How More is Sometimes Less How More is Sometimes Less

Posted in Art Of The Flip | Views: 22165

Cadillac, historically, have made cars that turn heads and soothe brows. They were the working man's motivator; a brand that knew luxury meant a spacious and well-appointed cabin, with avant-garde styling complementing the vast exterior space. However, as of the early 2000s, the company was struggling with keeping their cars relevant. I took a chance on buying a 2002 Seville STS. Did I make a huge mistake?

Part 1: The prelude to Possible Buyer's Remorse

In my life, I've learned that it pays to be cautious. This is the reason I don't have any unwanted kids, I've never broken a bone, and don't have any credit card debt. However, when it comes to cars, I tend to put caution in its cushioned container, throw it out the window and let impulse take the wheel.

As I was doing my daily search through craigslist, I stumbled upon something a bit peculiar: A 2002 Cadillac Seville STS for $2400. Admittedly, it needed some front end work, but nothing that would have amounted to much in my mind. After looking at the prices for some good examples and realizing that they can fetch around twice the asking price in bad condition, I got in contact with the owner and went to look at the car.

This car was rough with an emphasis on "ugh". The entire front end needed replacing because it had been in a minor fender bender, there were warning lights all over the cluster, and the seats were covered in this weird off-color goo that looked like paint, but hid dark ink underneath. It looked as if the seat was actually melting onto the carpet. It was disgusting.

I passed, and didn't look back.

....until the seller contacted me again, saying that he could get all the parts for me (complete bullshit) and that he needed to sell the car badly. I told him the best I could do was $1200, and that was being generous. He agreed almost immediately and against my better judgment, I bought my first Cadillac. Here's what I bought:

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Part 2: When life gives you lemons...

This car was a complete basketcase, but it was salvageable. I just had to get my ducks in a row and make a list of what the car needed to get ready for sale. Here's what my tentative list consisted of (in no particular order):

  1. Make a few copies of the key (The only one I had was valet)
  2. Fix broken power seat on passenger's side
  3. Fix Fuel Level gauge (reading was at 0, even when fuel was added)
  4. Replace front end body panels (Hood, both fenders, bumper, headlight, grille)
  5. Replace broken center console cup holder
  6. Replace driver's side rear view mirror
  7. Replace passenger's side rear view mirror glass
  8. Fix faulty window switches
  9. Diagnose front end vibration at speed
  10. Clean interior of disgusting gray dye
  11. Detail interior and exterior
  12. ???
  13. Profit

As I tend to be a practical man, I took to mending the function before I mended the form. In order to fix the non-operational seat, I had to check whether the fuse was good or not, but I came upon an embarrassing problem - I couldn't find the fuse box. Or the battery. It wasn't in the engine bay like normal cars and it wasn't in the trunk, BMW-style. I looked it up online and I finally found it.

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The battery - something that held enough electrical energy that could kill you many times over, was filled with highly toxic and corrossive acids and leaked noxious fumes when it got hot - was underneath the place where children sit in this car. Great job, GM. Now I can add the ordeal of explaining to the paramedics why exactly my passengers have their jeans melted onto their asses if I ever get into a car accident that shorts out the main battery cable.

The seat fuse was blown. I replaced it, tried the seat again, and it worked for all of 5 seconds until the fuse blew a second time. I figured it was time to inspect the wiring, which wasn't possible unless I took the entire thing off. I removed the seat by removing about 5 million weird SAE bolts in sizes measured in fractions I had never seen in school, and found the issue.

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"thar's yer problum!"

I cut out the melted bit, replaced with a new wire and soldered in a patch piece with heatshrink at both ends. I made sure to electrical tape everything to ensure it kept its grubby hands to itself.

To tackle the fuel level gauge, I did research on Cadilliac Forums and found it to be somewhat of a common problem, the culprit being a faulty in-tank level sensor. I used this video to guide me through the process:

I found it interesting that the keeper for the fuel pump carrier was held on with pressure instead of bolts, so I had to take a hammer and screwdriver to the carrier. The best way the engineers at Cadillac thought to work on the gas tank was a method in which sparks were an inevitability. A true testament to the "Eh, good enough, let's have lunch" way of doing things that made early 2000s Caddys such beacons of reliability, style and craftsmanship.

I bought new window switches and installed them without fuss. Thankfully these were only a few bucks apiece. 

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I got a new cupholder and installed that as well, now I had a place to put my Big Gulp while I snapped into a Slim Jim and listened to the King James Bible on tape.
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At this point, I needed to drive the car and not look like I was searching for the next promising crackhouse, so I had to fix the front body panels. I needed both front fenders, a mirror, a hood, front bumper, grille, and passenger's headlight. This cost me $795 from a wrecker's yard 2 hours away. This was a huge blow to the budget and I was honestly questioning why I even bothered to buy this car at this point. I took off the offending parts:

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and put on the "new" parts:

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After I turned this 3 to a solid 6.4, it was time to get rid of the crusty crap on the driver's seat. The seat was doing its best impression of a Salvador Dali painting, and I elected to get a used front seat from a local wrecker's yard and installed it.

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The car looked pretty OK at this point, both inside and out, but had a nasty vibration at speed, that became much more nasty to my wallet because I bought new rotors and pads as well as new(er) tires and $200 later, the problem was magically fixed! It was time to clean 'er and sell 'er, using the same methods I've used for all my flips:


I washed, clay barred, polished and waxed the car using these products:

I also followed these tutorials, made by Larry Kosilla at AMMO NYC and /DRIVE:

Part 3: Well, Whaddaya think?

Here were the fruits of my labor:

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I put the car up for sale, but it didn't sell for more than a month. Within that time, I got very intimate with everything the brutish Caddy had to offer and here were my thoughts:

The Cadillac Seville STS, the car for people that think BMW E39 owners are trying too hard. It's a car that takes you by the scruff of the neck, then apologizes for it. It's the succulent bacon cheeseburger you've been craving all day, with the knowledge that the server spit on your pickles. Not quite ruined, but enough to make sure your experience is thoroughly diminished.

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It had a 4.6L Northstar V8, which made 300 horsepower and was mated to an automatic transmission that was sloppier than a buy-one-get-one-free day at the Red Light District. Changing gears was tragically slow and the throttle response felt broken. The suspension, which had coilover struts in the front and air struts in the back, took the best elements of each system and threw them away. The car was jittery and rough on bumps and off-camber turns, and it didn't so much roll on turns as it beached itself in a position and stayed there. And then there was the torque steer. What, you say? That term only applies to front wheel drive cars? Brace yourself, this may blow your mind into the next fiscal year.

This car was front wheel drive. It took all the raucous, hoontastic fun of a moderately well-refined V8 and removed it by connecting the engine to a pigdog of a transmission and attached that to the front wheels via an open differential and suspension that was built out of the tears of denied welfare recipients.

The interior fit and finish was adequate, but I was a bit perplexed as to how little space I actually had. Instead of having a center console open to give me space for things, I was greeted by a 6-CD changer. Now, I know that in 2002, having the entire Powerman 5000 collection at your fingertips was handy, but I think a place to put your sunglasses would've been a bit more fitting.

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This car, in 2002, was north of $50,000. Someone paid 50 grand for this thing, and more often than not, they financed. That means that they paid somewhere closer to 60 grand for this ode to mediocrity. It's not a middle-management car, it's what a middle manager looks at while driving his 525i and quietly says to himself "At least I didn't buy that!".

After a month of owning this car, I sold it for a whopping $2000 because I completely misjudged the market. I was glad to be rid of it and the next owner got one hell of a smoking deal, considering the money, time and sweat equity I put into it. Let's see how much the privilege of driving a decade-old Cadillac cost me:

2002 Cadillac Seville STS -$1,200.00
2x PK3 Keys -$19.78
Taillight -$60.00
Fuel Level Sensor -$27.95
Grille -$65.00
Cup Holder -$29.50
RH Mirror -$50.00
Bulbs -$21.98
Front Tires -$113.00
Front Brake Rotors -$62.00
LH Mirror Glass -$25.20
Misc. Front End Parts -$730.00
Window Switches -$25.00
Total Spent -$2,429.41
Sold for: $2,000.00
Profit/Loss $-429.41

Not to self: No more Cadillacs. Ever.

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