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.
Ooh baby shinin’
Leather seats reclinin’
The smell is divine, and
Be careful where we ridin’
I’m tippin’ on fo’ fours
It look like a car show
Follow us to the yellow brick road
Bustleback/5th wheel, close enough. Nice ride
Nice find. it’s amazing that most of the luxury electricals survived their abuse.
Your door lock problem may be an intermittent ground. My F-150 had a similar problem shortly after the heater core was replaced. I pulled the kick panel on the passenger side and saw that a ground wire screw wasn’t tightened.
Seconded. These cars are old enough to still have the old dry contact switches on the motors and in the door. (You don’t want to know what auto manufacturers trust your door switches to nowadays) If the door switches don’t work, but everything else does, it will be relatively easy to troubleshoot with just a test light.
I thought I’ve seen a few places online that specialize in NOS Caddy parts. Check those out. I would think that the dash panel, for example, out of any ‘79-‘84 Eldorado could fit. It’ll just make the car that much nicer.
There are slight changes to the panels between 79-85, the earlier 79-83 small radio dash and 84-85 big Delco 2000 series dash are pretty different.
True dat. But I was thinking of just the top portion, unless the entire thing is one piece.
(Nice part about the DIN x 1.5 is that you could fit a later Delco unit with a CD player, if you wished.
‘I know a salvage yard in Austin that can supply a new door skin for $192.”
Is it going to be there when your are ready to paint? I doubt they will hold it forever.
Back nearly forty years ago (1982) I was part of the “black tag” (Michigan license plates) migration to the Houston area.
I didn’t stay; but I took home with me, Blazing Saddles – a Texas Pinto Squire.
Having done light repair work on Rust-Belt junkers, I cannot begin to describe the joy in putting a wrench to a brake assembly – and it coming loose, as God and Ford intended.
Is the 29 mpg at 70 mph an instantaneous fuel economy reading, or did you actually cover 550 miles on a tank of gas? The image of the dash showing 6 gallons and 53 miles remaining overwhelms my will not to ask.
There may be some hope for these as collector vehicles, provided the ‘environmentalists’ don’t win their war on the middle class. The Eldorado version’s popularity could spill over onto the Seville. An argument could be made that this was by far the best of Cadillac’s FWD platforms.
I am a long-time GM apologist, but it chaps my ass the way GM uses its customers as beta testers.
HT4100, Quad 4, Northstar, Saturn 1.9. All were promising new engines that had serious flaws when released to the public. All were quietly tinkered with and became reliable in later iterations, but the damage was done.
I’ve liked these Sevilles since I was a little kid and had the Tomy “Hot Wheels”-sized version. But would I take a chance on one? Jayson is a braver man than I, and I’m glad he got one of the “good” 4100s. I hope he gets many a happy mile out of this humpbacked beauty, and if not, I hope he figures out how to swap in a 4.9 (the 200hp final iteration of the 4100). Apparently the swap is not as straightforward as you’d think.
Sometimes a bad rap is just that, while the 4100 is no wundermachine in any way, internet stories about it “blowing the fuck up” the minute you turn the key to RUN are also greatly exaggerated……
When the HT4100 came out, Cadillac DeVilles were selling better than any Detroit sedan nameplate is selling today. That market didn’t evaporate because of the internet.