Cadillac Eldorado: The Legend Lives
…the iconic and unforgettable legend lives on in
…the continuing saga of “As the Standard of the World Turns.”
The Cadillac Eldorado is the glamour car of the 1950s through the 1970s. It was once the Flagship in Cadillac’s model hierarchy and one of the world’s most desired dream cars. The Eldorado began as an elite trim level option for the Cadillac Series 62 convertible and was an instant success. It became its own exclusive model the next model year. Eldorado…or “The Gilded One” has been the envy of the driveway in America throughout its tenure.
The Eldorado was the styling predictor…the innovator…as well as the epitome of Cadillac luxury and elegance. It was also the most powerful of all Cadillac models. The Eldorado Custom Biarritz was created as a tribute to the last of the full-size models…and the end of an illustrious era in motoring luxury. It is dripping with luxury and elegance with a unique style all its own. NotoriousLuxury salutes the full-size Cadillac Eldorado…in the continuing saga of “As the Standard of the World Turns.”
The Cadillac Eldorado began as an exclusive trim level option for the Series 62 convertible for the 1953 model year. Chief stylist Harley Earl created this masterpiece as GM’s image car. This was the most expensive Cadillac in the model hierarchy at $7,750 which could have purchased a home back then.
Distinctive signature features which set it apart from the stock convertible are a wrap-around panoramic windscreen, a sculpted beltline that incorporates a cupid’s bow in its design, a sleek metal parade boot, and Kelsey-Hayes genuine wire-laced wheels. Only 532 were built making it highly sought by collectors world-wide.
This top of the line limited edition convertible was available in four exclusive to Eldorado colors: Aztec Red, Alpine White, Azure Blue, and Artisan Ochre. Leather upholstery of the finest grain, power windows, Signal-Seeking radio, heater/defroster, and windscreen washers were all standard.
It was among the first convertibles to offer air conditioning as an option. This car created such interest among automobile enthusiasts; it became a stand-alone model for the 1954 model year. Today, the 1953 Series 62 Eldorado convertible commands six figures on the auction block.
The 1954 Series 62 Eldorado is the first full production version
The glamour continued for the Eldorado. In 1956 it was now available as the Biarritz convertible coupé and the Seville hardtop coupé. The Eldorado remained true to form with exclusive styling shared by no other Cadillac model…this became an Eldorado signature. Its distinctive rear end ensemble is designed with pointed shark-fins, uniquely styled taillamps & back-up lamps, and a tailored bumper with exhaust ports.
An Eldorado always predicted styling features that would eventually find their way on future Cadillac models. The Eldorado Seville has a luxurious Vicodec roof covering as its signature styling feature to highlight its pillarless hardtop design. This was the beginning of the vinyl roof treatments that became so popular in the 1970s.
The 1956 Series 62 Eldorado Biarritz convertible coupé
The 1956 Series 62 Eldorado Seville hardtop coupé
A notable signature feature for Cadillac Eldorados from the 1950s is their stealth power reserves. They are tuned to produce high performance that was not usually associated with luxury cars from this genre. Cadillac was the master builder of the V8 engine. There are two versions that were available for this generation. A 5.4 litre 331 CID V8 producing 200–270 hp between 4,400 & 4,600 rpm powers the 1953-1955 models.
A 6.0 litre 365 CID V8 producing 305-345 hp between 4,700 & 4,800 rpm powers the 1956-1959 models. These luxury behemoths are equipped with two 4-bbl carburetors from 1955 through 1957 Eldorados; and three 2-bbl carburetors for 1958 & 1959 Eldorados. Power, performance, and prestige are all-inclusive attributes of the magnificent Cadillac Eldorado.
The 5.4 litre 331 CID V8
The 6.0 litre 365 CID V8
Series 70 Eldorado Brougham 6.0 litre V8 with 2 4-bbl carburetors
And…lest we forget, the ultra-luxurious hand-built Cadillac Series 70 Eldorado Brougham. They are crafted by Fleetwood but do not wear the nomenclature. Its romantic architecture is augmented by elegant forward opening rear coach doors and a stainless-steel roof. The decadently luxurious Eldorado Brougham has pillarless hardtop styling. The silhouette is lower than that of the standard bodied Cadillacs giving the appearance of a custom car. When either rear door is opened the front seat automatically moves forward making entry and exits easier.
The sweeping design includes chrome from bumper to bumper. The elegant front end ensemble has quad headlamps (which were illegal in some US states at the time), custom bumpers with rubber tipped Dagmars and unique grille work. This distinctive design influenced the look for Cadillac’s 1958 model year. The rear end design was shared with no other Cadillac.
The unique tail fins have a slim contoured look with thin taillamps integrated. Asymmetric highly polished bumperettes feature another set of taillamps and back-up lamps, bullet-style guards and exhaust ports. Its price made it one of the world’s most expensive automobiles at a whopping $13,074…twice the price of the standard Eldorado models – even higher than a Rolls Royce Silver Cloud!
The luxury continued into the interior. There were 44 leather and trim combinations available with the choice of Mouton, Karakul, or Lambskin carpet. Every exclusive Cadillac feature and accessory came standard: two position memory seats, power windows and door locks, Delco Signal-Seeking transistor radio with power antenna, dual heating system, air conditioning, cruise control, power trunk release, Autronic Eye, and thin line white wall tires. Technical features include a two 4-bbl carburetor system and air suspension.
The magnificent Series 70 Eldorado Brougham was built at a highly restricted pace to retain its exclusivity. Only 400 were built for the 1957 model year; and 304 built for the 1958 model year. Production for the 1959-1960 Eldorado Broughams were farmed out to Pininfarina of Italy because of the extensive hand-crafting involved.
The reason they were shipped to Italy was due to the fact that the added hand-crafting slowed the Fleetwood assembly line, affecting factory burden raising costs which cut into the profit margin. Fleetwood could build the standard models which sold in higher numbers faster than the Eldorado Brougham. The Italian built Broughams were not as nice as the Detroit versions. Extensive re-working had to be done when they arrived here in the USA. A major defect is through the use of lead used to fill low spots in the metal…it cracked horrendously.
The “Notorious” 1959 Cadillac Eldorado Series 6400 Biarritz
During the early to mid-1960s, Eldorado grandeur was diluted and the identity that had become so formidable in the 1950s was lost. The Flagship position it held was assumed by the Fleetwood Series Sixty-Special. The Eldorado Seville hardtop coupé was dropped from the model lineup for 1961. It was only available as the Biarritz convertible which was merely an over embellished Series 62/DeVille convertible.
The 1960 Eldorado Series 6400 Seville hardtop coupé
The 1964 Eldorado Biarritz convertible
The 1964 Eldorados have genuine walnut trim
The 1966 Eldorado convertible
The expanding personal luxury niche of the 1960s spawn the birth of the front-wheel drive Eldorado. For the 1967 model year, the fabulous Fleetwood Eldorado made its debut. It was an Eldorado unlike its finny, gas-guzzling namesakes. This all-new Eldorado is longer, lower, and wider than its predecessors. Sharp knife blade fenders extended beyond the architecture in the front and rear. The long hood, low-slung roofline, and short rear deck is distinctive and unique…it was copied by the entire industry.
Once again, the Eldorado introduced a new style. This design heavily influenced the 1969-1970 Calais, DeVille, and Fleetwood models. The 1967 Fleetwood Eldorado was no longer a dressed-up version of something pre-existing. Its design by Bill Mitchell, chief designer for GM, is magnificent and is still quite popular with connoisseurs world-wide. From the striking front end ensemble augmented by hidden headlamps to the sharp angular rear end design, the 1967 Fleetwood Eldorado is the world’s finest personal luxury automobile. It is a dramatic departure from the past –
As the Cadillac sales brochure reads: “The 1967 Fleetwood Eldorado…is the one car that must be seen to be believed, driven to be fully appreciated…and owned to be fully enjoyed.” This is so true…the 1967 Fleetwood Eldorado is the first car in the entire world to successfully combine the precision of front-wheel drive with the agility of Variable Ratio Power Steering and the perfect balance from Automatic Level Control. It maintains the poised dignity which was the hallmark of every Cadillac –
The front-wheel drive Fleetwood Eldorado rocked the entire world
The 1967 Fleetwood Eldorado is powered in the formidable Eldorado tradition. It is equipped with Cadillac’s 429 CID V8 engine. The engine is tuned to produce 340 hp @ 4,600 rpm with 651 Nm of peak torque @ 3,000 rpm. The engine is mated to a modified Turbo Hydra-Matic THM-425 3-speed automatic transmission for front-wheel drive. Longitudinal acceleration is rated as: 0-60 mph in 8.5 seconds, 0-100 mph in 24.9 seconds with a top speed in the 124 mph range. From personal experience, this car is quite a performer. Its swift operation is completely imperceptible.
Changes were minimal for the 1968 model year
For the 1970 model year, the Fleetwood Eldorado…being the innovator that it was – introduced a powerful V8 engine with the largest displacement in the industry to power a passenger production car. The formidable 8.2 litre 500 CID V8 engine produced 400 hp @ 4,400 rpm packing a prolific punch with 746 Nm of peak torque @ 3,000 rpm. It hits 0-60 mph in 7.6 seconds with a top speed in the 129 mph range.
The Eldorado is the world’s finest personal luxury automobile
The last full-size major redesign was for the 1971 model year and was updated mildly until the last of the production run for the 1978 model year. Beginning in 1971, the Cadillac Eldorado was offered as a hardtop coupé and convertible coupé. The last production Eldorado convertible rolled off the assembly line for the 1976 model year.
The 1971-1978 Eldorados are built as body on full frame construction. Eldorado was the only Cadillac that had no exclusive limited edition. The Fleetwood Series Sixty-Special had the Brougham and Talisman editions. Even DeVille had the d’Elegance package. Cadillac introduced the Custom Biarritz package for the Eldorado during mid-year production in 1976.
The 1975 Eldorado Custom Cabriolet coupé
The 1976 Eldorado convertible was the last production ragtop
1976 is the last of the 8.2 litre 500 CID V8 engine
The only way to describe the Custom Biarritz is posh…it’s the Ritz-Carlton on wheels. This was a tribute to the full-size Eldorado which was just two years from extinction. 1977 was Cadillac’s 75th Anniversary; there were no special editions for the celebration. Cadillac built 47,344 Eldorados for this model year. Customers scurried to Cadillac showrooms taking full advantage of the last of the king-size Eldog.
Model #6E style code #L47 1977 Eldorado hardtop coupé had a base price of $11,187 with a base shipping weight of 4,955 pounds. The Custom Biarritz option, style code #YP2B was $1,760. The Custom Biarritz package with sunroof was $2,581, with the Astroroof $2,777. The Eldorado Custom Biarritz is the ultimate expression in personal luxury car distinction. Cotillion White with White roof and interior was the most popular of the five color schemes available.
The Eldorado Custom Biarritz is one of the most elegant Cadillacs in the history of the brand…virtually dripping with opulence. Signature interior features include sumptuous button-tufted contoured pillow-style seating with glove-soft leather and 50/50 dual comfort front seats. The exterior is equally as distinctive. The exclusive Cabriolet Roof is tailored in a richly textured Elk grain vinyl with French seams.
The heavy padding is designed to change the lines of the car; it changes the shape and size of the rear quarter windows. It has an elegant closed-in limousine-style rear window treatment. Special accent striping, stainless-steel moldings, color-keyed wheel discs and “Biarritz” scripts affixed to the rear sail panels deftly identify it as a Cadillac special edition. The Custom Biarritz is distinctive even among other Cadillacs –
The 1977 Eldorado Custom Biarritz
The 1978 Eldorado Custom Biarritz was a tad bit more expensive. Model #6E style code #L47 1978 Eldorado coupé had a base price of $11,921 with a base shipping weight of 4,906 pounds. There were 46,816 built for the 1978 model year. Two special editions were available for 1978. The first, style code YP2B Custom Biarritz package was $1,865…with Astroroof $2,946 and with sunroof $2,746.
There was also an extra special version called the Custom Biarritz Classic. Style code YP6B was $2,466; with Astroroof $3,547…and with sunroof $3,347. Its production was limited to only 2,000 units. The Custom Biarritz Classic was modified by the American Sunroof Corporation of Southgate, Michigan. The coupés are color code #62 Arizona Beige with light Beige vinyl roof, they were two-toned by American Sunroof with color code #64 Demitasse Brown. Gold-plated “Biarritz” nomenclature along with special accent striping was added. The posh interior is two-toned light beige with dark saddle leather.
The 1978 Eldorado Custom Biarritz Classic coupé
The 1977-1978 Eldorados are comprehensively equipped luxury coupés. Standard equipment includes: Automatic Climate Control with economy setting, power windows and door locks, six-way power seat, Soft-Ray tinted safety glass, AM/FM Signal-Seeking Stereo Radio with power antenna, quartz digital clock, lamp monitors, and steel-belted radial ply wide white wall tires.
The last of the full-size Eldorados (1977-1978) are powered by Cadillac’s 7.0 litre 16-valve, 425 CID V8 engine equipped with a Rochester 4-bbl downdraft Quadrajet carburetor. This engine produced 180 hp @ 4,000 rpm with 434 Nm of peak torque @ 2,000 rpm. It uses GM’s Turbo Hydra-Matic THM-425 3-speed automatic transmission for front-wheel drive.
Longitudinal acceleration is rated as: 0-60 mph in 13.4 seconds, 0-100 mph in 47.1 seconds with a top speed in the 112 mph range. It can do the ¼ mile @ 74 mph in 19.6 seconds. Remember…an Eldorado is not built for speed. These figures are excellent for an automobile as large and solidly built as the 1977-1978 Eldorados.
There is a fuel injected version of the 7.0 litre V8 that produces 195 hp @ 3,800 rpm with 434 Nm of peak torque @ 2,400 rpm. Longitudinal acceleration is rated as: 0-60 mph in 13.1 seconds, 0-100 mph in 43.8 seconds with a top speed in the 116 mph range. It does the ¼ mile @ 75 mph in 19.4 seconds. The fuel injected version provides smoother engine operation and can achieve excellent mpgs on the highway.
The full-size Cadillac Eldorado was built from 1953 until the 1978 model year. This is one of Cadillac’s glamour cars and elite Flagships. “The Gilded One” was built as a convertible, hardtop coupé, and an elegant four-door hardtop sedan. Eldorados are specially tuned to be more powerful that standard Cadillac models. These elegant automobiles demonstrated the American way life…they are still the envy of the driveway.
The formidable Eldorado epitomized Cadillac luxury and opulence. They are the finest examples of exclusivity and supremacy in a motorcar; there will never be another automobile of this magnitude. Whatever Eldorado you choose, you will enjoy the rare blend of excitement, power, and prestige that made it a legend in its own time. The iconic and unforgettable Cadillac Eldorado presents another magnificent performance…in the continuing saga of “As the Standard of the World Turns.”
The Eldorado Brougham Town Car Concept
Special thanks to Daniel Schmitt Classic Cars, Sarasota Classic Car Museum, Jim Hailey Classic Cars, Bob Adams Classic Cars, and Matt Garrett at GM-Classics for the use of these rare photos.
The Cadillac Eldorado is NotoriousLuxury
"As the Standard of the World Turns", Cadillac, Cadillac Historical, Classic American Marques, Editorials, Extreme Luxury, Grande Marque
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