Design Notes: 2003 Cadillac CTSDΓ©jΓ  vu?

Last November GM graciously approved and released to me pictures of Cadillac’s 2008 CTS styling models; 2008 marked the car’s second generation.

A couple of weeks ago, I asked my miracle-working media contact if he could get his hands on any pictures from the design process of the 2003 Cadillac CTS, its first generation. In typical fashion, he made it happen. But that’s when a mystery ensued.

Oh ye, of little faith
I didn’t know what to expect for the 2003 CTS design images, after all it was the model that inaugurated Cadillac’s Art & Science design era. And, even though I had styling images of the second generation CTS, the 2003 production model was somewhat stodgy by comparison and I presumed would be quite different.

Before uploading full-size photos to an FTP site, it is standard practice for GM to email a PDF proof sheet of the available images to determine which are wanted; the photos on the proof sheets are roughly 1.25-inch by 1-inch each and low resolution.

When I got the email something immediately stood out to me, the models in the small images looked familiar. Granted I was viewing the pictures on my cell phone but they looked incredibly similar to those of the 2008.

As a result, I replied questioning if there had been some sort of a mix-up. After comparing the images himself, my friend relayed there were differences and similarities (I still had not seen the full-size images yet). He also noted that he was unable to determine if they were misidentified. So, I requested the full set.

The larger pictures (3024 x 2016 pixels) showed three angles of three different models. After examining and comparing them to the 2008’s, I grew even more confused. The similarities were uncanny and I was at a loss as to how I was going to feel confident presenting them as being related to the 2003.

The exceedingly cryptic file names appeared to offer no clarity and the information below the images on the PDF proof sheets made me even more uncertain. There was a blurb in each picture’s memo field that read, “Envelope info: 6-26-03” which is after the car’s introduction. I puzzled over it then gave it a rest for a time.

Upon staring at the information again a few days later, the answer stood out to me like a Corvette at a Prius convention. Right there in the 38-character gobbledygook file name was the designation GMX320. That just so happens to be GM’s internal code for the first generation Cadillac CTS (the second generation is coded GMX322 and corresponded with that car’s images).

Finally, I had my confirmation. These images are in fact of scale styling models for the 2003 Cadillac CTS, I hope you enjoy.

Model 1
Not only did these design models’ similarities to the 2008’s confuse me but so did their advanced appearance. Take a look at the profile on this first once. (Click on the image to see a larger version.)

2003 Cadillac CTS styling clay (undated) 1

Check out the super tight front end. The wheel well-to-nose overhang, which seems almost unfair even calling it that, is shorter than the wheel-well-to-door distance and is about equal to the base of the windshield. The long-hood, short-trunk design imparts elegance and rear-wheel-drive baby.

One characteristic that stands out to me that I don’t think I’ve seen employed before is the kink on the back side of the C-pillar, at the top. There are two angles in that line. Also, the profile of this model indicates it might have proposed a longer wheelbase than the production car’s 113.4 inches. A spec sheet visible in pictures of the last model indicate a wheelbase of 114.8 inches.

2003 Cadillac CTS styling clay (undated) 1

This angle shown above reveals some very interesting detailing on the front. First, there is a fantastic raised fender line that runs down the hood and meets with the grille.

Playing off of that convergence is the area between the grille and headlights. Notice the offset surfaces on the inboard side of the headlight. With all of that commotion, it manages to avoid a busy appearance.

Every element seems to feed into its adjacent element, including the headlights which visually connect with the apparent fog lights below. The lower grille, while obviously unfinished, has exacting proportions that line up with surrounding points.

2003 Cadillac CTS styling clay (undated) 1

At the back, you can see what’s probably the most familiar aspect between this model and the production car: the tail lights. The upper half of the lens angles forward, reaching into the rear fender. Personally, I wasn’t too fond for the way that feature was executed on the production car (maybe it didn’t mesh with the shorter design, to my eye), but here I think it works well.

This angle shows that curious kink at the top few inches of the rear window that I had mentioned above. Also at this angle, the fender flares become more evident. The front fender comes across as especially attractive to me.

Another feature that looks particularly attractive is the indicated exhaust outlets. They appear to be applied with tape or marker on this model but from how it appears to wrap around the side, I’m guessing the intent was a chrome surround.


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