Cadillac is preparing a concept roadster powered by a Northstar V-8 and with a chassis similar to the Chevrolet Corvette. The car may debut as early as the Paris Auto Show this fall, according to sources at General Motors.
The two-seat concept car is being built with 'production intent,' according to one source, although no production decisions have been made. The car will be ready for Paris, but Cadillac could decide to postpone its unveiling until a later show, such as the North American International Auto Show in Detroit next January.
If the roadster goes into production, it would give Cadillac a competitor to the luxury flagship convertibles from Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Jaguar. In the meantime, Cadillac plans to use the car to herald styling themes that will appear on the DeVille, Seville and Eldorado replacements in the next decade.
AN IMAGE REBUILDER
Those themes are intended to rebuild the division's image as a design leader, which was tarnished by badge engineering that culminated in the 1981 Cadillac Cimarron.
The roadster will feature Cadillac signature traits such as a prominent cross-hatch grille and slit taillights, but done 'in a futuristic, post-industrial way,' according to the sources.
GM is subcontracting the roadster's assembly to Gaffoglio Family Metalcrafters Inc., a small prototype shop in Fountain Valley, Calif. Metalcrafters is best known for building most of Chrysler Corp.'s recent hit concept cars, including the Plymouth Pronto Spyder and Chrysler Chronos.
The Cadillac concept shares its basic chassis configuration with the fifth-generation Corvette, known internally as the C5, but is different in most other respects, sources say. The Corvette's hydroformed space frame provided technical inspiration, but the concept car has a unique hydroformed frame with steel chassis rails.
Also, the car will be 11 inches shorter than the Corvette with a 5-inch longer wheelbase, and the body panels likely will be made of steel or aluminum rather than plastic. Billed as a luxury roadster, the concept car also is heavier than the Corvette convertible, which has a curb weight of 3,246 pounds.
The front-engine, rear-drive prototype will be powered by the next generation of Cadillac's 4.6-liter Northstar V-8. The double overhead cam, 32-valve engine is expected to go into production in 2000-model Cadillacs. A 4.0-liter version also will appear in the next-generation Oldsmobile Aurora.
The engine will use improvements made on GM's new Northstar-based 3.5-liter V-6 for the Oldsmobile Intrigue, including a redesigned cylinder head with roller follower valve lifters and a new combustion chamber shape.
The concept car will be the first two-seat vehicle to wear a Cadillac badge since the ill-fated Allante, which was produced from 1987-93. Cadillac had hoped to sell 4,000 of the $54,000 luxury ragtops a year, but the best dealers could muster was 3,407 in 1990. In all, Cadillac sold 20,443 Allantes.