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Last Of The Breed: The Gilded One Cadillac Series 6400 Eldorado

The Cadillac Eldorado legend continues…

…in the continuing saga of “As the Standard of the World Turns”

Dignity, distinction, and grace of beauty were hallmarks of the Cadillac Eldorado. Although no one could see it at the time, “The Gilded One” began losing its exclusivity. Through the years, Cadillac Eldorados have always showcased a flair for the dramatic. They began losing their distinguished aristocracy becoming more cost-efficient. Generation four is the most flamboyant of all generations yielding the single most immediately identifiable Cadillac in the history of the brand. The glamour car’s styling revolution continued the premise being the best of everything Cadillac had to offer. NotoriousLuxury chronicles generations four through six…in the continuing saga of “As the Standard of the World Turns.

Cadillac Series 6400 Eldorado (Generation 4 1959-1960)

The 1959 model year won the “Tail-fin Wars” of the 1950s hands-down! The 1959 Cadillac sports the tallest tail fins in the industry – ever. The “Standard of the World” had again launched a totally avant-garde automotive design. They are outlandish, either one loves them or hates them – there’s no in-between. Extra-long, extra-low, and extra-wide describes their decadent dimensions. The 1959 Cadillacs were Harley Earle’s last hurrah. He was the brilliant American automotive designer heading the design engineering division at General Motors who later became vice president.

The 1959 Cadillacs epitomized the pinnacle of American excess. The model naming convention hierarchy was renumbered. Series 62 was revamped as Series 6200.  The DeVilles began as Series 62 special editions were now Series 6300 and were their own exclusive models. The Eldorado Seville and Biarritz became Series 6400. Series 70 Eldorado Brougham was now Series 6900.

Style code # 6437H 1959 Series 6400 Seville hardtop coupé was base-priced at $7401 and only 975 were built. Style code # 6467 Series 6400 Eldorado Biarritz had the same base price with 1,320 built for the 1959 model year. The Seville and Biarritz lost most of their styling distinction.

The only difference between the Eldorado and Series 6300 is the chrome moldings which run from the doors along the sides down the rear fender meeting the bumper. A large chrome lower rocker panel molding runs between the wheelbase back to meet the rear bumper. The Seville maintained its formal Vicodec roof covering and the Biarritz is still adorned with the metal parade boot. These modifications and of course the higher price are the only visible differences. The romance of Eldorado was on a steady decline.

1959 Cadillac Series 6400 Eldorado Biarritz convertible coupé 

1959 Cadillac Series 6400 Seville hardtop coupé 

A freshly minted Cadillac-built 390 CID V8 and again would crank out 20 hp more than the standard Cadillac models. It’s equipped with 3 2bbl Rochester carburetors making Eldorado capable of 345 hp @ 4,800 rpm with a respectable 590 Nm of peak torque @ 3,400 rpm. The 1959 Eldorados longitudinal acceleration is rated as 0-60 mph in 10.3 seconds with a top speed in the 127-mph range. It does the ¼ mile @ 84 mph in 17.6 seconds. The engine is mated to the GM controlled coupling Hydra Matic (Jetaway/Flashaway) 4-speed automatic transmission without torque converter.

Series 6400 Eldorado Seville hardtop coupé and Biarritz convertible coupé for the 1960 model year was tamed by the designers removing the gaudiness from the 1959 model. Subtle refinement began with the towering tail fins from 1959. They now appear tapered and trimmed down fashionably.

The Eldorado no longer features its own unique rear-end styling. Mild cosmetic trim variations were the only distinguishing features separating them from Series 6300 DeVille. Actually, Seville and Biarritz were becoming ‘dolled-up’ versions of the DeVille. Under the hood, there were no changes to the powerplant nor its performance. Both still maintained the poised dignity which was the hallmark of every Cadillac.

1960 Cadillac Series 6400 Seville hardtop coupé

Style code # 60-64 6437 H 1960 Series 6400 Eldorado Seville hardtop coupé had a base price of $7,401 and only 1,075 were built for the 1960 model year. This was also the last production year for the Eldorado Seville.

Style code # 60-64E 6467E 1960 Series 6400 Eldorado Biarritz convertible coupé had a base price of $7401 also with 1,075 built. The Eldorado was the very essence of Cadillac; it augmented the brand in the world of superlatives, as Cadillac was the superlative of superlatives!

1960 Cadillac Series 6400 Eldorado Biarritz convertible coupé

1959 Cadillac Series 6900 Eldorado Brougham 4 door hardtop sedan

The majestic Cadillac Series 6900 Eldorado Brougham four-door hardtop sedan was the “Cadillac of Cadillacs” in the model hierarchy. These elegant flagship sedans came completely furnished with every comfort and convenience features and accessories as standard equipment. These fine motorcars required countless hours of manpower while in theatre. They could easily bring the Fleetwood assembly lines to a halt because of the intricate hand-finishing as the Detroit-built 1957-1958 Series 70 Eldorado Brougham hardtop sedans managed to accomplish.

The 1959 and 1960 model years for Series 6900 were farmed out to famed coachbuilder Pinin Farina (Pininfarina after 1960) of Italy. This would be the last time a custom-crafted hand-built body would adorn the iconic Cadillac brand. The 1959 and 1960 Series 6900 wasn’t nearly as exclusive as Series 70 which had its very own bodyshell and chassis sharing no sheet metal with any other Cadillac.

The Italian Series 6900 is a custom-crafted bodyshell fitted to a standard Fleetwood Series 60 Special chassis. They also share underpinnings and many other components with standard Cadillac models. The car’s body is virtually seamless crafted by hammering it into shape. The artisan’s craft no longer exists in the contemporary world. Series 6900 Eldorado Brougham became a Fleetwood sub-series.

Model # 59-69 style code # 6929P 1959 Series 6900 Eldorado Brougham hardtop sedan was priced at $13,075 and only 99 were built. They both are highly prized collectibles if you can find one for sale – buy it!

1957-1958 Series 70 Eldorado Brougham

 Compare the intricate detail of the Series 70 Eldorado Brougham

1960 Series 6900 Eldorado Brougham hardtop sedan

A lot of re-work was required when these were returned to the USA. The extensive use of lead to fill low spots in the body shell caused the lacquer to crack in spots. Electrical wiring and componentry also had to be re-worked because the Italians weren’t as tech-savvy as the USA at the time. Production ceased after the 1960 model year. Any Eldorado Brougham is highly collectible in today’s classic car market segment because of its rarity. 

Model # 60-69 style code # 6929P 1960 Series 6900 Eldorado Brougham hardtop sedan was also priced at $13,075 and 101 were built. Notice the resemblance to the standard 1960 Cadillacs?

Cadillac Series 6400 Eldorado Biarritz (Generation Five 1961-1962)

1961 Cadillac Series 6400 Eldorado Biarritz convertible coupé

The 1961 Series 6400 Eldorado Biarritz convertible coupé was completely re-designed exhibiting a fresh new appeal. It was now the only Eldorado model available. Both 1961 and 1962 Eldorados takes an eagle-eye to distinguish them from Series 6300 DeVille. You have to look at the nomenclature to see the difference. Its all-new styling made the car appear longer, lower, and wider than the previous model.

The iconic tail fins were trimmed and tapered more into the body. Distinctive new lower fins were introduced called “Skegs” which balanced the rear-end design gracefully. Back-up lamps and red reflectors were now coupled in chrome nacelles horizontally as opposed to the vertical arrangement for 1959 and 1960 Cadillacs. The sculptured lines were refined adding a new sophistication. Restricted use of ornamentation is tasteful. 

Style code # 6367E 1961 Series 6400 Eldorado Biarritz convertible coupé had a base price of $6477 and 1,450 were built. The 1962 model year marked the 60th anniversary of the brand.

Cadillac’s mighty 390 CID 16-valve naturally aspirated V8 engine was now equipped with only one Rochester 4-bbl carburetor. Performance decreased to 325 hp @ 4,800 rpm with 583 Nm of peak torque @ 3,100 rpm. Longitudinal acceleration is rated as 0-60 mph in 9.5 seconds with a top speed in the 124-mph range. It does the ¼ @ 83-mph in 17.6 seconds. GM used the same controlled coupling Hydra-Matic 4-speed without torque converter.

1962 Series 6400 Eldorado Biarritz convertible coupé is basically the same car as the 1961 version. Tail fins were again tapered into the architecture tastefully. The Skegs were also trimmed and refined into the lower rear quarter panels.

The front-end ensemble was refreshed adding all-new cornering lamps integrated into the front fenders. They are activated using the turn signal stalk lighting the driver’s right and left turns for increased visibility. The 1962 Eldorado had a trim upper body molding to distinguish it from Series 6300. Eldorado exclusivity took a big hit in 1962. One could hardly tell it’s an Eldorado by the exterior from any angle. It was now definitely slipping further into obscurity.

Style code # 6367E 1962 Series 6400 Eldorado Biarritz convertible coupé was base-priced at $6477 and 1,450 were built. Engine power and equipment are verbatim from the 1961 model year.

Who’s who? (Eldorado upper, Series 6200 lower)

The Eldorado for 1962 is barely different than its Series 6200 counterpart

Cadillac Series 6400 Eldorado Biarritz (Generation Six 1963-1964)

The 1963 model year introduced a more distinguished Eldorado. The generation 6 editions of the “Standard of the World” returned true Cadillac glamour. The entire car has been redesigned. The iconic tail fins were tapered artfully further into the architecture. Cadillac built upon its heritage – if one word could aptly describe this limited-edition production automobile it would be ‘splendor’. In luxury, performance, and craftsmanship the 1963 Series 6400 Eldorado Biarritz exemplified Cadillac’s reputation.

The refined styling to the front-end design gave the 1963 Cadillacs a look of distinction. A luxurious double-decker chrome grille rivaled fine jewelry in appearance. Tasteful contours swept across the massive width in breathtaking harmony. Gleaming chrome trim follows the grille outward on each side leading down to the all-new chrome rocker panels like those used on the opulent Series 60 Special. The Cadillac “brow” lines incorporated at the front of the hood leads back to the sides ending deftly into the doors. The 1963 edition of “The Gilded One” is truly unmistakable from every angle.

The Eldorado has always been Cadillac’s most elegant automobile. That elegance spanned the luxurious interiors. Supple hand-stitched leather by Fleetwood, rich genuine wood trim accents makes this spacious cabin aristocratic in every sense. No other motorcar provided such convenience, luxurious appointments, and conveniences, with the look of sheer individuality than the Cadillac Eldorado.

Model # 6367E 1963 Series 6400 Eldorado Biarritz convertible coupé was base-priced at $6,608 and 1,828 were built. As you may clearly see, that’s a lot of car for only $6,608! With the handcrafting by Fleetwood alone would make this car exceed $125,000 in today’s world. Power and performance are almost identical to the 1962 models. The 1963 Eldorado was still using the 390 CID V8 engine but hold that thought –

The 1964 Eldorado became a part of the eminent Fleetwood series. Model # 6367E 1964 Series 6400 Fleetwood Eldorado convertible coupé has a base price of $6,608 and 1,870 were built.

The elegant styling the 1963 Cadillac introduced has been freshened to make the 1964 Cadillacs look completely different from every angle. This is the last year for the famous Cadillac tail fins. They were tapered even further into the architecture. The massive rear bumper is now delicately curved at the end caps complimenting the rear decklid that is squared off and more pronounced.

The big news at Cadillac for the 1964 model year is the all-new 429 CID 16-valve naturally aspirated V8 engine. The Cadillac-built V8 was endowed with larger displacement yielding more horses and higher torque than the previous 390 CID V8 engine. The new engine cranks 340 hp @ 4,600 rpm with 651 Nm of peak torque @ 3,100 rpm. Longitudinal acceleration is rated as 0-60 mph in 8.6 seconds with a top speed in the 126-mph range. It does the ¼ mile @ 83-mph in 16.3 seconds. The engine is mated to the trusty GM Hydra Matic 4-speed automatic transmission. This ‘power-couple’ moved the 1964 Eldorado with aplomb – once one has savored Cadillac performance/excellence such as this…it’s hard to even consider today’s Cadillac with its lackluster appeal –

Upfront, the 1964 Fleetwood Eldorado sports a beautifully beveled hood augmented by an all-new extruded aluminum grille design blending artfully into the larger parking lamp/cornering lamp assembly. The gracefully curved bumper is integrated beautifully into the front-end ensemble.

A side view exhibits a strikingly new silhouette totally in character with Eldorado. The lower tail fins disappear into the architecture discreetly ending at the doors. The 1964 Fleetwood Eldorado went ‘commando’ without rear fender skirts for a sporty, more youthful appearance. Lower chrome rocker moldings added a tasteful Fleetwood touch.

Cadillac Eldorados are renown for sumptuous appointments beyond decadence. Supple genuine leather augmented by the warmth of genuine wood accents makes luxury and elegance your constant companions. This is one of the last model years to offer such. This 1964 Eldorado is equipped with Air Conditioning. Park this beside today’s Cadillac…and weep – 

Special thanks to Jim Hailey, Daniel Schmitt, Bob Adams, and The GM Heritage Center who made this tribute to the classic Eldorado possible through the use of the photos of these rare masterpieces. They’re gone but not forgotten, NotoriousLuxury will not ever let you forget them – NotoriousLuxury © 2020

America’s design maestro dictated the trend for luxury automobiles in the 1950s and 1960s. The fourth through sixth generation Cadillac Eldorado dramatically graced the highways of the world ‘Cadillac-Style’ in every respect. The once highly-exalted Gilded One was slowly fading away into obscurity. Each model year rendered the Eldorado less exclusive making it more like the rest of the gang in the Cadillac hierarchy of luxury. But – they are still REAL Cadillacs.

During Cadillac Eldorado’s heyday, they had the competitors literally running scared. They copied Cadillac – as they say…’emulation is the greatest most sincere form of flattery’. Well, look at offerings around the world today to see ‘those sincere forms of flattery’ who took styling and design/engineering cues from the “Standard of the World.” The sad part – Cadillac is now riding on their coattails. Will we ever see another “Standard of the World?” Generations four through six make a cameo appearance…in the continuing saga of “As the Standard of the World Turns.”

A Cadillac Eldorado IS NotoriousLuxury…

…You can only guess what’s coming next – 

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