1986 Cadillac Cimarron: Or, How I Learned To Trigger 86% Without Really Trying

I’m sure a few remember this car. No, not the Cimarron in general. This exact car. I wrote it up earlier this year. At the time it was offered on Craigslist and in Middletown, CT. For a mere three grand. Well it’s back, now in New York, and the current bid is $7300.

Yes, so many expend so much vitriol on these. But I always liked them. Chalk it up to seeing one up close in 1988 at the Chicago Auto Show. In particular, the later ones like this ’86, with the composite headlamps, cladding, nice alloys and 2.8L V6. Was it still clearly a J-body GM product? Sure. But all the little refinements, especially to the nose and tail, made for a much more cohesive and upscale look, at least in your author’s opinion.

And I’ve always been a sucker for silver with bright red leather interior. This one, with a shade over 48,000 original miles, is a time capsule, love it or hate it. And the great thing is you could buy it, drive it, enjoy it, and never worry about depreciation or value because let’s face it, the odds of these becoming valuable are slim to none.

Per the eBay auction: “This 1986 Cadillac Cimarron is an original. The owner has had it for 1 year. The vehicle runs great and is mainly used for weekend drives.”

“…with a little over 48,000 actual miles, this vehicle has always been garaged and its exterior is nearly excellent. There are no dents or dings, and absolutely no rust. Interior leather still smells new and is still soft as it was when new.”

“Carpet, headliner and leather show very little wear and even leather steering wheel has beautiful finish with no damage. The engine is a 2.8 liter v-6 that starts right up and runs well. Transmission shifts flawlessly. All power options work except the power antenna – it was broken off.”

“6 way seats on both sides and recliners, auto dimming mirror and compass. I have a few sets of keys (4) with 2 authentic gold Cadillac keys and original owner books.”

“This is a truly unique Cadillac!!! Thanks for looking! If you have any questions or would like to see it please leave a message or feel free to call me at 516-398-1964 – I’m Andrew.”

It would make an interesting summer driver, or to take to cruise nights. I’d walk past a row of red Camaros and Corvettes to check one of these out. Were they a questionable decision. Perhaps. Did they give wags a punchline when talking about Cadillac Motor Division? Yep.

Anyway as of this writing (9/26) there’s five days to go on the auction. And I still like them. Though I’d probably veer towards a triple navy blue Brougham d’Elegance if that time machine ever gets fixed…

38 Replies to “1986 Cadillac Cimarron: Or, How I Learned To Trigger 86% Without Really Trying”

  1. stingray65

    Wow – more than doubling in value in less than a year – crazy used car inflation even for the most hated car in Cadillac? Have we hit 6 figures yet for Vegas, Gremlins, and Pintos?

    Reply
    • John C.

      I would expect at least five figures for the interesting ones like Cosworth Vegas, Gremlin X V8, and maybe even Pinto Cruising Wagons now that we are down to but a few, I know the folks in the auto press, had no energy but for sneers, 1980s Chrysler President Ben Bidwell was right on target when he called them “congenital sickos”, but thankfully in the fulness of time they have proven to be not the world’s sole storehouse of automotive judgement.

      Meanwhile originally outlandishly expensive and highly praised cars like say the 450SE 6.9 languish. It seems their original owners were not the renaissance men that we would have imagined when we were young, but instead resembled a more ethnic version of the blood sucker Ken, Jack wrote about recently in Hagerty. We have learned from Lynn what kind of care and feeding an old Cadillac needs to stay in top form, can you really expect such class from lucky barrow boys on something even more complicated.

      Reply
      • CJinSD

        A no-stories 6.9 sold for $61K in March on BaT. https://bringatrailer.com/listing/1978-mercedes-benz-450sel-6-9-11/ The reason cars with stories are worthless is because the M100 engine is one of the more expensive engines to put right of the post-war era, and pretty much every other part of the car is expensive and complex as well. I think another issue is that the 600 is available for people who really want the pinnacle of old Mercedes luxury and can afford to rebuild an M100. The 6.9 was fast and competent…for a US market car in 1978. That’s like being smart and sane for a Biden supporter.

        Reply
        • John C.

          It also might be that the 6.9 engine showed a MB off track having to stick in a big block V8 engine to get competitive autobahn performance in an overweight chassis that if they had done each right would have been a great displayer of capabilities for the DOHC 2.8 inline six. Imagine back in Germany, explaining to a real live German burger, when there still was such a man, having just driven a totally lackluster 280S despite no emission controls, that if he wants a strong highway engine the 6.9 is the way to go. No wonder so many 6.9s in Germany got the nameplate delete. What an embarrassment to Mercedes, having to copy the USA way instead of making the German way work,

          Speaking of off track, imagine Cadillac thinking that if we throw on more creature comforts, stuff unavailable on other Js and keep performance ahead of similarly priced NA 8 valve Audis, Saabs, Volvo, and Peugeots, the payment slaves will come a running and we won’t annoy actual Cadillac buyers because technically it is a Cimarron by Cadillac instead of a Cadillac Cimarron.

          These two cars share a lot more than similar percentage of original list collector values.

          Reply
          • CJinSD

            Ever hear of the Mercedes-Benz 770? The Germans were making larger displacement luxury cars than the US before the 3rd Reich fell. They only had three liter executive cars after the war because they lost. When their economy improved, they just went back to what they’d been doing before their defeat. How come we never went back to making cars like the Duesenberg Model J, the Packard Twelve and the Cadillac V16?

  2. Patrick King

    “…the odds of these becoming valuable are slim to none.” It’s already more than doubled in value in a year so I guess it’s all relative. And I’d always kinda liked these too!

    Reply
    • stingray65

      If the first year Cimarron had had the features of this later version they could have been a contender instead of a laughing stock.

      Reply
      • bluebarchetta

        Agreed. The GM 60° V6 of the 80s and early 90s was a pleasant and pretty reliable engine that greatly improved any 4-cyl vehicle it was installed in.

        S-10, Fiero, J-bodies, A-bodies, whatever the Beretta and Grand Am platforms were: imagine driving them with the Iron Duke, that Brazilian 1.8/2.0 OHC, or the headgasket-blowing 2.2. Now imagine them with the 2.8 or 3.1. So much better.

        Then GM had to go and ruin the 3100/3400 with those leaky intake gaskets. Why, they probably saved $0.33 per car!

        Reply
      • CJinSD

        Car and Driver tested a 1981 135 hp Citation X11 automatic in December, 1980. If the V6 fit in the 1986 Cimarron, I’m not sure why it wouldn’t have fit in the 1982. The X11 weighed a hefty(for the day) 2,840 pounds. It ran from 0-60 in 11.3 seconds and returned 19 MPGs in testing. I believe the first Cimarrons returned 24 MPGs with the four-speed. Gas mileage was king in 1982, so GM was doing everything they could to discourage people from buying cars that could get out of their own ways. Perhaps that’s why they didn’t stick the V6 in the Cimarron from the start. Did anyone ever road test a V6 Cimarron? They were such old news by the time the engine was introduced that I’m not sure they still merited a full review. Might they have handled horrifically with a boulevard ride set of bushings and an extra couple hundred pounds on the nose? The Z24 Cavalier was certainly a blunt instrument relative to every other sporty compact of the day, and it had stiffer springs and dampers than the Cimarron would have had.

        Reply
        • Carmine

          There were several road tests of V6 Cimarrons in all the rags, Motor Rooter, Can and Drivel ( aka Accord and 3 series monthly) and even Road and Crack…..maybe even David E David Davis David tested one for Automobubble…..

          Reply
  3. Erik

    A darker colour ( I used to like silver, but I’m so bored of it now that every damn car out there is silver), and a 5 speed and I’d be reaching for the Wallet.

    Reply
  4. Power6

    I’d figure the price increase is a matter of marketing, EBay better than Craigslist to reach the few people who would bid this thing up a bit. I think it would have been even better for BAT or C&B to find the two weirdos who would bid against each other!

    As a product we know it was a failure. Personally I grew up a sort of GM lover in the 80s, I just like seeing this as an oddity of the j-body where GM stuffed as much equipment as they could into it. It wasn’t the Cadillac they needed to build, but it was the Cadillac they could build with the stuff they already had. There many interesting oddities from GM as they struggled through the 80s and early 90s.

    Reply
  5. CJinSD

    The dollar was worth twice as much last year. The flipper replaced the bumper filler panels with ones that haven’t been painted to match the car and found Cadillac crests for the wheels, but couldn’t be bothered sorting the antenna. I guess they did enough.

    Reply
  6. NoID

    I’ve never been a fan of monochrome interiors, and for whatever reason red is particularly offensive to me. But even so, I love these undesirable survivors.

    Reply
  7. Sigivald

    I can’t help but see that profile and think “isn’t this a rebadged K car”?

    It isn’t.

    But it looks like one.

    (To make sure I wasn’t fooling myself, I looked up the Aries, and yeah, it looks super similar, even more than “all sedans look vaguely similar in any given era”.

    Not even really a slam; I learned to drive in a Reliant wagon, and both the Ks and the Js had good clean lines.

    But nothing at all about this says “Cadillac” – at least the Cadillacs of the past 25 years have clearly Been Cadillacs, and distinctive. I don’t really like the Art+Science and following design languages, but they do their job.)

    Reply
  8. dejal

    I remember in one of the Hemmings magazines, someone said it was a Cavaliar with all the options and a slight different suspension tune.

    Next issue in the letters to the editor, a couple of butt hurt readers.

    The issue after that, those readers being called losers (in a nice way).

    Reply
  9. Shortest Circuit

    Chalk it up to a long line of GM ideas that turned from good to bad when sensible finances were applied. When it became clear that the General needed a small-size luxury car and on the cheap, they went to Opel in Europe that was struggling (too soft of a word) to sell its 327ci Admiral – people were not too keen on paying Mercedes price for an Opel, and the good ol’ smallblock was about twice the size where the insurance and registration premiums jumped to the stratosphere. So the Admiral shall become a Cadillac! Not so fast – warned Fisher Body – the Admiral’s tooling was all in metric and to a standard that none of GM’s stamping plants could accommodate. This is why the X-body was chosen in the end. I remember reading how much effort Cadillac’s engineers expended on the (now renamed) K-body, like using small hydraulic dampers to brace the driveshaft tunnel and the front fenders and to loc-tite all body bolts to reduce vibrations.

    Reply
    • John C.

      Your story would make more sense if the first Seville had failed and the Catera, with it’s ultra high metric standards had set the American market on fire.

      Reply
      • CJinSD

        How does his story fail to make sense? GM might well have considered the Admiral when looking for a smaller premium platform, and they may have rejected the idea for the reasons mentioned. The Catera failed because GM’s indifference had spread to Opel. The Catera/B1 Omega was an amorphous, over-weight blob powered by a lazy and unreliable engine. Fifteen years earlier, the Senator A was crisply styled, critically acclaimed, and powered by a smooth inline six. The chassis and engine made it here under the Bitter SC, and the performance with emissions controls was still acceptable for a luxury car in 1984. It’s almost like GM waited for Opel to fall to Cadillac’s level before creating the Catera just so they could say, “see, we told you Opels stink too!”

        As it turned out, the success of candy-coated turds like the Mustang, the Mark III, and the Seville doomed Detroit automobiles. Their success suggested that nobody cared about quality or engineering, and then it turned out that too many people did care once they experienced quality and engineering excellence in Japanese cars.

        Reply
        • John C.

          Hippys replacing real American family men doomed Detroit and now America, not successful American 70s sedans. How you could side with them for the benefit of the Japanese while claiming conservatism baffles. Why not fight CAFE for example. Oh yea Republicans don’t fight, they just fund raise off real issues while letting everything slides away.

          Reply
          • CJinSD

            I’m not a Republican, probably never should have been one. Nixon didn’t just have Democrat morals, he also exploded the scope of the federal government. Reagan impressed me as a youth, but he was practically as much of an outsider to the GOP as Trump is. The rot was already so set in that his running mate was CIA Bush. For every good domestic and foreign policy fight he won, there was offsetting harm done by concessions to the lying Democrats in congress. Bush then undid everything he accomplished in one term. Republicans have been transparent to me ever since.

            Trump actually did try to inject a little sanity into the Bush/Obama CAFE rules, and your wonderful UAW car companies lined up against him. So did Honda, so I won’t be buying any more of them. Detroit was always a grift, and that’s why it failed. They made disposable ball gowns on wheels for a public they thought they could fleece indefinitely. Maybe our cars would have remained relevant longer if they’d been built somewhere with challenging roads. Maybe not. Our universities have served as gatekeepers to make sure that the people in decision making positions are always intent on destroying American families, American jobs, and what used to be American ideas about liberty. I don’t find any of it a compelling reason for me to drive a car that I don’t enjoy and that I need to keep pumping money into.

  10. MrGreenMan

    I went to a museum just before the shut down. I think it was in Ohio – Cinci, Dayton, Columbus – can’t say. There were all sorts of “modern art” pieces, but they had a furniture wing. You want to talk about something that spoke to my heart – it was the detail and the fine work of the craftsman, ever invisible, doing his service in exacting precision for God and his fellow man.

    I look at these cars and they just make me sad. I knew people who worked in plants – multi-generational GM families in Flint. I remember when my parents would buy a car, school friends would tell me about how their dad or their uncle or their granddad built the engine or the body.

    If only they could have built one of those that could have been 85% of a Toyota or a Honda in reliability. All the ability for perfection in engineering excellence was lost. Detroit not Indianapolis was the motor city because of the technical excellence of the invisible skilled workman in a thousand little shops – usually with a German immigrant’s name.

    It must be the romantic in me who sees this car and wants it to be a great car, and who wants to own and drive it as a great car.

    Reply
      • MrGreenMan

        I’d love to understand your comment if you would elaborate, because I don’t even understand all the referents in your criticism. I was unaware I was shitting on anything.

        Reply
        • John C.

          The car makes you sad, not because it was not your style or whatever but because you don’t believe and offered no evidence even anecdotal to back up that it doesn’t offer even 85 % of Japan Inc. where one can assume your period allegiances lie. Too bad about Flint. Right on hippy.

          Meanwhile in the real world of 1986, unwarned completely by the auto press. 260,000 import humpers like yourself lined up to buy the first Hyundai, that didn’t offer 8.5 % of the reliability of anything from Lordstown or Flint. It after all had an Asian name. Good enough!, and no romantic tear of sadness for any of that!

          Reply
          • MrGreenMan

            Hi John. You’ve misread it, and I thank you for clarifying, and I am sorry that you’ve been kicked in the teeth too many times.

            It makes me sad because I love that car, because I love the people whose livelihoods lived and died on cars like that. Show me a Catera and I feel nothing; show me that car, and I am moved. It hurts me, because I know my people suffered when cars like that one failed to sell, and everything collapsed in my home.

            I’m a homer. I’ve purchased cars made in Flint, Kansas City, Illinois, and one from Ontario that was a very nice W-body. My 3800 Series II had the plastic manifold spacing problem that caused calamitous cooling loss; I knew down to the month when it was made in Flint based on the defect. I would be buying Buick LeSabres if they kept making them.

            It is indeed too bad about Flint. I watered plants at AutoWorld. I had the little AC spark plug keychain. I have a drawer of gizmos from the Skilled Trades and Engineering Fair.

          • John C.

            If those are your views, then why the 85 % line? Admitedly having to work with a world platform as it was a new size sedan only previously in the European GM universe, this car was customized to appeal to Americans, by Americans and then assembled by Americans. Notice not a one of you are saying this car is too European. These people had names, and were working, raising families, paying taxes, all the things you would want good American citizens to do. To casually shit on their efforts at LEAST demands specific, convincing evidence. The entire infrastructure of success and even clean water was all that was abandoned so the Japanese can relaunch their Empire as a you make them prosperous sphere. Then the fat hippy went on to collect guns at community banks and the would be Hunter Thompsons at the auto mags tried to make nice with the Koreans. When you side with them over real Americans that did good things, what does that say about all of you?

  11. sgeffe

    If they would have..
    1. Waited an extra year to refine this more, with..
    2. The OHC engine as standard, and the V6 as a low-cost option (and a five-speed standard, with a four-speed AOD an option, and NOT just the THM-125C) instead of the wheezy 2.0 OHV lump, and..
    3. Would have used the Skyhawk/Firenza dash as a basis for the interior..

    ..perhaps the Cimarron story would have been different. As someone else posited, this thing could have been a BMW-light piece by 1986 or so. In hindsight, they were going for Acura-style “Accord+-ness!” But they didn’t even do that! I’m too lazy to find the URL of it, but there was a MotorWeek review of the many differences in the 1982 and 1983 Cimarrons, and even THAT didn’t overcome the initial issues!

    Nope! They literally took a 1982 Cavalier and dropped leather seats and Twilight Sentinel in the damned thing and called it a day! When you notice that TINTED GLASS was an option on the first Cimarrons, you know there were gonna be problems! These cars should have been fully-loaded from the start, with engine, transmission and maybe uprated suspension options as I noted above! (Cripes, even the aftermarket inside electrochromic mirror looks a damned sight more like what should have been in there from the get-go, versus the trapezoidal-shaped mirrors from the Chevette and Vega which were in the first three years of Js, or the “smiley” ones which graced the windshield pillars beginning in 1985!)

    Or, as I’ve mentioned on TTAC, as well as here maybe, might GM have done better by doing a Cadillac on the A-Body platform? Imagine something with the 3.8 Buick 6, injected, with AWD, four-speed AOD, and all of the Caddy creature comforts in a nice-sized package! Hell, they could have called it the Seville, which would have been more in keeping with the mid-‘70s original than what they did with it in 1985! Perhaps even the HT4100 V6 could have done reasonably well in such a vehicle! They managed to hit the jackpot with the 6000 STE, but the only thing holding that back, IMHO, was the engine; the Buick 6 or even a small V8 on that identical underpinning would have been the ultimate A! Buick Century GNX, anyone?!

    Reply
      • John C.

        In 83 the Accord has 75 hp 13 less than the older pushrod J 1.8 and so they rushed out a still carbed 86 hp yet nobody complains about that. Funny how that works.

        Reply
        • CJinSD

          According to Road & Track, the 4-door Accord was 2.5 seconds quicker to 60 mph than the 1.8 liter/4-speed Cimarron. It was also much cheaper and not advertised with charts comparing it to cars from Audi, BMW, Saab and Volvo. Nobody complains about low horsepower claims in cars that deliver competitive performance. They do complain about low performance relative to competitors. “Funny how that works.”

          Reply
      • Panzer

        You know John, you remind me of a German Communist playwright called Bertold Brecht.

        This dude actually -chose- to live in East Germany and in ‘53 when the people on East Germany rose up ‘ol Bertold satirically wrote – ‘wouldn’t it just be easier for the Government to dissolve the people and elect another?’ (Slight paraphrase there)

        I think about this quote of Bertold’s every time I see you assert that the American people are at fault for not buying whatever the big three offered them, rather than the big three being at fault for not offering what the American people wanted as the oil crisis changed everything in ‘73.

        Yes the left has ruined everything, but not even they are are good enough at manipulation to have engineered the turn away towards imports that we have seen over the past few decades.
        There has to be another reason why the American auto industry fell from such heights.
        And your refusal to accept well documented historical facts as well as your refusal to lay any blame at the feet of detroit prevents you realizing this.

        Reply
        • John C.

          I am more a fan of Rosa Luxemburg than Bertolt Brecht among lefty Eastern “Germans”. It was after her time of course but I think she might have appreciated a J car the way it became whatever it had to control a segment all over the world. Entry level compact, traveling salesman special, urban commuter, or here a fake Rover P6 all with different names. An international movement with “local” leadership. Ha ha

          Reply
          • Panzer

            Nice deflection.

            Miss Luxembourg in the end suffered the fate that all middle class white women deserve, who shit in the working class men who built the societies that gave (and give) such women all their undeserved privilege..
            She got beaten to death so badly by the boys, that when her body was fished out of the river, they had to use her dental records to identify her 🤙

    • John C.

      Michaell Moore who made his bones attacking Roger Smith and all GM was doing for Flint. This at a time when GM execs and engineers were not the giant salary/no achievement Wall Street selected execs of today but lifelong employees who usually even were educated at the GM Institute.

      I have said enough guys so you can go back to attacking the Cimarron without having to worry about anyone calling you on it. Have Fun.

      Reply
  12. Pete Madsen

    Opel sank to US GM standards well before 1984. I bought a new 1971 1900 Sport Coupe from the local Buick dealer…instead of German craftsmanship I got a German Vega. The manual shift lever buzzed…vibrated loudly enough to be annoying. The dealer said “They all do that…” I found that I could help it a bit by taping a 1-pound piece of bar stock to it. The 2-barrel carburetor insured that there would be little acceleration followed by a surge – great in parking lots. The carpet started coming loose the first week I had the car. I traded it for a 1972 Celica ST that was better in every respect except for the handling.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.