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Italian/American Luxury Roadster: 1990 Cadillac Allante

When Cadillac introduced the Allante in 1987, the voiceover on one of their TV ads said, “It is a luxury roadster unlike any that has come before it. A Cadillac designed and hand-crafted in Europe by the designers of Ferraris and Rolls-Royces. Imagine…a world-class road car with Cadillac comfort. Allente. The New Spirit of Cadillac. While there’s not always truth in advertising, that script aptly described Cadillac’s first two-seater since the 1930’s. Of the 3,101 Allante’s built in 1990, here’s a low-mileage survivor that appears to have been well-kept and preserved. Currently in a garage on a farm in Eaton, Colorado, this black-on-black Caddy roadster is for sale here on craigslist for $15,000 or best offer. An old world “grazie” to Mark_K for sending this tip our way.

Getting back to the TV ad, with Cadillac losing its mojo as “The Standard of the World” in the luxury field, they decided to create a new “aspirational” model to compete head-to-head with the Mercedes SL and Jaguar XJS roadsters. And since Detroit’s car making image was a bit tarnished, Cadillac thought they’d “Europeanize” their roadster by offering Italian styling by Pininfarina, the legendary designer and coach builder of the Ferrari Testarossa and Rolls-Royce Camargue. It may have sounded like a good idea at the time, but the logistics of flying Allante bodies (56 at a time aboard a specially-equipped Boeing 747) from Italy to Detroit for final assembly added an estimated $4,000 – $8,000 into the Allante’s hefty price tag of $54,700 (about $130,000 in today’s dollars). I wish I could give you more history about this rather rare roadster, but the seller is light on details: “Black on Black rare Allante Pinni Ferrini. Suspension built in Italy. 32k miles. Two seater convertible. Garaged at my farm. Runs great! New Tires.”  That’s it. Just 24 words. Based on the few photos (and from 2016), this Allante appears to be in very good condition. The black paint shines, I can’t see any dings or dents, and the shiny stuff, trim, glass, lenses, and the soft top seem to be ship-shape.

This Allante’s interior looks very good for a 32-year-old car and the “ten-way Recaro seats handfitted with Italian leather” have been well taken care of. Allante’s were one of the first cars sold with a CD player and there’s also a nifty foldout cupholder in the center console. Being a Cadillac, theses luxury roadsters came loaded with standard equipment. The only option was a cellular telephone which would set you back $1,200.

There aren’t any photos of the engine, but it should be a 4.5L, 274-cubic-inch , 200 hp V8 that was mated to a 4-speed F-7 automatic transmission. In 1990, the Allante was advertised has having the most torque of any front-wheel-drive car in production as well as being the first front-wheel-drive car equipped with standard traction control. The seller claims it has 32,000 miles on the digital odometer and based on the Caddy’s condition inside and out, I’d say those are original. So, what do you think? Here’s an opportunity to get an almost-new-looking Allante for a fourth of what it cost the first owner new back in 1990.


  1. Connecticut mark

    I like the interior, this engine I guess right before the Northstar? Not sure which would have been better.

    Like 2
    • George Bishopric Member

      The Allanté 4.1 and 4.5 engines are smooth, reliable motors. They are both unique to the Allanté and do not share their blocks, heads, or fuel injection systems with any other Cadillac powerplant. The only thing the Allanté 4.1 shares with the dreaded HT4100 is the displacement.

      Like 3
    • Angel_Cadillac_Diva Angel Cadillac Diva Member

      Every article I’ve read on the Allante has said, go for the Northstar.
      As for the dashboard, I never understood designers of the 80s and 90s. Ugliest dashboards in history, IMO.
      We’re talking Cadillac here. So much plastic, so much wasted space. And 42,000 buttons on the stack! Who was thinking during this design?

  2. sonny

    A few bucks more get an XLR Caddie; far advanced and known to grow in value. These were problematic with the engine, as told, along with the beautiful body …. personal taste? Seems to be pricey for year and probably could use tires, etc. fluid changes before making it road ready.

    Like 5
    • PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

      Parts availability on the XLR can be tricky, I’ve heard. At least the ones not shared with the Corvette, but they had different engines (IIRC).
      Nice car and would choose it over an Allante, for sure.

      • George Member

        If the pumps go out for the retractable hardtop, you have a “fixed head coupe.” No replacement parts are available. The tail lights are also nearly impossible to find.

        As the body, transmission, engine, and interior, as well as much of the suspension, are all entirely different, don’t count on Corvette parts to bail you out.

  3. Joe Padavano

    Having owned two 1993 Allantes with the Northstar, it’s a great looking car that drives really well. This seller is in fantasy land with the asking price, however. These cars unfortunately are worth nowhere near $15K. The earlier cars have the pushrod motor and the sketchy ABS system that requires annual fluid changes to avoid total brake failure. As usual, GM killed the car as soon as they got it right in 93.

    Like 8
    • George Member

      Exactly. I have an ’87 that I got from a neighbor. Always thought they were attractive, but never really wanted one, was certainly not “a cadillac guy.”

      It’s amazing how many things Cadillac got right. It’s beautiful, extraordinarily comfortable, and amazingly practical. The handling is predictable and smooth. Great steering balance.

      The only real issue is the aging Bosch ABS system, which requires a little extra attention. Cancelling this project, not even a rounding error on GM’s balance sheet, gave the Allanté and Cadillac yet another black eye, at a time they did not need another

      Like 2
  4. Psychofish2

    “It is a luxury roadster unlike any that has come before it. A Cadillac designed and hand-crafted in Europe by the designers of Ferraris and Rolls-Royces. Imagine…a world-class road car with Cadillac comfort.”

    That’s called: “Flop sweat”.

    Trying way too hard.

    All that effort and such an ordinary, unremarkable design. Take the badges off and it could be from any brand it’s so anonymous.

    That front end was right at home on the Chevrolet Corsica just like the wall to wall tail lights from so many others. Ford Fairmont Futura 2 door comes to mind.

    There was nothing new or special here except for the blatant inefficiency of developing and building it.

    The back story is important though and that makes it interesting in spite of it’s pedestrian design.

    It will hit all the right boxes for someone, but it’s always left me SMH ever since it first appeared.

    Almost as silly as the Chrysler TC.

    • George Bishopric Member

      And that’s why Mercedes Benz totally cloned the design for the R129?

      It is not Pininfarina’s most distinctive design, but it takes themes used on the Lancia Gamma and Pinin (proposal for a Ferrari four door sedan) and made it into the first post-Brougham Cadillac.

      No fake wood, no vinyl roof, minimal fussy, plasticky ornamentation.

      Building the car in Italy was not as extravagant as many think. Using Pininfarina to build the car avoided the considerable cost of building a new factory for a niche product, a factory that had to build at tighter tolerances than any GM North America plant could do. Flying the cars avoided the deterioration seen in the Pininfarina-built Eldorado Broughams of 1959-60. Salt air on freighters is not kind to cars.

      Like 1
  5. charlie Member

    I own a ’93 with the Northstar V8, with 150,000 or so miles on it. Computer issues happen, but, with patient “sorting” they can be delt with. It is, even for 29 years later, fast, comfortable, road hugging, wind noise top down, top up, or hardtop on, I paid $3000 for mine, 6 years ago, have put about $3000 and countless hours into it, but, remember, most of what are offered here are toys, not transportation. Only airbag is driver’s, sound system gave up and previous owner put an aftermaket one in the trunk, but the wind noise is such that unless you are cruising on a bouldvard, it is hard to hear anyway. I love it, the price is high, but if it is as good as it looks, it could be worth it.

    Like 4
  6. G Lo

    I have always liked these except for the chrome. Why, GM, why. Still, these play directly into my requirements for a driveable classic: comfy, reliable, square, mostly anonymous, unlikely to see another, not ostentatious.

    Like 3
  7. Sebastian X1/9

    It is a very Pininfarina looking car. In 1990 they designed the Alfa Romeo 164, and the Allante looks like a 164 convertible. It you search for 164 cabriolet, a concept car never built, it’s basically this Cadillac. It has aged beautifully imo.

    Like 2
  8. Lance Platt

    It was late 1989 (1990 model year) and I was a court deputy service bailiff. I served an employee payroll garnishment order to a Cadillac dealership and saw my first Allante on the showroom floor. I was very impressed with the styling, the traction, the power for the time and car size and the equipment. I was given a sales brochure which I kept for several years and left for my next court delivery of criminal and civil documents in my used Chevrolet Cavalier. Never earned enough to buy an Allante but always thought it was a beautiful car that brought traffic but not enough sales to the showroom. Those with larger disposable incomes preferred the Mercedes Benz roadsters but I would have loved one like the Cadillac offered for sale.

    Like 2
  9. Ricky

    Pinni Ferrini? The seller can’t even get the name right, it’s Pininfarina! Can’t say I would trust anything else he has to say.

    Like 2
  10. PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

    Speaking of Allante advertising, I like Kelly Bundy’s the best.
    The “Bundy Bounce”.

    Like 3
  11. Ward William

    I was feeling the love until I saw the slushbox. Come to think of it, I have yet to see a manual for sale. Nice but overpriced. Throw in another pedal and I might be interested.

    Like 1
    • Joe Padavano

      You’ll be looking for a manual trans version for a really long time, as they don’t exist. The Fiero crowd has mated the Northstar to the Getrag trans, but obviously that will take a lot of mechanical and programming skill to do it here.

  12. George Member

    Not one was built with a manual. The target market was not boy racers.

    The steering is direct and responsive, and it handles just fine. Won’t be lapping the Nuremburging at record speed, but the R107 Benz didn’t hang out there, either.

    I’ve seen some 280sl R107 bodies with manuals, all grey market cars. I’ve never seen a US Spec R107 with a manual, either. I’d bet a donut that none were exported to the USA.

  13. Ricky

    I own a 1985 1/2 Pininfarina Azzura. The production of my car was halted after only a handful of the 1/2 year was built. Factory upgrades from previous years included rack & pinion steering, larger front brakes, better rust prevention. A beautiful 2 seat convertible,(ala Fiat Spyder). Pininfarina ceased production to build the Allante instead. A very poor trade off.

    Like 1
  14. George Member

    Well, that gorgeous Tom Tjaarda design was lovely, but the chasis and mechanicals date from 1967, and I would bet that meeting emission controls and safety standards was not going to happen.

    While I adore your car, I’d bet that building it was just to keep the favtory open, pending a replacement contract.

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