Car History Year 1980
Date: Monday, September 27 @ 13:18:14 UTC
If 1979 was a bad year, 1980 was even worse. A mixture of an economy in recession and inflation wreaked havoc across the whole auto industry. Ford were the worst affected, outsold 2 to 1 by Chevrolet and recording a $1.54 billion loss. Henry Ford II resigned as chairman and, for the first time in the company's history, there was no longer a member of the Ford family in charge. Someone else who wouldn't be in charge for much longer was President Jimmy Carter, his popularity undermined by the financial crisis. Republican Ronald Reagan enjoyed a landslide victory in November, making Carter the first elected President to lose an election since Franklin D. Roosevelt defeated Herbert Hoover in 1932 -coincidentally at the beginning of the Great Depression.
The designers and planners working in the Motor City couldn't help but be influenced by what was going on around them, but the new models they had produced were created well in advance and a couple of automotive gems arrived on the scene in 1980. Wayne Cady's dramatic restyling of the Cadillac Seville was initially not to everyone's taste, but the bustle-back rear deck endowed the car with character and marked it out as a special model that was instantly recognizable as coming from the luxury marque. Unfortunately, under that distinctive Seville bodywork there was one particular problem for Cadillac - and it involved the engine.
For the first time ever, a diesel engine was standard in a Cadillac, but the 350 cu.in. V8 fitted into the Seville proved to be a rather troublesome unit. Not only that, it took 19 seconds for the diesel-powered Seville to lumber to 60mph - some 8.5 seconds slower than the '75 model. With the normal 6-liter (368 cu.in,) gasoline engine in place, the front-wheel-drive Seville was in a class of its own, but a number of price increases during the year saw the basic cost of the model escalate by over a thousand dollars and, by the summer, it had reached a whopping $21,000. Reflecting the difficult economic times, Cadillac's overall sales slumped by 30.
It was a far cry from the heady days of the Seville's first introduction in 1975, when the new car was compared, favorably, to the Rolls-Royce Camargue and the Mercedes Benz 450 SE, Performance was what impressed reviewers particularly, leading to it being pronounced by one to be the best Cadillac since the '49. The ride was described as "glass smooth," and the handling as "quick, precise and predictable," with "hardly any lean in sharp turns." Speed and silence were the defining features of what was hailed as the definitive American luxury car, more than able to take on the world's best - before the decision to fit a diesel engine...
At the other end of the scale, AMC carried out another of their "mix and match" juggling acts and, by combining the body and chassis of the Concord with a four-wheel-drive system from the Jeep, came up with the Eagle. This unique 4x4 car established a hitherto untapped market niche at very little tooling cost but, despite extensive coverage in the media, it failed to sell as well as AMC predicted. In addition, the quirky Pacer had had its day and was dropped to cut costs. Even so, by the end of the year AMC's losses amounted to a staggering $197,525,000.
Production of cars across the industry was hit badly, the total figure of 6.4 million units being some two million less than in 1979, and over 3.2 million down on the record set in '73. Truck manufacturing was similarly devastated - at under 1.6 million, it was little better than half of the '79 figure.
V8 - cast iron block
350 cu. ins
Bore and stroke
4 door sedan
No. of seats
Cast iron - 4 Cylinders in line
151 cu. ins
Bore and stroke
4 door & 2 door sedan; 4 door & 2 door'limited' sedan; Sport sedan; Sport coupe
No. of seats
2,430 Ibs-2,498 Ibs
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