A traditionalist, turned minimalist, goes cosmopolitan

Design Notes: 1992 Cadillac SevilleWhen the 1986, third generation Cadillac Seville came out, I thought it was great. I couldn’t understand why there seemed to be so much animosity towards it. However, I was only 13 years old.

I had no concept of what a mature, luxury car buyer was looking for and expected out of certain brands. I simply saw a new, more modern-looking Cadillac and thought that automatically equated to desirability. With many, it didn’t.

New looks was only part of the equation. Although Cadillac made on-the-fly improvements to that model, it was the fourth generation Seville that was going to show the world that they meant business.



Straight from the designer’s mouth
For those that missed it, a few weeks back I interviewed Dick Ruzzin, Chief Designer for Cadillac when the 1992 model Seville was designed. That article is highly relevant to this one and is a good companion read (found here: Design Notes: Interview with Dick Ruzzin).

In addition to having writen a guest posting for me (found here: Guest Post: 1969 DeTomaso Mangusta), I have since talked with Mr. Ruzzin on multiple occasions about future post topics. As discussed in the interview, his knowledge and experience in the industry are vast, and that translates to lots of good reading for the future.

Anyway, that’s enough about the future, let’s talk about the past; the origins of the 1992 Seville. To do that, believe it or not, we need to go back about a quarter of a century.

This full size tape drawing, shown in picture 1, is from early 1987. Remember that the previous generation Seville was introduced as a 1986 model.

1987 full size tape drawing

While discussing picture 1 with Mr. Ruzzin, he noted that the master side of a clay model is the driver’s side (he wasn’t certain but believed it to be an industry-wide standard). It’s for that reason these tape drawings are usually rendered from the driver’s side.

He also commented that he would work for so long on a vehicle’s design from the driver’s side, that when finally working on it from the other side it could sometimes look weird.

1987 full size model (Cadillac Division)Picture 2 shows an early clay model done by Cadillac. It was designed using the windshield, front doors and cowl from the third generation. That is indicated in pictures 2, 3 and 4 which are of the same model.

Mr. Ruzzin said the idea to carry those parts over was a cost-saving measure and that it ultimately looked better on paper than how it translated into design.

1987 full size model (Cadillac Division)Beyond that, the plan proved to be limiting and a negative factor in terms of the design.

He said there was no way to properly make the back of the car look totally different from the front which would remain largely unchanged.

Mr. Ruzzin brought my attention to this version’s large side glass and how narrow the area is between the rear side glass and the wheel opening.

You’ll notice that many clay models are different on their left and right sides. That is because they are expensive and time consuming to make. Therefore, one side, the driver’s, captures the major part of the design.

The passenger’s side is then left available for trying various detail changes and adjustments, seen in these pictures.

1987 full size model (Cadillac Division)Another cost-saving proposal for the project was to make the front of the Seville and Eldorado the same. Overall, Mr. Ruzzin didn’t sound too fond of it, describing it as a “road block which made the design effort extremely difficult.” He told me it didn’t take Cadillac too long to see that it was too much of a limit. They didn’t want the Seville and Eldorado to look like a single car line, with coupe and sedan versions.

There were, however, some slight compromises such as sharing headlights and the black metal behind the grill (industry speak for the unseen structural unit to which the headlights, radiator etc. are attached).

Mr. Ruzzin points out that, since the price point of the car was basically defined, the efforts to save money by sharing parts was with the intent to reinvest it elsewhere on Seville; for example on the interior, making it more luxurious.


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