Design Notes: 1992 Cadillac Seville
Over all the years of wondering what was going on in the design bunkers where new cars are dreamed up, I guess I’d never considered there were internal teams competing with independent designs. But there are.
Picture 5 shows a larger, more mature design proposal from late 1989 made by one of two Advance Studios, under the auspices of GM vice president Chuck Jordan. Neither studio is affiliated with any specific brand. I asked Mr. Ruzzin about that and he told me that Mr. Jordan would assign those unaffiliated teams to whatever he felt was important and necessary.
He felt the 1992 Seville was important and necessary.
Mr. Ruzzin explained that, at this stage of the design process, there were a lot of design elements floating around that everyone involved agreed was worth pursuing. However, one of the two Advance Studios was working on a familiar rear end treatment referred to as the “bustle back” from the 1980 through ’85 Sevilles. Mr. Ruzzin is pretty sure the car shown in picture 5 is that car.
He said that Cadillac Studio couldn’t stand the look. A problem he identified with this design proposal was that it harkened back, instead of forward, when they were trying to advance the design against the imports. Another problem was the STS model.
The STS had just recently been introduced on the then current-generation Seville, for 1988. This bustle back version wouldn’t support the look of the STS model. Although that bustle back proposal died, he said it was a hard death.
A couple of interesting STS side notes: Mr. Ruzzin was responsible for the third-generation Seville’s STS variant. He points out that it was introduced on that generation in low volume (almost all of which he said were snatched up in California) to essentially prime consumers for the all-new, fourth-generation STS model.
An interesting nugget and humorous point in the conversation came when Mr. Ruzzin told me (with a detectable note of competitiveness) that the Advance Studio “cheated it four inches;” meaning their model (in picture 5) was four inches lower than what the car really had to be. It was unfair because Cadillac Studio’s car met all of the dimensional requirements, including interior space. As he points out, most any car will look a lot better if its roof is four inches lower.
This next version, shown in picture 6, was the revision that sought to impart a more international image; however, it also retained too much of the bustle back look. Mr. Ruzzin said they quickly decided against it.
He also told me they had become unbelievably expert at what is referred to as the paper technique, shown in pictures 6, 7 and 8. The technique involves paper that was painted silver, and thin sheets of acrylic, about one-sixteenth of an inch thick, that had been painted black.
He said they didn’t invent the idea but employed it as a time saving technique, noting that by that point, time was moving rapidly and they did not yet have a design.
The car shown in pictures 7 and 8 was the lightning fast result after the last of the bustle back ideas was put to rest.
This version was created in less than two weeks, a record for the time. On this particular model, he said they did something that hadn’t been done before. They took the model from the Advance Studio, used the paper technique on top of it and then airbrushed the design right over it, like a three-dimensional illustration. After that, they installed all of the detail mockups.
Notice the third brake light on this model is taller than on the production model and extends horizontally past the trunk lid. He said they continually thinned it down, vertically and horizontally, until its final size.
I asked what the tail lights were like on this model and he said it is the rectangular area around the license plate; the picture was taken before the mockups were added. The intent is indicated in the tape drawing shown in picture 10.
The production tail light design changed substantially and would wrap around the sides, eliminating the need for separate side markers. (Another cost-saving benefit, Mr. Ruzzin pointed out. A win/win, I happen to think it’s a cleaner look anyway.)
Pictures 9 and 10 show a final stage of detail checking for the Seville design. Mr. Ruzzin pointed out that the production Seville has a taller grille which resulted in the need for bumper guards; unlike the Eldorado’s grille which was shorter and could get away without the guards.
Notice in picture 10 the exhaust outlets incorporated into the lower part of the bumper. Another effort to impart sportiness and Mr. Ruzzin mentioned that they were one of the first to be working on the idea.
Continue to page 3, below.