General information about the '76 to '79 Cadillac Seville. Subjects are "Seville history", "Cadillac colors", "Seville VIN's" and "Seville engines".

Seville history



The Cadillac Seville has undergone a considerable number of transformations since the name was first used back in 1956. In that year Cadillac decided to expand the body style choices offered by its top model, the Cadillac Eldorado - a convertible-only model since its introduction in 1953. Not all of those who could afford an Eldorado were necessarily keen on a convertible body. The result was a two-door hardtop coupe called the Eldorado Seville. At the same time, the convertible became the Eldorado Biarritz.

Of interest is that DeSoto also claimed the name 'Seville' for a new two door hardtop model in the lower-priced Firedome series. This became a companion car to the existing Sportsman line of hardtops. The DeSoto Firedome Seville did not return in '57.

These early Eldorados were never common automobiles. Priced thousands of dollars above the average car and even thousands above the average Cadillac, sales were small but profitable for GM. As an example, in 1956 the Eldorado Biarritz or Seville base price was $6501. A Cadillac Series 62 two door hardtop was $4146 and a '62' convertible was $4711. At the same time, a new '56 Chevrolet two door hardtop sold for as little as $2063 with the cheapest Chev selling for $1734.

Cadillac used the two names for its top model until 1961. Sales of the Eldorado models had never been large but by 1960 only 8865 Sevilles had been built - 3900 of them in 1956 alone. Eldorado Biarritz sales were also dropping with only 1285 cars built in 1960, the last year offering both models. In 1961, the Seville was dropped while the Eldorado remained an endangered species through 1966.

Part of the problem was that after 1958, the very distinctive and unique styling of the Eldorado body was lost. It looked like a more heavily chromed version of the regular DeVille models with Eldorado emblems. While it had more luxurious interior fittings, the distinctive look was gone and so went the sales. Buyers were happy to buy all of the special Eldo interior features as options on the DeVille, for less money than the whole package.

In 1965, the Eldorado became a sub-model of the Fleetwood series and was now known as the Fleetwood Eldorado, which further downgraded its 'special status'. Cadillac resolved the whole thing in 1967 with the introduction of the new front wheel drive "personal luxury" Eldorado as a coupe model only. Correctly, it should have been called a Seville.


The Seville name remained on the shelf for the next 15 years until Cadillac, hurt by the success of Ford's Thunderbirds and sleek Continental Mk. III and Mk. IV coupled with the huge increases in size to all of its models - ran into the OPEC-engineered gasoline shortage. Cadillac had explored the idea of a smaller car back in 1970 when some Cadillac dealers expressed concern over the rapid increase in Mercedes sales. At that time nothing was done but the energy embargo was not kind to Cadillac or its public image. 500 cubic inch engines (8.2 litre) did not go hand in hand with a newly discovered need for conservation. However, Cadillac officials felt that simply down-sizing the Cadillac would never be acceptable to buyers and owners who viewed size as status.

Mercedes had doubled its sales between 1968 and 1969. The company was showing no sign of doing worse. The Americans who were buying Mercedes were doing so because they had travelled, were well-educated, often female and realized that a smaller, well-built luxury automobile, with superior economy, handling and reliability was the answer. Cadillac was not of interest to them. Cadillac dealers increased the call for a smaller car to sell. Some dealers even obtained Mercedes or BMW franchises. Cadillacs and expensive German cars were sharing the same showroom floor. The comparisons were easy to make and not good news for Cadillac. This was serious.

Knowing that something had to be done, a decision was made to build a smaller, intimate and very exclusive luxury car first, then deal with the general downsizing later - after the other GM models had introduced their versions. The new car would be an addition to the existing line, not a replacement. This was a wise decision as it would introduce the idea that smaller was better for the whole GM line which needed to downsize soon. In keeping with the '70s trend and the Mercedes successes, the car had four doors.

The new small car could not be sold as a "cheap" Cadillac. The Cadillac name would not be sold cheaply as Packard had done with the 120 series during the late '30s. GM was firm with this decision. In fact, the solution was to market it as the new top-of-the-line for the discerning wealthy buyer who was now buying or thinking of buying a Mercedes or BMW. All that was needed now was a car and a name for it.


Many ideas for the name of the new car (whose code letter was 'K' - a now very ironic choice) were offered. Eventually the choices came down to three. Old time Cadillac dealers favoured the name La Salle as it hearkened back to the grand days before WW II when Cadillac had a "companion marque" by that name. The La Salle had been a particular favourite amongst those who wanted the luxury look at a lower price. Another popular choice was St. Moritz, with its hint of foreign luxury destinations.

The third and best choice, in the eyes of the committee was Seville. It was a tenuous connection but it was a Cadillac name associated with the best model. The LaSalle had been dropped in 1941 and it was felt that the average American couldn't properly pronounce St. Moritz or knew what it represented. Brand recognition is vital.

The decision to go ahead was made in 1973 and the launch date set for 1975, over the objections of many senior GM men who felt that this was too rushed. Indeed, the 16 month timeline would be a record by two full months for the development of an entirely new car.


Different size/weight/power output configurations were explored, as well as various drivetrain/suspension options. GM cars from Australia and Germany were imported and examined as possibilities for a donor platform but all were dismissed as being impractical. Existing US GM medium platforms were too large. Cadillac would have to build the new car from scratch, while borrowing a few stampings from the existing Nova platform.

A decision made was to go with a traditional solid axle/leaf spring rear end, which abandoned Cadillac's long use of rear coil spring suspension. Thinking held that this could be engineered to be as good as then-current independent setups at far less cost. Front wheel drive was not a possibility without having to reduce the existing large Eldorado/Toronado engineering which was financially impossible, given the size of the expected market. The traditional Cadillac buyer was not so concerned with the chassis as he was with the ride and appearance. Thus the Seville was to be a very conservative sort of car underneath.

An appropriate engine for a smaller car meant that Cadillac would need something other than its current 500 c.i. behemoth. An Olds 350 was chosen as the basis of the new Seville power plant. The Olds engine was the acknowledged leader in GM's medium-sized engine stable. An innovation was the decision to equip the engine with fuel injection. This was not be just a simple mechanical setup, as used way back in '57 and continued by Corvette, but an entirely new arrangement called "Electronic Fuel Injection". Bosch had already introduced a form of this type of injection for Volkswagen back in 1966.

Working with Bendix, which had introduced the first form of EFI back in '58 on some Mopars (and which was subsequently sold to Bosch), Cadillac developed an EFI system using an analog computer called an Electronic Control Unit or ECU. A parallel development by Bosch was introduced on many important European cars including Mercedes, Porsche, Volvo, Citroën, Saab and Jaguar at about the same time. Thus Cadillac introduced to North America what was to become the common form of fuel supply we enjoy today and the nomenclature associated with it. The system was originally called "Manifold Injection" where a fuel rail distributed fuel to individual injectors. In the '80s, this was simplified to "Throttle Body Injection" for all of GM, which was a quick and dirty replacement for the carburetor.

Getting this new technology to the wheels was the task of GM's Turbo-Hydramatic three speed transmission which made its name as among the world's best. The smoothness, long-life and reliability of the transmission has become legendary.


All of this engineering resulted in a car which was a small masterpiece of design and appearance. It retained the Cadillac feel on the road but without the bulk. The handing and braking were exceptional, the quiet inside fully up to the best standards. It looked like a Cadillac because of its design cues but it had a sleekness and tidiness which was very European. As one Cadillac developer stated, "The car has to ooze opulence". And it did. Interiors were sumptuous combinations of leather and wood. There were no options other than choices of radio and sun roof. All of the modern luxury appointments were included. The price was a tidy $12,479 which made the Seville the most costly Cadillac, with the exception of the Series 75 Fleetwood limousines.

The Seville was introduced in May of 1975 as a 1976 model but even before this, it was introduced and test-driven by a large group of leading journalists representing some of the most influential automobile magazines. Their reaction was one of surprise and pleasure at the quality and handling of the new car, as well as its new 'International' size and appearance. No less an authority than Road & Track reviewed it - the first-ever Cadillac covered by the magazine. It was compared most favourably to its Mercedes target. In Britain, a journalist wondered if the Rolls-Royce was actually worth its £7,000 premium over the Seville, which was quieter, smoother and better-handling than the Silver Shadow.

Advance sales and deposits guaranteed an enthusiastic reception by buyers who had yet to actually see the car. Worldwide export sales for Seville broke records for Cadillac. The entire allotment of 100 cars for London's Cadillac dealer was sold before the cars were loaded onto the ship. Sales figures advanced for each subsequent year of production, easily surpassing the target Mercedes sales for all models, the majority of which were small diesels.


Change was superficial to what had proved to be a very hot selling and successful new car. Not "messing with success" was the watchword and change was incremental and controlled. The first generation Seville stayed in production until 1980 when the famous fastback body version was introduced. Borrowing styling cues from the Rolls-Royce Hooper body, the new and larger Seville began a new direction for the exciting car from Cadillac. In the interest of corporate rationalization, the Seville lost its rear wheel drive and shared the front wheel drive platform of the Eldorado and the Buick Riviera. The first generation Seville was the only version to use rear wheel drive, which is staging a Chrysler-led comeback today. Ironically, Chrysler is now part of the Mercedes family.

In 2006, the Seville is still with us, although it is now disguised under a new all-letter designation as the 'STS', which originally stood for "Seville Touring Sedan". It has stood the test of time through its various design iterations, while its old stablemate, the Eldorado was quietly laid to rest in 2002 after 49 years of continuous production.


In 1978, the Seville Elegante introduced a new level of finish and luxury. Available in one of two different paint finishes and characterized by special stainless and cast brushed-finish moldings with special emblems, the Elegante was a handsome variation on the successful Seville theme. These cars were finished with or without the usual vinyl roof and were better looking for the lack of it. Undershoring the special treatment was a set of four genuine wire wheels by Dunlop of England. Each of these long-laced beauties was capped with a Cadillac crest. The Elegante package included Sierra grain leather seating with what we now call Alcantara inserts, although that term was not yet in general use.

The interior is finished in perforated Antique Grey Sierra Grain leather with Alcantara accents. Door panels were also in perforated leather. Carpeting is in a special long cut pile, in matching gray.

The Elegante package added a base price of $2600 to the cost of a Seville but if ordered with the Astroroof (a combination of powered glass sun roof and upholstered shade) the cost rose to $3706 for a grand total of nearly $18,000 which made a Seville Elegante perhaps the most expensive American car available other than its Fleetwood Limousine companion. This price however was comparable to the six cylinder Mercedes 280SE and vastly below the heart-stopping cost of the various V8 Mercedes 450SE and SEL models. The Seville Elegante with Astroroof was more than $30,000 less than the approximately $50,000 asked for the Mercedes 450SEL 6.9.


The Seville was billed as "Among the most fully equipped cars in the world". Here's why:

  • 350 c.i. V8 engine with Electronic Fuel Injection and Electronic Spark Selection
  • High Energy ignition system
  • Turbo Hydramatic transmission
  • Variable Ratio power steering
  • Four wheel power disk brakes
  • Dunlop chrome plated long laced wire wheels with Cadillac logo centers
  • Front and rear stabilizer bars
  • Cruise Control
  • Twilight Sentinel automatic delay lighting
  • Automatic headlight dimming
  • Automatic Climate Control
  • Electronic Load Leveling Suspension
  • Automatic parking brake release
  • Tilt and Telescope Leather-wrapped steering wheel
  • Dual remote rear view mirrors
  • External illuminated thermometer in left hand rear view mirror
  • Lighted vanity mirror sun visors
  • Passenger side carpeted waste basket mounted in kick panel
  • Digital clock
  • Modern AM/FM Stereo Cassette player
  • Automatic power antenna
  • Fuel monitoring system
  • Exterior lamp monitors
  • Washer level monitor
  • Power windows
  • Power door locks
  • 40/40 Antique Gray Sierra Grain leather 6 way power seats with power recline
  • Fold down center armrest
  • Central console with telephone pocket and other compartments
  • Expandable pockets in doors and seat backs
  • Power trunk release and power close
  • Cornering Lamps
  • Carpeted Cadillac logo floor mats
  • Fully carpeted trunk and trunk lid underside
  • Carpeted spare tire cover
  • Cadillac logo rubber trunk mat


Seville history

An article about the history of the '76 to '79 Cadillac Seville written by John McEwen.

Cadillac colors

A collection of paint chip scans for the years '76 to '79.

Seville VIN's

A great resource to decode your '76 to '81 Seville's VIN.

Seville engines

An overview of the different engines you will find in the Cadillac Seville from 1976 to 1985.

Did you know

Some facts about the Cadillac Seville from 1976 to 1985.