World Cars 1984 (3): Chrysler Executive and Cadillac Cimarron

In the third of a short series, I will remind readers  of what was on sale in 1984, courtesy of the much missed “World Car Guide”.

1984 Chrysler Executive: source
1984 Chrysler Executive: source

In this little delve into the World Car Guide I’ll take two attempts to dress mutton up as something finer. The Chrysler Executive and Cadillac Cimarron saw two companies desperately or cynically trying to pass off low-end platforms as much finer vehicles. The Cimarron is famously awful and there might still be a retired executive alive who looks into the mirror every day and sees the face of the man who signed off Cadillac’s least good car.

I’ll start though with the Executive, which was very much a poor replacement for what were once quite fine cars. Here’s what the Guide said: “ An impressive looking business car based on a stretched Le Baron. Although there has been a revival of demand for the traditional big

1982 Cadillac Cimarron: source
1982 Cadillac Cimarron: source

American V8, Chrysler put a 2.6 litre Silent Shaft Mitsubishi engine in the Executive. Voice alert, radio/tape player, computer, central locking, power boot mirrors and boot release, air conditioning are included.” That 2.6 had four cylinders and a Holley 2-choke carburettor and a 3-speed automatic with self levelling suspension optional. Everything forward of the B-pillar came from the Le Baron/K-car platform. Such a car is today only cherishably bad.

1987 (?) Cadillac Cimmaron: source
1987 (?) Cadillac Cimmaron: source

The Guide is quietly critical of the J-car-based Cimarron, noting its original 1.8 litre four-pot failed to offer enough motive force. Unlike the Chrysler, it did have fuel injection. The rear deck luggage racks stands out among the unconvincing ways Cadillac tried to distinguish the car from the Cavalier it clearly was. The rear brakes used drums and it managed 95 miles per hour flat-out. Did you know that the Cimarron carried on until 1990? The small image shows a later version which has a more clearly Cadillac grille. Austin Allegro Van Den Plas leaps to mind.

Cadillac has made valiant attempts to regain its claim to be the standard of the world while Chrysler makes no attempt to fight in the upper echelons of the car market

Author: richard herriott

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

13 thoughts on “World Cars 1984 (3): Chrysler Executive and Cadillac Cimarron”

  1. These fake air vents behind the Chrysler’s wheels are cute. They remind me of my attempts to draw ‘classy’ cars when I was eight years old.

  2. I wonder if we’ll ever look back on many of the American cars of this period with nostalgia, or if they’re really so resolutely bad that they’ll never be deemed worthy?

    1. It’s not clear to me what led almost all US design down the path they did at this time. The Japanese and European cars made sense on their own terms. The Americans lost their way – quite possibly it was a form of parochialism. The question is what the cars could have looked like while still being American and not-anachronistic.

  3. Seeing the US accommodate itself to fuel shortages, emission controls and general downsizing was like seeing a once-proud prince adapting to living in a Broadstairs nursing home.

  4. The Chrysler Executive. Lots of tech and comms – Voice alert, radio/tape player, computer – and four cylinders where right-thinking people would expect to find six or eight.

    A car thirty years ahead of its time…

  5. The Chrysler Executive, a car nobody bought unless they were a down-at-heels airport livery driver in a cheap chauffeur’s suit. I might have seen three in total. I mean, c’mon – World Car Guide? Ha ha ha. Did they go out of their way to list the losers in North America? K cars sold by the millions, but not this benighted edition. In 1984, taxi drivers bought the Voyager minivan edition of the K car.

    You want a worse car than these two in the article? Try the 1984 Ford Tempo- it was truly bad, the engine horrific. At least the 1985 Ford Taurus redressed that completely – it was a really modern car. My brother bought the ’88 wagon after finally ditching his Audi 100 turbo and enjoyed a better thought-out vehicle, as he said. Didn’t believe him at the time, but eight years later .. Audis for 20 years and then Subarus where a more commonsense approach applied including, in particular, serviceability and the ability to go a year with nothing dropping off or going wrong.

    Look, anyone with half a brain bought a Chevy Caprice Classic ( or Olds or Buick version) a Ford Crown Victoria or Lincoln Barge version of the Crown Vic if they wanted a large car -NOT a Chrysler Executive tin box. Any of them, particularly the Chevy were real cars. You bought the wagon if you had a family, ditching the Volvo 240 when you finally realized it wasn’t that great, a ponderous beast to drive of no more ruggedness – my best friend did. And you got a V8 for some waftability.

    As for the Cimarron, everyone knew it was a hoax when it came out. It was a Cavalier underneath, the same chassis you lot got in Europe in an Opel Ascona or Vauxhall, just with a Holden-derived pushrod tub of a motor.

    There’s so much wrong with the post and comments, I could write a book on it, but I’ll forbear. Let’s just say that generalizing from the particular to the general as Mr Herriott does or Mr Patrick’s rather sordid comment is a slippery slope. You must first understand what you obviously do not understand. For example, the full-size Chevy was far better than its pre-fuel crisis gargantua, and everyone knew it. Etcetera.

    Call me thin-skinned, but really I see the same old Euro superiority syndrome at full chat here. I’m supposed to believe that some Lancia, gawkily sitting there on a Mercedes 230 copycat body with a garden shed cabin stuck on top is somehow superior to most cars in North America in 1980. What a hoot. Especially with the typical reliability one could expect.

    The World Car Guide, eh? Right up there with the Handy Spotters Guide to Butterflies and Wild Mushrooms in terms of bedrock technical reliability.

    I look forward to episode 4.

    Your obedient servant, etc, etc,
    Col Roland Fortescue-Smyth, ret’d MM, DSO, DFC and bar
    Banished to the wilds of snowy Canada on half-pension for writing too many letters of complaint to the BBC

    1. “Seeing the US accommodate itself to fuel shortages, emission controls and general downsizing was like seeing a once-proud prince adapting to living in a Broadstairs nursing home.”

      I make no apologies for my crass generalisations, otherwise I’d be in permanent supplication, but had I realised that the Colonel would be coming on watch, I might have qualified what was a quick early morning comment. Having spent the 50s and 60s looking in awe, and sometimes horror, at the lavish and unrestrained size and styling of US cars, although the puritanical part of me felt it should disapprove, there was always that guilty lust.

      So, although in the early 70s, the puritan nodded in approval that the US industry had been forced to concede that its products could no longer be so unrestrained, there was also frustration, particularly at seeing stylists trying to accommodate to the new proportions. Who wouldn’t shed a tear for the people in studios that only a few years previously had been coming up with such as the Boss 302 Mustang, now producing squat apologies such as the Mustang II? True, we in Europe had long had to put up with shortarsed homages to US styling such as the Mark 3 Cortina, but seeing this sort of thing foisted on its homeland was, to borrow a current phrase, sad, so sad.

      Bill Mitchell’s first Seville seemed to grasp the problems of suggesting authority in reduced circumstances, and set a style that’s reflected in the Caprice Classic you mention. Though by the early 80s, the worst was probably over, the Chrysler and Cadillac above are certainly reminders of that time when many US product planners and stylists lost their confidence.

    2. Bill: I’d agree the Tempo lacked much appeal. The Chrysler Executive though was mutton off-cuts dressed as lamb, and poorly. Tempo customers probably had correctly low expectations.

      The Guide itself is simply a list. The other K-cars are in it too.

    3. Bill: if you peruse my articles I think you’ll find a fair amount of admiration for American cars. It’s quite a sweep to say we’ve dismissed them. I do wonder at the strangeness of late 70s interiors and my understanding of the low-point in US car design is in line with the view of Americans who call it the malaise years.
      I’ll repeat, the World Car Guide was a catalogue of cars on sale. It tried to list all of them. It wasn’t prescriptive any more than a guide to Canadian trees would be: these are the cars.
      We also here recognise Lancia’s frailties. Apart from the bizarre worship of the Astra we don’t do hagiography.
      There’s an appreciative Caprice article in here somewhere!

  6. Bill’s mention of the Taurus is pertinent to both sides of the argument. That car was Ford’s repost to the straightening circumstances of the malaise era, representing a sudden leap forward between Dearborn and all other domestic manufacturers. The Taurus was by all reputes a terrific product that rendered the rest of Detroit (and indeed Ford’s US line up) as dinosaurs.

    But – and here is the flip side of the coin – the Taurus was not conjured by Ford USA from a magic hat. Much of the hard graft had already been made by Ford Germany’s development of the Sierra and particularly the mark 3 Granada. Ford USA took those beginnings and created the right product for the right time in their market, something that could not quite be said without caveats about the Sierra and Granada in Europe.

    1. I guess the Cimarron might be quantifiably a ‘better’ car, but if you were offering me either it would certainly be the Executive for its rear legroom. Then all I’d need was a chauffeur.

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