Until recently, it seemed that General Motors always had a Front Wheel Drive car with a V8 in their lineup. After 1967, the Cadillac Eldorado had FWD, there’s the more recent Monte Carlo and Impala SS. There’s the Oldsmobile Toronado, the Cadillac STS and Allante, Buick LaCrosse Super, Oldsmobile Aurora, the 10th Gen. Pontiac Bonneville, and the 6th Gen. Buick Riviera. Why did GM do this?
As I’ve shown, General Motors has been responsible for about half of all the cars ever created in this strange layout. In some like the Bonneville, Aurora, and STS/Allante, the 4.6L Northstar V8 isn’t too big, so handling was preserved. But then there is the problem of the Eldorado. The Eldorado had a massive 500 cui (8.2L!) V8 after 1970. This engine, when not constrained by emissions requirements, could produce 400 hp. With all the required components, this could bring the engine weight up to 700 lbs! The whole car weighed in around 5000 lbs. The Eldorado also had a long hood to keep the engine far from the cabin, this meant the vast majority of the engine was in front of the front wheels, further destroying weight distribution. Essentially, what we have is this scenario:
If you are coming up to a turn in a normal car, whether it be a smaller-engined FWD car or a similar-engined RWD car, what would happen would be this: In the FWD car, you’d have near-even weight distribution, giving the front and back tires equal load, allowing all of them to stay planted. In the RWD car, the front might have more load but the rear tires having less load but all the power would mean they would lose traction while the front stayed planted, this is called oversteer. This is dangerous, but still an efficient way to get around a corner. If you perform the same maneuver in our giant Eldorado, the front will be under load and have all the power, this means that due to the weight upfront, velocity will outweigh steering input and you will go straight, regardless of where your wheels were turned.
But why would General Motors do this with so many cars? My guess is publicity. See, at the time of the Eldorado, FWD was an import thing and Americans liked imports. If they saw an American car with this new European technology, they’d be inclined to buy it. My question is why they continued to offer this after the desire for FWD had faded away. It seems like a strange choice to make.