Weekend Edition – 1993 Cadillac STS Northstar

Photo 4.4.2015 13.23.03
On a wet Easter weekend, you might still run into something interesting on these Helsinki side streets. This 1993 Cadillac STS is an original Finnish car judging by the plates, and the front plate at least is so bent it’s definitely 1993 vintage.
I can’t imagine there were all too many Cadillacs registered here in the early ’90s due to the economic downturn, but here it was, navigating the slushy streets, Northstar gently rumbling. Amongst the Ladas and Toyotas it must’ve stood out.

Photo 4.4.2015 13.22.52
The four pipes do not exactly hide the car’s V8 provenance. And the taillights have weathered about as badly as Citroën Xantia ones.
Photo 4.4.2015 13.23.01
All in all, the Cadillac looks a touch worn around the edges. The light leather interior was somewhat patinated, the windshield was heavily cracked, the rear windows have garbage bag tints and you could easily spend a weekend bringing the appearance up to scratch. But still, the STS does have an air of effortless ’90s cool.
[Images: Copyright 2015 Hooniverse/Antti Kautonen]

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  1. wunno sev Avatar
    wunno sev

    i don’t know that i’d call these a future classic, but they’ll be appreciated. i appreciate them now.
    they’re decent Cadillacs from a time when Cadillacs were woefully non-decent. they’re pretty fast, pretty comfortable, pretty forward-thinking for their time, and pretty good-looking (though not pretty reliable with that Northstar). i wouldn’t enthusiastically endorse any part of it, but i do give each part an appreciative nod. this isn’t a bad car.
    it’s as good as an American luxury sedan could be in the ’90s, and what i really like is that it makes no apologies for being that. it’s not trying to be a BMW. it’s not aping the styling trends of fancier luxury cars. it just takes typical American cars of the time, turns everything up a few notches, and does its thing pretty well. the first CTS was a crucial turning point for Cadillac, and i really like what Cadillac is doing now, but those early CTSes are really Trying Way Too Hard.

    1. hubba Avatar

      I wouldn’t want to own one today, because it would be a lot of trouble for a car that is’nt markedly better than a Camry. But I’ll tip my hat to it.

    2. nanoop Avatar

      It is appreciated (as in: affirmative nod, not money wise) by my neighbor, which is something here in the woods: he has a 2-door version of this (I think – there can’t be too many similar-looking Cadillacs of that era bearing “Northstar” on the rear lid).
      I wonder if it’s genuinely unreliable, or just doesn’t swallow negligance as easily as previous engine iterations.

      1. Fuhrman16 Avatar

        I’m guessing you’re thinking of the Eldorado, which was a coupe that had a similar design.
        From what I’ve heard, one of the issues with the Northstar was it was a performance engine that needed to be revved. But, most of Cadillac’s demographic were little old blue hairs that puttered around under 2 grand, causing carbon and what not to build up in the engine. This caused them to run hot, which in turn lead to blown head gaskets and warped heads.

        1. nanoop Avatar

          It’s probably that one – but in dark blue as well (anything big American is pretty rare here, apologies for my unhoony knowledge).
          So it’s basically what I consider a sporty engine from the early 80ies: cruising is forbidden, occasional red-lining expected. This, for that clientele, certainly will cruise them to suffocation.

      2. ptschett Avatar

        From personal experience, the reliability isn’t too horrible, but they are a weird engine to have to work on.
        For example: the water pump went out on my folks’ ’98 STS (about 6 weeks before they decided to trade it in for a 3.6L AWD CTS). I got to do most of the work of changing it. The first few steps of removing the air cleaner, setting the ECU aside, taking off the covers/thermostat housing/etc., weren’t particularly strange; the drive belt coming off a camshaft was interesting, but not tremendously noteworthy; etc. But I was befuddled at the actual removal of the water pump till I learned there was a special socket needed that would interface with tabs around its perimeter to extract it from the engine.

        1. nanoop Avatar

          Huh! As you say, it’s not too unusual to bury the pump somewhere deep, but that’s well optimized for assembly.. If you get it into position, you don’t need a second tool to tighten it down. Sucks for the hobbyist, but those were never the target audience in the first place…

        2. CSM Avatar

          I have lots of wrenching experience….and would never have guessed I would need special tool to R&R a Caddy waterpump. GM kills me sometimes…actually, frequently.
          –Interesting to note the cheap design/construction of that pump.

          1. ptschett Avatar

            I thought the water pump on my ’96 Thunderbird’s 4.6L was a materials-efficient design till I saw the Cadillac’s. I guess they had to make up for the quad camshafts, and the capability of driving 100 miles with no coolant, somewhere…

          2. CSM Avatar

            That dry-driving feature never made sense to me….not even from a marketing perspective….it was even worse from an engineering perspective.

  2. karonetwentyc Avatar

    Definitely a European model – the amber indicators at the rear as well as the side repeaters for the indicators on the front fenders are the giveaways.
    These really weren’t a bad car; they just weren’t as good as they could (or should) have been – but they were definitely much better than they were often given credit for. And I have to say that the shape has aged well; this is one of the few Cadillacs that didn’t look completely dated by its third or fourth birthday.

  3. ptschett Avatar

    My folks had the USDM (yo!) version of this as the family car for several years; first a ’92 SLS, then a ’93 STS. The gray plastic grille w/ logo in the middle is a little surprising, US SLS’s had a chrome grille and traditional hood ornament while US STS’s had a body color grille and the logo in the middle. IIRC the quad exhaust tips were there in both cases. Either the 4.9L 200HP ’92 or the 4.6L 295 HP ’93 was fun to drive as long as you kept a strong hand on the wheel during acceleration to offset the torque steer.