The 1990 Cadillac Aurora Show Car Makes One Last Appearance—at a Junkyard


How the almost-mighty have fallen.

It was a different time then, in 1990: Auto shows were at the peak of their popularity, and manufacturers, from the smallest to the largest, recognized the value of putting their best foot forward in front of the massive audiences and prodigious media coverage that the shows received.

The car companies typically had a separate budget for the four major U.S. car shows, which were, and still are, in Detroit, Los Angeles, New York City and Chicago. And part of that budget usually included show cars—from barely-disguised upcoming models, to fanciful ground-up concepts designed to test out new ideas in front of what was often one of the world’s largest focus groups. Some concept cars made it to production, and some were forgotten almost as soon as the show’s doors closed.

That was the fate of the Cadillac Aurora, a sedan that was presented to the audience of the Chicago Auto Show. Founded in 1901, the Chicago show may have lacked the global credibility of the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, which was inevitably bolstered by its proximity to Ford, General Motors and Chrysler, but Chicago, in terms of crowd size, has long been the country’s largest.

The fact that the Cadillac Aurora was assigned to Chicago in February, instead of the Detroit show a month earlier, may have demoted it a bit in the eyes of the attending media, but it guaranteed that it would be seen in person by the most attendees.

The Aurora concept was a car taken very seriously by Cadillac. In a series of GM-sourced photos available on, the entire design process is chronicled, from the initial freehand sketches of the car, to the full-sized clay model created to see what the Aurora would look like in the flesh.

Unlike many concept cars of the era, which may have had darkened windows because the manufacturer didn’t take time to design a proper interior, or be displayed with the hood closed because they used some generic powertrain, the Cadillac Aurora was presented as though it was ready for the showroom.

The engine was a 200-horsepower, 4.5-liter V-8 that was mounted longitudinally to better package an all-wheel-drive system, complete with advanced traction control. The clean, functional interior was decidedly ahead of its time. The tapered rear is awfully busy and dates the car, with lights that extend from one side of the car to the other, contained in 30 separate horizontal bars, atop dual exhausts.

Cadillac Aurora concept rear closeup

Its exterior styling eschewed the angular, now-dated look of multiple GM sedans from the period. It recalled a variety of GM influences that both post- and predate the 1990 concept, from the EV1 electric car to European Opels to the 1992 Oldsmobile Achieva, which shared the horizontal body line across the top of the rear wheel, even more pronounced on the Cadillac Aurora. Its prominent world debut occurred atop a revolving platform at the Chicago show, beneath a sign that read “Cadillac Style.”

Cadillac Aurora concept rear

Though the Aurora name was subsequently deeded over to Oldsmobile for the handsome sedan that would become the brand’s four-door flagship upon its debut in 1994, none of the prominent styling cues from the Cadillac Aurora would carry over.

We mention all this because a series of photos surfaced this month that show the Cadillac Aurora in line at a junkyard, presumably waiting its turn to be crushed. Manufacturers were turning out concept cars at a prodigious rate in the 1980s and ‘90s, and if a concept wasn’t important enough to merit a place in a museum, there was a good chance it would be destroyed, rather than take up warehouse space. The Aurora was obviously treated roughly: It’s scratched and dented, has a big hole in the driver’s side door, and sits on a nearly flat left rear tire.

Cadillac Aurora concept side closeup

The Cadillac Aurora did at least get a brief post-show moment in the sun, when it was a bit player in the 1993 film Demolition Man, the Sylvester Stallone police pic that was set in the future. A photo posted on shows the silver Cadillac Aurora, right down to its stylish custom wheels, in a background shot in the movie, and it does indeed look futuristic for the time.

And now, even with its haphazard placement in the junkyard, squeezed in next to a Buick LaCrosse and a Chevrolet Malibu, this show car still evokes an emotion: Sadness. But we guess you can’t save ‘em all.


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    I don’t know much about this car, but that 4.5 liter is not a Northstar… It is an HT-4500. I know this because it is the same motor I see when I open the hood on my 1990 Allante… albeit mounted sideways

    This car and a Pontiac show car were on this lot. They will be scrapped. Neither held much for GMs future plans.

    Yes it is a shame they can’t keep them all but GM has kept the best of the best and continues to do so.

    This Cadillac kind of followed the Ford bulbous aero look that was wearing thin by this time. That may have doomed the styling.

    The Chicago show was one of GM’s biggest market areas gor the US market. That was where they often got public reaction and I expect it was not good enough.

    I recall this car in Autoweek but I bet many never heard of it.

    I often wonder how many cars are still hiding at the tech center. Over the years I have found a number of prototypes never seen being scrapped like a group of Fiero 1990 coupes.

    I was at that Chicago Auto show and I don’t remember that car. That tells you all you need to know about how memorable this car was.

    Looks like an early- mid 90s Caprice. I’m surprised GM didn’t bring it along to auction when they were having those ‘everything must go’ fire sales not so many years ago.

    It wasn’t “Everything must go”…….They really only sold stuff from the collection that wasn’t really important, some Corvette development mules for this and that, the 1 millionth Saturn, number 000001 1985 Cutlass Calais, etc etc, it wasn’t like they were selling the Firebird III or the Y-Job.

    It’s very plain-looking, but it still deserves to be saved.
    IMHO, the lack of Cadillac’s archetypal vertical taillights is a glaring styling error.

    The Catera and Cimarron also had non-standard more horizontally oriented taillights that made these Cadillacs look more like the rest of the lineup. It’s a good thing they put a stop to that general trend

    As did the Seville, Cadillac had the horizontal lights in a few cars to signify that they were slightly different from the regular Cadillacs.

    Looks like an Impala and a Catera had a tryst that resulted in this rather boring offspring. While it’s unique enough to be saved, GM is probably concerned about liability if this EPA and DOT non-conforming vehicle were to be driven on public streets.

    I’d save it. When GM became Government Motors during The Great Recession, they had Barrett Jackson Miami auction off many of the GM Heritage Collection cars. Time restock it now.

    I thought that most show or concept cars were scrapped immediately, if at all. As for liability issues, someone’s been driving it for up to 34 years. If this and a Pontiac show car are in a neighborhood junkyard, I assume GM disposed of them long ago and that a private citizen cleaned out his garage.

    I’d save it. I tend to go for no hopers and weird cars anyway. Could anyone buy it or is it definitely being scrapped

    Of course I would save this. I remember it well. It’s one thing if the car was 10 years old and in this condition, but it’s managed to survive 35 years, and it shouldn’t be going to the crusher just for that reason. It’s still a cadillac. I’d like to have the drivetrain out of it to convert a rear Drive early 4100 Allante

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