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Controversial Caddy: 1998 Cadillac Catera

The Caddy that zigs.  That was the catch-phrase spoken at the end of the commercial starring Cindy Crawford driving a Catera back in the late nineties while the actress herself never utters a sound during the entire 30 seconds, although just her presence initially makes you want one of these entry-level Cadillacs in your garage.  But take Cindy out of the equation and the car is just sort of ho-hum, however, if you’re looking for a low-mileage car from the brand that will set you back well under five grand this 1998 Cadillac Catera here on Craigslist might be worth considering.  $4,400 will put this one in your driveway, so head on down to Bradenton, Florida to meet up with the seller if you’re ready to make a deal.

Rocco B. sent the tip our way here, and for that, we’d like to say thanks!  When the Catera first went on sale in the U.S. as a 1996 model, Cadillac had hoped to attract new buyers with a lower price point than most of their current offerings.  The company reasoned that with a base MSRP of $29,995, many consumers who thought the brand was out of their reach might reconsider, and to an extent that mentality worked as around 95,000 units found homes during the car’s five-year run.

In reality, the Catera was a renamed derivative of the Opel Omega B and was even manufactured by that company in Germany, using the General Motors V Body undercarriage.  Looking at the car being offered for sale here, the outside appears to be in good shape overall, with areas around the headlight on the passenger side showing some damage but they’re just plastic, so if this is bothersome it’s probably a somewhat easy repair.  I think my biggest problem though is after staring at the body for a while it almost reminds me more of a Saturn sedan than a Cadillac.  I realize it’s got a larger trunk and is a bit more elegant, but just not screaming what I really desire from the brand.

The seller doesn’t go into very many details about his Catera, although we do find out he purchased the car from the estate of the original owner but found himself rarely driving it, so owner number three will be starting off with just 47k miles on the clock.  The leather seats seem to be in decently preserved condition, at least the front buckets as we don’t get to view the rear passenger area.  It’s also got a rather sporty shifter compared to many other Cadillacs, plus you’ll need to get out your box of tapes and put that nearby factory cassette player to some use.

The engine sure looks quick sitting in the bay, with the 3.0-liter V6 appearing well-thought-out on top by the trim and detail departments when you raise the hood.  It’s no slouch either, offering a period respectable 200 HP, not exactly mindboggling but a decent amount of power to move the 3,770-pound sedan around ably, and with the low mileage there should be some good life left if the motor’s been properly maintained.  I can certainly understand the allure of a 47k-mile Cadillac at this price point, and it even comes with a nearly new set of tires.  Is this good value for $4,400?

Comments

  1. Todd J. Member

    It’s a travesty for this car to be adorned with the Cadillac crest, but the Cimarron, for me at least, will always rank as one of GM’s greatest embarrassments.

    Like 30
  2. 370zpp 370zpp Member

    Great marketing though. the minute I read “Catera” I immediately thought of “The Caddy that zigs”, even before I read it here.

    Like 23
  3. Big_Fun Member

    The engine was not one of the best; they installed it in the SAAB and the Saturn L series. Had bearing issues for the timing chain tensioner, if I remember right.
    These were known as the Opel Omega (!) in Europe. I remember it was very nice, and one of the few GM cars to have memory settings for the passenger power seat. The Sport package option really made it fun to drive.
    Should have been, ‘The Catera, only available at your Cadillac dealer!’ No Wreath and Crest badging.

    Like 16
    • FireAxeGXP

      What SAAB was this engine in? In the 90s I owned a couple Swedish ground bound airplanes and don’t remember engines other than the 2 litre and 2.3 litre turbo.

      Like 3
      • alphasud Member

        They were made available for the 94-98 Saab 900 models. I remember replacing water pumps every 15K on the 94 models, timing belt tensioner issues, leaking plastic valve covers. They didn’t sound very good either. Very uninspiring engine. The 3 liter version was found on the 9000CD model 94-97 and again on the 9-5 where it got a low pressure turbo. I think the 9-3 Aero got the turbo version of this engine but I was no longer with Saab so I’m not 100% on that.

        Like 1
  4. Walter

    Despite all this is excellent value for under 4,500. Should roll along nicely for some years yet.
    When I look at the dents and scratches in my Mustang, I regret not buying something like this for parking lot duty.

    Like 12
  5. Rw

    Opel junk,a least the Cimmaron known on the street as a “Short Change” had a GM 2.8 in reality is a pretty dependable engine.

    Like 5
  6. Stan

    Euro/Caddy 😒

    Like 4
    • Randall Tefft Sundeen

      GM Ford AND CHRYSLER are truck companies and nothing more than that! Cars like the Cimarron and don’t forget Diesel and 4-6-8 and the85′ DeVille 86′ Seville …

      Like 0
  7. Jake Thesnake

    This car and the Cimarron basically killed Cadillac. To this day, GM has yet to recover from these disasters and most likely never will, unfortunately.

    Like 7
    • Fox owner

      Ever hear of the CT4 and CT5 V Blackwing? I think Cadillac has recovered nicely.

      Like 24
      • Jake Thesnake

        Those cars may have recovered nicely. However, not their reputation.

        Like 6
  8. Angel_Cadillac_Diva Angel Cadillac Diva Member

    Back in the 80s and 90s Cadillac was on a “touring” kick. Most of their offerings were ETS (Eldorado Touring Sedan) DTS (Deville Touring Sedan) etc.
    I was always under the belief that the Catera did not do well in sales until it became the CTS (Catera Touring Sedan) and then it took off like gang busters. The CTS was and still is a hot Cadillac commodity.
    Until the 2000s, Cadillacs attempts at a small Cadillac were always dismal failures. Allante, Cimmeron, Catera, XLR
    They were always
    1)overpriced
    2)underpowered
    3)taken another GM product and slapped a Caddy emblem on it
    I don’t think the XLR was such a failure. It was competitivly priced,, had power especially the V series and was a fresh design.. Unfortunately, not many people wanted a 2 seat Cadillac.

    Like 18
    • Robert Atkinson, Jr.

      Don’t forget the first generation Seville! Essentially a rebadged Nova with an Olds 350 V8 under the hood, it was the first GM product with EFI as standard equipment. Ordinary X-Bodies got some form of carburetion, so the Seville was good on gas and ran a lot better than her cheaper sisters. The Seville was a big hit, coming on line between the first and second oil embargoes, when gas mileage was king. The fact that its smaller size made it easier to park meant a lot of women bought them. Then when it was restyled by Bill Mitchell in 1980, it got bigger, along with the famous (some would say infamous) “bustle butt” trunk.

      Like 8
    • RICK W

      HAVE owned 89 Fleetwood Brougham deElegance and 93 Brougham. Last Cadillacs for me to consider worthy of Standard of the WORLD! Camera and Cimarron were a disgrace to Cadillac. But Cadillac made numerous mistakes, especially with 4100 and V864. Even worse was the decision to stop producing Full size RWD Luxury vehicles. And DON’T tell me a glorified truck like Escalade is suitable for formal events!

      Like 4
  9. Joe Cloutier

    And a tie in to the commericial and a TV series. “lease a Catera” became a cast member on Chicago Hope… (Lisa Catera)

    Like 8
    • Robert Atkinson, Jr.

      As they showed Cindy Crawford’s face with the famous mole, the announcer intoned: “Lease a Catera for $299.00 a month! Who IS Lisa Cartera, anyway?”, LOL! That’s the line that got Cadillac in trouble, because it suggested to some people that Cadillac was endorsing prostitution.

      Like 4
  10. Randall Tefft Sundeen

    I remember the long term test(s) of this auto,one in Automobile magazine the other in Car and Driver! One of the Caddys was solid and reliable,the other tested as a lemon that lived in the shop! In 1972, GM tried to import an Open and Car and Driver Photographed the test model in front of a scrapyard! Opel, like most OLDER European cars had hit or miss reliability! If you got a GOOD ONE,you were fine however a European Lemon could put you in the poorhouse relatively quickly!

    Like 4
  11. John Prill Member

    Car looks like a steal at under $5K. But the styling is so generic/BORING! Make a good daily driver. OMG the Saturn pic blew me away…I knew that Catera reminded me of something, typical boring GM. I owned a 1972 Opel 1900, and now a 2916 Buick Cascada (in Europe, an Opel…GM keeps trying to sell us diguised Opels), and both were/are very dependable and fun cars to drive. The Catera…??

    Like 4
  12. Troy

    Overpriced Chevrolet Lumina when they were new. I like it because its a rear wheel drive car opposed to the Lumina being a front drive car where would I park a 5th car around here….

    Like 5
  13. Courtney

    the Catera could’ve been better though was poorly executed and became one of Cadillac’s lowest selling nameplates ever selling less than 95,000 in 6 years from 1996-2001 though its follow on CTS sold around 700,000 units between 2002-2019 making it Cadillac’s 4th best selling nameplate ever behind the Deville Seville and Escalade and technically the Seville Touring Sedan debuted as a package in 1988 with 1,500 built for that year in 4 exterior colors White Diamond Sable Black, Black Sapphire and Carmine Red 375 in each color. if you add up the 977,017 Seville’s sold between 1976-2005 and 118,184 STS sold between 2004-2011 its combined total was 1,095,201

    Like 4
  14. Mike76

    Had a next door neighbor that bought a Cimmaron brand new in the late 80’s, iirc, and always remember looking at it thinking, it looks nothing like a Cadillac.The Catera is another abortion that should’ve not don the crest and wreath but the Cimmaron will forever be the low point in Cadillac history as far as I am concerned.

    Like 6
  15. Allen Member

    Would it have been better if Cadillac had revived the LaSalle marque for these cars? No pretense if it’s not a “Cadillac” per se. That would have allowed the Cadillac division to dabble in smaller and/or cheaper cars without sullying the Cadillac brand name. …FWIW.

    Like 7
  16. Archie

    The Catera has one major problem unless it has been repaired. The timing belt in Europe required changing at 50K miles. GM decided that was too much to expect of American buyers so they skipped that requirement. So at about 50K and a few the belts started breaking which caused thousands of dollars to repair.
    GM finally(after causing really bad customer dis-satisfaction) came out with a campaign to fix it. If this one has not had the belt changed I hope a new owner will do so, otherwise he will be sorry.

    Like 3
  17. George

    The parts guys at the local Cassy dealer called them Caterribles,

    Like 4
  18. Greg

    I may be wrong for feeling this way and I apologize in advance to whom ever this may offend. I always get Leary when a car is in or from Florida. I always wonder about possible flood damage. Maybe someone can offer a different take on this. Thanks

    Like 2
    • John

      I lived in Florida for about 50 years and never had an issue with any car I bought. Florida has no more floods than other areas of the country.
      If a car was flooded in the state it will not have a clear title.

      Like 3
      • Randall Tefft Sundeen

        I much rather buy a car here than any other state, I’ve lived in four states and the secret to snatching a good ride is RESEARCH!

        Like 1
  19. Greg

    Thanks for the feedback, makes sense.

    Like 1
    • Randall Tefft Sundeen

      Rental car special, it’s a rental for a reason……

      Like 0
  20. PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

    They made almost 100K of these and I can’t recall ever seeing one.

    Then again, I probably did and just didn’t even notice.

    Like 1
    • John

      They look like all the rest.

      Like 1
      • PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

        Yep, John, that was my point. No uniqueness to this car at all.

        Like 1
  21. ShaneH Shane

    I must be the only owner of one of these commenting. I loved mine it was the smoothest shifting car I have ever drove! No problem getting it up to 140 mph on I 29. The car even had rear seat heaters. For that time that was practically not heard of.
    I will be honest I had 2 things that should have been designed better. The body moldings needed better mounting. And the plastic valve covers would leak. I would buy this one in a minute!! Good luck to the new owner!

    Like 3
  22. Wendi

    I wrecked a ‘97 and ‘99, 4 years apart. Cars held up well, and naturally they didn’t have engine issues, which makes my crashes all the more heartbreaking. ‘99’s only issue was a battery replacement and a water pump.

    My late father worked for Cadillac and I had a Catera plush (I was 15). He joked about how well baby Cadillacs held up against his offspring.

    Like 2

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