The Cadillac Allanté was Cadillac's first venture into the ultra-luxury roadster market and was sold from 1987 through 1993.
Originally designed under the code name "Callisto", the Allanté was intended to restore Cadillac to its position as a credible competitor to the Mercedes-Benz 560SL. Its chassis and engine were originally taken from the Cadillac Eldorado, though it also shared components with the Buick Reatta, Riviera and the Oldsmobile Toronado.
The chassis of the Allanté was made in Detroit, then was loaded onto specially equipped jets and shipped to Italy where the body (which was designed by Pininfarina of Ferrari fame) was mounted to the chassis. Afterwards, the cars were loaded back on the jetliners and shipped back to the Detroit/Hamtramck Assembly plant in Michigan for completion. This led to a few interesting nicknames, such as "The Flying Italian Cadillac" and "the world's longest assembly line."
The Allanté was initially priced at US$54,000, far above the price of any other contemporary Cadillac. Today's Cadillac XLR, also a convertible roadster, at roughly $70,000 is similarly priced at the top of the Cadillac range. Only 21,000 were built.
The car has appeared in the movies Tango & Cash, Cadillac Man, Terminal Velocity, Lethal Weapon 3 and "Rocky V', and was the pace car at the 1992 Indianapolis 500. JR Ewing also sometimes drove an Allante in Dallas.
The car was originally specified with a port fuel injected version of Cadillac's aluminum 4.1 L HT-4100 V8. The car originally used an independent strut-based suspension system front and rear. Four-wheel disc brakes were also standard.
Power was up in 1989 with the new 4.5 L HT-4500 V8 which produced 200 hp (149 kW) at 4300 rpm and 270 ft·lbf (366 N·m) at 3200 rpm. The 1989 Allanté also received a new speed-sensitive damper system called Speed Dependent Damping Control, or SD²C. This system firmed up the suspension at 25 mph (40 km/h) and again at 60 mph (97 km/h). The firmest setting was also used when starting from a standstill until 5 mph (8 km/h). Another change was a variable-assist steering system.
Few other changes were made until 1993, the final model year. Introduced in early 1992, the 1993 Allanté received the 4.6 L Northstar DOHC V8. This engine was initially rated at 290 hp (216 kW), but Cadillac upped the rating to 295 hp (220 kW) at 5600 rpm by the time the first models were sold. Torque output was 290 ft·lbf (393 N·m) at 4400 rpm. A new unequal-length control arm rear suspension, shared with the Seville and Eldorado, was also introduced that year, improving handling. Also new for the small Cadillacs was Road Sensing Suspension, an active damper management system, and improved disc brakes. Other changes for the Allanté included a variable-assist power steering rack, deeper front spoiler, and single-piece side windows.
A 1992 comparison test of the Northstar-powered Allanté by Car and Driver placed it above the Jaguar XJS V12 convertible and the Mercedes-Benz 300SL. Although the car got big points for its new engine, it was criticized for its handling, which was the result of its front wheel drive layout. Ultimately, it was the rapid rise in the retail price of its competitors that won the test for Cadillac. At that time, the Allanté's $64,843 as-tested price seemed a bargain compared with the $71,888 Jaguar and $90,335 Mercedes-Benz.
Source: Wikipedia, 2011