The Chevrolet Aerovette wasn’t the only car at the GM Heritage Center than enthusiasts ached to see go into production, the Cadillac Cien, designed by Simon Cox in GM’s UK Advanced Design Studio.
The Cien, a V12 powered midengine supercar with 750 horsepower was the hit of the 2002 auto show season. Cien is Spanish for 100 and the car was created to celebrate Cadillac’s 100th anniversary. The V12 was based on the design of the Northstar V8, though the cylinder banks are 60 degrees to each other, not 90 as with the V8, and it has direct injection and displacement on demand. The engine is mounted longitudinally in the Cien, using a Corvette transaxle, and it sits in a carbon fiber monocoque.
It’s a fully functioning car, built by the Prodrive racing shop. Though there were rumors that it would go into production, with a suggested run of 300 cars, I don’t think GM gave serious thought to actually building the car. Instead they gave Cadillac dealers the XLR two-seater, a Corvette with a Northstar V8 engine and a body inspired by the original Art & Science concept car, the Evoq. The XLR was introduced as a 2004 model. Some called it a “flagship” car but it went on to sell only 15,460 units over six model years. I suppose it was a way of selling a Corvette to rich guys whose wives wouldn’t appreciate them buying Corvettes, but it wasn’t much of a flagship.
I’m sure that Cadillac would have sold every one of those 300 proposed production Ciens but I don’t think it would have done much for the brand. If the XLR didn’t appeal to traditional Cadillac fans, I don’t think 300 Ciens would have helped grow the Cadillac brand back then. Today, though, with a stronger Cadillac lineup, the CTS and new ATS doing well, and with Lexus ending production of the carbon fiber LFA, perhaps a stronger case could be made for the Cien. Still, much as I’m a fan of midengine sports cars, if GM was going to produce a high profile Cadillac show car today, I think a production car based on the Ciel concept (photos, video) shown last year would still be more in tune with the Cadillac brand and be a more proper flagship.