Cadillac awaits its Italian-designed Allante. The luxury-car company hopes to challenge the Mercedes 380SL

It may only be late October 1985, but Cadillac's John O. Grettenberger already has his eyes peeled on the fall of '86. That's when he'll get his hands on the Allante, the division's own brand of ``Mercedes fighter.'' The Allante, the Cadillac division's general manager explains, is being designed and built by Pininfarina in Italy, from where the car will be flown to the United States.

``We plan to operate an ``air bridge,'' he says, completing the cars in the brand-new General Motors assembly plant in Hamtramck, just a short way from the GM Building in Detroit.

Hamtramck is expected to have the highest technology of any GM assembly plant in the world.

Why the name Allante?

``The closest thing we can find to Allante is the French word allant'' (which means ``stirring'' or ``bustling''), Mr. Grettenberger says. ``We wanted something that was elegant and sporty.''

The code name inside GM for the car was Callisto, ``but the name came off much more sporty than elegant,'' adds Grettenberger. ``There wasn't the right balance. While it tested well in the US, it tested less successfully in Western Europe, where we plan to sprinkle a few of them.''

The point is, Cadillac is looking for a prestige automobile, a personal luxury convertible sport coupe, in which it can challenge such cars as the Mercedes 380SL, which sells for about $43,000.

``We're looking at other cars as well,'' he adds, ``and for other reasons. We're also looking at some of the Porsche models as well as BMW.''

The Allante will be a low-volume car of 6,000 to 8,000 a year and the cost will obviously be competitive with the Mercedes 380SL.

Pininfarina has worked with Cadillac in the past with show cars and design exercises, so the linkup is nothing new. Buick, Oldsmobile, and Chrysler are also turning to Europe for prestigious, upscale cars. Mr. Dole is the Monitor's automotive editor

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