Starting in the late 1950s, officers in The General’s Michigan command post pushed hard to get Americans to buy German-built Opels. Buick dealers sold Kadetts, GTs, and Mantas well into the 1970s, and Isuzu-badged Kadett Cs could be purchased here as late as 1984. One of the most ambitious attempts to move Opels out of North American showrooms took place during the 1997 through 2001 model years when the Opel Omega B became the Caddy That Zigged. Here’s a final-year Catera in a northeastern Colorado yard.
By the 1990s, the Cadillac Division desperately needed to attract younger buyers. Perhaps a leaner, more European sedan with rear-wheel-drive and an irreverent ad campaign featuring one of the ducks from the Cadillac logo would do the trick!
The Catera did not lure hordes of sub-80-year-old buyers into Cadillac dealerships, but building Cadillac-badged Chevy Suburbans (starting in 1999) sure did. Once the Escalade started showing up in rap videos, it didn’t matter that the Catera had flopped.
If I’m ever made Global Warlord For Life, my first act upon taking office will be to outlaw purple-tinted window film.
Since the Catera was built in Germany, its VINs begin with the letter W (a hangover from the old days of West Germany and still used in US-market German-built cars to this day).
The Catera had a 200-horsepower V6 engine and rear-wheel-drive, but you couldn’t get one with a manual transmission.
Since this car lived on the same platform as the Holden VZ Monaro, it’s a close cousin to the 2004-2006 Pontiac GTO. That means that it shouldn’t be too rough a swap to put a GM LS V8 and manual transmission into a Catera… and, sure enough, such swaps have taken place. The low-budget version would feature a truck-sourced cast-iron Vortec 5300 and whatever transmission came out of the donor vehicle. Then you’d have the opportunity to buy every junkyard Catera differential in your time zone.
MSRP on the base ’01 Catera was $31,305, or about $47,745 today. That got you a car with more power than a new BMW 525i sedan (200 versus 185 horsepower), and at a substantially cheaper price than the $35,400 525i. BMW also charged you $1,275 extra for an automatic transmission, which nearly every American 5-Series buyer got, while the Catera came with one as standard equipment. On top of that, the Catera’s interior featured High Zoot leather everywhere. Of course, you could buy a brand-new Daewoo Leganza for a mere $14,399 that year, which would get you plenty of Opel engineering via the South Korean outpost of the GM Empire. Was the Catera worth more than twice as much as a Leganza?
The Saturn Division took one last shot at North American Opel glory, shortly before its demise, with the American-market Astra. Prior to that, The General spent a billion bucks putting plastic body panels on the Opel Vectra. Now that Opel has switched sides, the danger of Ziggy’s return to battle has abated.
Cindy Crawford was issued a Catera— bought or leased— via Wizard Ziggy.
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