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!
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!
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.
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!
Images source: Copyright 2013 Hooniverse/Jim Yu