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The Man Who Owns Two Cadillac Allantes: The Interview

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Most likely, you first became familiar with the Cadillac Allante because of Kelly Bundy. It is an extraordinary car. The Allante’s Italian heritage (its body was designed and built by Pininfarina) makes it eligible for entry at the Concorso Italiano. I recently noticed two parked side-by-side on my way to work. Last week, I hunted down the owner and asked him questions about the Allante. Needless to say, Bruce embodies the spirit of the Hoon.

Prepare to be entertained and inspired!

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Why the Allante?

Oh, so many reasons! Been in love with the car and what it represented from Day One. The styling was the first thing to catch my eye, then the digital dash display was the latest/greatest item on a car of any type. In the summer of 2011, I was going to take a road trip to Calgary and Denver for about three weeks and wanted to do it in something besides a rental car. I had borrowed my sister’s 2004 Silverado the summer before and it was great, but a summer drive really needed to be done in a convertible. When I went online and started shopping, the idea popped up for the Allante. Found a great deal on one in Southern California and the rest could be called “financial” history.

Tell us about your 1992 Allante (without the spoiler).

The ’92 was my first Allante that I bought for the summer road trip. The purchase price wasn’t too high as it had 180,000 miles on it. It looked great in the pictures but was in major need of some love and care. My first goal was working on the sound system as you need something to listen to if you are going on a 4,000 mile road trip! Another item was the wheels it was rolling on. I didn’t really care for the stock wheels and had seen where the 17” CTS wheels would fit the car. EBay has been my friend from the very start (purchased the car on there as well) and within a few days the new wheels arrived. Personally, I believe that helped bring the car into the 21st century. Classic styling with a little more current touch set it off nicely. Another item that was first to be replaced was the window regulator. There is a dealer in South Florida that I worked with online and happened to be traveling there the next month and was able to meet face to face. His knowledge of the car and willingness to help you is fantastic. He has quite a collection of parts cars and drivers so if you think you are ready, he is a good man to contact. I have also been working with Tom’s Allante Store in Southern California who is also very helpful with keeping my toys pretty and running.

Tell us about your 1991 Allante (with the spoiler).

The ’91 was an impulse purchase that may have not been one of my better decisions but the car is definitely worth more than I paid. Again, another eBay purchase and flew down to Orange County the next day to pick it up and drive it home. It had 80,000 less miles than I currently have on the ’92, with the leather seats reupholstered, custom sound system, and a new top. Those items alone far exceed the price I paid! Of course, it wouldn’t be an Allante if I didn’t find myself on the side of the road with the hood up at one time or another… Was only 80 miles short of being home and the pulley on the power steering pump broke. I highly recommend the AAA Premier road service as it is really worth the few extra dollars. Three times we have been towed since I purchased last October. Not bragging or complaining, just stating the facts!

 

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Explain to us the “10,000 mile assembly line”.

Three special Boeing 747 aircrafts were customized to hold 56 Allantes each. The Allantes had to be flown over the Atlantic Ocean twice. The 747’s left Detroit with Eldorado chassis halves, instruments, air conditioning, steering column, and most of the electronics. When the parts arrived at the Pininfarina plant, they cut and welded the two sub chassis together, installed the bodies and interior, painted them. The cars were then attached to special carrier racks, loaded into the planes, and flown back to the Hamtramck Detroit assembly plant. In Detroit, Cadillac installed the front and rear sub frames, suspension, drivetrain, steering box, brakes, fuel tank, wheels and the tires. Final system tests were run on the Bosch III ABS braking system, and each car was test driven for 25 miles. This entire process was called the “Allanté Air Bridge”.

Is this more Italian or more American?

This is rather a tough question. While some of the issues I have had with the car remind me of something Italian, it really is an American car. There were many new items being built into the Allante that we could consider standard equipment now and after 20+ years, the parts start to break down. Since only 20,000+ cars were built, new or aftermarket parts are not readily available. Many of the body parts were sourced from around Europe, e.g. glass from Switzerland.

What’s the build quality like? What mechanical issues have you had?

Build quality of the car was rather decent. You have to realize my experience would be different from others as I have purchased cars that have already served more than one owner, and have passed the first 100K, and are now on the second. Mechanical issues have abound with the ’92. I have replaced everything underneath the car, the top side of the engine (blown head gasket returning from Canada), rebuilt the sound system, steering column, driver’s door, transmission (died in the Mojave on my way to Santa Fe), and still would like to have a new top, more door repairs, and probably could use an engine rebuild before long.

For the ’91 it has been towed three times in just a few months. First was the power steering pump, second time the chip in the key malfunctioned and led to replacing the steering column, and coming home from a trip to Idaho for Christmas the alternator died out a deserted stretch of highway, -9F, and no cell phone coverage. I was able to limp into a small town called Rome, Oregon (which happened to be the local AAA towing company too) and was towed the last 140 miles to Winnemucca, Nevada. It was going to be four days before they could get a replacement alternator, but since GM made a lot of Caddy’s with the 4.5L engine, I was able to fit one from a Seville of the same year (missing a couple of small bolt connectors is all) and headed back for home. I love my AAA but they did finally send a warning notice of my many calls.

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How easy is it to obtain parts? Are they essentially off-the-shelf Cadillac/GM parts?

New parts are almost impossible to find, and when you do, they want as much as you paid for the car. Internal engine components are pretty much standard GM, but this was a higher HP engine than the standard sedans, and even though the outside of the transmission fits, the internal and electrical items are different. Tom and Dick have been great to get parts from and I know when I make the request it could be an expensive proposition. There are a few folks also parting out their cars on eBay and when I find a good deal on a part, I try to purchase and store it in the basement. I also search periodically on pick-n-pull to see if one pops up. I got quite lucky this year and found a ’92 in Fairfield that I purchased way too many parts from. Not enough space to store the spares…

Your Allantes have 270 pound-feet of torque and front wheel drive. It also has speed sensitive suspension and steering. What is it like to drive one?

The speed sensitive suspension was another very expensive proposition on these cars. Most all the struts have expired and replacements are not available. It is not an item than can be rebuilt and purchasing a used one is not a guarantee it will work. You can purchase standard struts from Gabriel and Monroe to replace and get a decent ride from them. The ’92 has the Monroes and handles decently. The ’91 still has the factory original and they appear to be functioning normally. The car is rather stiff in the ride – it is a sports car after all – not your daddy’s Caddy. I drove about 25,000 miles on my ’92 and have to say I enjoyed every mile. The times on the side of the road, hood up, waiting for my friends at AAA were annoying, but I drive an Allante! When I was stranded overnight on HWY 50 south of Lake Tahoe (AAA couldn’t find me ’til morning), I spent the night in the car. Definitely not made for relaxing and sleeping! But while I waited in the morning for the tow truck, I brought up cups of water from the creek and washed her down. She may spend the next 160 miles on the bed of the tow truck, but she will look great up there all the way to San Francisco.

If you had to replace your Allantes, what car would you get?

Well, replacing the first Allante brought me to the second one. How do you replace such a classic and historically important car? I did almost purchase an XLR just before purchasing the ’91 but decided if I paid the purchase price I wouldn’t have the money left to fix anything that broke. The amazing retractable hardtop is a maintenance hog and since the car is also out of production, it could get expensive to maintain. Maybe in a couple more years…

Why do you love cars?

Wow, I have no idea really how to answer this question. Since I was young, sneaking around the hay field in my parents ’63 ½ Ford when they weren’t looking, I have been fascinated by cars. I used to be able to tell any car on the road, even at night, for year, make, and model but the modern cars are becoming so generic that I will probably always drive something older, with some character, that not everyone has. My car is my independence. My car is my character. My car is my financial burden!

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Images source: Copyright 2013 Hooniverse/Jim Yu

Currently there are "14 comments" on this Article:

  1. dukeisduke says:

    What's the difference between a "chassis half" and a subframe? And the cars were painted after assembly? That doesn't make sense. I've known two Allante owners (one still has his), and both were red cars. The guy who still owns one is also the owner of two Farmalls, and the Allante has an IHC Club decal in one of the rear quarter windows.

  2. Tanshanomi says:

    "…replacements are not available. It is not an item than can be rebuilt and purchasing a used one is not a guarantee it will work."

    This is such a sad situation, and true of so many not-really-that-old vehicles. A friend recently restomodded a well-worn Yamaha Maxim 700. No prob — it's an '85, so it's not as if it's a prewar orphan or something that old rare, right? Well, he started rebuilding the carbs only to discover it had weird-alice Hitachi carbs that were only used on that one model for two years, and there are literally NO new parts available for them. He had to buy three sets of used carbs off Ebay to end up with four good CV diaphragms.

    <img src="http://www.kz1300.com/techarticles/80-kz1300-a2.jpg&quot; width="360">
    I would love to have a Kawasaki KZ1300A, but the extreme unavailability of parts is a killer. As a result, fewer and fewer of these actually get ridden, either because they won't run or their operational status is being gingerly preserved.

    • OA5599 says:

      Sounds like a good project for reverse engineering and a group buy via an internet forum.

    • don fehlio says:

      I have an 85 Cressida; I work for an auto parts company, and even I have a hell of a time finding parts for it. The aftermarket only carries so much; things like radiators, distributors, etc can be surprisingly hard to find, they aren't very common in junkyards anymore, and recently it was down for a couple months (I have a second car as DD) while I searched high and low for a throttle cable link, which I eventually had to take apart and weld back together myself. I'm surprised that a relatively common car can be so impossible to get parts for.

    • david42 says:

      I used to have a KZ1300… for three weeks. It had a fuel leak, so I brought it back to the dealer and got a Honda ST1100 instead. Stupid, stupid. The ST is a perfect bike (like a Honda Accord is a perfect car), while the KZ… well, there's nothing else like it. It's a little bit Ferrari, a little bit Camaro.

      If you find one, just buy it.

      • C³-Cool Cadillac Cat says:

        The ST1100 is the near-perfect long-distance touring/rally mount.

        My wife and I could rack up 1,500+ mile days on ours.

  3. JayP2112 says:

    About the 10k assembly line…
    Mr Hicks was my high school drafting teacher and I was a little punk. He would assign us some part to draw then retire to his desk in the back of the room to read the paper. I finished in 15 minutes and got the classifieds to look for GTis to drive. The local dealer had an advert about the Allante and Mr Hicks was digging it. I made up the story the car was built in Italy and shipped to Korea for assembly.

    Mr Hicks popped his lid, stopped the class and started into a rant about US manufacturing going to hell. Cadillac being built by the Koreans!! As a Vietnam Vet, it really bugged him. I think Nigel was in that class with me. Good times!!

    I did pick at Mr Hicks like changing the letters on the keyboard so macros were misspelled. He'd fuss at me but only on Awards Day / Senior Skip Day did he lose patience. When I chose to skip instead of receive an award, I was pulled into his office and heard Mr Hicks unleashed. I deserved it.

    • danleym says:

      After the asshole things I did and saw done to teachers, it's amazing anyone finishes high school and still thinks they want to be a teacher.

  4. MVEilenstein says:

    Awesome stories, and great interview. Nice job.

  5. mr. mzs zsm msz esq says:

    "The times on the side of the road, hood up, waiting for my friends at AAA were annoying, but I drive an Allante!" Bruce you have redefined Bruce, kudos!

  6. PotbellyJoe says:

    My father-in-law owned 2 Reattas at the same time. He just got rid of the last one about 18 months ago.

  7. danleym says:

    I had a friend that owned one for a while. I had never heard of them before he got it. The only time I ever got to ride in it (it was usually broken) it was the middle of the summer and he had the heat on full blast because it kept overheating and he was trying to keep the engine temp down. They look great, but my only interaction with one didn't leave the best impression. This article doesn't help that impression.

    But hey, I've been stuck on the side of the road a few times in my Spirit, and my enthusiasm for that car hasn't waned, so I understand.

  8. alloywindows says:

    reminds me of friend's parents who used to own relatively modern Peugeot 405s or 605s, others who owned Citroens…
    patience and love of the brand

  9. Mr. Smee says:

    I used to sell parts to a man who had 3 or 4 of these. He was a real character. Never did figure out what he did for a living. A large man, he sometimes wore a white suit with white panama hat and white cowboy boots. Licence plate "Mr Caddy."

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