Just Donated: 1988 Cadillac Allante

Sellers on eBay that push donated vehicles are among my favorites, mainly because the cars are dirt cheap and it’s amazing to see what passes for donations these days. This 1988 Cadillac Allante looks surprisingly decent for a donation car, and the modern Cadillac alloys may indicate a diehard OEM owner in its recent past. The car isn’t perfect but it’s also cheap; find it here on eBay where bidding has yet to reach $400 and there’s no reserve. 

One of my neighbors recently acquired an Allante in the same color, and any engineering complaints notwithstanding, these sure are pretty cars. I hadn’t seen one up close in years and it surprised me as to how good the design still looks all these years later. This Allante has more than a few issues disclosed by the seller, including an illuminated check engine light, brake light, and A/C that doesn’t blow cold. The paint is described as being faded with more than a few dings.

The check engine light, as we know, can be as simple as a faulty O2 sensor. And brake lights usually mean pads are wearing down. The interior looks way too nice for this Allante to have been a victim of neglect, and modern OEM wheels usually indicate an owner who has a purist streak residing somewhere inside them. The body, dings and paint fade aside, seems pretty straight to my eyes and whatever battle scars it wears could just be the result of an elderly owner and being parked outside.

The engine bay looks impressively clean for a donation car, and the paint on the shock towers is practically like new. My guess? This car was loved at one time, and the donation situation reflects either heirs who didn’t want to take on an elderly parent’s car, or a wealthy couple that saw more benefit in the tax write-off than attempting to trade it in at the local dealer. Whatever the circumstance, this could be a cheap score for the next owner.

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Comments

  1. Alan (Michigan) Member

    I dunno…
    So many faults for a car that should have been pampered. It looks to me as though it was pretty much mistreated and ham-fisted throughout it’s life with at least one owner.
    I’m thinking that the only way the seats look as good as they do is that they have been recovered. Unfortunately, much of the hardware and trim was damaged during the process! I don’t think I have ever seen the cover wear off of a steering wheel before.
    This strikes me as a car which may have much more serious issues than meet the eye. Dash lights can be surmised as trivial or an easy fix, but they also can portend a money pit! There are many reasons for a brake light to be on, from a parking brake switch misadjustment to a defective master cylinder. The check engine light could be simple like a bad gas cap, or heavy duty like a bad camshaft.

    I like the style, but the tires are too big for the car, appearance-wise. The wheels are OK, but the tires should be replaced with a set having a shorter sidewall/lower profile.

    What I see is a bank account siphon!

    • mallthus

      The leather in these was of an unusually high standard when new. This is perfectly reasonable visible wear. My father had one of these and a Reatta (although not concurrently). The leather in his Allante was in very good shape when the car was 20 years old, with the only visible wear being where his wallet rubbed the seat bottom and a couple of frayed threads on the right driver’s side bolster. And that’s in a car that was parked on the street and daily driven by a smoker. I’d imagine even the slightest amount of car and detailing would give this result.

    • Alexander

      “I don’t think I have ever seen the cover wear off of a steering wheel before.”

      I have. I was mystified, until my veteran-mechanic friend calmly and cynically said “Someone with big rings and a death grip…..” We replaced the steering wheel (worse job than I wanted it to be, thanks to the airbag) with the one from my wreck.

    • kenzo

      I believe the steering wheel cover is just that. An aftermarket lace on. Looking closely you can see the lacing on the underside of the wheel.
      Looked at a Buick like this and the styling is unique. Either love it or not and yes it needs smaller tires.

  2. Scorty

    It does look very clean under the hood. What’s that box that sits on top of the front valve cover? Looks like an orange button on it?

    • elrod

      Power steering reservoir. Creatively disguised…

      • Scorty

        Thank you!

  3. Mr. Bond

    Alan, you might be right on the new seat covers. Even the headrests look to be a different shade. Most seat materials from the ’80’s would be trashed after 30 years and 155k miles.

    • Clay Bryant

      They’re good leather………..I have an 89 and it looks the same. Seat covers? not………

  4. mallthus

    All signs on this car point to a car bought new and driven until (or even past) the original owner couldn’t safely drive anymore. My parents once babied 2009 CTS-V now has lots of parking lot damage, mostly because my 81-year-old parents spend a lot of time struggling to enter and exit the car. (Word to the wise…don’t park next to them!)

    OEM wheels on this car were 16″, so the high aspect ratio is normal. These wheels look to have come from a mid-90s Seville or Eldorado, which also would have had a 16″ wheel stock.

  5. mike D

    the 155K mi is cringe worthy , would wonder if there is a stash of repairs over the years being from the North east, this looks stellar , even in it’s current condition the wear on the carpet in the drivers seat is sad… should have had carpeted mats for its life this auction house usually has some interesting cars, and, they do go cheap while out there I could visit my daughter but not in a position to grab it and fix it up

  6. John

    Driver side rear window ajar from impact bothers me. Top replacement needed?

    • Clay Bryant

      Don’t know where you get the rear window ajar thing from. It’s a fixed window………..

  7. DETROIT LAND YACHT

    Always liked these cars.Visually comparable to the SL’s of the day.(imo)
    That being said…I think the (usual) tone deaf marketing by The General…and the too-much-plastic interior…and the unremarkable dash sealed this critters’ fate.Worth restoring/restomodding. Especially if you can get it for under 2k.What other V8 could you shoehorn in there?

    • Mallthus

      The biggest problems were cheap switchgear, a crappy engine (until that end of the line Northstar) and FWD. These were and are fun fine cars, but I’d take an SL any day of the week if both were on offer.

  8. dirtyharry

    The brake light? Be prepared for that one. They don’t use a conventional brake system. It was made by Bosch and uses an accumulator pressurized by an electric motor and a brake actuator. Virtually the same thing you will find on an electric car that has no vacuum source. That part is no longer made and you will see prices for those between 2500 to 5000, just for a good actuator. In 93, they dropped the Bosch system and used a conventional master cylinder. All of the older versions have the Bosch system, which does work well, if it is working. I put almost 200,000 miles on my 91 and it was essentially bulletproof, except for the problematic brakes. If an owner faithfully flushed the system and the actuator annually, it might have lasted, but no one did.

    • Scott

      I had that Bosch brake system on my 1990 Oldsmobile Touring Sedan, swapped it out for a regular brake system in junked 98 when it went bad.

  9. Keith

    “And brake lights usually mean pads are wearing down.”

    Previous poster beat me to it – these had a rather, ahem, unique brake system.

    I once was checking out a rather beaten-down Allanté, and made the mistake of putting it into neutral (to push it closer to the nearest source of electricity – battery was dead) without first checking the brakes. It rolled better than expected, and stopped only after I aimed it at a conveniently located curb.

    “modern OEM wheels usually indicate an owner who has a purist streak residing somewhere inside them”

    Or a junkyard nearby. What with the Northstar head/gasket epidemic, a set like that is $200 all day long at your local self-serve scrap joint.

  10. charlie Member

    I have a ’93, when they got a lot of things right, and then quit making them. Northstar V8 has plenty of power, simple more conventional brake system, but Recaro seats were replaced by GM’s, comfortable, but leather on my driver’s seat is now split (130,000 miles and still driving it – not a museum piece so why not?). Check engine light was bad cat, but at 125,000 miles and ethanol gas, not a surprise, and it is conventional Caddy so available. Essentially all the mechanical components are GM, a very few were Allante particular, there is a good support network, and at least 4 dealers in parts, one in NJ, one in Chicago area, on in FL and one in San Diego. The hard top needs to be lifted off, the soft top folds down behind the seats. The early ones, like this, leaked in the rain, this may have had the fixes, or, it may still leak. The early ones, like this, had a stiffer suspension but less power than the later ones.

  11. Brakeservo

    Had one, chose to sell it before the digital dash crapped out – it is a General Motors car after all, and the last I ever owned – that was nearly 20 years ago.

  12. Clay Bryant

    Something amiss here. It’s been for sale three times now over the last month at the same place. All 5 day sales then here it comes back again………

    • Alan (Michigan) Member

      I had not looked closely at the history of the listing to see that. So it looks as though some kind of shill action resulting in “no sale”, or people who rejected the car outright after getting an actual look at it. It will be interesting to see if it comes around again, having just finished at $1825, with a lot of bidders.

      I still say that the seats have to have been (recently) recovered, and also the main door armrests. How obvious is it that the leather (?) looks nearly perfect, when all around it is so very trashed. I’m thinking that the loose chunk of carpet material was from a seat back. You can easily see that the backs of the seats are bare shells, lacking any sort of factory covering.

      Look at the interior. The carpet, the console, the shifter, the headrests, the inside door handles and window controls, all beat up. And the steering wheel, of course, which does look like an original (shredded) cover.

      The info on the braking system is invaluable. My original take on the car being a vacuum for cash is reinforced!

  13. Del

    Its a Caddy. What could go wrong ?

  14. Jim

    These car are donated for the tax credit.

  15. robert harrell

    new master 3200.00 brake pump 1600.00 and so on junk yards HIGH FOR ALL PARTS no one wants a money drain changed all brakes on my 1989 fine now A G.M ntght mare 67 people killed & 700 hurt G.M never a recall that iknow of ON SORRY BRAKES cant drive auto U cant stop it brakes now then NO brakes WOW SL mercedes never

    Like 1
  16. Charlie Member

    As noted above, I own a ’93. A more conventional braking system, But almost anything more than 10 years old can be a problem- pack rat invaded my ’05 4Runner chewed a seat belt, no replacement to be found as yet. If I find one dealer won’t touch it, independent garage is afraid of settling off the pretensioner bullet in the old one, will try the body shop if I can locate one on line.

    Like 1

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