1953-2002 Cadillac Eldorado
The Cadillac Eldorado marque has always been reserved as a special, sporting Cadillac. First introduced in 1953 as a limited, singular production convertible, setting the stage for all future Eldorados. Before becoming its own, separate and unique model in 1967, it was always a top-of-the-line package—sometimes as a trim option, while other years sporting unique sheet metal as it did its first year.
When Cadillac got the green light to produce their version of GM’s E-body front-wheel drive platform, shared with Buick’s Riviera and Oldsmobile’s Toronado, they designed what many consider one of the most beautiful automobiles produced. Tying into the burgeoning “personal luxury car” segment, the 1967 Eldorado was a two-door coupe with striking proportions, knife edge styling, and Cadillac’s infamous industry-leading luxury combined with performance from the massive front-wheel drive 429ci V8. The Eldorado’s transmission package utilized a roller chain transferring power through a torque converter placed next to a planetary gearbox. This was all tied into the Turbo Hydro 400 automatic transmission, dubbed “Unified Powerplant Package.” Styling was helped by the long hoods the E-body chassis permitted, and was crisp and clean with hidden headlights and full wheel openings in this era of skirted rear wheels on most all Cadillacs. This basic body lasted through 1970 with only minor changes.
The 1967-70 Eldorados established the direction Cadillac took through its entire run ending in 2002. For the second generation in 1971 the E-body was enlarged, with a six-inch longer wheelbase. Again the Eldorado shared the platform with the Toronado and Riviera. Opera windows were placed in the C-pillars—the only operational windows were in the front doors. Styling was still crisp, carrying over the long-hood-short-deck proportions of the previous years. The Eldorado again shared this new GM E-body with sister divisions Oldsmobile and Buick, retaining its unique front-wheel drive. These cars were huge, with 224-inches of length, and over 4800-pounds. Styling was more baroque, incorporating a vertical grilles in the rear-quarter panels, and rear wheel skirts making a return. With minor revisions this body lasted through 1978. In 1979 an entirely new, downsized Eldorado debuted for this third generation. Again sharing the front-wheel drive chassis and components with both the Toronado and Riviera, the styling featured an upright top, plus taunt lines and body surfaces, following the trends of the time. The new Eldorado was well received, and sales shot up to 67,463 units in its first year. Offered as both a coupe and convertible, the 1976 convertible was the last convertible body General Motors offered for almost 10 years. The last 200 produced of these convertibles were special “Bicentennial” models in white with red interiors. This general configuration would run through 1985.
Fuel economy and emissions concerns dictated downsizing throughout the industry, and nowhere was this more evident than with the all-new 1986 Eldorado. Its smaller size with less overhangs, and lacking details to differentiate it from other GM designs of the time meant Eldorado lost much of its distinctiveness. Even front-wheel drive no longer stood out as GM purged most of its rear-wheel drive platforms embracing front-wheel drive almost across its entire product portfolio. A major facelift in 1988 kept the same wheelbase but increased overhangs, while other styling tricks restored some of what traditional Cadillac owners looked for in this segment, and sales increased substantially.
The final iteration of the Eldorado was introduced in 1992 and would last 11 years. Based around the earlier 1986-91 E-body platform with its 108-inch wheelbase, designers raised the H-point and beltline giving the Eldorado a heavier, more substantial proportion. Length was increased by 11 inches and width over three-inches. Initial sales were good, but with only minor changes throughout the years and a chassis dating back to 1986, declining sales necessitated assembly be moved in 2000 to the Lansing Craft Center in Lansing, Michigan, GM’s assembly plant reserved for low-volume vehicles. The Eldorado ended production there on April 22, 2002.