Cadillac style… sort of

1990 Cadillac Aurora ConceptI’ve found that concept cars typically include a defining characteristic trait. There’s usually something to each design, sufficiently pronounced, to identify the car in the minds of those would-be gawkers and talkers.

But the Aurora (not to be confused with a later production Oldsmobile model of the same name) seems to have a serious personality deficit. That’s not a disparagement and, of course, that’s an opinion but there is one element that is indisputably absent from this Cadillac concept: traditional Cadillac styling.



Way before Art & Science
1990 Cadillac Aurora left halfNary a vertical light or chrome accessory, Aurora was international in appearance. That’s how the concept’s press release describes it.

Certainly America’s luxury car landscape was undergoing a dramatic change at that time and a growing number of buyers were allured by foreign brands. After having warmed up to luxury vehicles from the Europeans in the 1970s, Americans were again being offered automotive luxury as defined by yet another global region: Asia.

I surmise, from things I’ve read and conversations I’ve had, that Cadillac was well aware of the looming decisions it had to make with regards to product direction. My suspicion is that Aurora was largely intended to gauge the buying public’s response to a non-traditional design–from the brand that defined those traditions. Apart from badging and a whisper of Cadillac’s familiar egg-crate-style grille, there’s hardly a sign that this car is from or made to represent Cadillac.

Of course there is the essence of precision and craftsmanship and those are Cadillac traits, but I’m referring to swagger. Even the downsized mid-1980s Cadillac models had an elitist’s-air about them in parking lots. But this Aurora would seem to have blended anonymously in upscale and internationally-diverse traffic of the time. I suppose, however, that blending may very well have been the aim of this endeavor.

1990 Cadillac Aurora profile left

I can imagine a design directive including something like, make it share nothing but the wreath and crest. Seriously, there’s not a whole lot of Cadillac going on here. Behind the curtain is another story, and we’ll get to that, but outside there’s no hint of tradition. I suppose some might consider the skirted rear fenders a throwback design trait but those are more likely an aerodynamic feature than any homage to Cadillac’s of yore.

An interesting thing about those skirts, you’ll see in these pictures and others, is that they are flush with the body while the fender panels below are depressions, or inverted flairs. The look is mimicked at the front, but without the skirt.

1990 Cadillac Aurora rear leftTake a look at these tail lights. I’m curious what the lighting patterns were for the various functions. This picture also gives a good angle of the unique fender design.

Several other things pop out at me, like the European-shaped license plate cutout. Also, the shoulder line, above the fender that runs the length of the car, swoops around the rear to form a lip on the trunk’s lid. That’s almost a subtle hint of Mr. Dick Ruzzin’s work yet to come on the 1992 Cadillac Seville. (See related: Design Notes: Interview with Dick Ruzzin; Design Notes: 1992 Cadillac Seville.)

In contrast to the concept’s flowing lines, two, well-spaced, rectangular exhaust outlets are nicely integrated with the rear valance, below the bumper. The large for the time 18-inch cast alloy wheels, riding on Goodyear 225/55 R’s, appear bulky and heavy to my eye, yet manage to remain classy with their turbine-esque detailing. I didn’t see anything declaring it but my guess is that the solid pattern was another aerodynamic-inspired feature.

1990 Cadillac Aurora front

The front exudes the most Cadillac character–almost single-handedly because of the grille and tastefully-sized logo at its center. The brand’s name is inscribed in traditional font which causes me to ponder the potential discussions that may have raised. Notice the complete absence of chrome, or any metal work for that matter.

The front is where Aurora’s style is at, appearing well thought out and proportioned. Whereas the rear is an overload of uninspired louvered luminance, the front has few lines but graceful symmetry and continuity in them. The large, round driving lights contrast nicely with the flush-fitting, no-nonsense head/parking light clusters.

Wait until you see what else Aurora has going for it. It surprised me.


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