Built from 1953 to 2002 (1953-1966, 1971-1977 and 1984-1985 as a convertible) the Cadillac Eldorado was America’s longest running luxury car. Initially the Eldorado, named after the legendary South-American city, was produced as a limited edition convertible based on the 1952 El Dorado concept car. The highly sought-after first run Cadillac Eldorado Convertible had unique bodywork with ground-breaking styling. The car continued to be the trend-setter of American car design throughout the 1950s and 60s.
The Eldorado was at the top of the Cadillac range and sold in small numbers as a showcase for what the company could achieve. Later Eldorados were much closer to the other cars in the range but kept unique trim features to set it apart. A hardtop joining the convertible in 1954 called the Eldorado Seville at which point the convertible was named the Eldorado Biarritz. Despite being two door cars with their soft suspension and big V8 engines within heavy chassis’ these were very much luxury cruisers rather sports cars like the Corvette.
In the brand’s tradition, the 1957 Series 70 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham was once again a pioneering, range topping car. Hand built and priced more than a Rolls-Royce it was packed with luxurious innovations including the first automatic memory power seats, cruise control and options such as sheepskin carpeting.
By 1959 Cadillac’s design had reached its most stylised point with huge pointed tail fins and bullet tail lights. By this point standard equipment on the Cadillac Eldorado Convertible included all the things that make luxury cars of this period so memorable: power steering, automatic transmission, air suspension, power brakes along with electric windows, seats and locking.
Into the 1960s the styling became more restrained and angular but the car’s proportions remained vast and the luxuries kept on coming. In 1965 the convertible lost the Biarritz name and was marketed as the Cadillac Fleetwood Eldorado.
In 1967 the Convertible-only Fleetwood Eldorado was replaced with a hardtop-only Eldorado based on the same front wheel drive platform as the Buick Riviera and Oldsmobile Toronado but the convertible was to return in 1971. By 1976 however convertible cars had fallen from favour with manufacturers, not least for their inability to pass the increasingly strict federal safety laws. The 1976 Cadillac Eldorado was heavily promoted heavily as the last American convertible.
For 1984 and 1985 the Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz Convertible returned and sold in limited numbers. It was the last in a long line of innovative and luxurious convertible Cadillacs.
Literature you would recommend before buying a Cadillac Eldorado?
A Cadillac Fleetwood is most probably not within my means.
Nice article, but you say in 1967 the Eldorado was “based on the same front wheel drive platform as the Buick Riviera and Oldsmobile Toronado.”
The Toronado was front drive from its introduction in 1966, but the Riviera did not become FWD until 1979.
The body structures for the 67+ Eldo, 66+ Toro and 66+ Riv were related, but the Riviera had its own chassis to stay rear drive until 1979’s downsizing.