The Eldorado was a Cadillac classic for almost 59 years and is known as the longest running American personal luxury car. The name Eldorado is said to have several different origins, with one of the most well known being a reference to a legendary South American city that is filled with gold and riches. Whatever its origin, the Eldorado is somewhat of a legend in the automotive world, and for good reason.
The original Cadillac Eldorado was built for a car show and was shown to mark the anniversary of Cadillac. The first time the Eldorado name was used it was for a limited edition convertible in 1953. The Eldorado wasn’t at the very top of the line, but it was always amongst the most expensive and luxurious of the Cadillac vehicles.
The Cadillac Eldorado of the 1950s
As mentioned briefly above, the first Eldorado was a limited edition convertible that was introduced in 1953. The 1950s Eldorado truly was limited, as there were only 532 units made. Cadillac offered the vehicle in four different colors, which were Aztec Red, Alpine White, Azure Blue, and Artisan Ochre, which is a yellow color. The Eldorado nameplate was seen in the center of the dash and the convertible top was either black or white. The 1953 Eldorado had a windshield that wrapped around and an overall style that would set trends in the world of convertible vehicles. The retail price on the 1953 very limited edition convertible was $7,750, almost twice as expensive as the Series 62 that shared the Eldorado’s engine.
In 1954 the Eldorado saw the end of what had been a unique sheet metal body, when it started using the body shell that was used by other Cadillac vehicles. Cadillac did away with the special sheet metal so that they could make the vehicle stand out with trim features, lowering the cost substantially. In 1955 more changes were made to the Eldorado, with a new rear fascia, and thinner tailfins. The year 1956 saw more changes, with the offering of a two door hard top coupe that was called the Eldorado Seville.
In 1957 Cadillac offered the Eldorado Brougham, which was a four door hard top vehicle that featured rear opening doors. The Brougham also featured a stainless steel roof, air suspension, dual headlights, powered seats, and came at a price tag of more than $13,000, which was a lot for the time. Cadillac offered the Eldorado Broughham for two years, selling just 704 units, as the price tag kept many away. The Cadillac Eldorado Brougham is one of the most rare and collectible vehicles today.
The Eldorado Brougham was seen again in 1959 as well as 1960, though it was a different car. These vehicles were assembled in Italy and featured narrow taillights with wide fins. While these Broughams are not seen all that much, they were not built as well as the first generation so they are not as widely collected or as valuable.
The Cadillac Eldorado of the 1960s
The last Eldorado was seen in 1960 and was known as the Eldorado Seville. After 1960 the Eldorado convertible was simply a trim level of the basic Cadillac convertible. Although the Eldorado convertible was seen in the Cadillac lineup through the 1966 model year, its differences were not all that discernable from other trim lines.
The Eldorado saw a big change in 1967, and was marketed and built for the personal luxury car market. The new Eldorado was based on the E-body platform and was a front wheel drive vehicle. A Cadillac 429 V8 engine powered the new Eldorado and was coupled with a modified Turbo Hydramatic and torque converter. This Eldorado had hidden headlights, a long hood, and could accelerate from 0-60 in not quite nine seconds. In 1968 the engine was upgraded to a 7.7 liter 375 horsepower engine. In 1969 the Eldorado sported options such as a vinyl roof, or a powered sunroof.
The Cadillac Eldorado of the 1970s
Starting with the 1970 model, the engine was upgraded to an 8.2 liter V8 engine that boasted a remarkable 400 horsepower and was exclusive to Eldorado until 1975. In 1971 a convertible model as well as fender skirts were added. Also, Cadillac offered a new hardtop, which was the opera window. The opera window was a fixed rear side window. The new changes proved popular, and the opera window was used time and again with the Eldorado as inspiration. In 1977 the Eldorado became General Motors largest car when they downsized all of their other rear wheel drive vehicles.
In 1979 a new Eldorado was offered by Cadillac, and featured a 5.7-liter and a 6.0-liter engine. The engine was apparently changed for better fuel efficiency. Cadillac also suited the Eldorado with an independent rear suspension, which gave more room in the rear seat as well as in the trunk. The 1979 model year also saw the return of the silver roof.
For the 1981 model, Cadillac used a V8 6-4 variable displacement. This was the first time the Eldorado had an elaborate electronic monitoring system. Unfortunately for Cadillac, the displacement and electronic monitoring system didn’t work all that well. The model got a lot of customer complaints, but did not hurt the overall credibility of the Eldorado.
For the 1986 model year the Eldorado was downsized. Many reported that the new Eldorado seemed sort of squat and small, especially since it was competing against the Lincoln Mark VII. Consumers were not impressed with the new Eldorado, and Cadillac saw only one fifth of the sales it had seen in 1984. This same basic design was used through 1991, and sales never did increase.
The Cadillac Eldorado of the 1990s
Finally Cadillac brought a new Eldorado onto the market in 1992. This Eldorado wasn’t all that much bigger, but the styling was genius. The window glass was frameless, unlike the disaster of the 1980s and the new NorthStar V8 powered the Eldorado. The Eldorado was still just two doors, and though sales were up from the 1980s they were not as high as the sales of the four-door Cadillac Seville. The Eldorado did not see any more major changes for the remainder of the 1990s aside from a few minor exterior and interior changes.
The Last Eldorado
The last year of the Eldorado would be the 49th model year for the vehicle, in 2002. In 1992 the Eldorado ETC was introduced and was a very powerful front wheel drive vehicle that provided 300 horsepower. The last year had a limited edition run that was painted in the original red and white colors. Sadly, production of the Eldorado officially ended on April 22, 2003. Many still blame the downsizing of the 1980s for the steady decline of the Eldorado’s popularity and its eventual demise.