1990 Cadillac Seville: Classy In Cameo Ivory

It is well documented that I am a fan of the Cadillac Seville. All of them. No, really. Part of it is that one of my first toy cars as a tot was a 1980 Seville made by Tomica, which along with my 1/64 scale Continental Mark III, Fleetwood Brougham and Mercury Cougar Villager station wagon, introduced me to Brougham at a very early age. My favorite? The 1976-79. But I like them all to some extent.

90 Seville

And when they’re in that classic Cadillac color known as, depending on the year, Colonial Yellow, Cream Beige, Light Yellow and finally, Cameo Ivory, this author takes note.

90 Seville

Last Monday evening, my Cadillac compadre down in Texas, Jayson Coombes, messaged me about a really nice 1990 Seville on ebay. And, at least from the pictures, he was right.

90 Seville

Really nice. 1990 was the next to the last year for the ultra downsized Seville. In 1986 and 1987 it was still powered by the 4.1L V8 that was introduced on the 1982 Cadillacs.

90 Seville

That engine was not exactly a powerhouse in the bigger 1982-85 Sevilles and Eldorados (and likely less so in the large and in charge ’82-’84 De Villes). It also had its share of issues, but in 1988 it was enlarged and became the 4.5. And, by all accounts, a much improved engine over its previous iteration.

90 Seville

1990 was the last year for the 4.5. In 1991 it was bored out again to become the 4.9, and that engine, I can tell you, was a little TOO fun in these mini-me Eldorados and Sevilles. In 1999 I was in college and working part-time at the insurance company. One of my pastimes was to check out the dealerships in the afternoons, and test drive interesting used cars.

90 Seville

One of those was a 1991 Cadillac Seville, sitting out front at Green Chevrolet Chrysler Plymouth. In Polo Green over tan leather and with the lacy spoke alloy wheels, it was a fun car! Plush but with plenty of power. And despite all the hate the 1986-91 Sevilles and Eldorados get, the ride, NVH and handling are excellent. With that big 4.9 in these smallish Caddys, they were stealth hot rods.

90 Seville

So, I’ve always had a soft spot for these. I don’t recall ever seeing one in this combination, at least, not without the then de riguer horrid aftermarket dealer-installed rickrack on them. Like fake convertible tops, fake Rolls Royce grilles, and-God save us-fake Continental kits! I was in middle school when these were new, and I estimate at least 50-60% of these Cadillacs had that tacky stuff on them.

90 Seville

I’ve driven these with the 4.5 as well. About a year before I test drove the ’91 Seville, there was an ’89 Eldorado at the local Chevy dealer in Moline. I took that one out for a spin, and really enjoyed it.

Sure, it didn’t have the presence of a ’70 or even an ’82 Eldorado, but times change. And it was smooth. Quiet. And plush. And the 4.5 had plenty of oomph as well. All historically important qualities in Cadillacs, no matter the decade.

90 Seville

In 1990, both the Eldorado and the Seville got a standard driver’s side airbag, a big deal at the time.

90 Seville

One other new feature were clear taillamp lenses. Unfortunately they were recalled due to moisture issues, according to Jayson, who was a salesman at Moritz Cadillac in Fort Worth, TX back when these cars were new. They were replaced with solid-red lenses, same as the ’91 Sevilles received.

He told me they did get in a ’91 at Moritz in this color combination, but it had (of course) the ungainly ‘dealer extra’ gold spoked Vogue wheels on it. They put it right out front on the patio in front of the showroom.

90 Seville

1991 was the final year for Cameo Ivory as a factory color, and also the last year for the light yellow leather interior option. The all new Seville and Eldorado were due to arrive in 1992, and a lot of the more traditional styling cues, chrome and options were going away. Clean and modern was taking over at Cadillac Motor Division, and the ’92 Seville would lead the charge.

90 Seville

At any rate, this Seville is currently on eBay, and is scheduled to end Monday November 12. It’s a no reserve auction, so someone will be getting it. So if you want to get your early ’90s Cadillac on, check it out.

14 Replies to “1990 Cadillac Seville: Classy In Cameo Ivory”

  1. John C.

    I think you are right that the 4.5 and 4.9 V8s were great in these cars. In my opinion, better than the NorthStar in the later ones. The reason I think this is that the older engines give all their torque down low like a proper USA engine. The NorthStar was just part of the me-tooism that so afflicted the 92 and later. A V8 has to have four cams and only get going over 4000 rpm, MB and BMW have decreed it, and Lexus confirmed it. I think Cadillac realized their mistake when they tried a higher torque version in the later Eldo, but you just can’t make a 4 cam operate like a real American V8.

    I remember when C/D tested one of these in Paris and bystanders there shocked the writer out of his biases by liking the look. I agree with the Parisians. it looked great, drove great, and luxury never had more efficient design, yet without sacrificing Americanness. Thanks Tom.

    Reply
    • Carmine

      The 4.5 and 4.9’s are punchy, but the Northstar is still faster, I’ve driven lots of NStar cars over the last 20 years and you can say lots of thins about a Northstar, but lacking punch and grunt is not one of them.

      Reply
      • Tom KlockauTom Klockau

        I drove an ’09 DTS Luxury a couple years back and she had plenty of power. I was actually thinking about buying it, but I ultimately passed. Damn nice.

        Reply
        • John C.

          Not saying that NorthStar lacked ultimate power and indeed had quick 0-60 times, aided by aggressive Euro style gearing. American luxury always included massive off the line torque and really no need to venture past 4000 rpm. The NorthStar and the import engines that it was benchmarking don’t do that. In 1993 when both engines were offered in the much heavier later models the torque peak of the NorthStar was 1400 rpm higher than the 4.9. The LS400 torque peak was the same as the NorthStar and the Mark VIII V8 and Mercedes and BMW V8s similar. We lost something uniquely American when Cadillac’s engineers no longer had the confidence in themselves to build engines their way

          . The RWD Fleetwood dropped away in 1996, the Town Car by then was SOHC and the only luxury car offering American power delivery was ironically Rolls Royce with their old Caddy inspired 6.75 big block, well maybe a Zill or two.Cadillac fans should have rejected the NorthStar the way RR fans rejected BMW engines in the Arnage/Silver Seraph.

          We all don’t need to treat import ideas as gospel. They can do it their way and we can do it ours and everybody benefits from the choice.

          Reply
          • Carmine

            I’m done with you dude, anything thats not ass backwards and antediluvian is just a commie import loving conspiracy……you know Dusenbergs were DOHC’s 80 years ago right? Foreign car companies didn’t invent overhead cams.

          • arbuckle

            I’m not going to argue that a DOHC design is inherently “Un-American”, but overall I agree with John’s comment.

          • John C.

            Interestingly, at least to me, our Euroland friend’s luxury sedans as seen in their home market, have largely discarded their DOHC V8s in favor of high torque turbo diesels with traditional American power delivery. Doubt they are as smooth and quiet, and prioritize economy over emissions, yet somehow Europe survives.

          • CJinSD

            The initial version of the Northstar made 245 ft/lbs of torque at 1,000 RPM. That’s 55 more than the HT4100 made at its 2,200 RPM peak. Cadillac never had an engine with 286 net horsepower before the Northstar, and it isn’t like they replaced the 500 with an engine that needed twice the engine speed to move one of their land yachts with the same authority. They replaced the 500 with engines that couldn’t generate any authority, be they fuel injected Oldsmobiles, diesel Oldsmobiles, wildly undersquare devolutions of the 472 series, or fragile and feeble HT4100s. Then they developed the HT to performance parity with eta BMWs and automatic Acuras through displacement increases. The Northstar wasn’t weaker off idle than an HT. The primary difference was that it could breath at high RPM, allowing it to make the power expected of a V8 in the ’90s thanks to Lexus and Infiniti.

  2. Arbuckle

    I’m in the minority here, but I like these “little” FWD Cadillacs more than the full-sizers that were saddled with the 4.1L/307/diesel.

    Reply
  3. stingray65

    Not my cup of tea, but if you like them I can’t imagine it is possible to find a nicer one. I’m guessing a “last” car of someone who really cared to keep it up and keep it garaged most of its life.

    Reply
    • JustPassinThru

      Yup.

      Cleveland.

      Cars don’t last like that – unless their owners are retired, baby them and don’t drive them in the slush.

      Kinda sad, when you think about it. Some old guy’s pride-and-joy; and he goes the way of all flesh…and his grown kids, living in Colorado or Texas or Georga, come up to close things out and frantically dump the barge for a fraction of its value.

      And the poor Buy-Here-Pay-Here lot can’t even move it. Time to Ebay it off for whatever they can get to cover the losses.

      Reply
  4. Tom C

    Great write up as always, Tom!
    I have to admit that when these first came out I thought they were shocking to say the least, but they did grow on me. When my Dad bought his 1990 Coupe DeVille I tried out a Seville beforehand and really liked it. It was powerful, luxurious, rode well and was quite roomy. I figured Dad would like it too. However, he was coming out of an ’87 Maxima that he felt was too small, so he walked right past the Seville. I couldn’t even convince him to drive one! In all honesty I think General Motors did a great job in packaging the Seville and Eldorado. The problem was that like my father, most Caddy buyers wanted and expected a Cadillac to have presence, be spacious and look like a Cadillac. These may have gone too far in the “small” direction even though they really weren’t that small.
    Like Tom, I love these cars in yellow too. They are very classy if not ruined by stupid roofs or wheels. I also found these to ride extremely well and like I said earlier they are very easy to maneuver. It’s too bad they weren’t more successful. I just think timing was not on their side.

    Reply
    • Carmine

      The packaging is great, where I think they made a mistake was in the size, a few inches here and there would have made them look a little more substantial, also the earlier 86-87 cars had smaller wheels, this example has bigger wheels, which helped the cars look a little more serious. These also had an issue where they tried to fit too many formal styling cues on a smaller car and that usually never works out.

      Reply
  5. Dirt Roads

    I liked the Seville but in the end I bought the Nstar Eldo, a ’94. They had to replace the engine due to a mysterious top end clatter it developed; turns out it was a wrist pin getting loose. I liked the quickness of the car, it was a bit of a sleeper for the uninitiated. But it depreciated as fast as I could pay it off so when I sold it, I just paid off the remaining loan and that was it.

    A friend rebuilt one of those aluminum V8s of earlier years and that wet sleeve engine was a PITA to work on.

    I test drove a Seville before buying the Eldo and took it from town to the top of a mountain pass nearby. When I got back, it had developed suspension warnings; I guess it had never been driven in a spirited way before. Those systems, from what I understand, “learned” the driver habits and predicted accordingly. I guess I drove it like it had never been driven before. But the Eldo passed the test so I bought it. No need for four doors back then.

    I’d get a finned Caddy nowadays and stay away from the electronic cars.

    Reply

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