Home » These Were Meant To Compete Against BMW: 1988 Cadillac Cimarron vs 1988 Merkur Scorpio

These Were Meant To Compete Against BMW: 1988 Cadillac Cimarron vs 1988 Merkur Scorpio

Sbsd 1 16 2024
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Good morning, and welcome back to Shitbox Showdown! I hope you’re all having better luck with vehicles than I am. Remember the other day when I made a comment that all my vehicles ran just fine? I spoke too soon. My truck’s starter went out yesterday. And it’s the only thing I have that can drive up my steep snowy hill. I should have known better than to taunt the car gods like that. Let this be a lesson to you all.

We’ve got a couple of wanna-be Euro competitors today, courtesy of suggestions from the Discord, but first we should check in on yesterday’s Isuzus. And it seems the Bandit-themed Rodeo has stolen your hearts, or at least your votes. I can’t say I blame you; the Amigo/Rodeo Sport is just plain cool, and that Tyco tribute sticker job is the icing on the cake.

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Not that there’s anything wrong with that little Spectrum; it’s a cool version of an unusual little car, but it’s not painted up like an RC car, and I’m sorry, but in this case that’s a strike against it. Give it some red, orange, and yellow graphics like a Tamiya Hornet, and then we’ll talk.

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Now then: Back in the 1950s and 60s, American luxury cars were kings of the road: Cadillac with their tailfins, Lincoln with their suicide doors, Chrysler with their Hemis. Sure, you could get a Mercedes or a Rolls-Royce, but nobody at the country club would know what it was. BMW was making funny little sedans that didn’t even come with power windows. Volvos weren’t even boxy yet; they looked like 1940s Fords.

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All that changed in the 1970s. European cars sailed through the malaise era largely unscathed, just a little down on power and wearing funny bumpers, and getting nicer all the time. Meanwhile, American luxury automakers kept downsizing, cutting back the power, and phoning in the build quality. By the time the yuppies came to power in the 1980s, Mercedes, BMW, and Volvo were the status symbols, and American offerings were like bringing a wooden spoon to a gunfight.

But they tried. Bless their hearts, they tried. And the funny thing is, if you considered these cars for what they were, and not what the marketing departments wanted you to think they were, they were pretty much more or less not terrible. And now, they have a certain kitschy charm, like old Hart To Hart plotlines. Let’s take them for a virtual spin.

1988 Cadillac Cimarron – $1,900

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Engine/drivetrain: 2.8 liter overhead valve V6, three-speed automatic, FWD

Location: West Babylon, NY

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Odometer reading: 76,000 miles

Operational status: Runs and drives well

I have to start this with a confession: I love these cars. My family had one when I was in high school and college; my dad bought it to use as a spare/backup car, and in that capacity, it was excellent: comfortable, reliable, reasonably efficient, and tough enough to survive inadvertent torture from both me and my younger brother. (I spun it out on an icy patch on the freeway at 60 mph; he stuck it headfirst into a hedge.) Don’t get me wrong; it’s an absolute crap Cadillac. But it is one hell of a nice Cavalier.

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Aside from the Cadillac crests and the cushy leather seats, this is a completely ordinary garden-variety General Motors J-car. The Cimarron was originally equipped with the same pushrod four-cylinder as the rest of them, but when the corporate 60-degree V6  became available in 1985 in the Chevy Cavalier Z24 and Oldsmobile Firenza GT, the Cimarron followed suit. In 1988, when this car was built, the V6 was standard. A few Cimarrons were blessed with a Getrag five-speed manual, but sadly this isn’t one of them; it makes do with a Turbo-Hydramatic 125C automatic.

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This Cimarron has been owned by the same family since it was new. It has only 76,000 miles on it, and the seller says it runs and drives “excellent.” It must have been garaged, and washed often in the winter; I would imagine most cars on Long Island don’t stay this rust-free this long. Somehow, it has lost all four bumper end caps along the way, and I can’t imagine anybody makes reproductions. They’re probably gone for good. Inside, it’s scruffy and worn, but functional.

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This little car is parked in some rarefied company in these photos: I see a nice Chevelle, a Boss Mustang, a C3 Corvette, and a newer Mustang and Camaro in the background. Some would say the Cimarron is outclassed by those other cars, and they’d be right, but that makes me want to give it a good home even more. I guess it’ll never be a classic, but it will always have a place in my heart.

1988 Merkur Scorpio – $2,500

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Engine/drivetrain: 2.9 liter overhead valve V6, four-speed automatic, RWD

Location: Paynesville, MN

Odometer reading: 109,000 miles

Operational status: Has been in storage, ran and drove well before then

Ford had an advantage when the tastes of the rich and trendy turned to European cars: It built its own cars there. After failures such as the Lincoln Versailles, Ford decided to just import its BMW-killers. They were sold through Lincoln-Mercury dealerships under the Merkur nameplate, and I have heard that Ford went to some considerable trouble getting its salespeople to say “Mare-koor” instead of “Murker.” Two models were sold: the sporty XR4Ti coupe, based on the Ford Sierra, and this car, the more luxury-oriented Scorpio, based on a German Ford of the same name.

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It’s a rear-wheel-drive five-door hatchback, powered by a 2.9 liter “Cologne” V6 and a four-speed automatic. A manual was available, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a manual Scorpio. Not that I’ve seen many Scorpios to begin with; they were only imported for two years. This one has been parked for a few years, though the seller says it ran and drove beautifully before that. It’s not clear how much, if any, of the work needed to wake it back up has been done.

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We only get four photos, and they’re terrible, but it looks like it’s in decent shape. The seller does note some rust, and a few clearcoat issues, but it doesn’t sound too serious. It’s funny; I don’t think about the Merkur Scorpio often, but if someone brings it up, in my head it’s always this gray-brown color. I’m sure they were offered in other colors, but this drab hue is how I remember them.

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Inside, from what I can tell, it’s in nice shape. I remember these as being pretty fancy inside, which makes sense considering Ford had such lofty targets as the Mercedes 190E and the BMW 5-series in its sights with this car, so the interior had to measure up. Those wine-colored buckets do look mighty inviting.

At first glance, these cars can’t hold a candle to the Mercedes and BMW models they were meant to compete with, but who cares? They’re comfy, they’re cheap, and because they both share mechanical parts with much more common cars from their parent companies, repair and maintenance costs should be pretty low. So what’ll it be – the comfy baby Caddy, or the German-built Ford?

(Image credits: Cimarron – Craigslist seller; Scorpio – Facebook Marketplace seller)

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XLEJim700
XLEJim700
4 months ago

Merkur for the Scor(pio).

Col Lingus
Col Lingus
4 months ago

My Grandpa took his Caddy into the dealer for service. A salesman convinced him to test drive one of these crap cans. Stopped at a bar and got drunk. So he traded his car for this same color piece of shit.
Three days later he went back to the dealer and bought back his old Caddy.
This fucking fiasco only cost him about 7K to get his old car back.

Just another reason Caddy’s and dealers can eat shit. YMMV.

Grayson Williams
Grayson Williams
4 months ago

> Ford had an advantage when the tastes of the rich and trendy turned to European cars: It built its own cars there.

so did GM, namely their Opel division. in fact, their next attempt at a BMW killer was straight from Germany: they imported their Opel Omega and rebadged it as a Cadillac Catera in the late ‘90s.

ToyotaTaxPayer
ToyotaTaxPayer
4 months ago

It might have had a chance if not for the marketing genius who did the duck mascot campaign.

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
4 months ago

And GM had considered building the Opel Diplomat in the US in the ’70s, before doing the Seville instead, so the idea was there.

But, the Sierra and Scorpio were sort of positioned as executive cars in Europe and were seen by Ford as already having the upscale chops to be sold as luxury cars, GM didn’t see Opel and Vauxhall as building any J-body variant in the early 1980s that was able to do that credibly, so Cadillac had to do it themselves.

In reality, Cadillac’s general manager, Ed Kennard, demanded that they be let into the J-car program in 1980 and insisted he could have their version on sale within a year. GM’s president, Pete Estes, was reluctant to allow that as he didn’t see any way a proper Cadillac could be made out of the platform in such a compressed timeline, but he was apparently talked into it

Torque
Torque
4 months ago

The Cadillac that Zigs!

MaximillianMeen
MaximillianMeen
4 months ago

Let’s see, the most interesting thing about the Cimmaron is that the name is close to cinnamon and cinnamon rolls are quite tasty, much more so than tarted-up 80’s Chevys.

The Scorpio drives the correct wheels and from what I’ve read, was a pretty decent Euro-car. Bonus: the car has an awesome theme song that you absolutely should play every time you start it up…
The Simpsons – Scorpio (End Credits) (youtube.com)

Dogisbadob
Dogisbadob
4 months ago

The Scorpio is in better condition, so I voted for the Ford

Sundance
Sundance
4 months ago

“These Were Meant To Compete Against BMW” Not in Germany, where the Cadillac was an Opel and the Mercury a Ford. None of them had the quality and the image of a BMW (or Mercedes).

CatMan
CatMan
4 months ago

Never brag on your kids or your cars

Stig's Cousin
Stig's Cousin
4 months ago

Cadillac wins for me. I like odd cars for some reason. An ’80s Cavalier wearing an OEM dime store Cadillac costume certainly counts as an odd car for me.

Boxing Pistons
Boxing Pistons
4 months ago

I went Cimmaron for the laughs. Although not as blatant a farce, I’d feel like Willie Mays Hayes pulling up in his “Rolls”

Boxing Pistons
Boxing Pistons
4 months ago

That Cimmaron is classic grandma spec: low low miles, beautiful interior, and the requisite parking damage. I can just imagine grandma cutting it too tight pulling into the garage breaking the last bumper cap off. Haha.

getstoneyII (probably)
getstoneyII (probably)
4 months ago

That Caddy should be in the picture in the dictionary for Long Island.

Also, you went with Hart to Hart when you have Moonlighting sitting right there?

getstoneyII (probably)
getstoneyII (probably)
4 months ago
Reply to  Mark Tucker

Fair point. I will counter that it has 100% less Cybill “two ells” Shepherd.

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
4 months ago
Reply to  Mark Tucker

Though in the show, the Harts liked Mercedes – Jennifer had an SL, and there was a wagon around. Sadly, Jonathan’s Ferrari Dino shows up only in the pilot, where it’s wrecked.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
4 months ago
Reply to  Jack Trade

Maxx drove the wagon Jonathon had a 4 door sedan

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
4 months ago

It’s no XR4ti, but I’ll take the Scorpio in a heartbeat. I always esp. liked that interior – so clean and purposeful.

Re the color, at that time, it was considered a very Euro color, uncommon for domestics (along with Ford’s great deep royal blue), so makes sense!

Chronometric
Chronometric
4 months ago

I want to buy the Cimarron because I’ve never owned a Cadillac and I can design and 3d print some cool bumper endcaps. But I’ve never owned a Merkur either and I admired the Scorpios from my time working in England. Gimme the German.

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
4 months ago

‘Ran when parked’
Ah, the siren call that seductively beckons …

10001010
10001010
4 months ago

Where is this BMW they’re supposed to compete against, how do I vote for that instead?

D-dub
D-dub
4 months ago
Reply to  10001010

It’s on BaT; current bid is $23K.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
4 months ago
Reply to  10001010

Maybe the Isetta?

DialMforMiata
DialMforMiata
4 months ago

I liked the Scorpio when it came out… it was the 80’s kid idea of the future. I’m voting for it over the Cimarron and pretending that everything is perfectly fine underneath that plastic lower-body cladding after 35 years in Minnesota.

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
4 months ago
Reply to  DialMforMiata

Yeah. One of the reason I’m such a fan of Fords is b/c in the ’80s, stuff like this appeared. Such a clean break from the ’70s (seriously, look at the Cimarron’s interior…add more fake chrome and wood & it’s 1976) that at least attempted to exude confidence in a competing in the global auto market.

Torque
Torque
4 months ago
Reply to  DialMforMiata

Living in MN besides Stallantis formerly domestic brands which are common to see with incredible levels of metal simply not there any more…
Seeing cars that from 2000 and newer is common.
Seeing something from the 90s or older however is pretty rare, like I do a double or triple take. As an example there is someone that must live near me that has a 90s convertible Ford Capri that both looks to be in decent shape and always makes me smile.

StillNotATony
StillNotATony
4 months ago

The Cimarron is CLEARLY the better choice, if you want something to just drive.

But we are Autopians. All together now:

Merkur! Merkur!! MERKUR!!!

Matt Sexton
Matt Sexton
4 months ago

The Cimarron is going to be easy to keep running, being a J-car and all, which are coming into their own among collectors now. Among Malaise fans Cimarrons are appreciated, but if I want to get good-naturedly teased by regular folks for having one, I’d want one nicer than this.

I voted for the Scorpio, because I’m a masochist and love forgotten cars that I’ll have to source fantastically rare parts for from overseas, while being forced to learn a different language to do so.

Mr. Asa
Mr. Asa
4 months ago

I’ve known that V6 in the Cimmaron. I have no need for a reacquaintance. Mare-koor for me

Geoff Buchholz
Geoff Buchholz
4 months ago

Another tough choice! Well done, Tucker!

First, huge credit to the sellers of the Cavalier Brougham for the ad’s great detail and amazing pictures … truly some of the best documentation I’ve ever seen in a CL ad. People who just want a beater with a heater could do a lot worse than that Cimarron.

That said, we’ll take ze German Ford. The interior looks like a nicer place in which to spend time, and I’ve always had a soft spot for the misunderstood Merkurs.

DDayJ
DDayJ
4 months ago

Cavalier for me. I don’t have the time or desire to source parts to make that Merkur nice. Plus I know from experience that you can get an 88 Cimarron airborne on back roads and it will keep going.

Anne Wheeler
Anne Wheeler
4 months ago

I spent SO MANY hours in my best friend’s Cimmaron (about an 88, in the mid-late 90s). His was burgundy. It was either his Caddy, on which we installed a tractor knob? or my burgundy Old Cutlass Supreme. Diesel!

The 90s were a time.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
4 months ago
Reply to  Anne Wheeler

If an 80s Caddy isn’t swathed in velour and over adorned in gold chrome it’s just not a Cadilac and not worth buying.

Fuzzyweis
Fuzzyweis
4 months ago

I picked the Caddy Cavalier mainly as the Scorpio is 80s German, “ran when parked”, has rust, and to Mark’s point, the Cimarron is still a Cavalier, bread and butter transportation.

Rollin Hand
Rollin Hand
4 months ago

I’ll take the Merkur because I don’t want to drive a meme.

Alexk98
Alexk98
4 months ago

It’ll take more money to get the Scorpio nice, but then you’ll not be stuck with a Cimarron, and that alone is worth the price of admission

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