. The front end was restyled for that year, and crucially lengthened by about five inches to better visually differentiate the Cimarron from its lower-end J-car siblings; in ’86, the taillights would wrap around the sides, followed by the headlights in ’87, both of which I feel conspire to make the car look stubbier again. So if any Cimarron could be said to look “sleek,” I’d say the ’85 is it.

This example is, as the seller points out, well-optioned—the Mercedes-esque grooved rocker trim, a very un-Mercedes digital dash, dual power seats, and a Detroit-baroque trunk rack being among the highlights—although I’d quibble with the completeness and desirability of some of the options. For one, the new-for-’85 2.8-liter V6 is missing from this car’s spec sheet, and for another, the optional three-speed automatic is not the best way to wring available power from the standard-issue 2-liter, 88-horsepower inline four. Yes, somehow between its debut in 1982 and this model year, GM managed to upsize the formerly 1.8-liter engine and add fuel injection, and extract exactly zero additional horsepower.

Still, the four has covered just 42,000 miles and is said to run strong, and I’m sure the automatic is typically GM-flawless, if not a barnstormer. The cabin is in strikingly good condition, showing off another unusual option, the new-for-1985 “Ripple Cloth” seat inserts. Nothing is noted as not working, including the failure-prone digital IP, and I’d bet even the air conditioner still blows cold. For an ’80s econocar, that’s pretty luxurious—maybe this thing has finally earned its place as a Cadillac after all!

Or maybe not. Failure is pretty firmly engrained in the Cimarron’s DNA within the cultural memory, and no matter how nice an example this is, it will always have that stigma attached to it. Still, plenty of other cars have come around from unloved infamy into niche collectibility, and I think the Cimarron will definitely get there. Is this example, with its high-for-a-Cimarron—but not, say, $93,000 for a Porsche 914—price, the one to start that turn around the corner? It’s certainly in exceptionally nice condition, and I’d hate to see that change. We’ll have to watch and see if anyone takes the Buy It Now bait!

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Comments

  1. Jerry Long

    Don’t be too Cavalier with your comments!




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    • Tim S.

      Hiss. Boo. Derisive catcalls.




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  2. Classic Steel

    Cheap Chevy in sheep clothing 🙀




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  3. Bob c.

    A Cadalier with the junkyard 2.0? A v6 would give a little justification towards a Cadillac. I had a Buick Skyhawk with that engine and it sounded like a bucket of bolts.




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    • Dick Johnson

      Cadav-a-lier?




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  4. Wolfgang Gullich

    My college buddies and I called these the Road Weasel back in the late 90s




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  5. Dovi65

    I too have a strange fondness for the much maligned Cimarron, as well as it’s Euro cousin, Catera. Good to see some of these are still out there in decent shape, tho $5900 is a bit ambitious




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  6. Redwagon

    IIRC that’s not a Chevrolet Cavalier but a Chevrolet Citation.

    We owned one back in the day. It was no Cadillac.




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    • Dave

      It’s not a citation, it is based on the Chevy cavalier and all it’s rebadged gm brothers.




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    • Dovi65

      Nope; it is indeed a rebadged [J-body] Cavalier. Citation is an X-body, which was a step up from the Cavalier/Sunbird/Skyhawk/Firenza




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  7. Big Len

    I bought a light blue one off my boss (I think it was an ’85 ) that had 25K miles and I have to say, it was one of the most reliable cars I’ve ever owned. I drove over 100K miles without a single non-maintenance issue.




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  8. Dick Johnson

    Ci-maroon. A mid 60’s Caddy with two plug wires shorted out and in need of a valve and ring job put out more than 88 horses.

    At idle, with the requisite holed-out muffler, the subliminal message from the engine said, ” sebbum lebbem, sebbum lebbem”, telling you to pull into Seven Eleven and get a slurpee. The very first smart car.




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    • Dean

      Ha ha ha…..,

      Not sure I got the joke, but it was still funny! Lol
      Say it aloud & you will crack up laughing! 😃




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  9. Fred W.

    Every car has it’s fan base, big or small. Here, the four would be a deal killer for most, but if you can live with that, you have a definite conversation starter at the local cars and coffee. 3K would be more like it.




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  10. Dave

    hahahahahahahaha!




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  11. Whippeteer

    The Cimarron. The only Cadillac in existence that makes a Seville desirable.




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    • Keith Johnson

      First gen Sevilles are very desirable…to some.




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  12. Big Mike

    I remember a customer of Dad’s bought one of these and his daughter got into a fender bender with it and when we rebuilt it, it had a Chevy fender and hood on it, that is what we picked up new body parts from the local Chevy/Caddy Dealership. The badge kit cost like $100 back then if I remember correctly, $25 for a Chevy kit back in the day.




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  13. gregwnc

    Back in college, one of my buddy’s father traded in his ’79 Seville for a new ’83 Cimarron. He borrowed it and drove it to school one weekend. All of us, including him, howled. It was such a joke at the time. In the years since, I’ve matured and gotten a bit more sympathetic for the thing. But it was such a sad Caddy (even by the standards of the early 80’s) at the time. Hopefully some soul will want to save it and keep as is.




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  14. gbvette62

    In 86, we were looking for a new car for my wife, and stopped by the local Caddy dealer. They had a left over 85 Cimarron, with the V6 and a 4 speed manual trans (back then, my wife always drove a manual trans). I forget what the sticker was, maybe $6500, but the dealer wasn’t moving much on it, only a few hundred bucks. This was in spite of the fact that they had been sitting on the car for over a year.

    We ordered a manual trans, Cavalier Z24 instead, and got a better discount too.




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  15. Rube Goldberg Member

    Oh, Cadillac, look what they reduced you to. You were once so grand. Kind of like the Mustang ll to die hard Mustang buff’s, this was no Cadillac. They were ok cars, just not what my old man thought a Cadillac was suppose to be.




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    • Dean

      Mustang II’s are EVERY BIT as much Mustang as any other year. They were closer to the original concept of the original than any other model after 68’ as Mustang has grown to a bloated midsize car…..
      Ppl who dismiss Mustang II’s really fail to realize the II’s kept the name alive, otherwise, Mustang would have become a “Ford Probe.” That’s a fact!




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  16. Bill C

    They have their own category in the CLC. There were some special editions too. Too bad it looks like the drivers door has been repainted or replaced. Otherwise, this one does look nice.




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  17. Mike R

    Ughhh..no




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  18. Ken Nelson

    What’s that line Palin used – Lipstick on a pig?




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    • Whippeteer

      That line was about Palin.




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  19. Ken

    HA HA HA YAK YAK YAK HE HE. Oh boy!! YAK YAK!! Ha ha. God I needed that. Jeez. That’s a good one!!




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  20. Pa Tina

    Reason # 17 why they should have gone out of business.




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  21. Charles Pleier

    Had two of them, 1985 and 1988. Factory ordered both of them. (Both were built in Janesville, WI, not too far from me.) People were always surprised how nice they were; I’m afraid they were looked-down-upon even when new.




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  22. Jamie H

    I worked on them when they were new. I wouldn’t have paid $5900 for it when it WAS new.




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  23. Maestro1

    This is one of those good idea, poorly executed routines American car companies do so well. The price is too high and assume you’ll spend a $1000.00 on it when you get it especially if you are on the Left Coast. I had a friend who had one, drove it infrequently and I borrowed it for some reason I can’t remember. It was very slow and perfectly OK and I returned it not very sure about it……….




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  24. Gay Seattle Car Nut

    I remember when the Cimarron was on the market. At the time, I wasn’t too impressed with the car, I thought it was just a fancy version of the Chevy Cavalier, another car I didn’t appreciate at the time. Thirty yrs. later, I’m still not too crazy about the Cimarron, but I’d prefer it any day over the Cavalier.




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    • Dean

      Great post, good point….




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  25. Sam

    It’s SOLD!




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    • Ken

      To Whom? Wilkinson blades?




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  26. Jay Morgan

    You can illustrate the phrase “Putting lipstick on a pig” very nicely with this car. i wonder how many people were completely fooled thinking this was a well bred Cadillac? Gotta love GM, they have a sick sense of humor.




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  27. Keith Johnson

    I dated a girl who had a Cimarron. I thought of it as a glossed up Cavalier, but I thought the 4 speed in a Caddy was kinda neat. It’s not high on my wish list, but if I did get one, it’d have to be a stick.




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  28. dgrass

    *insert large sad faced poop emoji here*




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  29. Mike

    It’s amazing how far Cadillac sunk when you start to think about the classics they were producing just 20 years earlier. Did any potential BMW, Mercedes or Audi buyer ever give this fancy Cavalier a serious consideration?




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  30. ACZ

    I’d give $40.00 for it. I could use the tires.




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  31. CanuckCarGuy

    Maybe not on too many bucket lists, but maybe a nice entry-level, reliable and rare car for a new collector?

    Considering the interest rates, terms and general state of the economy during this era, this was “affordable” luxury… outsourcing, global platforms and 3rd world production facilitate affordable now. We’re spoiled.




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  32. charlie

    My son hit a telephone pole with my ’81 Pontiac Phoenix (J car), it had lots of other issues, including broken distributor shaft, sold it to local mechanic who was murdered several months later, still an unsolved mystery, for parts and bought for $2000 an ’81 Cimarron. Wife commuted to Boston for two years in it (55 miles each way), it was a great economical car, 5 speed manual, 4 cylinder, leather upholstery, bigger wheels and better suspension than the Cavalier, power everything, only real weakness was the steering rack, and some front end parts, agile in Boston traffic, no issue going 70 mph, you could see out the back, back seat actually sat two grownups, other son took it to New Mexico years later, without any issues, coming back a computer glitch but fixed easily, did over 250,000 miles before power windows died and son was then in Illinois in the winter and gave it up. People malign the Cavalier based Cimarron, but applaud the Falcon based Mustang. And the Falcon was no better than a Cavalier for its day.




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    • Ken

      Nice story contribution. Although, I take issue with only one point though. When the Falcon based Mustang came out, Ford didn’t pass off a Falcon for a high end, affordable luxury car.




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    • Miguel

      2 points.

      The Cimmaron was made from 1982 to 1988. I doubt you hade a 1981 model especially when the Cavalier hadn’t come out yet.

      Also on the Falcon/Mustang point.

      Even though Mustang used the falcon underpinnings, they did not use the exact same body to try to convince the public it was a different car.




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    • Dean

      Great post, enjoyed reading it. You spoke a lot of truth there….Reminds me when people speak badly about a mustang that is based on a Pinto design. The Mustang II is less Pinto, then the ORIGINAL Mustang was Falcon.




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  33. Doug

    A guy at work bought a ratty used 883 Sportster and started bragging about riding a Harley – until it was pointed out that was equivalent to claiming one had a Cadillac while driving a Cimarron…..




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  34. ICEMAN

    Thank goodness the Cimarron was a sales flop. Had it been a success, it would have spawned Ford to create a Lincoln out of the Mercury Topaz.
    Chrysler actually did attempt to compete; remember the K Car based Imperial?




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    • Zapp

      When the Cimarron was introduced in ’81, Ford was still smarting from the Lincoln Versailles experiment.




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      • Dean

        I loved the Lincoln Versailles….. It was just the Ford version of the Chevy – 4-door, turned Seville…..




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  35. ICEMAN

    I wish Cadillac had attempted a version of the Chevy Chevette/Pontiac Acadian !!!




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    • Miguel

      In the US it was the Pontiac T1000.




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  36. PETER P BAUSYS

    I knew a guy who had one. It was the nicest Chevy I ever sat in.




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  37. Poppy

    My elderly neighbor traded in her beautiful and massive ’77 Eldorado for one of these tin can Cimarrons. What a disappointment. Look at the rear seat legroom in the ebay ad. Might be able to stick a couple of grand kids back there, but imagine the owner’s retired friends trying to fold themselves into that back seat.




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  38. Keith

    The worst thing Cadillac produced since the plaid seats of the 1970’s




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  39. Glenn Barnett

    My aunt had two! I was driving her in the 85 on a visit and hit a big pot hole, It was in to the dealer the next day for front end work. She had a few choice words for the street department!




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  40. Will A.

    I will venture to guess that the majority of people that talk negatively about the Cimarron have never sat in or driven one. It is easy to judge based on what others say: “if my mom says it is bad, then it must be so”. The Cimarron was no better or worse than any other GM car of that era. Agreed…the powertrain was a joke and it made a bad start worse but, GM did improve the car a great deal during its production run. I currently own a concourse mint, 34k mile 1987 Cimarron that is original in every detail. From the original R-12 A/C to the floor mats and working power antenna. I recently had the opportunity to purchase a really nice 1987 Cavalier and I was a bit surprised just how different these cars actually are (beyond the sheet metal). It is akin to the difference between an Escalade and a GMC Yukon. they may come off the same line but, the similarity ends there. Yes, some of my friends joke about my Cimarron but, even they admit that it actually is a really nice car.




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    • Miguel

      You can’t start off by saying people don’t know what they are talking about then in the next sentence agree that the car was crap.

      Most people have had experiences with them, as evidenced here, and you are not getting around the fact that it is a Cadillac Cavalier in almost every respect.

      Yes Cadillac went the luxury route while Chevrolet went the sporty route, but they had the same bodies and engines.




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    • Dean

      Will A, I completely agree with your entire post…..

      Same thing I try to explain when ppl just AUTOMATICALLY say how bad Pintos, Mustang II, & Corvairs are…… it’s usually b/c “this one, or that one told me…” or “I’ve heard that….”
      but the person saying it, never owed (or even drove) one….

      My aunt had a Caddy Cim, the last year they made them. Had the V6, leather, decked out interior, digital dash, & was quick….. road like a dream….
      it was MUCH upgraded from the J-body basic design. Some will be negative no matter what……




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  41. glenn

    the last generation of this model was its best this, however, is just a tarted up cavalier but a pretty one but not at that price.




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    • Will A.

      You are correct, the 87-88 looked the best and was the most “refined” model years for the Cimarron. The value of theses cars will go up as they become more rare just as it did for the Corvair and the Edsel. Neither of those cars were particularly “loved” by the automotive world but, the rarity of them now has given them some level of value.




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