The Car Connection Cadillac Eldorado Overview
The first generation was Cadillac's top-of-the-line model, offered for just a single year as a special convertible version of the 1953 Cadillac Series 62. With the long, low look of the era melded with classic 1950s lines, it set the stage for what was to come.
The second-generation Eldorado wasn't the unique masterpiece of the 1953 model, but the 1954-1956 Eldorados were still special. Sharing bodywork with the Cadillac Distinguished, the Eldorado was available as both a two-door hardtop (1956 only) and a convertible. In 1955, the Eldorado got new rear bodywork, with two tall and slim tailfins the most noticeable features, and an innovation for the time. The coupe version of the Eldorado was called the Eldorado Seville, while the convertible was known as the Eldorado Biarritz during the 1956 model year.
Just a year later, in 1957, a new version of the Eldorado arrived, carrying forward the Seville and Biarritz names for the hardtop and convertible, but with new bodywork and brightwork. Running through 1958, the third-generation Eldorado was possibly most noted for the introduction of the 1957 Eldorado Brougham, a limited-edition, hand-built version inspired by the Park Avenue and Orleans show cars of the early 1950s. At twice the price of a normal Eldorado, the Brougham was, for the time, a technological tour de force. Features included in the Brougham that made it a stand-out even against the world's utmost luxury cars of the era: an air suspension system; a dual four-barrel carbureted V-8 engine; two-position powered memory seating; cruise control; drink tumblers (it was a different era); cigarette and tissue dispensers; and a complete vanity set including cologne, liptstick, powder puff, and mirror. The Brougham was ahead of its time.
In 1959, Cadillac introduced a much longer, even lower car with dramatic tailfins and iconic rocket-shaped double tail lights. Being based on the Series 6200 (an evolution of the Series 62), the Eldorado wore these changes as well, except as the Brougham. Once again, the Brougham pushed the boundaries of price and equipment. This time around, the assembly was handled by Pininfarina, and unlike their more ordinary Eldorado siblings, the Broughams used understated, narrow tail lights and smaller tailfins. The fourth-generation Eldorado ran through 1960.
A new Eldorado arrived in 1961, with new styling and mechanical underpinnings. The style of the Eldorado in this generation presaged what Cadillac, and much of the American car industry, would do throughout the 1960s and into the early 1970s, with proportions becoming both more aerodynamic, but also longer, heavier, and chunkier than the more organic, rounded shapes of the 1950s.
The sixth-generation Eldorado ran from 1965-66 and was marketed as a Fleetwood sub-model, despite the lack of a proper Fleetwood for it to be based on at the time. The look of the Eldorado evolved only slightly for this generation, becoming more squared-off and indicative of what would come to the rest of the industry in the 1970s.
In 1967, the seventh generation of the Eldorado arrived, and it was greatly changed from its predecessors, though not necessarily for the better. The styling is best described to modern eyes as "awkward," perhaps a result of sharing a platform with the Buick Riviera and Oldsmobile Toronado. Another possible influence on the Eldorado's humble appearance was its introduction of front-wheel drive, also borrowed from the Toronado. None of this is to say the 1967-1970 Eldorado didn't have its admirers; just that it was something of an inflection point for the model line and the brand.
With the full arrival into the 1970s, the Cadillac Eldorado reach what might be considered both its zenith and its nadir. Utterly gone were the flowing, sleek lines and elegant styling; in their place a veritable land yacht--no, an aircraft carrier--took shape. Long, wide, squared-off, and utterly typical of its era, the 1971-1978 Cadillac Eldorado was a beast of its own--though it was again sharing its running gear with the Buick Riviera and Olds Toronado. Once again front-wheel drive, despite using either a 500-cubic-inch or 425-cubic-inch V-8 for its drive train, the Eldorado remains a prime example of the term "Malaise Era" when describing Detroit's evolution over the course of the 20th century.
Perhaps the only Eldorado less attractive than the eight-generation, the ninth-generation model was nonetheless somewhat innovative, with the introduction of the V8-6-4 engine (today it would be called cylinder deactivation, or active fuel management) to the Eldorado range, intended to help deal with increasingly strict emissions regulations. Sadly, it was complex for its time, and proved unreliable. This version of the Eldorado lasted from 1979-1985.
The tenth generation of the Eldorado, sold from 1986 to 1991, moved forward in design to a more modern shape, with aerodynamics beginning to take a clearer role in design, and a general wedge-like proportion that would last through the end of the Eldorado's run born. Much shorter and smaller than previous Eldorados, the tenth-gen model was also perhaps the beginning of the end for the nameplate.
In 1992 the eleventh and final generation of the Eldorado arrived, lasting for a full decade until its discontinuation in 2002. GM, having turned a corner from the forgettable-to-ugly styling of the 1970s and 1970s, had finally penned another handsome Eldorado--but it was too little, too late, and sales stagnated and fell throughout the course of its 10-year run.
To cap production of the once-legendary Eldorado line, GM produced a special final edition, built in three batches matching the first model year's production of 532 (for a total of 1,596), available only in red or white.