Cadillac Cimarron by PPG

Twenty fifteen will mark 34 years since the Cadillac Cimarron was released, like a…

Well, it's been since held up as a shining example of General Motors' darkest days. I'm not old enough to remember the Cimarron when new, but now they're so rare that seeing one is an occasion. Here in Canada, salt claims so many cars that early J-body (GM's internal code for its small car platform, which was used for the Cavalier, Isuzu Aska Irmscher Turbo, and others.)

Everything that was wrong, venal, lazy, and mendacious about GM in the 1980s was crystallized in this flagrant insult to the good name and fine customers of Cadillac.
— Dan Neil

While the Cimarron production car can be summed up in one line by Neil, the PPG Pace Car program can not be. At the peak of its popularity, IndyCar and PPG Industries teamed up for a novel initiative that featured a parade of PPG-customized vehicles during breaks in the on-track action on race weekends. Driven by a team of "up and coming" women racers, the cars were a fixture at IndyCar events for years.

PPG Industries is known for their automotive paints, and keeping a fleet of near-concept cars running—much less made in the first place—was a huge undertaking and significant investment. In most cases, each car was a collaboration of sorts between its automaker and PPG. Far more than a sticker and body kit package, they were often fully-engineered to rip around circuits fast enough to keep fans in their seats. I was a kid at the time and remember them well from our years spectating IndyCar at Detroit's Belle Isle circuit.

[PPG Pace Cars are] the most striking, expensive and uncommon automobiles… unique in the automotive world: faster than street cars, sturdier than race cars, able to meet a particular combination of stringent demands that neither street car nor race car will ever face.
— Anthony Young, Automobile Quarterly

As you may have gathered by now, this one was based on the universally-unloved Cimarron.

In many ways, it was the first model in Cadillac's future-forward concept car line, sharing the same cues as the 1988 Voyage and 1989 Solitaire show cars. Popular at the time, their styling cues were sprinkled liberally among GM's large car lineup, eventually morphing into the bubble sedans: Chevrolet Impala SS and Caprice; Buick Roadmaster; Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser; and the Cadillac Fleetwood.

Unlike its race-inspired siblings, the introduced-in-1985 PPG Cimarron was more of a parade car with its claim to fame as featuring the long-dead dual cowl phaeton body style. In the days where people preferred to have drivers, the passenger compartment is divided in the middle with a fixed bulkhead to separate the front and rear seats. The rear seat passengers get their own windshield, useful for keeping bugs out of hair and teeth. In the few dual cowl phaetons I've sat in, it's clear that the passengers would enjoy more creature comforts than the driver—the PPG Cimarron was no different. 

With data displays, front and rear televisions, and a phone system built into the car's fixed steering wheel hub, the whole cockpit was then finished in white, giving it the look of a bowrider boat. 

Under the hood sat the standard Cimarron 2.8-liter multi-port fuel-injected V6 engine…connected to a three-speed automatic and front-wheel-drive. In promotional materials, its top speed is listed as "potential" 193 km/h (120 mph). I call bull.

Now that I've written about the best Cimarron variant, I'll try not to bring up that terrible car ever again.