The start of the 1980s was a truly troubled time of product downsizing, lookalike styling, and sub-standard quality at General Motors. In the face of strengthening foreign competition, Cadillac general manager Bob Burger concluded that his division needed a top-of-the-line two-seater—a high-style, high-tech, high-image, high-priced halo car intended to boost the image of Cadillac’s roster. We know it today as the Allanté, a car that did not live up to its potential, but nonetheless stands as an example of Cadillac's profound ambition to up its game.
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Let me qualify this comment that it was narrated to me by a close friend who got it from his friend, a top manager in the Allante project. The first pre-production car was flown from Turin to Detroit and finished to test drive. The first concern was noise and leakage where the top met the top of the windshield, quite unacceptable. So they flew it back to Turin for a design correction. It came back the following week and seemed acceptable. The manager said they were curious how Pininfarina had corrected it so fast and what was done. They pulled back the trim and there was the solution in the header, Newspaper was stuffed into the front of the top.
You quote David Hill as being concerned about having to catch up with the MB SL when they went from a 3.8 to a 4.5. If the quote is accurate it shows how out of touch he was with his target. MB went from the 3.8 to the 5549 cc in the 560, not to a 4.5.
I think one of the Allante's problems is that it was designed to compete with the SL that was about to be replaced by a newer car from MB. The R129 must have already been heavily in development as it came out in 1989.
Could not GM have built Pininfarina-designed bodies somewhere in the US? It seems like the solution of air-shipping parts to Italy, having semi-completed cars flown back and final assembly done in the US was the most expensive and complex way to do things. It was not like the old days when Briggs Cunningham could have C3 bodies made by Vignale and shipped to his Palm Beach factory (well, little workshop) a lot cheaper (well, somewhat cheaper) than having them made in Florida or Michigan but those were entirely handbuilt and not mass-production like the Allante.
A close work friend bought a used 89 in 2009 and was very proud of it for a while. Despite being babied by its owner, It spent most of the 11 months he owned it in the shop being repaired. It seemed everything would fail eventually in that short time period. A failed part for every drive. After spending as much on repairs as he had spent on the car originally, the starry eyed love affair was over, and he reluctantly sold it. Its been 10 years now and we still joke about that money pit every time we get together. I'm sure that there are plenty of happy owners that would attest to this cars greatness. As you can get good and bad cars in any model line. So no hate mail please! This was just our experience, and many people may find the car to be a solid driver, and their love affair to be deep and fulfilling.
I have had 2 Allantes now. The first one a 1987, I bought2 years ago. I loved the Recaro seats. I spent $1,200 replacing the injectors, updating the AC to R134 and changing ALL the fluids. Never gave me any problems after that. Then I found a 93 with only 19,00 miles and it had a hard top. I sold the 87 to my cousin who loves it and drives it regularly. My only problem with the 93 is that I keep getting a message that the ride control needs servicing. Both of my Allantes have been wonderful cars to take on road trips. I have the analog instruments in the 93. Best part is it has a real trunk that accepts enough luggage for a trip.
Anyone else think of that Married With Children episode whenever they hear "Allanté"? I don't think I'll ever get that out of my head. Kelly Bundy: "The newwww Allanté!" 😆
Why front wheel drive? Given the competition, I always thought that was an odd way to go. And as stated in a comment above, why not just stick to having Pininfarina style it and build it in the US? No doubt that would have dropped the price substantially and I doubt many buyers would have cared where the body was made.
I think it boils down to designing a car for a big corporate conglomerate. You want to make a low volume specialty car. GM Corporate tells you these are the chassis designs you get to pick from. You want a custom drivetrain, they want 600,000 units a year
I bought my '93 in 2013 with 42k miles. It turned 59k miles on Sunday. I've not had any issues, other than the poorly designed rear pull-down motor for the top. It gets out of adjustment and requires a tweak every couple of years, which I can do myself. If it had a real power top, that worked like most other convertibles, I think they would have been more successful.
I have never understood the collector response to the Allante. Yeah I get it... if I spent 55K in the 90s for the car, all of the complaints are valid. But now, it's just plain snobbery. I love my Allante. For a nearly 30 year old car, the styling still holds up. For a cruiser convertible, the performance is more than adequate. The car turns heads and gets comments everywhere I take it. I am glad the collectors hate them though considering what I paid for mine, which was next to nothing
Must be in the GM water supply, sounds exactly like the Fiero. Introduced in '84, so-so until major changes in '88. The '88 Fiero GT was a great car, but was then killed off by GM since 'greatness' did not fit them well.
I still think if GM had this and the Buick Reatta on a heavily modified version of Corvette's Y platform (with a turbo V6 for the Buick!) instead of FWD, I think they would have fared much, much better.