I am of the Baby Boomer generation. The generation that Cadillac let slip away. To most of us in this age group Cadillacs were cars our parents drove. They were bloated, ugly automobiles that handled about as well as a barge. Add to that Cadillac's tradition of column mounted shift levers and slippery bench seats and you had some of the least sportiest cars around. My generation bought BMWs, Audis, Mercedes and later, Lexus' and Acuras. They were the anti-Cadillac cars.
Cadillac has made some changes in recent years and their cars are starting to appeal to a new generation of car enthusiasts, but in the 70s, 80s and 90s they made ignorable cars. Except for one... The Allanté.
Cadillac needed a car to compete with the Mercedes SL and the Jaguar XJS type of cars. They came up with the idea of the Allanté. The Allanté was a bold move that almost turned out great.
The body was designed and built in Italy by Pinninfarina, which explains why this car, by 1980s Cadillac standards, looks so good. The completed bodies were shipped from Italy to the US where the final assembly took place.
The car took some hits in the press when it was introduced in 1987. The Allanté was FWD, while the Mercedes and Jaguar were traditional RWD. The engine, Cadillac's 4.1 liter aluminum V8 was an older engine and not quite as powerful or sophisticated as people were expecting in a car like this.
Cadillac made improvements to the car over the years, giving it a speed sensitive suspension, which took care of some of the inherent FWD handling flaws, and increasing the power with a 4.5 liter V8. That still didn't silence many of the critics.
For the 1993 model year Cadillac made some significant changes and finally created the car everyone was hoping for. The 1993 Allanté was introduced in early 1992 and the biggest change was the engine. Cadillac dropped in the Northstar V8. This was a thoroughly modern 4.6 liter DOHC V8 that put out 295 HP at 5600 RPM. To handle the car's new found power, Cadillac improved the suspension's stability control system, revised the rear suspension, upgraded the disc brakes and gave it a new power-steering system. In a road test vs. the Mercedes SL and Jaguar XJS, Car & Driver magazine put the 1993 Allante on top. High praise from a magazine not known for its love of Cadillacs.
Now they had it right; a world class car that could compete with Europe's best. So what did GM / Cadillac do next? They discontinued it! 1993 was its last year. Unbelievable.
The Allanté has no deadly flaws. Tops leaked on earlier cars, but by now any previous owner should have taken care of that. The car has electrical gremlins, but most are of the annoying kind and not the disabling kind. The drivetrains on the early cars are essentially bulletproof if maintained properly. The Northstar V8 is a sophisticated engine that can be troublesome and expensive to repair. Look for the seller to have maintenance records for 1993 cars. Also, ignore Cadillac's suggested maintenance schedule. Change the oil every 3000 miles and flush the cooling system once a year. Rust doesn't seem to be a huge problem, although I've seen a few here in New England with some rust around the wheelwells and the edge of the trunk. Just remember, the newest Allanté is now 21 years old. Things will need to be replaced. There are still plenty of parts around, although most dealers don't keep them in stock these days.
It doesn't matter what year you buy, if you're looking for a true sports car, the Allanté will be a disappointment. It's just not that type of car. Look at it as a really nice GT.
There were over 21,000 Allantés built. Just under 17,000 were pre-1993 models. If you're looking for a nice car to cruise around in on sunny days and don't care much about its handling at speed or engine sophistication, buy a pre-1993. They're easy to find, easy to maintain and cost less than a used Honda.
If you're looking for a world-class tourer, one that shows just what GM could do when they put their minds and expertise to it, buy a 1993. Your car snob buddies may look down on the Cadillac badge, but you'll have the last laugh when you leave them behind at a stoplight or out run them on a twisty mountain road.
There are still a lot of Allantés out there to choose from. I picked this one because it is not painted white and is stock. Far too many came painted white (not a flattering color for the car) and, as prices dropped, far too many were "customized."
This Allanté looks to be in nice condition. The interior looks clean, as does the engine compartment. The wheels, while in nice shape, are hideous looking. While I haven't searched around, I have to assume that there are some nice looking aftermarket wheels available.
This car has roughly 142,000 mile on it. Problems with the Northstar V8 start at around this mileage. Ask for service records. If there aren't any, ask for a discount or find a car with records.
Located in Bremerton / Silverdale, WA, click here to see the Craigslist ad.