Project CHEAP-V: An Introduction

photos by: the author

Running on Mostly Nostalgia, We Build a Well-Loved CTS-V(1) Into Something Unique

Have you ever owned a car that you may have taken for granted? It could be anything you’ve previously owned, but ultimately wish you would have kept it for the long haul? Your author has, one of which, was a black on black 2006 Cadillac CTS-V. I had owned it from 2010-2013, but cut it loose due to logistical reasons. It had some issues that I certainly didn’t miss, but after some time, I did have a lot of good memories tied to the car. Plus, I’m now in a position to have one as a project, or a “toy,” instead of my sole daily driver.

After some online sleuthing, I managed to find my old car, located several states away in El Paso, Texas. After I had contacted the owner and some dialogue, the current seemed more interested in trading me for my Grand National, rather than selling the V outright to me. Me, not wanting to entertain the notion decided to look for a similar example a little bit closer to home. Scouring the Facebook Marketplace, I found the example you see here. After some conversation with the seller and an arranged meetup, I took the car for a spin, made an offer, tossed down the cash, and loaded it up onto the trailer that was hitched to The Mule.

But First, Some History…

The Cadillac CTS-V was a performance sedan born out of necessity; the Germans were kicking American ass at the dealership, at the Nurburgring, and in the hearts of young professionals all over the country. Cadillac, once the “Standard of the World” had been reduced to building land yachts for retirees.

Unfortunately, the buying demographic had changed, and young professionals and those looking for a premium performance sedan had moved on to the AMGs and BMW M cars of the world. These cars featured incredible handling, plenty of power and cornering capabilities, and nothing from Cadillac simply couldn’t compete.

Having launched the new CTS, which replaced the ill-fated Catera, in late 2002 word on the street was that a turbocharged 2.8L V6 was in store as a performance engine for the car. That all changed though, once General Motors had hired Bob Lutz, who insisted that they simply drop in the 405hp LS6 from the Corvette Z06.

With a top speed of 163mph, quarter-mile times in the 13.0-13.1 range, and a 0-60 sprint in under 5-seconds was impressive for a car that weighed a hair over 4,000-pounds. In addition, Brembo brakes, a Nurburgring tuned suspension and a mandatory manual 6-speed transmission checked all of the right boxes to gear heads all over the world. The best part of it all, was that the Caddy rang the cash register at $50,000 and some change, which is a bargain price compared to the Mercedes-Benz and BMW models that it directly competed with.

The plan worked and the car performed incredibly, but in hindsight, some might say that it was a rush job, considering obvious design flaws that lied beneath the car’s skin. A weak rear axle, significant wheel hop, and some odd clearance issues when servicing components like the starter, spark plugs, and other mechanicals made it clear that the first-generation V-series CTS was created after the final details of the base car were completed.

It’s all good though, as succeeding versions continued to improve the model with increased performance, stronger driveline components and so forth. As the years wore on, the aftermarket grew and the first-generation cars have depreciated enough that just about anyone can acquire one of these cars for not a whole lot of coin.

The Car…

We picked our 2007 up for a measly $7000 at the height of the COVID pandemic. Of course, that included 150,000 well-loved miles, and its fair share of bumps and bruises. It’s far from perfect, but we wanted an example that can be improved upon both cosmetically, and mechanically. To be honest, there’s some humming coming from the rear axle (a common issue), but that will be handled soon enough. We have more power planned for this car, so the factory diff will need to replaced even if it were factory fresh.

Being a 2007 example, it’s equipped with the 400hp 6-liter LS2, the same ‘plant used in the ’05-07 Corvette and ’05-06 Pontiac GTO. It’s completely stock, mechanically; stock exhaust, stock airbox, no engine mods at all… notta. It does have aftermarket Bluetooth connectivity, and it has a pair of subwoofers in the trunk. The previous owner was a little more into audio, rather than audible engine noise, but it’s whatever.

The Plan…

Aesthetically, there already is an aftermarket cowl hood and rear spoiler on the deck lid. Since we would have ultimately have made the same changes ourselves, they’re welcome additions. Sections of the car need repainted and there’s certainly some issues that need addressed immediately. To be honest, there’s some humming coming from the rear axle (a common issue), but that will be handled soon enough. We have more power planned for this car, so the factory diff will need to replaced even if it were factory fresh.

Upgraded bolt-on speed parts; header, exhaust and a camshaft are being planned. A full tune-up is first, and once we’ve handled that, we’re going to hit the dyno and the drag strip. We’ll document everything as we go, depicting the changes that our new speed parts have made to this car’s performance. Al;ing the way, we’ve also noticed that the tires are staggered — narrower in the front, and wider in the rear. The tires should be 245/45/18 squared, but are 225 wide in the front, and 275 in the rear. We’re going to throw on fresh rubber at all four corners.

There’s a few dings on various portions of the car, several paint swirls and scratches, and there are some interior blemishes. When we went shopping for one of these, we basically wanted the cheapest running and driving ’06-07 example in the popular black on black combination that we could find in our home state of Ohio. We found this one, and we’re happy with our purchase, despite the details. As of this writing, we’ve already made several updates and repairs, and we think you’ll be happy with what we have in store.

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