The biggest news for 1981 was actually an '82 model: the new
subcompact Cimarron, introduced in the spring. (More on that in
the next section.)
The second biggest was the new
variable-displacement gasoline engine, developed by the Eaton
Corporation a standard in all models except Seville. Depending on driving
conditions, the innovative V8-6-4 engine ran on four, six, or
eight cylinders, switching back and forth as needed. The object,
of course, was to conserve fuel in the wake of rising gasoline
prices. A microprocessor determined which cylinders weren't
necessary at the moment. Then it signaled a solenoid-actuated
blocker plate, which shifted to permit the rocker arm to pivot at
a different point than usual. Therefore, selected intake and
exhaust valves would remain closed rather than operate normally.
Valve litters and pushrods traveled up-and-down in the normal
manner, but unneeded valve pairs stood idle. When running on
four, displacement grew back to eight as soon as you stepped on
the gas to pass, demanding maximum power -- an assurance to those
who might wonder if a four-cylinder Cadillac powerplant was good
enough. The system had been tested (and "Proven") in
over half a million miles of driving. Cadillac claimed that the
"perceived sensation" during displacement changes was
"slight." because no shifting was involved.
Another feature: push a button and an MPG Sentinel showed the number of
cylinders in operation; push again to see instantaneous
miles-per-gallon. Though the principle was not new, having been
experimented with during World War II, the new engine was hailed
as a dramatic answer to the economy problem for large passenger
cars. Expanded self-diagnostics now displayed 45 separate
function codes for mechanics to investigate. Imaginative but
complex, the V8-6-4 brought more trouble than ease to many owners
and didn't last long in the overall lineup. Although it lasted
for only a year, limousines kept it for several years longer.
On another level, Buick's 252
cu, in. (4.1-liter) V-6 engine, introduced late in the 1980 model
year, continued for a full season as an economy option.
Cadillacs now carried an
on-board digital computer capable of making 300,000 decisions per
second. It could even provide continued operation of the car if
critical sensors malfunctioned, making an instantaneous
substitution -- even turning to a built-in analog computer if the
digital electronics collapsed. To improve emissions, the new
Computer Command Control module used seven sensors to monitor
exhaust, engine speed, manifold air pressure, and coolant
temperature, then adjust the air/fuel mixture.
"Answering Today's Needs
with Tomorrow's Technology" was the logical theme of the
full-line catalog. Though technically impressive, 1981 was not a
year of significant change beyond some new grilles and other
cosmetic alterations. Oldsmobile's 350 cu. in. diesel V-8 was
available in all six models: Fleetwood Brougham coupe and sedan,
Coupe and Sedan DeVille, Eldorado, and Seville. A new light went
under the hood. Rust-prevention measures touched over 100
specially treated areas, including pre-coated metals. Overdrive
automatic transmission was now available with the V-6 engine on
Fleetwood Brougham and DeVille. A memory seat option returned the
six-way power driver's seat to one of two selected positions.
1981 Cadillac Notes
- Introduced: September 25, 1980.
- Edward C. Kennard was general manager
- Robert J. Templin was chief engineer
- Wayne Kady was chief designer (Cadillac Studio)
- L. B. Pryor was general sales manager
- Model year production: 253,591 (including 13,402 1982 Cimarrons built during the 1981 model year).
- The total included 30,440 cars with V-6 engine and 42,200 diesels.
- Calendar year production: 259,135.
- Calendar year sales by U.S. dealers: 230,665 for a 3.7 percent market share.
- Model year sales by U.S. dealers: 226,427 (including 8,790 Cimarrons built before September 1981).
- Historical Footnotes: "Cadillac is class," the full-line catalog declared, echoing a theme that had been used for decades.
- "Class" seemed to take many forms by the 1980s.
- In addition to the customary funeral/ambulance adaptations and stretch limos from various manufacturers, two conversions came from Wisco Corporation (in Michigan): a Renaissance Coupe DeVille and a Seville Caballero.
- Cadillac production figures
Fleetwood/de Ville series149,715 (increased 13,078)
Eldorado60,643 (increased 7,958)
Seville28,631 (decreased 10,713)
Series 751,200 (decreased 1,162)