The Eighties was a bad period for Cadillac. The luxury marque was inflicting all sorts of damage to itself with the likes of the awful Cimarron and Catera bumbling around. It needed a return to form — and a model to challenge the massively popular SL and XJS — so, it turned to Sergio Pininfarina to help build the Allanté. It was a smart move, but the execution was questionable to say the least.
First of all, three Boeing 747 aircraft had to be modified to carry 56 Allantés over the Atlantic Ocean — twice; first to get to Turin, and then back to Detroit because Pinanfarina would be making the bodies. On the way to Italy, the planes carried the cars chassis, steering column, A/C system, and the electronic systems. When these landed at the Pininfarina plant, they installed the body and interior then, they were flown back to the US where staff at the Hamtramck plant assembled everything else including the suspension, front and rear subframes, engine and transmission, and painted them. The process became known as the world’s longest assembly line.
The name Allanté was one of 1,700 computer-generated words that General Motors chose from, and the brand-new Italian/American car hit showrooms in 1987. It was well received; it looked great and was executed very well, too. GM hoped to sell 6,000 a year and started marketing the model everywhere it could. TV and the movies were targeted strongly; J R Ewing drove one in Dallas, Sylvester Stallone had one in Tango and Cash and Robin Williams had one in Cadillac Man. It seemed to do the trick, and the Mercedes and Jaguar had a genuine rival on their hands. A 4.1-litre V8 was the original motor, which made 170bhp, but in ’89 a 4.5-litre V8 making 200bhp came along. And with 366Nm of torque, it was one of the most potent front-wheel drive cars in the world. The Allanté got a further boost in ’93 when GM stuck a 4.6-litre V8 in the bay, which made a healthy 295bhp mated to a four-speed automatic. In its bestselling year, just under 5,000 units left dealer lots. Sales were hampered by complaints of a leaking roof but by 1993 — the last year of the model — this had been fixed by Cadillac, but the Allanté didn’t quite beat the SL or XJS, although it came close.
There aren’t that many cars out there with so much time, effort and money invested in them, which makes the Allanté very intriguing. They’ve held up pretty well mechanically (the motor and tranny was bulletproof) and stylistically, and if you want one, a well-maintained model can fetch in the region of Dh70,000.