Ashtrays: 1991 Cadillac Seville STS

It’s a real pleasure to be able to present this car’s ashtray. It’s not that the ashtray is all that good it is more because…

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…it’s a chance to see Cadillac’s attempt to get away from land-yachts and move in the direction of a more roadable car before it got out of hand and they forgot their values. The ashtray itself is just about alright. If you are driving then the gear-selector will be pulled rearwards and out of the way of the ashtray. If you are sitting in the car waiting and kippering yourself with cigar smoke then the relationship of the T-selector and tray is less satisfactory. As in the Citroen XM for RHD cars, you need to manoeuvre your wrist in a convoluted fashion to avoid the obstacle presented by the gear lever.

The steel tray is a bit unrefined too, don’t you think? It looks like exactly the same sort of simple stamping you’d find in a Chevrolet costing thousands less. What was needed here was a proper chrome-finished tray which not only looks nicer but is easier to clean. Another alternative was a very shiny black plastic tray that would have been less visually obtrusive if not quite to the standard of detail one expects from a car costing this much. Here’s a rather unsatisfactory photo of the interior.

Lots of leather, less space - the 1991 Cadillac Seville STS
Lots of leather, less space – the 1991 Cadillac Seville STS

For 1991 the car’s engine received an upgrade from 180 to 200-horsepower by means of enlarging the V8 from 4.5 to 4.9 litres. For comparison the 1992 BMW 3.0 V8 produced 218 hp. One wonders what Cadillac did with those other two litres. Speaking of missing volume, the rear seats don’t afford a whole lot of leg room considering the size. Volvo’s 740 easily beats the Caddie on legroom.

The STS managed to do some things quite well and is regarded as a fun-to-drive car. The self-selecting reviews at Edmunds think the car is good and, interestingly, more reliable than later Cadillacs. I had a close look at the HVAC controls and found this ergonomically disastrous collection of tiny buttons. Clearly it doesn’t take a touch pad to cause designers difficulties.

1991 Cadillac Seville STS HVAC controls.
1991 Cadillac Seville STS HVAC controls.

Here is the car in question, as photographed by the seller:

1991 Cadillac Seville STS til salg: EZ Biler, Denmark.
1991 Cadillac Seville STS til salg: EZ Biler, Denmark.

And this is how the car could have looked in another colour (image –

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Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

13 thoughts on “Ashtrays: 1991 Cadillac Seville STS”

  1. I always think you can tell craftsmanship by the skill applied to transitions. For example, a seasoned tiler will always bead around the edges of windows, and use a different type of beading around a bath. A decorator’s cutting in between two colours will always be immaculate, and wallpaper hung so the joins are invisible. Even though they often go unseen, a cabinet maker’s joins should be immaculate. And then I look at the join between the Seville’s dashboard and the transmission tunnel, with six different pieces of plastic crudely butted together, and the lack of craftsmanship is very much evident. A shame, as the seats look magnificent.

  2. I like the almost vertical drop of the rear window. It reprises the look of the 1st generation Seville, but is far more extreme. It’s not actually elegant, or even practical since it curtails any rear shelf, but it’s satisfyingly distinctive. Actually it also reprises the 2nd generation Seville by harking back to the idea of the luggage compartment being a separate box mounted behind the passenger compartment. Also, there is the hint of a pickup to the profile which, although the car was designed for a different market, possibly suggested a certain outdoorsman purposefulness to the potential owner.

  3. Volvo used the almost-vertical rear window on the 760 in 1983 (or thereabouts). Was there a ’79 Seville with the detail? Yes, though the c-pillar is much broader. This car has a slim and upright c-pillar.
    Also: the console treatment is crude, as chrisward notes. Casual? There may have been a version with a bench and no console.

  4. It seems to me that the near-vertical rear window was a quite common styling practice in the US during the ’80s and early ’90s. I’ll have to look up some examples. While I always liked this (and miss it today, with all the very sloping backs), I think it marries better with wider pillars and looks a bit odd in this example of the ’91 Seville. Maybe it’s also the combination with the seemingly very big wheel that is situated much towards the back. This makes it look as if the C-pillar is in front of the wheel. Maybe I actually should like it, because it’s odd, and it even reminds me of Citroën’s DS or CX, where the wheel is also clearly behind the C-pillar.

  5. The original 1975 Seville had a distinctively upright C pillar which I assumed references the Silver Shadow and, in turn, influenced the 700 series Volvos. As said, I like the Series 3 Seville’s quirkiness in this area, but it’s certainly in the Jolie Laide category (or maybe just Laide Laide).

  6. That climate control. I seem to remember watching an early edition of the Tomorrow’s World TV programme in the 1960s and hearing the commentator say (paraphrase) ” and this scientific study of how we interact with machines is known as Er-Go-Nom-Ics”. How come 20 years later no-one at GM had discovered this?

    1. Because twenty years later the world was full of consumer electronics that had rows of shiny metal or metal-effect plastic buttons and digital displays – this centre console fits perfectly in a world where consumers were awed and/or baffled by the controls on their high-tech vcr, hi-fi system, microwave oven etc. As time went on we got in-car remote controls, pointing devices operating menus on screen, and now we have touch screens. I think the imperative to dazzle with the latest interior tech and convey that in a way that mirrors current consumer product design trends has overruled pure functional ergonomics for most of the history of the car.

  7. I find it a retrod grade step that for a front wheel drive design they opted for a centre console.
    The previous slant back version of which I have owned was always unique along with the OLds Toronado in having a roomy and flat floor, a clear advantage of front drive.
    I also prefer the slant back a’la Hooper razor edge styling to the later model.

    1. Upon closer inspection there is a tunnel under the console. There was not a bench option for this car- it was mimicking sporty Eurocars with RWD so it had to have a “floor shift” even if it had an autobox.

  8. Funny you ask as I said I had a slant back however you must be psychic since I have also owned a Toronado. Both cars were from a bygone era somewhere between the barge land yacht theme and more modern cars that can be chucked around. One big difference between these and the later smaller car featured is the engine mounting was inline as opposed to crossways.
    I recall an early use of on board diagnostics where fault codes could be displayed on the radio screen, this was 1982.
    My slant back was a two tone dark brown and light beige metallic which attracted a lot of attention and favourable comments here in the UK. Quality as in hand built or the modern car was never a strong point but they were sturdy, unstressed and virtually unbreakable plus unique compared to other U.S offerings.

    1. I can´t picture the slant back Toronado. Or did you mean the bustle-back Seville?
      Some of these early 80s GM cars had a certain appeal. It´s important to remember they were made for a country with very different standards at that time. I will come back to this point in an upcoming ashtrays feature so I won´t go on about it too much.
      A year and model would be great as I just can think of the vehicle you have in mind.

  9. I think the best perspective to put this car in was that it was a transition model. As the ’92 STS had a significant price increase, the ’88-’91 STSs where made to prepare people for the jump in price that came with the ’92. It also was an attempt to foreshadow what might be coming with the next model with its real wood, full leather interior, good carpet and upgraded handling. In terms of living with it on a daily basis, yes the dash design was more or less crap. Yes the interior is tight, especially with a moonroof. Yes the overall handling refinement isn’t Euro-sophisticated. But…as a tool for driving around on American roads, the 275lb.-ft. of torque from the 4.9L is a thing of beauty. The numerically higher final drive ratio compared to the standard Seville helps to emphasize the amount of torque under foot. This car will snap your head back from a stop and take the person in the car next to you by complete surprise. The suspension is sorted out enough that on-ramps are fun. Just avoid mid-turn bumps and you’ll think to yourself, “Hmmm, kind of surprising how fast I took that.” You’ll always be reminded there’s plenty of weight in front but to an extent, it can be balanced with the throttle. No, it’s not perfect. Far from it. But given that it was designed during some of GM’s darkest days and was never meant as a drivers car, it came a very long way from what this particular bodystyle originally was.

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