Ultimate Badge Engineering: 1986 Cadillac Cimarron

This is one of those cars that certainly has its haters. Some of them haven’t even read this far. There are others that have continued to read but no amount of persuading will bring them around. I think the distaste for this car is that it was basically a gussied up Chevrolet Cavalier, even the grilles were very similar. While a 1986 top line Cavalier RS 4 door sedan 4 cylinder sold for $8,451, this Cimarron with 6 cylinders sold for $13,838 when new, a significant difference for basically the same car, or was it? For comparison, let’s consider that in 1978 Ford offered a base Thunderbird for $5,411, but if you were willing to go for a Diamond Jubilee model, the same basic car with more options, of course, was $10,106. This is a 1986 Cadillac Cimarron 4 door sedan for sale here on eBay in Billerica, Massachusetts.

The seller starts off describing this car as “the Cadillac of all Cadillacs”. I don’t think I would agree with that. This car was definitely a product of badge engineering and there are other much greater Cadillac models that we would use that statement for. This car has been in the Fort Myers area since new. This Cadillac Cimarron has some imperfections. The rear bumper extensions are missing, while the seller does have one that he will include with the sale. The silver coloring on the bottom of the doors has started to flake and come off. The white paint is original except in an area described below. The car is riding on four new tires mounted to the original aluminum alloy wheels. Fog lights and trunk luggage rack are other features.

It is outfitted with a quarter vinyl top that was installed by Florisun Custom Coach of Fort Myers. I’m assuming that is an authorized installer for the American Sunroof Company. Apparently, some damage was done during the installation and has resulted in the paint cracking.

The interior is in good condition. It is outfitted with leather seats with suede inserts. The leather is showing surface cracks in some spots. The sunvisors will not stay up and are propped up. The digital dash is working except for the car’s mileage which shows “000000”. The car features power windows, dual power front seats, power door locks, AM/FM stereo cassette player, center console, and cruise control.

The engine is the optional 2.8 liter V-6. The car starts right up and runs great and as noted above, the mileage is unknown. The master brake cylinder has been replaced. The front struts are a bit noisy and the car has a minor oil leak from the valve cover gaskets. The air conditioning does not work, only the blower. There is a ten minute YouTube video available for viewing. The car is being offered at a Buy it Now Price of $2,695. There are things that could use attention about this car, or it could be driven as it is. At that price, would you be interested in a Cadillac Cimarron?

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Comments

  1. Scotty Gilbertson Scotty Gilbertson Staff

    Nice find, Bill! If that had the poofy/puffy red leather and didn’t have the missing rear bumper ends it would be hard to pass up. And, preferably without the strange not-quite-landau padded vinyl top which appears to have caused some trouble over the decades.

    Question of the week: Why do so many people in Florida put on padded vinyl tops or faux convertible tops? Is that some sort of retirement gang symbol?

    12
    • Big_Fun Member

      Yes, Scotty – the gang is called the “19th holers”

      13
    • Spanky

      Sun burns the clear coat/paint off and the vinyl acts as an insulator preventing the interior from cooking and helping to keep it cool when the A/C is on.

  2. M.Balmer Member

    A turd is still a turd even if you put a quarter vinyl roof and the wreath and Crest on it.I wouldn’t pay a tenth of the price for it.

    22
    • Bob

      I used to sell new cars at a Pontiac/GMC dealership in the Tampa, FL area. One of the other salesmen was in the process of selling one of these (used) one day to some unsuspecting dupe. I overheard the salesman telling the customer, “best of all, it’s a Cadillac.” I guess it worked; he made the sale.
      I laughed about that for weeks.

      • Superdessucke

        You can bet the dupe wasn’t laughing after the New Car Glitter Aid wore off. And I bet you that the dupe never forgot the bleep reaming your buddy gave him. I also bet the dupe never bought another GM car again!

      • Bob

        And folks may recall that Cadillac used that advertising slogan to entice the gullible public to buy these cars, which to many were undeserving of the name: “Best of all, it’s a Cadillac.”
        So when that salesman parroted the slogan and got the sale, I was amazed and amused.

    • Andre

      I don’t take issue with them to be honest.

      If I were to be sitting in commuter traffic this day in age a nice condition Cimarron would catch my eye and justify a thumbs up well before a $100k Escalade.

      10
  3. Howard A Member

    Oh boy, wait until this hits regular lineup. I wouldn’t diss it too much without you actually being there when this car came out. The US auto industry was in a major panic( they’re swanky lifestyle was in jeopardy) and this was the best they could do as cheaply as possible. I don’t have much experience with these cars, and I know nothing of the mechanical bugaboo’s, but it seems to me to be a pretty nice car for the era. Being as clean as it is, I think this is a heck of a deal. Maybe screw the Z car, and do this,,,

    • dweezilaz

      Howard, Cadillac got in late to the J Car game [IIRC, 12 months before J Car production] and contributed some suspension and tire input as well as sound deadening, leather specs.

      Same mechanical bugaboos as Js from the other four versions that came out.

      Cadillac picked the wrong car to give the deVille treatment.

      Funny the same sort of mind set created the Escalade and hasn’t varied much since. And it sells.

      One would think GM would have never again revisited that cynical business model

  4. Fordguy1972

    Remove all the Cadillac badging from the worst Cadillac ever offered and replace them with Chevy badging for the most optioned Cavalier on the planet. That way, instead of folks feeling sorry for you because you overpaid for what was not a real Cadillac, you’ll be admired for having the most pimped-up Cavalier they’ve ever seen. It would be a fun thing to do and your reputation wouldn’t be ruined forever at your local show and shine.

    I’ll add a “LOL” in case somebody takes me seriously………….

    28
  5. CanuckCarGuy

    If you put the car into the context of the (global) economy at the time, it makes sense. I’m somewhat indifferent on these faux-luxury cars, they’re the cubic zirconia of The automotive world, but they filled a need at the time and helped keep the brand going.

    11
    • Superdessucke

      Actually, if you go back to that time, this car was widely panned even back then as a very cynical effort. I guess it was the next logical step after the Lincoln Versailles, a gussied-up Ford Granada, and the 1975-79 Cadillac Seville, essentially a tarted-up Chevy Nova. Both sold pretty well, so I suppose this car shouldn’t have been a surprise.

      I think this one took it to a new low though. Unlike the Versailles and Seville, which had some unique mechanical components and engineering, this was really just a Cavalier with different trim. And it wasn’t forgotten by the car buying public. One of the many reasons why GM struggled in subsequent years.

  6. Bill

    Interestingly enough, with the Cadillac Cimarron, GM had a “J” Car for every nameplate (I believe this is the first time it happened in the “modern era”). Buick had the Skyhawk, Chevy had the Cavalier, Olds had the Firenza and Pontiac had the J2000 Sunfire. I was working at GM during this time and I recall the internal disgust that many employees had over the Cimarron entry. What made it more disturbing was that it lasted six production years. This was the most infamous case of badge engineering ever.

    • Ralph

      Cadillac really didn’t want to do it, it was mostly forced on them by management and dealers believe it or not, the Cimarron was an 11th hour addition to the J-car program and mandated that the changed be kept to a minimum.

      Larger stand alone Cadillac dealers in major metro areas were kinda freaked about BMW, Saab and MB dealers getting younger affluent customers and many threatened to add a foreign luxury make franchise to their Cadillac dealers if Cadillac didn’t come up with something.

  7. Will

    I had quite a few Cavaliers. They were all good little cars. I think this would be great. It is an odd ball. That alone is enough to make it collectable. I would love an upscale cavalier. But then again I am also a fan of the Lincoln Versailles.

    • Miguel

      Will, it looks like this car needs a lot of work for the asking price.

      I bet there are others out there in better condition for that money.

      • Andre

        Agree with Miguel. There’s probably better examples out there.. in terms of the Cimarron though I don’t take much issue with them.. they’re relatively inoffensive and frankly if they were so awful none would have been sold.

        Some want a Cadillac badge just to have one.. so let them have it. Doesn’t bother me.

    • ICEMAN from Winnipeg

      I like the Versailles also. The most highly “evolved” Falcon ever produced !! As for the Cavalier, a company I used to work for had them as company cars. Everyone hated them, and preferred the other company cars which were Reliants, Airies, and Tempos.
      We referred to the Chevy cars as “Cadaver” and “Corpsica”

      • Damon

        I thought the Versailles rode on the Fox Platform and was Granada based.

      • dweezilaz

        No. The roots for the Versailles go all the way back to the Falcon, which includes the Granada/Monarch. The Lincoln Continental of about 80 or so [with the faux “trunk” like that period’s Seville] was based on the Fox.

        The Granada was targeted to be the next generation Maverick, but then the gas crisis hit and Ford kept the Maverick line and slotted the Granada upscale.

        It was a hit as buyers were spooked by the gas panic, inflation and prices on full size cars and were stepping down in size. They still wanted the same luxury features and “look”. LDO Mavericks didn’t have the same upscale cache as Granadas.

        Granada caught the wave of people moving up from an economy car and those moving down from a full size much more expensive than their last LTD, of just three of four years before.

  8. LARRY QUICK

    I’d rather have a Z24 convertible with Cadillac badges lol

  9. wuzjeepnowsaab

    We used to call these “chrome dipped Cavaliers”

    I think the Cimarron does everything to represent the lowest point in GM’s history…not because the car was terrible, but because it really spotlights how they lost their way for a time

    12
  10. CJM

    Fabric inserts on seats have been added to cover over worn original leather which would have matched “tuck and roll” pattern on door panel inserts. Half vinyl roof was aftermarket tack on and looks tacky. Very optimistic price. There are nicer ones out there for less money if one has to have a Cimmiron.

  11. ICEMAN from Winnipeg

    If the Cimarron had been a rousing sales success, you can bet that FoMoCo would have revived the Versailles nameplate, on a Mercury Topaz with a Rolls grille and trunk deck tire hump.

    • dweezilaz

      No. That would be this:

      • Ralph

        I don’t really even like these, but if you think is related to a Topaz, you need to go to a gardening site, because you clearly know nothing about cars…….

  12. Joe Defelice

    If I were to venture a guess, I would say that the roof pillar was damaged in a minor incident (possibly even on the car hauler when being delivered) and the repair was less than adequate, so the 1/4 vinyl top was installed to help cover it up. What’s showing now as a paint flaw is the visible part of the sloppy repair, and the worst is hiding under the vinyl.

  13. Bob Member

    I must need my head examined, but at one time I thought I wanted one of these. Then I did extensive research and ran away as fast as I could. If you wanted a beater car to drive on the salt roads, pick this one up for $1500 and enjoy your winter. It will rust out quickly, but for $1500 who cares.

  14. jim

    I was walking out of a mid-price restaurant with a friend one day back then and an older (seemed to me at the time) couple were just getting out of their Cimarron. Dave walked up to the guy with a nice friendly smile and said something like “Nice Cavalier, I have one just like it”. The poor old guy looked like he was going to blow a gasket, sputtering “it’s a Cadillac, damn it!”

  15. charlie

    I owned one, bought for $2000 off the back lot of the local Chevy dealer. It was a great commuter car, into Boston from southern NH, easy to park, handled well, plenty of power, went well over 200,000 miles with no major issues. Earlier model than this, mine had perforated leather seats like the Mercedes of the time, A/C worked till the end, replaced steering rack, and front struts, tie rods, etc, but if you know Boston streets, suspension really took a beating there. And yes, power door locks, at one point, took on a life of their own, and locked and unlocked repeatedly, and then, one day, it cured itself. Power windows quit, and rust had invaded the underbody, so not worth fixing, went to junk yard at age 14.

  16. Davis

    Reminds me of my sister’s Chrysler K car New Yorker that she had years ago.

  17. Tom S

    no!

  18. Spanky

    Bill I think, no I am sure he is joking about being the Cadillac of Cadillacd.

  19. JessupCad

    My mom loved these cars, had several consecutive demo’s… she was so tired of running the family in cutlass cruisers and it’s big heavy doors, and with her only other choice being some Oldsmobile or a hunchback Seville, these Cimmarons (particularly with the later V6’s) scooted and zoomed. You all would laugh at one of her last demo’s, cardinal red in tan leather, a tan top, gold package and… yes a continental kit!! Mind-blowing I know, but it all worked on the little car — someplace, somewhere it may still exist. ((We are a 80-year Cadillac dealers)) — the Cimmarron commonly laughed and dissed for what it represented, but was reliable and gutsy in its later years.

  20. Bob in Bexley Member

    The seats are wasted & so was the car even before it hit the roads new.

  21. jpvogl

    Can’t think of any car that better represents GM’s cynicism and contempt for their customer base, which they completely took for granted while the Japanese were steadily working hard to figure out what consumers wanted, and deliver on it.

    My father-in-law was a WWII Navy fighter pilot in the Pacific and life-long GM customer till the late 80’s, hated everything Japanese. For years he was becoming increasingly disgusted with the decline in GM’s quality/reliability. He finally caved in to his sons’ urgings and bought a Kentucky-made Camry. Drove nothing but Toyotas till his death 20 years later. When GM lost a guy like that as a customer I knew they were on deep trouble, all of their own doing.

    Not even a quarter-vinyl roof and opera lights coulda won him back, as classy as they were.

    • dweezilaz

      GM had the same cluelessness when they discovered Saturn was a success.

      Most notable example of which was the ION [I own one and had a 95 SL1].

      Corporate GM just thought Saturn buyers were weird, so they went for weird instead of good.

      Or throwing old bones at passenger car buyers [same bone, different flavors] while pouring everything into trucks and SUVs.

  22. mark

    Slightly higher quality plastic than your basic Chevy…………………all for at least 3 grand more……………….

  23. Bill the Engineer

    Back in the day, I drove one of these as a loaner while my Sunbird was in the shop. I always thought it would be amusing to cross a convertible or hatchback Sunbird with a Cimmeron to get a body style not offered by GM. That would have been cool!

    • Michael L Gregory

      That was always a wish of mine. Buy an ’85 Cavalier and and ’85 Cimarron and make a Cimarron convertible. I went so far as to find both cars for sale at the same time in Kansas City, but I knew I’d never get it done.

  24. Roseland Pete

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

  25. Wrong Way Member

    Okay, car! I have always been on the fence when these, and other cheap looking cars that just dressed up a car from their line up during this era! It is what it is? During this time tho you could only buy what was on the market at the time! I never looked at one twice tho!

  26. Jim Z Member

    Just say no…….

  27. dweezilaz

    Buy with a sense of humor and an appreciation of the back story.

    Parts are common [engines, transmissions, body], the badge, good size and mileage, as well as a rolling example of a GM low point [there are many].

    All of these make it interesting and a tongue in cheek, inexpensive way to get into the old car hobby.

    And as here on Barn Finds: lots of attention and commentary at car shows. No shame here, just a lot of amusement.

    I wouldn’t let what I drive to a car show affect my self image in the least. That’s on GM. I can laugh, enjoy and make friends on the way with their folly.

    Everyone knows the Cimmaron. And I would bet few have actually encountered one in the wild. Or even ridden in one.

  28. charlie

    And let us not forget that the first generation Mustang was on the Falcon chassis, engines, and drivetrain. And yes, my Cimarron had a better suspension, wheels, tires, leather inside, sound deadening, than the much less expensive Cavalier. If you paid full price at the dealership, you got ripped off, but used, like mine, they were reasonable.

  29. Bob Member

    Charlie, not sure about comparing a first generation Mustang to this Cadillac. Mustang improved itself over the decades. Unfortunately, this was not an improvement for the Cadillac name.

  30. Jeff in Richmond VA

    ENOUGH with the negativity for the Cimarron. Yes, they may have been a bad decision for Cadillac, but remember……the Chevy Cavalier was a popular and dependable car…..it just wasn’t worth $14,000 (the cost of a loaded Cimarron) We have a 1986 Cimarron cream puff with 25,000 miles and it’s a great conversation piece at car shows. The most common quote is: “Holy crap, where’d you find THIS???” It runs great, handles well and is loads of fun. Even has the EG Classics trim package!! My 65 Deville is a better car, but once in a while I like to downsize.

  31. Bob Member

    Jeff, nice that someone loves them. Enjoy it…

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