The other day I was asked to write an article about some 20th Century American cars. It was during the research that I came across the Cadillac Cimarron and it struck a chord. For some reason that was initially hard to grasp, let alone explain, I had the urge to own one.
What’s In A Name
American motor makers have always had a knack for naming cars. The Cimarron! To a Brit brought up on a diet of cowboy movies and TV shows it is a name redolent of the Old West. It suggests sweeping plains and roaming travel. The Mustang. The Charger. The Plymouth Superbird! Who would not want a car called a Superbird? Car names to conjure with. There was even a Dodge Swinger. What better car in which to meet a whole new social set of like-minded people?
Even the softer Yank tanks have good names like Eldorado or Lacrosse. To be fair, there are also mistakes. Ford once made a car called the Probe. It wasn’t very good and if nothing else brought to mind a variety of medical or other invasive procedures. The hearsay is that recent plans to use the names ‘Thrust’ and ‘Lunge’ were subsequently withdrawn because it was felt they might upset someone sensitive, somewhere.
These days motor manufacturers (The brand today) can’t afford to take those chances and choose to give their vehicles dull, uncontroversial titles made up of a sequence of numbers and letters; Volvo and BMW spring to mind. You can see their point, up to a point. In 1888 George Eastman, the photography pioneer, and his mother made up the name Kodak for his fledgling business. Had they had the internet they may have discovered that somewhere in the world Kodak meant ‘BUM’. (Stop! Don’t be opening a new window. It doesn’t).
The Cadillac Cimarron …
First appeared in 1981. It was one of General Motors 80’s J-Cars, a series of automotive nonentities based on the company’s J-Body platform. Platform sharing is not so new after all, it seems. A couple of the several cars so built under different badges were called Cavalier and Firenza, names familiar to Vauxhall (which was until recently a GM company) owners here in the UK.
I once owned a Vauxhall Cavalier. I know, I know, but you just don’t think at the time, do you? I lost count of the occasions I stood next to its mute, dead, rusting carcass and wondered what the hell I had been thinking of. I learned some new and very basic Anglo-Saxon words during that period of my life; words that wouldn’t have even been tolerated in the fo’c’sle of a Victorian whaling ship.
I have the historical sense that Cimarron owners may well have felt the same. The bog standard four-pot Cimarron was disappointing slow, taking an ice-age to reach 60mph, and in general the customers stayed away in droves. If they had wanted to go that slowly then they could travel by mule, they reasoned. It was however offered with a high level of specification that buyers expected from the upscale brand that is Cadillac.
Buyers could expect all the right toys for the time: air conditioning certainly; a respectable leather interior, alloy wheels, intermittent windscreen wipers, and even a rear window defogger. Status. Rather entertainingly, tuned suspension was offered, a curious add-on for such a pedestrian vehicle. The company did offer a V6 deluxe variant on later models (pictured).
The Look of Love
That rather squat body is something only a mother could love or maybe an over-stimulated car brand executive. It lacked the class Cadillac customers had come to expect from such a venerable American auto name. The boxy design and the front end rather resembles the European Volvo of the time which, whilst lacking in attractive features was noted for its rugged endurance. This was unlikely to be the case with the Cimarron.
The poor old Cadillac Cimarron has had it tough. When new it was unloved and unwanted by customers. Generally considered to be one big let-down, this dull saloon spent a few years trying to get by like a third-rate coder in Silicon Valley and, over time, later models offered more premium features. It made no difference.
Why I Would Kind Of Like One
The curious thing though is how time heals all. The paying customers did not like the Ford Edsel when it was introduced, yet imagine what one would be worth in barn find terms now! Is it possible that the same could apply to an ancient old Cadillac Cimarron if an enthusiast were to come across one today? Sadly most have probably ended their days in one of those vast American automobile junk yards we see on car shows; lost, unloved and lying forgotten in the huge piles of dead motors so reminiscent of the corpse wall at the Battle of Thermopylae.
I’ve noticed of late that many car enthusiasts are looking to the more recent past for their personal car selection. Apart from the obvious cost differential they must be looking for a reason and I believe I know what it is. Older cars have a certain charm and variety. Their modern equivalents are very often now bland, let’s-play-it-safe-and-just-push-the-infotainment-bit vehicles which, although reliable, practical and clean, to be fair, just don’t do it for the average petrolhead.
Owning an old motor like the Cadillac Cimarron would be like owning a mangy old horse that much of the time won’t do as you want it to, but it is nevertheless your horse and you love it and when the partnership works it is great experience. That’s why I want a Cadillac Cimarron. I think. Geoff Maxted