1957-1958 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham

The Cadillac Series 70 Eldorado Brougham is extremely rare

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This pristine 1958 Eldorado Brougham is owned by Matt Garrett/GM Classics finished in Chamonix White

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The pleasure of owning a Cadillac was exceeded only by that of driving it. There was no more splendid way than with the fabulous 1957-1958 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham. This was one of Harley Earl’s final designs with the Cadillac Motor Car Division. He WAS Cadillac. Harley Earl retired in 1958 after a successful career spanning three decades.

His designs always exhibited a dramatic elegance. These exemplary creations were displayed at the famed Motorama Auto Shows. This talented designer helped Cadillac to maintain the image “Standard of the World,” a phrase coined in 1905 for the most distinguished automotive brand in the world. The 1950s was a time when a Cadillac was a REAL Cadillac; there was no need for superficial advertising campaigns, or fake cars with over-embellished bells & whistles as the Cadillac XTS and CTS are marketed today to deceptively imitate the Cadillac brand.

Harley Earl had a style that gave Cadillac that poised dignity that was the hallmark of every Cadillac…..a requisite of the brand that is highly remiss in today’s Cadillac brand. The 1957-1958 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham was the flagship. It was GM’s reprisal to the 1956-1957 Continental MK II. The Eldorado Brougham was the pinnacle of American excess.

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The 1957-1958 Eldorado Brougham was inspired by the four-door Park Avenue show car introduced at the 1954 Motorama. Earl gave the Park Avenue a stainless steel window treatment that mocked a hardtop and a brushed aluminum roof. It was equipped with quad headlamps which hadn’t been introduced to the auto industry yet.

The Eldorado Brougham prototype was previewed by the press and the automotive industry January 19, 1955 at the elegant Waldorf Astoria. The car was being delivered in the wee hours of the morning, and it fell off of its jacks damaging the front fender and rear bumper.  At 4 p.m. that afternoon when a crowd of 5,000+ arrived, the Brougham was rotating sedately on its turntable as if nothing had ever happened.

A week later the Eldorado Brougham had made six Motorama Auto Shows and was definitely going to be built, and at a restricted pace. Many production cars were inspired by dream cars at GM’s Motorama Auto Shows with some evolving into road-going cars. The Brougham prototype was almost identical to the Park Avenue. The Brougham prototype was styled as a genuine pillar less hardtop sedan which was taking the auto industry by storm in the 1950s. The trend was to add panache with the hardtop styling for both coupes and sedans.

It was the 1956 Motorama that introduced the production version of the Eldorado Brougham. Minor changes included quad headlamps and full stainless steel rocker trim. After refinement, the Eldorado Brougham was released as a 1957 model. The Brougham project required two years of development.

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The Eldorado Brougham was designed with unique styling. Cadillac engineers designed an exclusive body for the Eldorado Brougham. It was built by the Fleetwood Division of Fisher Body. The Brougham’s bodywork was almost seamless by design except for the door panels. Any remaining pieces were welded and lead was used to conceal the bonding. Its bumpers were sand-cast aluminum and triple plated. The hood was hinged forward. The Brougham used the GM panoramic windshield which wrapped around (and caused occupants over 6’ tall to bang their knees on those horrid “dog-legs exiting the vehicle) It shared no sheet metal with its Cadillac siblings.

The brushed stainless steel roof blended into the architecture seamlessly, it was also its own structure and not a cap. The roof consisted of three pieces welded together, then, metal finished with coarse sandpaper in the correct direction giving it the ‘brushed’ effect. The four-door hardtop displayed a custom Cadillac appearance. Its lower waistline with its formal ‘kissing-doors’ flowed into sculpted shark fins. An egg-crate grille, new to the industry quad headlamps, and traditional Dagmar bumper guards highlighted the front end design.

Styling cues from the 1955 Eldorado DNA were evident in the 1957-1958 Eldorado Brougham’s chrome capped rear tail fins; they were neatly manicured unlike the rest of the industry. Cadillac went to extremes with the longest and the highest tail fins which was common in the industry along with yards of chrome trim. The Eldorado Brougham was devoid of gaudy trim. It used that stunning stainless steel roof and lower body side chrome trim for augmentation instead.

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The car was very tastefully executed by Harley Earl, as he targeted a special clientele. The illustrious Eldorado series was the epitome of Cadillac luxury from its inception as a 1953 custom convertible. The Eldorado Brougham was stately, refined, and extremely elegant. The price was a hefty $13,074 which was higher than that of a Rolls Royce at the time. The Eldorado Brougham had a lower overall stance.

The wheelbase was 126”, it was 78.5” in width with a luxury-length of 216.3”.  It was more compact and less flamboyant than the other Cadillac models. Its styling looks like Gene Winfield or George Barris customized it. Winfield and Barris had the Midas-touch for car customizing in the 1950s and 1960s when custom cars were a hot item. George Barris designed “his & her’s” 1966 Mustangs.

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Photos courtesy of Vintage Motors of Sarasota Inc 

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The interior of the Eldorado Brougham was a special affair with the forward opening rear coach doors. A choice of leather or understated broadcloth was available. The seats were individually contoured for comfort with front and rear folding center armrests. Mouton rugs were standard. The glove box housed a set of magnetized tumblers and an Arpege by Lanvin perfume atomizer and powder puff for the ladies.  There was also a cigarette case, a leather-bound notebook, a Cross pen, a mirror and a comb. This was one class act.

Other standard comfort and convenience features included a six-way power seat with memory settings, a transistorized radio with front and rear speakers; it even had an automatic power antenna that rose when the radio was activated and lowered back into the fender when turned off, electric door locks that automatically engaged to ‘lock’ when the transmission was put into a drive gear, power trunk release, an autronic eye that dipped the high beam head lamps when on-coming cars approached, automatic engine starting, front & rear heating systems with under seat blowers, and air conditioning. The car was equipped with a starter interrupt that prevented the car from starting if either rear coach door was open. The Eldorado Brougham was fully equipped with very few options available.

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The Eldorado Brougham’s air suspension was the first production air suspension in history. The Citroen of 1955 used a similar self-leveling suspension but it was actually hydro-pneumatic. The Eldorado Brougham used an electrically driven Delco rotary compressor and a long thin reserve tank mounted behind the grille to compensate changes in the car’s loaded weight. The system used valves and solenoids to regulate itself with air bags at each wheel instead of coil springs. It included a low-pressure warning light on the instrument panel. These systems were problematic and were prone to failure at the most embarrassing moments, for instance exiting a steep incline in one’s driveway.

Some Brougham owners had this feature converted to coil springs to avoid the costly repairs. Cadillac offered a coil spring conversion kit as a factory part. The conversion was extremely difficult and expensive. It was the leaky bladders that would deflate rendering the car inoperable. The Eldorado Brougham rode on a rugged tubular X-frame that was adopted by the other Cadillac models in 1959.  The Brougham’s front suspension was made with independent unequal length “A” arms, self-leveling air bags, and tubular hydraulic shocks. The rear was fitted with lower trailing control links, upper single control yoke, self-leveling air bags, and tubular hydraulic shocks. The Eldorado Brougham was the first car to use low profile tires.

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The interior had 45 choices of trim/color combinations in leather and an understated broadcloth with two types of carpet available, Mouton and nylon Karakul. The Brougham had a unique feature that moved the front seat forward when either rear coach door was opened to make entry and exiting easier. The engine had a starter interlocking feature which disabled the door handles when the car was in gear. The engine would not start if either rear coach door was open.

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The 1957-1958 Eldorado Brougham was powered by the 6.3 litre 365 CID 16-valve OHV V8 engine. The engine block and heads were made of cast iron with hydraulic lifters with five main bearings. An electric fuel pump was installed in the gas tank the way most cars are equipped today. The car was fitted with a dual exhaust system. There were changes in carburetion as follows:

The 1957 model year was fitted with two Carter 4-bbl carburetors WCFB2584S & WCFB2583S. The 365 CID V8 produced 325 hp @ 4,800 rpm with 542 Nm of peak torque @ 3,300 rpm. It went from 0-60 mph in 11.3 seconds, 0-100 mph in 32.1 seconds, and had a top speed of 120 mph. It could do the ¼ mile @ 80 mph in 18.2 seconds.

For the 1958 model year the 365 CID V8 was fitted with a Rochester triple-deuce (3 2-bbl carburetors). The 365 CID V8 produced 335 hp @ 4,800 rpm. It went from 0-60 mph in 31.7 seconds, with a top speed of 121 mph. It could do the ¼ mile @ 80 mph in 18.2 seconds. The GM 4-speed Hydra-Matic Jetaway automatic transmission was used for both model years.

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The 1957-1958 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham was an ultra luxurious front engine rear drive four door hardtop sedan. This was one of Harley Earl’s last designs. It was swift and extremely elegant targeting the wealthy. The unique styling set it apart from the other Cadillac models. The Eldorado Brougham predicted styling that would be adopted by the rest of the Cadillac models to come. Its $13,074 price tag was the main reason its sales were so low. (In 1957-1958 one could purchase a very nice home for that!) For the 1957 model year 400 units were built and for the 1958 model year only 304 units were made.

Unfortunately, Cadillac lost money on each Eldorado Brougham built, as it cost around $25,000 to manufacture. The Brougham’s rival, Continental MK II, was in a similar non-profit situation losing $1,000 on each MK II built. Both the Eldorado Brougham and the Continental MK II were company “ego-cars” with the Continental MK II fizzling after only a two-year production run and the Eldorado Brougham fizzling out after a four-year run. The 1957-1958 Eldorado Brougham remains a highly collectible car and it has appreciated to a six figure price tag today. These beauties are terribly expensive to maintain especially with the air suspension. Will Cadillac ever have another flagship returning to quality fit & finish? As for today, the “Standard of the World”…..isn’t.

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Courtesy of Vintage Motors of Sarasota Inc 

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Photos courtesy of The Ultimate Car Page 

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1957 Eldorado Brougham 3

The 1957-1958 Cadillac Series 70 Eldorado Brougham was one class act….

1976

The 1976 Cadillac Fleetwood Series Sixty-Special Brougham

Will Cadillac ever have another flagship? Whatever happened to Cadillac?

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