Way back in 2007, I kicked off the Down On the Street series (which was supposed to be a one-time reference to the title of a Stooges song beloved by me and the late Davey J. Johnson) with the first of what would turn out to be hundreds of interesting street-parked cars: a 1984 Cadillac Cimarron d’Oro. That led to something of a Cimarron obsession, and I’ve spent the past 15 years documenting every semi–intact Cadillac J-Body I find during my junkyard adventures. You’d think they’d all have been crushed by now, but such is not the case; I found this loaded Brown Overload Edition ’85 in a yard near Pikes Peak earlier this year.
The Cimarron was the Cadillac-badged version of the Chevrolet Cavalier (or, if you prefer, the Cadillac-badged version of the Isuzu Aska), and it cost about twice as much as a Cavalier. Sales spanned the 1982 through 1988 model years.
The Cadillac Division had scored a big sales success with a Cadillac-ized Chevy Nova in the late 1970s, and something had to be done about small European luxury sedans stealing Cadillac sales.
Unfortunately for The General, there’s only so much you can do to turn a cheap transportation appliance into a credible swankmobile, and now nearly everyone jeers at the very idea of the Cimarron.
My wife’s Wisconsin family stayed loyal to General Motors products for most of the 20th century, with her parents working their way from Chevrolets on to Buicks and her grandparents climbing Sloan’s Ladder of Success from Oldsmobile all the way up to the pinnacle: Cadillac. Upon retirement in the middle 1980s, it seemed prudent for Grandpa to trade in the Sedan DeVille for a new Cimarron. So, he took the DeVille from Milwaukee down to Francis A. Whibbs‘ dealership in Chicago and picked up the new Caddy… which turned out to be a disappointing lemon that spent more time in the shop than on the street. At least they saved the Cimarron’s keychain, which I now own.
This brown and maroon-ish brown interior appears to be the “Ripple cloth and Sierra Grain leather seating area combination” and was far nicer than anything you could get in the prole-grade Cavalier.
The digital gauge cluster added $238 to the Cimarron’s $12,692 price tag (that’s about $650 on a $34,590 car when reckoned in 2022 dollars). It wasn’t as cool as the digital dash of the Subaru XT, but still futuristic stuff for 1985.
Unlike most other J-Bodies for 1985, the Cimarron came with an AM/FM radio as standard equipment (or you could get a $151 credit for deleting the radio). This “Symphony Sound” cassette deck with AM stereo and a five-band equalizer added 299 bucks (about $815 today). If you wanted this radio with a built-in CB (so you could give a big 10-4 to the trucker man), it cost $895 ($2,440 now). In 1985, I was paying $1,296 for that year’s tuition at the University of California (plus $50/month for rent at the on-campus trailer park, where students could perform engine swaps in their front yards), so the idea of a CB radio for nearly as many frogskins as a quarter’s tuition would have seemed shocking to me at the time.
The base engine in the ’85 Cimarron was the same 2.0-liter four-banger found in the Cavalier, but with 88 horses instead of the Chevy’s 85. This car has the optional 2.8-liter V6, rated at 125 horsepower and adding $560 to the car’s price tag. I’d have shot photos of the engine, but the hood latch mechanism was broken and I didn’t feel like messing with it in order to see an engine I’ve photographed many times before.
Believe it or not, the base transmission in the 1985 Cimarron was an old-timey four-on-the-floor manual, though nearly all Cimarron buyers spent the extra $350 ($955 now) for the automatic. I’ve managed to find a junkyard Cimarron with the rare V6/4-speed combination, amazingly.
This car also has the optional 14″ alloy wheels, which cost just 40 additional bucks.
This DALE sticker probably dates back to the car’s early days on the road.
The keys were still in it when it showed up to its final parking spot.
I picked up a 2009 Hyundai Accent radio for a car-parts boombox project that day (late-2000s Hyundais are among the few junkyard cars that offer factory radios that have AUX jacks but no CAN Bus requirements), and you can see it sitting next to my trusty junkyard toolbox in this photo.
[Images courtesy of the author]
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