Fancy a cheap, used Saab 9-3, and live in Europe?
If you don’t mind your Saab coming in a curious set of clothes, backed by a dealer network thinning by the minute, then consider the Cadillac BLS, a cack-handed chunk of fakery deleted after three seasons and almost forgotten already.
With only 7356 sold across Europe that’s not surprising, especially as this car was as memorable as the breath you took ten minutes ago.
Building the bomb
In case you’ve forgotten or never noticed it in the first place, the BLS was a Saab 9-3 panel-engineered by Cadillac into – no sniggering now – a BMW 3 Series basher. Though Munich’s finest would barely have felt a tickle. Some sharp, Cadillac CTS-style creases, a double-decker egg-crate grille and a back-end scabbed with a trio of huge lamp clusters were the BLS’s key identifiers, besides the tell-tale dealer-forecourt dust of a slow-seller.
Not that the BLS was the worst example of GM’s pitiable attempts at cut-price range extension, Saab’s US-only (phew) Subaru Impreza-based 9-2X and Chevrolet Trailblazer-derived 9-7X (aka the Trollblazer) mounting a strong challenge. But, back to that Cadillac and its flimsy reasons to exist.
A Caddy in Europe?
There were some of course, and they were the foundation of another off-target attempt to establish Cadillac as a credible premium player in Europe. Not unreasonably figuring that an entry into the biggest premium segment of them all would assist its mission, GM conjured itself a premium compact saloon of European conception, shot through with flavourings of America.
Beating BMW with an Opel...
But no manufacturer can seriously expect to take on the BMW 3 Series using a platform that started life as a Vauxhall/Opel, wasn’t that great when new and had already notched up four years by the time this mongrel birthed in 2005. The BLS had about as much chance as a bloke canoeing the Atlantic. None of which stopped Cadillac following up with a wagon (pictured), this futile addition merely providing a wider choice of unsaleable models for GM execs to get about in.
Bob Lutz Special
Today the BLS is a lightly fascinating footnote in auto history and one of GM car tzar Bob Lutz’s less glorious moments, for he was a part-architect of this misconceived plan; indeed industry wags at 2005’s Geneva motor show when it was unveiled dubbed it the ‘Bob Lutz Special’. Apart from the quirk of its existence, there’s little about the car itself to endear, even among those who champion the motor industry’s many orphans, the BLS having all the character of a brick in a wall.
But, there are a few obscure factoids worth knowing about this machine. First, this was the only Cadillac not sold in America, and certainly the only American-branded car built in Sweden optionally available with an Italian engine, namely Fiat’s1.9 litre turbodiesel. Plus, the 2007 wagon was the first in Cadillac’s 104-year history, and besides being made in Trollhattan, the BLS was also built from kits at a factory in Kaliningrad. A Russian-built BLS - now that would be a rare find.
Today BLSs can be bought in the UK for as little as £2000.