Starting in the 1997 model year, The General’s Cadillac Division glued Cadillac badges and some puzzling cartoon-duck advertising to the Opel Omega and called it the Catera. I’ve photographed just about every junkyard Catera I’ve found because they seem like relics from a long-ago past when Detroit car companies believed Americans would buy their European-market cars… or cars, period. Another Cadillac from the same era fits right in with American automotive trends of the last couple of decades, though, because it helped create them: The Cadillac Escalade. Here’s a first-model-year Escalade, found in a Silicon Valley self-service yard a few months back.
The Escalade was (and is) based on the GMC Yukon Denali, and the 1999-2000 version looked nearly identical to its much cheaper GMC-badged sibling. No matter; while many car shoppers turned up their noses at a Chevy Cavalier with Cadillac badges 15 years earlier, Escalade sales started off strong and then got even better. Granted, Ford had broken the trail a year earlier with the Lincoln Navigator, but the bosses at GM get credit for jumping on the Next Big Thing much more quickly than they had when Dearborn blindsided them with the original Mustang.
The Vortec 5700 V8 in the first Escalade belongs to the original small-block Chevrolet engine family that began life in the 1955 model year; a couple of decades earlier we’d have called it a good ol’ 350 (and lawsuits might have ensued had it gone into a Cadillac at that time). With just 255 horsepower and 330 lb-ft of torque dragging its close-to-three-tons bulk around, the first-generation Escalade was much more sluggish than its LS-powered successors.
Since trucks had to meet less stringent emissions, fuel economy, and crash-safety standards than cars and the Escalade was built with cheap off-the-shelf Yukon hardware, the first-ever Caddy truck offered a giant helping of luxury at a fairly low price. Escalade drivers sat up high and lorded it over the DeVille occupants who groveled like worms far beneath them. Once rappers began name-dropping the new Escalade, the average age of Cadillac buyers finally inched downward. For Cadillac dealers, life was good.
Still, the Yukon and Suburban were more or less the same truck as the far costlier Cadillac version, as Michigan racers at GingerMan Raceway kept pointing out to me when I reviewed the ’11 Escalade Hybrid for Popular Warlord Magazine. The way they said this fact was telling, mostly with some variation of “Sure, I can afford an Escalade, mind you, but I bought a Yukon because I didn’t want to throw away money.” Hey, if you want the Joneses to eat their livers when they see the badges on your new truck, you must pay for those badges!
Some junkyard shoppers have yanked out just about the entire interior of this truck, perhaps to swap into a Suburban.
Just over 100,000 miles on the odometer, which doesn’t seem like much in a time when the majority of commuters seek to drive the biggest and cushiest truck they can afford.
With my Escalade, there are no roadblocks. Eat your livers, proles!
Comes with VHS player and OnStar.
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