Postcard from Schleswig 2

If only there had been more time to study this one: a 1976-1979 Cadillac Seville. 

Standard of the world

With some impatient passengers in the car, I promised this was the last time I’d stop and photograph something interesting that day. Patience was wearing thin. By the time I got back after two minutes and five snaps a brawl had already broken out. I sensed a small battle by photo four.

If had a chance to take a longer look it would have been the interior I most wanted to examine. Here it is:

Is that real wood?

The head restraint is typical of the period for American cars. It seems placed so as to offer a fulcrum for one’s head to swing around in the event of a collision. Speaking of fulcra, the law of the lever means a door handle is more easily used the further it is from the hinge. The placement of the Seville’s interior handle is strangely placed indeed, perfect for reducing the turning effect of the user’s pull action.

Looking past that, the sense of quality is not too bad. It’s imposing and sepulchrally black. And I suspect real wood was used on the door pull and those little panels – I am a sucker for such useless embellishments. Note the chamfers around those panels. I’ve been tutoring students recently on the topic of such details that give depth and heft to trim like this. Left plain such a panel would appear too much like a veneer; the chamfer emphasises the depth of the “wood” or wood.

Not a re-trimmed Caprice.

The ergonomics of the switches for the window winders are hard to explain. The principle of mapping is ignored so the relation of the switch to the window it operates is not obvious. I would guess that the forwardmost switch is for the driver, next back is for the front passenger, then rear left and rear right. The puzzle is why GM’s designers overlooked the principle when it was already well-known. I’d like to know what they thought would happen if they did adhere to mapping principles. Or is it possible GM staff were a bit isolated and were unaware of the matter?

It does look like Caprice, slightly.

That said, I don’t mind these flaws as I find the gothic atmosphere of the interior quite enjoyable. The dual centre armrest is curious. Why not one broad one?

It was the smallest, costliest Caddy.

Another point this car raises is that in 2017 the quality difference between Chevrolet and Cadillac is not as great as in 1976. If your benchmark was a ’76 Caprice then the ’76 Seville is obviously a good cut above. I checked some photos and the Caprice “wood” trim is unchamfered meaning it is plastic with a textured coating. The doors are vinyl-skinned and the dashboard simpler. The steering wheels are equally bad in both cars. Today the difference is slight and mostly about features not quality. This makes it extra hard for the middle class cars of all stripes to stay above the economy cars but to cost less than the premium marques.

Much of the basic insight on the car is at Wikipedia. However, one detail is worth dragging forth here, that the car was also made in Iran from 1977 to 1987 by Pars Khodro. I doubt GM got their royalties after 1979.

Parts bin Delco lamps

Three years is quite a short production run so this is not a very common car. The thing is that the style and detailing are very Generic Motors: I feel as if I have seen this before but really am amalgamating, eliding and conflating a lot of GM cars from this period. That’s not good.

Author: richard herriott

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

2 thoughts on “Postcard from Schleswig 2”

  1. And underneath probably lay a panel or two of the 1962 Chevy II, although the Seville was actually based on that car’s successor, the Nova. Obvious to see if you were a car nut because of the stance and wide front track, and especially from a distance, where the square cut of its jib faded into the background, leaving a naked shivering cheap-as-chips Nova. With added bits of glitz inside and out plus a slight rear-down, nose-up mien conferred by the pedestrian underpinnings. I’m sure they beefed it all up, but basically not much investment needed.

    The ergonomic features mentioned about the door release and the power window controls are true. In those days, GM liked to have “modules”, square if possible. with all those bothersome fiddly bits gathered into one spot. But like not putting disc brakes on regular cars until it was getting just too darn obvious or not adopting the radial tire until Goodyear and Firestone stopped making bias ply, GM was very conservative. Alfin drum brakes were good enough! Plus GM had begun to popularize power windows in the late 1950s, and no doubt was of the belief that the other car manufacturers were incorrect in varying from their standard button layout. In other words, everyone else was wrong if you were GM. Sending off random engineers to Opel and Holden on foreign service never seemed to affect their Detroit outlook when they got home.

    In real life, the buttons were rickety loosely-pivoted affairs with much play and zero precision, while the works generated an authoritatively loud krang! as the power door locks operated. Sort of rugged but crude in the extreme.

    S’what happens when the market leader figures what they’ve got is entirely satisfactory and anyone asking for more was a nutball admirer of weird little furrin cars like Mercedes? Sink into the foam velour double pillow seat and revel in the bordello luxury. Bang that shift lever down into drive, and cruise. Life is good.

    Then they woke up and tried their hand at FWD five years later. Still kept those square escutcheons for power windows, door release and power locks, though.

    1. The Nova underpinnings are hinted at in the car’s gross form and the Wikipedia pages. Thanks for the insight on the modules: it doesn’t explain why the modules had the buttons laid out so unhelpfully. A mapped layout would have been as easy to do as the “stove top” mapping.
      Since enough has been said about GM’s funny approach to luxury cars I’ll dodge that. It wasn’t a 260E but it was nicer than most people had need for. That’s either cynicism or good old practicality.
      Black interior though: very gloomy indeed.

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