An exercise in Marketing turned into a legend
Eldorado is Spanish for “The Gilded One.” Golden it was indeed as it augmented the Cadillac model line-up throughout the 1950s. The Cadillac Eldorado was an “image” car. It demonstrated good taste and achievement. The very first Eldorado appeared in 1953 as a convertible. It was the most expensive car in Cadillac’s offerings.
The Eldorado was a styling predictor. It was truly the flagship of the Cadillac Motor Division, and second to none. If one drove an Eldorado, they were “there.” The Cadillac Eldorado was the sporting grand tourer that epitomized Cadillac luxury, opulence, and elegance. It reinforced the image of “Standard of the World.”
Three specialty convertibles were produced in 1953 by the General Motors Corporation. The Cadillac Eldorado, Oldsmobile Fiesta Ninety-Eight, and the Buick Roadmaster Skylark were considered “dream-cars” by GM. The Eldorado was a special custom bodied low production convertible.
It was the production version of the 1952 El Dorado concept car built to celebrate Cadillac’s Golden Anniversary. The 1953 Eldorado was a favorite of then Chief Designer Harley Earl. The price was $7,750 which was nearly twice as expensive as the regular Cadillac Series 62 convertible.
Top left Cadillac Eldorado, top right Buick Roadmaster Skylark, Oldsmobile Fiesta Ninety-Eight
The 1953 Eldorado was technically a Series 62 convertible with a custom tapered body. It had other features that regular production Cadillacs would adopt through the years ahead. The Eldorado’s modified bodywork was augmented with a metal parade boot, panoramic wrap-around windshield, Kelsey-Hayes wire wheels, and available in three colors: Aztec Red, Alpine White, Azure Blue, and Artisan Ochre which was not black but a yellow hue.
Standard features included a leather upholstered interior, power windows, a signal seeking radio, heater/defroster, and windshield washers. Only 532 examples were produced making the 1953 Eldorado highly collectible. They command six-figures on the auction block.
Cadillac always kept styling changes to a minimum. The 1953 Eldorado was unmistakably the “Standard of the World” and was truly the luxury leader on the American highways. The traditional Cadillac was fast, opulent, and radiated success from every angle.
The 1953 Eldorado’s tail fins were the focal point at the rear and its massive grille up front; these were signature “Kitty-kat” features. The Eldorado was the fanciest and most luxurious expression of Cadillac. The 1953 Eldorado gained the spotlight in January 1953 when it was used in the official inaugural parade by President and Mrs. Eisenhower.
The 1953 Cadillac Eldorado was powered by Cadillac’s 5.4 litre 331 CID OHV V8 engine with a 4-bbl Carter carburetor. The engine was mated to GM’s Turbo-Hydra-Matic (Flash-away) 4-speed automatic transmission. The engine produced 199 hp @ 4,000 rpm with 440 Nm of peak torque @ 2,500 rpm. Its performance was rated at 0-60 mph in 14.8 seconds, 0-100 mph 54.5 seconds (no scoffing she was a big girl) and had a top speed of 108 mph. This was a huge car of 220.8” in length, with a 126” wheelbase, and was 80.1” wide. It could do the ¼ mile @ 73 mph in 20.4 seconds.
The 1953 Cadillac Eldorado’s real purpose was to keep Cadillac a styling leader. Harley Earl used the fabulous GM Motoramas to exhibit new ideas and gain public feedback. The 1953 Cadillac Eldorado was created in part to celebrate Cadillac’s Golden Anniversary. It received prominent attention when it was used as President Eisenhower’s inaugural parade car in January 1953. The Eldorado augmented the brand’s model line-up as the image leader; it was the quintessential flagship.
Built at the restricted pace of 532 vehicles, the 1953 Eldorado was a considerable success. It was more of a method of testing ideas than a serious sales effort. The Eldorado’s panoramic windshield, boldly down-swept beltline, leather interior, and Kelsey-Hayes wire wheels found their way into various mass-market GM cars in succeeding years.
Interesting case in point: ….there was a time when Cadillac print advertising was at an absolute minimum, and then, it was always discharged in a manner that befits royalty. Things of good taste such as a Cadillac needed no advertising. Just like Rolls Royce, you never saw those cars plastered on buses, the sides of buildings, nor bridge over-passes, and in the day’s paper every evening……and when you saw the Cadillac advertised, usually it was with expensive custom jewelry, or the model had a mink coat.
Tasteful things of that luxurious nature were not flaunted and diluted with repetition as the media advertising goes today. A Cadillac ad was mysterious and tasteful……just as the car. It was even sold in a particular manner. My dad bought them when they were REAL; the dealer would ‘give’ dad the car to drive before he purchased it. Little Cadillac-style touches here and there kept the owner coming back.
The “Standard of the World” stood alone……
1976 Cadillac Eldorado Convertible