Classifieds hero: Cadillac Allanté

Famed for all the wrong reasons, the Cadillac Allanté remains a prime slice of Americana on a budget – there's currently a solid example in the AutoClassics classifieds

When opening the rule book on how to construct a vehicle with effective cost control, it’s normally common practice to craft and press the bodyshell somewhere within the production line . The frame must be welded, sent through the paintshop and baked, undersealed and then passed along the production line for completion. Having Mother Nature’s enhancements eating away at the bodywork during this vital stage halves the car’s life expectancy from the off.

Most manufacturers follow the above plan to the letter, even if history has exposed some big names partaking in this automotive faux pas. Rolls-Royce for one, purchasing shells for the Silver Shadow and Silver Spirit from British Leyland, carting bodyshells up and down the country in rawest form for all the elements to enjoy. However, nothing comes close to the absurd way in which Cadillac dealt with their Allanté. 

All appeared normal upon the new model’s announcement, with a neat, crisp body styled by Pininfarina and a thumping all-American V8 offering swift performance. Cadillac’s short wheelbase provided road stance and handling was far superior when compared to homebred market rivals of the time. The company even used a computer and dark mathematical magic to select a viable name from 1700 options; a first within the automotive industry.

However, it wasn’t long before the car developed a sour reputation. In true American fashion, the 4.1-litre V8 was only capable of a meagre170bhp, mustering 60mph from a standstill in 9.8 seconds; slower than a Range Rover of the time. The gearbox didn’t help matters, changing down like a wrecking ball and struggling to cope with everyday life – much like the original owners after purchase. Rather than lead the pack, the Allanté was bound and gagged by European competition as the Jaguar XJ-S and Mercedes-Benz SL picked off potential buyers in their droves.

Bosch discovered that the Allanté ABS braking system had serious flaws, while sound systems crackled so severely drivers presumed interior trim was falling off. Roofs let in water, doors rusted from the inside out, air conditioning units leaked into the bulkhead and footwell carpets could often house decaying spores that environmentalists claimed responsible for lung cancer. Consequently, sales were slow, and despite vast improvements throughout the car’s production run, the public never bought into the image. The Allanté quietly disappeared from brochures and showroom space was filled with boxy saloons.

Yet, with all this considered, the most dramatic aspect of the Cadillac Allanté wasn’t to be found when stuck behind the wheel, but rather in the bonkers construction.

Pininfarina are based in Italy. Cadillac operate in the USA. As you may have noticed, the Atlantic ocean is in the way. Any rational thinking board of directors would vote to build the entire car in one location – but not Cadillac. Oh no, they decided to employ a trio of Boeing 747s specially modified to cart half-finished Allantés across the Atlantic from Italy, to be finished in Detroit. Dubbed the ‘Allanté Airbridge’ by General Motors, this process cost Cadillac an immense amount of money, before the vehicle recalls were even planned for. Huge delays, with weather keeping planes grounded and jet engines kicking off like a demented child, made for substantial profit loss, too. The final example was flown in from Italy on July 2, 1993. Cadillac big wigs breathed a sigh of relief.

Only 21,430 models left the factory – of which a tiny number still remain. Ironically, the car's starring moment involved Charlie Sheen dropping one out the rear of a plane, as you can witness below.

From the Classifieds

Nestled in among the Cadillac Allantés within the AutoClassics classifieds is this original 1990 model. Offered with both a hard and soft top, the interior looks to be in A1 condition with only 72,564 miles on the odometer. Destined to become a cult classic as number continue to thin and the appreciation grows with age, grab this one now – they won’t be this price forever.

Get a closer look with the AutoClassics classified advert.

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