PASS Key Fault? No Reserve Cadillac Allante Project

Right now, we look at cars and trucks that have been sitting in fields, barns or yards for decades with no hope of firing up on the first twist of the key. It doesn’t phase us, because the vehicle in question is likely 40 or 50 years old – for whatever reason, old age lets us write off the inoperability. So when we see a newer car – one that, whether justified or not, people will someday collect – we usually won’t even give it a second look if it doesn’t run. This Cadillac Allante here on eBay is said to be a non-runner and sold for parts, but I imagine 20 years from now a Cadillac fanatic wouldn’t think twice about trying to resuscitate this once-grand tourer.  

The Allante is always stuck in limbo. It caused a stir when it arrived on the automotive landscape but never achieved legendary status as its designers may have intended. The power output was partly to blame, along with the high cost and better options from the likes of manufacturers that Cadillac was attempting to compete with. Personally, I think the styling is still handsome today and I do a double-take when I see one on the road. This one is particularly sharp with its black with red pinstriping color combo, though the collapsed rear window on the softtop is disconcerting as it likely renders the interior a pit of mold and filth.

This Allante may not run or drive, but there could be some simple answers for that. In 1989, GM added the company’s Pass Key system to the Allante, which would shut down the fuel system and starter if the incorrect ignition key were used to open the car. Lesser faults have caused good cars to be written off, and while this one may indeed suffer from some greater internal damage, sourcing the correct PASS key for the Allante would be an interesting place to start. The body looks quite decent, with no obvious signs of damage or rust, and the chrome wheels retain good luster.

I’m not a betting man but I do believe the Allante will be a coveted car in another few years. If nothing else, it’s part of the lineup of exclusive Cadillac two-seaters like the XLR that came later, for the rare times the company broke from its standard stodgy recipe and tried to build a car that enthusiasts would crave. While both cars fell short, they were (are) stunning to look at and certainly deserve better than languishing in some mossy junkyard lot. This Allante is a gamble and I’m not denying that – but for $500 (assuming no one else bids), it’s tempting to see if this one could be a runner with minimal fuss.


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  1. Fred W.

    I agree about the Allante’s potential collector value, but if the interior on this one looks like I think it does, parts only.

  2. Rube Goldberg Member

    Got to be an electronic nightmare,,,

    • dgrass

      Oh boy, water and electronics, my favorite!

  3. jdjonesdr

    Say I own one of these and I lose the remote. Is it as simple as using the vin number to buy another paired remote and I’d be up and running? I’ve been offered one in very good condition and supposedly that’s the only problem it’s got. Cool Beans if that was the solution.

    • DanH

      The “chipped” key was a big problem with these early Caddi’s and other GM’s. I would try and figure out a way to by-pass the immobilizer altogether otherwise you will enevidibly have issues starting it.

    • dr fine

      After an unknowledgeable mechanic cost me thousands replacing parts that turned out to be the vats/passkey chip reader, the second time it happened I considered junking my ’93 Camaro. Luckily, I found a chip bypass for less that $15. I measured the resistance of the chip on the key, front to back, to get the right number and looked under the dash to see exactly the same plug that came with the kit. Unplugged the factory plug and snapped in the new one. You can also find do it yourself instructions on the internet that require only purchasing the proper resistor.

  4. Chuck Foster Chuck F 55chevy

    Looks tempting, but probably a reason there’s no interior/engine pic. I have the Allante’s contemporary, a 90 Reatta convertible, a nice road touring car, not a sports car though, would benefit from the later SC 3800 V6, This one probably has a NorthStar? Those had a problem with head gaskets, as well as some the engines cracked.

    • 68custom

      I think these only were equipped with the Northstar motor for 93 which I also believe was the last year of production? if so you have to contend with the head bolt issues the early northstars suffered from.

    • Gino Barilone

      I Love the Reatta. Now there was a car that failed Despite being a Great Car(wish they had made a T type or w.e and out the supercharges 3.8 From Riv /Ultra from 97,+ ,series 2) I Worked at a Buick dealer…and had a Reatta convertible several years later running a small lot…I would tell people way more than wat it was goin for cuz I wanted as a Demo.. There was a Never titled or Registered triple white convertible Reatta with under 100 mile for sale from an Estate 14 years ago …an 89…they wanted 30grand…And Was WELL worth it Imo…My Demo had the The special seats…I liked that car alot. Kudos to your Reatta.

      • CaCarDude

        I also am in to the Reatta buying these days, nice little “Halo” car that Buick put into it’s showrooms back in ’88, and went just 4 years. IMO they are a true sleeper and I truly believe a car to be collectible in the future. I currently have an ’88, ’89, and just bought a low mileage ’91. I like the Allante but not enough to invest in one at this time, I will stick with the little hand built Reatta.

      • jdjonesdr

        I remember visiting either DisneyWorld or Universal studios back in the late eighties and there was a Reatta on display as a “car of the future” that was going to be sold to the public.
        I really liked the look of it but in those days there was no way I could afford one.

  5. BarnfindyCollins

    This is another GM car that people like to have hang around like the Buick Reatta. Such a handsome car, and with a real name though computer generated. Be Cadillac, not Mercedes. What’s a BLS? I don’t know. I’m hoping they get their act together before China Inc. swoops in to buy. It might take some cool kid on TV driving one to get some recognition or a movie character and people start saying I’d like one too.

    • Dovi65

      I share your sentiment about cars having actual model NAMES, and not some random combination of letters/numbers. The new Cadillac CT6 seems worthy of the Fleetwood moniker. Lincoln has begun the transition back to names with Continental replacing the MKS, and the Nautilus will replace the MKX, so perhaps Cadillac will follow suit

  6. Dyver

    Pass key would be easy to find/fix. NStar engine not available in 89 I believe. Besides that anybody with a brain who owned a NStar would have been all over the PM to eliminate potential head gasket issues. Been there done that twice.

  7. Steve A.

    I’d have to get paid to take this one.
    I’ll pass.

  8. Bryan Corey

    I like how the “PASS” is in uppercase

  9. The Walrus

    They don’t make’em like they used to begins to become more than just a saying in the 80’s. The number of physical parts in a production vehicle grew almost 3 fold between 1980 and 1996. The idea of vehicle restoration that we currently hold, that a vehicle can be returned to ‘as new’ condition after a period of neglect really doesn’t apply to anything made since about 1985. Massive overhauls to electronics sometimes occurred every model year and the sheer number of other parts (covers, fasteners, warning tags) makes a restoration as we know it today daunting at best. As a personal example, in the early 90’s, still young and dumb, I purchased a 1983 jaguar XjS. 1983 was the first year for fuel injection on the Jag V-12. Turns out 1983 was a 1-year only Bosch system. I tried for months to sort it out. Parts and information were unobtanium. There was nobody with information on it… and this was a 10 year old car! I sold it to someone who had a 454 to swap in. That car will never ever be a 1983 Jaguar XJS again … it can’t be.

  10. charlie Member

    I own and drive a lot, a ’93, with the Northstar, and knock on wood, it runs just fine, power, handles, and not a museum piece, a few little dents, and missing plastic parts, passed CA emissions this year as well. They are at the bottom of their market, I hope.

  11. Canadian Mark S. Eh! Member

    Modern cars are made to be miled out and thrown out. It can take days / weeks to sort out all the gremlins in a car like this. The way to go with a car like this will be to install aftermarket systems on them and strip out old original equipment systems. This car is nothing more than a glorified Pontiac grand am. I wouldn’t want it.

    • Donek

      You make some very good points. But not the last one :)

      • dr fine

        Yes, why would a grand am need to be glorified even more?

  12. CaddyMatt

    I believe you’re on the mark with your opinion of the Allante as a future collector car. I’m a Cadillac collector and restorer. This will be one to watch in the future. Currently they can be found in reasonably good condition for less than $5k. Tips for the buyer: if you’re seeking a nice weekend cruiser, buy an older (pre 1991) Allante with the (generally) reliable 4.5 V8 and just enjoy it. 1991 and later Allantes were saddled with the troublesome Northstar engine. It solved the lack of performance the older Allantes suffered, but is generally a problematic hunk of junk. Only invest in a Northstar Allante if you plan to rarely drive it and are hoping to cash in on it’s future collectibility. And buy the absolute best car you can find for the lowest possible price.
    As to your query about the GM Passkey setup, yes the override is certainly an option, but more often it’s the small white power feed wire in the steering column that breaks, immobilizing the car. You have to disassemble the column to fix it, but it’s not an impossible task.

  13. jcs

    Something about this guys story does not ring true. First of all he buys a beautiful car that runs and drives beautifully, drives it home and parks it OUTSIDE of his warehouse. There is a heavy rainstorm and when he goes to move the car, he discovers that the interior is soaking wet. What does he do? Move it into his warehouse? No! If I’m reading his “story” correctly, he gets out of the car and leaves it outside for “years and years” without starting it, driving it, just letting it sit out in the rain with a leaking roof or leaking something. Does this sound like a car dealer? Certainly not one that I’ve ever met.

  14. Jose Delgadillo

    I was just looking at an Allante last week. This was a clean pre Nothstar car. I had a Northstar Seville and the only real problem with the motor was it went through starters and boy did it start to leak oil. Still I had it for over ten years. I think the problem with the Allante will be the instrument panel. The speedo and other read outs are video displays, as with the heater readouts etc. So if there is an electronic problem you wont be able to see the speedo or control the A/C. There are so many little push button controls. Mechanically it is just an Eldorado in an Italian suit. I would only buy one if it was currently running and all the systems were working fine. It is a nice looking car but the fact that it is FWD is a point against it. The XLR was Corvette based.

  15. Howard

    Bro n law had one of these that would be completely dead when he got out of work, or just shut off going down the road. Weeks of tinkering and reading manuals without any positive results til someone suggested that he find the spare key……………. never a problem again

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