Requiem For A Legend: 1978 Cadillac Eldorado

This was the finale for the glamorous Cadillac Eldorado

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The Season Finale for “As the Standard of the World Turns”

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A Cadillac Eldorado was once the epitome of Cadillac elegance

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It was farewell to another Cadillac legend for the 1978 model year. The classic Eldorado series was the last full-size version of this legendary icon. It was a car of unequaled luxury and roadability. The Eldorado, or “The Gilded One” was a superstar of the show. It was the largest automobile made by General Motors in 1978.

The Eldorado began as a fancy trim option for the Series Sixty-Two in 1953. Its special styling features were unique and would soon be shared by the rest of the Cadillac models. The Gilded One was a styling predictor and a showcase for Cadillac elegance and prestige. There will never be another automobile like the Cadillac Eldorado. This was the season finale…in the continuing saga of “As the Standard of the World Turns.”

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The Cadillac Eldorado dominated the luxury car arena during the 1950s. An Eldorado was the most elegantly luxurious Cadillac in the model hierarchy. They were always built at a restricted pace for exclusivity…and on the grand Cadillac scale. Its inception in 1953 was so successful that it became its own series beginning the 1954 model year. The 1953 Eldorado convertible had a specially designed body with a variation from the Series Sixty-Two.

It had a gracefully sculpted body with a “cupid’s bow” lowering the body lines. A classy parade boot, panoramic windscreen, and Kelsey-Hayes long laced genuine wire wheels were signature Eldorado features.  It was so exclusive that it became the official inaugural parade car for President and Mrs. Eisenhower January of 1953. Only 532 were built making it extremely valuable not to mention rare. 

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The 1953 Eldorado was the most expensive Cadillac at a staggering $7,750 which was a lot when other luxury went for far less. It was available in four exclusive colors: Aztec Red, Alpine White, Azure Blue, and Artisan Ochre which was a yellow hue not black as stated in its brochure.

The 1953 Series Sixty-Two Eldorado was a GM image car, they actually lost money on each vehicle built. The 1953 Eldorado was a spin-off of a 1952 GM Motorama show car. It was a joint styling venture of two star Cadillac designers Harley Earl and Bill Mitchell. They initiated the Eldorado revolution which remained popular until the haphazardly designed models after the 1985 model year.

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The Cadillac Eldorado took on many forms of prestige during its heyday. It began as an elegant ragtop, and for the 1956 model year the fabulous Eldorado Seville was introduced as a hardtop coupe with a fancy Vicodec covered roof. The convertible was re-named Eldorado Biarritz. This formidable Eldorado team graced the luxury car scene until the 1960 model year when the Seville was drooped at the end of the model year production run.

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The elegant Eldorado became an elite limited production hand-built hardtop sedan featuring a brushed stainless steel roof and forward opening rear coach doors for the 1957-1958 model years. Cadillac lost money on each built…there was an assembly line joke that suggested at the end of the production line, a $10,000 bill should be placed in the glove box for its new owners.

The Eldorado Brougham’s production was farmed out to Pininfarina of Italy for the 1959-1960 model years to cut costs. With the nature of its hand-crafted construction, it hung up the Fleetwood assembly lines too long. It was more cost-effective to produce the Fleetwood Series Sixty-Special and Series Seventy-Five which were higher production targets bringing in more $$$.

Sadly, the 1959-1960 Eldorado Broughams did not have the quality fit and finish as the 1957-1958 Detroit models. Upon receipt from Italy, they usually had to be touched up sometimes repainted due to cracking lead used as body filler. The 1959-1960 models unlike the exclusive 1957-1958 models, shared various parts from the standard Cadillacs. 

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You GO Matt Garrett!!

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The 1967 Fleetwood Eldorado was introduced shortly after the world debut of the 1966 front-wheel drive Oldsmobile Toronado. It was so successful that it took the automotive world by storm. GM pioneered the front-wheel drive system that the rest of the automotive world adopted. The Fleetwood Eldorado’s production ran from 1967 until its grisly demise in 2002 when it had become redundant and nondescript. The last Eldorado went into the Cadillac museum…..Why?

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The 1978 Eldorado came standard equipped with front-wheel drive, four-wheel disc brakes, power steering, Electronic Level Control, AM/FM Signal Seeking Stereo radio with scanner and automatic power antenna, power windows and door locks, cornering lamps, six-way power seats, lamp monitors, steel-belted wide whitewall tires, Soft-Ray glass, quartz digital clock, and automatic parking brake release.

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The 1978 Eldorado was powered by Cadillac’s 7.0 litre 425 CID 16-valve V8 engine mated to GM’s Turbo Hydra-Matic THM-425 3-speed automatic transmission. The engine had a cast iron block and heads, five main bearings, and hydraulic valve lifters. It came equipped with a Rochester 4-bbl Quadrajet, mechanical fuel pump, solid-state voltage regulator with integral 63 amp generator, and High Energy Ignition system with 8mm silicone insulated wiring. The engine produced 180 hp @ 4,000 rpm, with 434 Nm of peak torque @ 2,000 rpm. Performance was rated as 0-60 mph in 13.2 seconds, 0-100 mph in 46.6 seconds with a top speed of 113 mph. It could do the ¼ mile @ 75 mph in 19.4 seconds.

x29

x39

x37

x15

x38

x18

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The 1978 Eldorado was the last Cadillac to be built ruggedly, unlike today’s biodegradable kitschy-faux luxury sedans. It used body on frame construction built upon a ladder-type frame with welded crossmembers. It had the luxury length of 224’, rode on a long 126.3” wheelbase, and was 79.8” wide. The front suspension used upper and lower control arms with independent torsion bar, link-type stabilizer bar, and hydraulic direct action shock absorbers. 

The rear suspension was set-up to accommodate electronic height control with specifically designed dampers. It was equipped with Cadillac’s four-link drive, coil springs, and hydraulic direct action shock absorbers. Superb engineering, advanced design, and dedication to excellence made the Cadillac Eldorado one of the most desired luxury cars. Cadillac’s magic carpet ride made it the car everyone wanted to own.

The Gilded One came standard with Cadillac’s triple braking system. The power hydraulic master cylinder utilized two separate chambers in the fluid reservoir for independent front and rear operation. The power booster used the “Hydro-Boost” system that worked in conjunction with the power steering pump.

Also standard was four-wheel ventilated disc brakes. Each disc had cooling fins to rapidly dissipate heat. It used single piston sliding calipers front and rear. The parking brake had silent action and an automatic vacuum release. It was a true auxiliary brake since it wouldn’t lock with the engine running and car in gear.

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An elegant special edition was available for The Gilded One. The Eldorado Custom Biarritz was an ultra-luxurious expression of this magnificent motorcar. Its interior was upholstered with Sierra grain leather by Fleetwood. It was the epitome of grace and elegance.

Cadillac contoured pillow-style seating was available in five colors. Signature features included Dual Comfort front 50/50 seating, a Cabriolet roof treatment with frenched rear limousine-style window and French seams, opera  lamps, accent striping, color coordinated wheel discs, remote passenger side outside rearview mirror, and five distinctive exterior colors from which to choose.

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The Custom Biarritz Classic was the most luxurious version of the Biarritz options. This limited edition was designed to commemorate the end of an illustrious era in motoring. The distinguishing features that differentiated this opulent luxury group from the Biarritz was its two-toned leather upholstered interior in light beige and dark saddle with a leather steering wheel jacket, and a duo-toned exterior finish in Arizona Beige and Demitasse Brown Metallic.

Gold plated “Biarritz” nomenclature was affixed to each roof sail panel and rear deck lid. The 1978 Eldorado Custom Biarritz Classic was built at a restricted pace of 2,000 vehicles. It was outsourced to American Sunroof Corporation (ASC) out of Southgate, Michigan. The entire modification added five extra days to normal production time.

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The Cadillac Eldorado was the world’s finest personal luxury car. It had to be seen to be believed…driven to be appreciated, and owned for total satisfaction. The 1978 Cadillac Eldorado was base priced at $11,921 and 46,816 were built. The Eldorado was a snapshot in time. A time when America was America and not a by-product as it is today.

The cars of yesterday, especially cars like the Cadillac Eldorado were driven daily without the thought of gasoline mileage. America had just exited the “Ward & June Cleaver/Ozzie & Harriet Nelson” era of the 1960s, we were half-way through the Spirited Seventies and lost our beloved land yachts to become victims of vicious, haphazardly down-sized hatchet jobs leaving America with elegant puddle jumpers. 

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The 1978 Cadillac Eldorado was the last full-size Eldorado and GM’s last traditionally built luxury cars. The Eldorado was world-class with its 7.0 litre V8 engine, front wheel drive, Electronic Level Control, and Variable Ratio power steering all as standard equipment. This was the last of the magnificent Cadillac motorcars.

Equipped as a true Flagship, the 1978 Eldorado was a car complete…Cadillac-style. It was another nostalgic end of a grand motoring tradition. There will never, ever be another Eldorado. This exemplary encore performance deserved a standing ovation and was a requiem for the legend…in the continuing saga of “As the Standard of the World Turns.”

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Tune in next season for the continuing saga of…”As the Standard of the World Turns.”

One Response to “Requiem For A Legend: 1978 Cadillac Eldorado”

  1. wonderful issues altogether, you just received a brand new reader.
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