Saturday, July 15, 2017

1979 Cadillac Coupe DeVille Diesel - Jeezle Peet

For as long as I can remember I've wanted a 1979 Cadillac Coupe DeVille. Preferably black with a red leather interior; the same color scheme that my father's '79 Sedan DeVille had. No. It ain't for sentimental reasons. Dad and I were not close; I just loved that car. Well, seek and you shall receive. Or at least find. Perhaps 40 minutes east of my office in terminally humid Cleveland Ohio I found this lovely black on red '79 with a retina searing asking price of $13,000!

Ah, jeezle peet, she's a DIESEL. Damn it. The owner boasts in his Craigslist ad that this car is one of only 200 Coupe DeVilles made that year with the diesel engine. I wouldn't brag about that, sir. And asking $13,000 for this car, despite its painstakingly wonderful condition otherwise, is hilarious. I mean, c'mon man. Really? Even if it had the "right" engine, the 425 cubic inch gas V-8, 13 grand is all the money in the world for it.
If you're not familiar with how bad a deal this is, here's the scoop. In the mid 1970's General Motors commissioned their Oldsmobile division to build a series of diesel fuel powered engines. They made  two V-8's and a V-6 derived from one of the V-8's. Starting literally with their tried and true 350 cubic inch gasoline fired "Rocket V-8", Oldsmobile did little more than convert it to a diesel burner rather than go with a clean sheet design. What could go wrong?

Although there are many people who swear by these things, they had a reputation for blowing head gaskets. Head gaskets keep motor oil from mixing with antifreeze in an engine. If they do mix, the engine can over heat and the heads and block can warp. The worst that can happen is the engine can seize. What happens most times is the engine loses compression - on a diesel engine that loses compression most of the time they won't even turnover since diesel engines work by compressing the fuel air mixture so highly that the mixture literally explodes. Gas engines can run with blown head gaskets - just not very well. Or for long until they overheat.

The reason the head gaskets "blew" was because Oldsmobile didn't use head bolts that were strong enough to withstand the high compression of a diesel engine. Head bolts literally stretched to the point that they were useless.

On top of that, these early diesel powered cars suffered from watery and contaminated diesel fuels. There was a reason why diesel fuel back then was so cheap. It's because it was crap. Today's diesel fuels and engines are remarkably refined compared to what they were years ago but the PR damage was done. People of certain vintage, like myself, stay far away from these things. The owner of this car claims 35 miles per gallon and I have no reason to doubt him. My dad's '79 DeVille with the 425 struggled to get 15. That was an improvement over his '72 that got 3 miles per gallon around town. Kid you not.

There were drivability issues with the Olds diesel engines too. With 120 net horsepower and 220 foot pounds of torque, you can just imagine how bog slow this 4200 pound car is. Not that the 180 horsepower 425 engine that came standard was that much of a powerhouse either but it was better than the diesels.

In my opinion the best Cadillac made between 1945 and 1980, the '79 DeVille, in particular the Coupe, was the best of GM's 1977 full size downsizing program as well. And if this car wasn't so stratospherically priced might be worth a second look. But priced such and needing an engine swap would push the overall price of this car/project well past the point that it makes any sense.

Would be fun to contemplate what we'd swap into this car and keep it looking otherwise stock. Here's the listing. Let me know what you do with it.

Jeezle or Jezzul Pete is a Cincinnati localism that has spread throughout the Ohio and Western Pennsylvania regions. Predominately Catholic areas, it's thought the term is a combination of  Jesus Christ and St. Peter. Saying such is also thought to take The Lord's name is lesser vain.

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