Note: Today’s post is by my friend Jayson Coombes. You may remember him from the excellent photos he provided for several of my Cadillac posts earlier this year, including the 1958 Fleetwood Sixty Special, 1957 Coupe de Ville and 1977 Seville. Those cars were at the Cadillac LaSalle Club Grand National meet in San Marcos, Texas, and Jayson drove the subject of this article, a 1984 Seville Elegante, all the way there and back, with nary an issue. Here’s its story. -TK
I’ve had the Seville Elegante for a little over 5 years. I’m the third owner and it was sold new in June, 1984 at Frank Kent Cadillac in Fort Worth, Texas. Still has the original dealer emblem on the trunk. It has every option offered for a Seville in 1984, except for the Touring Suspension.
I bought it not running from a friend (second owner) who was going to scrap it. The interior at the time was way too nice to let the car go so I bought it to save it. $700 later (the amount he would get for scrapping it) and it was mine. She also came with a new master brake cylinder (already installed) and a complete set of hard plastic bumper extensions as the factory ones had rotted away long ago.
I’ve found a full set of inserts on eBay for between $450 and $500, so the $700 for the car and inserts was worth it. Oh, and they’re a bitch to install. If nothing else, I’d make more than the money back selling the inserts and other parts if the engine was seized. Luckily that was not the case. Unfortunately, my friend had the car parked under a tree and took the car cover off about 3 years before I bought it.
The tree and Texas heat took its toll on the paint. However, my friend tinted the windows years ago, and that helped protect the interior. I had the car trailered from his place in Fort Worth to a shop by my house in Frisco, Texas. They got her back on the road. A new fuel tank, sending unit, fuel lines, new fuel injectors, oil and fluids change, and she came to life. Able to pass the Texas state inspection, she was back on the road.
While she was in the shop, they pulled it out of one of the bays into a parking place. This is where the idiot in the Toyota backed into the front passenger door and dented it. I hadn’t even driven the car yet, and it already found a wayward Toyota fool. Luckily the shop stopped them and took their insurance information. The check from State Farm for $843 was $143 more than what I paid for the car in the first place. I know a salvage yard in Austin that can supply a new door skin for $192.
I’ll purchase that when it’s time to repaint the whole thing. So I’m ok taking money from a fool and live with the dent until she’s ready to be repainted. I want to be sure she’s going to be a happy running car before investing money in the paint. Though she’s not a pretty girl right now, she does run like a champ.
Slowly over the first few years I made repairs to systems as needed. One of the first priorities was to have working A/C. The old compressor was shot, as were many of the lines so I had her converted to R134. Living in north Texas, I’d lose half of the enjoyment of the car without A/C.
Though the A/C needed the work, I was surprised at how many systems DID work after 10 years sitting and baking in the Texas sun. Items like the rear window defroster, cruise control, guidematic lights, twilight sentinel, power trunk pulldown, lamp monitors, memory seat, and even the power sunroof all worked.
I have a gremlin in the power door locks (they’ll lock and unlock when shifted to drive and park, but the door lock switches do nothing. However, the passenger side door lock switch will set the alarm) but other systems have been a bigger priority.
Over the course of the past 5 years, it seems like just about all systems have been repaired or replaced. I can do some of the work myself, but nothing particularly complicated. I was proud of myself for fixing the cruise control when it went out. $1.72 later I replaced some vacuum hoses and cruise works just fine. The digital dash was inoperable when I got the car, and the fuel gauge is part of that cluster. At first I had to use the trip computer to calculate how much fuel I had based on “gallons used” since my last fill up. $75 bought me a digital cluster out of a salvaged 1982 Eldorado in Austin, Texas. My regular shop installed it for free while I was having other work completed.
She starts every time, no matter how long she’s been parked or what the weather is like around her. I have her to a point now where I feel comfortable driving her just about anywhere. My friend Danny and I drove her from Fort Worth to San Marcos, Texas this year for the 2018 Cadillac LaSalle Club Grand National. I didn’t enter her in any judging classes, but was more interested in the driving tours.
Since I joined in 1998 I always wanted to drive a classic in one of the Grand National driving tours. Since I’ve had the Seville, none have been close enough for me to be comfortable taking her on a long trip. This trip was 1,085 miles round trip going from west Fort Worth down through the hill country into central Texas and coming out in San Marcos. That allowed us to avoid I-35, the major (and clogged with construction) interstate through Austin to San Marcos.
The speed limits are the same, except you have to slow for the small towns along the way. Much less traffic and infinitely better scenery. Anyway, she’s to a point now I’m comfortable driving her to the 2019 CLC Grand National in Louisville, Kentucky. It’s a good 850 miles one way, but if we take the Seville again, we’ll make a stop overnight in Memphis and break up the drive so we don’t push her too far in one day.
She loves the highway and will sip fuel to the tune of 29MPG on a flat highway surface at 70MPH. If I’m able to make that trip, I’m going to have the front seats reupholstered as the leather has finally cracked and split from use and the Texas summer. The rest of the seats, including the seat backs in the front, are just fine. I’ll just have the part you sit on redone and new foam installed for a little more comfort. Surprisingly the mostly flat seats of the Elegante package are very comfortable on a long trip.
My biggest incentive to make the drive is to add miles for the driving tour. With two tours under our belt, another CLC trip should add enough miles to earn the first Driving Tour badge for the grille. I believe the first milestone earned is 500 miles. The miles only count for the driving tour routes. I plan to acquire a regular CLC member cloisonné medallion to the grille well before next year’s Grand National.
I hope to be in a position to have her painted back to her original factory two tone colors of Woodland Haze over Briar Brown next year. That’s also the car pictured in the 1984 Seville brochure in the Elegante section. I included a photo. Like I said, I wanted to be sure she was going to be a happy, reliable car before spending money on that. The front seats and the paint are the only major pricey items that it needs right now.
I bought this car as a learning experience in saving a classic car and learning how to restore and care for it. I just hope I’m able to bring her back to what I picture in my head in terms of how I want her to look. She’ll always be a driver quality car, putting the money into a full restoration isn’t ever going to be a good investment. Things like a cracked dash, distorted (but functional) plastic pieces inside, sunroof screen that is off track (it just disintegrated in the heat) will always be little quirks of the car. But this fully loaded Seville Elegante fits my personality so well, I knew I had to save her.