The Cadillac Eldorado is a luxury car manufactured and marketed by Cadillac from 1952 to 2002 over twelve generations.
The Eldorado was at or near the top of the Cadillac line. The original 1953 Eldorado convertible and the Eldorado Brougham models of 1957-1960 had distinct bodyshells and were the most expensive models that Cadillac offered those years. The Eldorado was never less than second in price after the Cadillac Series 75 limousine until 1966. Starting in 1967 the Eldorado retained its premium position in the Cadillac price structure, but was built in high volumes on a unique two door personal luxury car platform.
The Eldorado carried the Fleetwood designation from 1965 through 1972, and was a modern revival of the pre-war Cadillac V-12 and Cadillac V16 roadsters and convertibles.
NameThe nameplate Eldorado is a contraction of two Spanish words that translate as "the gilded one" — and also refers to El Dorado, the mythical South American "Lost City of Gold" that fascinated Spanish explorers.
Chosen in an internal competition for a 1952 concept vehicle celebrating the company's golden anniversary, the name Eldorado was subsequently adopted for a limited-edition convertible for model year 1953.
Cadillac began using the nameplates "Eldorado Seville" and "Eldorado Biarritz" to distinguish between the hardtop and convertible models while both were offered, from 1956 through 1960 inclusively. The "Seville" name was dropped when the hardtop was initially discontinued, but the Biarritz name continued through 1964. Beginning 1965, the Eldorado became the 'Fleetwood Eldorado'. 'Biarritz' returned as an up level trim package for the Eldorado for 1976.
First generation (1953)The Cadillac Series 62 Eldorado joined the Oldsmobile 98 Fiesta, Chevrolet Corvette and Buick Roadmaster Skylark as top-of-the-line, limited-production specialty convertibles introduced in 1953 by General Motors to promote its design leadership. A special-bodied, low-production convertible from the 1951 GM Le Sabre show car, it featured a full assortment of deluxe accessories and introduced the wraparound windshield and a cut-down beltline to Cadillac standard production.
The expansive frontal glass and distinctive dip in the sheet metal at the bottom of the side windows were especially beloved by General Motors' styling chief Harley Earl and subsequently widely copied by other marques. Available in four unique colors. Convertible tops were available in either black or white Orlon. AC was an option, as were wire wheels. The car carried no special badging other than a gold-colored "Eldorado" nameplate in the center of the dash. A hard tonneau cover, flush with the rear deck, hid the convertible top in the open car version.
Although technically a subseries of the Cadillac Series 62 based on the regular Series 62 convertible, sharing its engine, it was nearly twice as expensive at US$7,750. The long, wide vehicle came with such standard features as windshield washers, a signal seeking radio, power windows, and a heater. The Eldorado comprised only.5% of Cadillac's sales in 1953.
Second generation (1954–1956)In 1954, Eldorado lost its unique sheet metal and shared its basic body shell with standard Cadillacs. Distinguished now mainly by trim pieces, this allowed GM to lower the price and see a substantial increase in sales. The Eldorados had golden identifying crests centered directly behind the air-slot fenderbreaks and wide fluted beauty panels to decorate the lower rear bodysides. These panels were made of extruded aluminum and also appeared on a unique one of a kind Eldorado coupé built for the Reynolds Aluminum Corporation. Also included in the production Eldorado convertible were monogram plates on the doors, wire wheels, and custom interior trimmings with the Cadillac crest embossed on the seat bolsters. Two thousand one hundred and fifty Eldorados were sold, nearly four times as many as in 1953.
For 1955, the Eldorado's body gained its own rear end styling with high, slender, pointed tailfins. These contrasted with the rather thick, bulbous fins which were common at the time and were an example of the Eldorado once again pointing the way forward. The Eldorado sport convertible featured extras such as wide chrome body belt moldings and twin round taillights halfway up the fenders. Sales nearly doubled to 3,950.
For 1956, a two-door hardtop coupé version appeared, called the Eldorado Seville at which point the convertible was named the "Eldorado Biarritz". An Eldorado script finally appeared with fender crest on the car which was further distinguished by twin hood ornaments. An extra feature on the Eldorado convertible was a ribbed chrome saddle molding extending from the windshield to the rear window pillar along the beltline. With the addition of the Seville, sales rose yet again to 6,050 of which 2,150 were Sevilles. Eldorados accounted for nearly 4% of all Cadillacs sold.
Third generation (1957–1958)Cadillac was restyled and re-engineered for 1957, with stylistic updates in 1958.
19571957 saw the Eldorado receive new styling with an exclusive rear-end design featuring a low, downswept fenderline capped by pointed in-board fins. Just behind the open rear wheel housings the lower rear quarters were trimmed with broad, sculptured stainless steel beauty panels that visually blended into the split rear wraparound bumper assemblies. A form of this unique rear-end treatment first appeared on the Cadillac "Interceptor" prototype from the immediate post-war era. Series 62 Eldorados were further distinguished by the model name above a V-shaped rear deck ornament and on the front fenders. The three section front bumper was shared with the rest of the redesigned Cadillac model line, as in previous years the Eldorados came with a long list of standard features. Four specially-built 4-door hardtop Eldorado Sevilles were also built in 1957.
1958For 1958, the car received quad headlights as the front clip was again shared with this year's updated standard Cadillacs. GM was promoting their fiftieth year of production, and introduced Anniversary models for each brand; Cadillac, Buick, Oldsmobile, Pontiac, and Chevrolet. The 1958 models shared a common appearance on the top models for each brand; Cadillac Eldorado Seville, Buick Roadmaster Riviera, Oldsmobile Holiday 88, Pontiac Bonneville Catalina, and the all-new Chevrolet Bel-Air Impala.
This years revised front clip incorporated a new hood, a new front bumper with "dagmars" mounted lower and further apart combined with a full width jeweled grille. On the Biarritz and Seville, a V-shaped ornament and model identification script was asymmetrically mounted to the deck lid. Other styling updates included the addition of ten vertical chrome slashes ahead of the open rear wheel housings and crest medallions on the flank of the tailfins. The split rear bumper assemblies were each updated with a low-profile combined reverse light/grille unit that replaced the previous years separate, round exhaust exits and reverse lights; the round brake/tail light units at the base of the fins remained unchanged. The rear license plate housing was now flanked on each side by five vertical hash marks.
1957-58 Eldorado Brougham - hand-builtAnnounced in December 1956 and released around March 1957, the Series 70 Eldorado Brougham was a distinct, hand-built four door ultra-luxury vehicle, derived from the Park Avenue and Orleans show cars of 1953–54. Designed by Ed Glowacke, it featured the first appearance of quad headlights and totally unique trim. Like the later 1961 fourth-generation Lincoln Continental, it had rear doors that were rear-hinged ; unlike the Continental the Brougham was a true pillarless hardtop as the doors latched onto a stub pillar that did not extend beyond the beltline
It cost an astonishing $13,074—twice the price of any other 1957 Eldorado and more than competitors Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud and Continental Mark II. Sales were 400 in 1957 and 304 in 1958. 1958 was the last year for the domestic production of the handbuilt Brougham at Cadillac's Detroit factory, as future manufacturing of the special bodies was transferred to Pininfarina of Turin, Italy.
The car featured a roof trimmed in brushed stainless and self leveling air suspension. The exterior ornamentation included wide, polished lower rear quarter beauty panels extending along the rocker sills and rectangularly sculptured side body "cove" highlighted with five horizontal windsplits on the rear doors. Tail styling treatments followed the Eldorado pattern. It also had the first automatic two-position "memory" power seats, a dual four-barrel V-8, low-profile tires with thin white-walls, automatic trunk opener, cruise control, high-pressure cooling system, polarized sun visors, electric antenna, automatic-release parking brake, electric door locks and a dual heating system. Other unique features included an automatic starter with restart function, Autronic Eye, drum-type electric clock, power windows, forged aluminum wheels and air conditioning, six silver magnetic glovebox drink tumblers and finally, an Evans leather trimmed cigarette case and vanity kit containing a lipstick holder, ladies' powder puff with powder, comb, beveled mirror, coin holder, matching leather notebook, gold mechanical pencil, atomizer filled with Arpege Extrait De Lanvin perfume. Buyers of Broughams had a choice of 44 full-leather interior and trim combinations and could select such items as Mouton, Karakul or lambskin carpeting.
There were serious difficulties with the air suspension, which proved troublesome in practice. Some owners found it cheaper to have it replaced with conventional coil springs.
The 1957 Eldorado Brougham joined the Sixty Special and the Series 75 as the only Cadillac models with Fleetwood bodies although Fleetwood script or crests did not appear anywhere on the exterior of the car, and so this would also mark the first time in 20 years that a Fleetwood-bodied car was paired with the Brougham name.
The 1957-58 Eldorado Brougham also marked the return of the Cadillac Series 70, if only briefly. An all-transistor signal-seeking car radio was produced by GM's Delco Radio and was first available for the 1957 Eldorado Brougham models, which was standard equipment and used 13 transistors in its circuitry.
The Eldorado Brougham received minor changes for 1958. The interior upper door panels were finished in leather instead of the metal finish used in 1957. New wheel covers also appeared. Forty-four trim combinations were available, along with 15 special monotone paint colors.
Fourth generation (1959–1960)
1959Along with the rest of the General Motors divisions, the bulky, originally proposed 1959 styling was abandoned in favor of a significantly lower, longer and wider theme as an overdue response to Virgil Exner's striking redesign of the 1957 Chrysler products. The 1959 Cadillac is remembered for its huge sharp tailfins with dual bullet tail lights, two distinctive rooflines and roof pillar configurations, new jewel-like grille patterns and matching deck lid beauty panels.
For 1959 the Series 62 became the Series 6200. De Villes and 2-door Eldorados were moved from the Series 62 to their own series, the Series 6300 and Series 6400 respectively, though they all, including the 4-door Eldorado Brougham, shared the same wheelbase. New mechanical items were a "scientifically engineered" drainage system and new shock absorbers. All Eldorados were characterized by a three-deck, jeweled, rear grille insert that replicated the texture of the front grille; this front/rear grille treatment was shared with the Fleetwood Sixty Special and would continue through 1966 with textures being revised each year. The Seville and Biarritz models had the Eldorado name spelled out behind the front wheel opening and featured broad, full-length body sill highlights that curved over the rear fender profile and back along the upper beltline region. Engine output was an even 345 hp from the engine. Standard equipment included power brakes, power steering, automatic transmission, back-up lamps, windshield wipers, two-speed wipers, wheel discs, outside rearview mirror, vanity mirror, oil filter, power windows, six way power seats, heater, fog lamps, remote control deck lid, radio and antenna with rear speaker, power vent windows, air suspension, electric door locks and license frames. The Eldorado Brougham also came with Air conditioning, automatic headlight dimmer, acruise control standard over the Seville and Biarritz trim lines.
19601960 Cadillacs resemble 1959 Cadillacs, but with smoother, more restrained styling.
General changes included a full-width grille, the elimination of pointed front bumper guards, increased restraint in the application of chrome trim, lower tailfins with oval shaped nacelles and front fender mounted directional indicator lamps. External variations on the Seville two-door hardtop and Biarritz convertible took the form of bright body sill highlights that extended across the lower edge of fender skirts and Eldorado lettering on the sides of the front fenders, just behind the headlamps. Standard equipment included power brakes, power steering, automatic transmission, dual back-up lamps, windshield wipers, two-speed wipers, wheel discs, outside rearview mirror, vanity mirror, oil filter, power windows, six-way power seats, heater, fog lamps, Eldorado engine, remote control trunk lock, radio with antenna and rear speaker, power vent windows, air suspension, electric door locks, license frames, and five whitewall tires. Technical highlights were finned rear drums and an X-frame construction. Interiors were done in Chadwick cloth or optional Chambray cloth and leather combinations. The last Eldorado Seville was built in 1960.
The 1960 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz 6467E is featured as Maurice Minnifield's vehicle in the 1990s television series Northern Exposure.
1959-60 Eldorado Brougham - made in ItalyFor model years 1959 and 1960, the Eldorado Brougham became longer, lower and wider. The Brougham featured narrow taillights integrated into low tailfins; an angular rear roof line with rear ventiplanes that contrasted to the rounded roof line; and the dual rocket-like taillights/tall fins of the standard 1959 models. Front and rear bumper assemblies where shared with the standard Cadillacs.
Designed in-house, Cadillac contracted with Pininfarina of Italy for manufacture of the low-volume model. While the Eldorado Broughams were the only Cadillacs that were hand-built in Italy, quality was lower than Detroit-built 1957–1958 Broughams or current production line standards.
Priced at $13,075, the Brougham cost $1 more than their older siblings and did not sell as well as their forebears.
A vertical crest medallion with Brougham script plate appeared on the front fenders and a single, thin molding ran from the front to rear along the mid-sides of the body. The Brougham did not have Eldorado front fender letters or Eldorado-specific body edge highlight trim. For 1960 new standard model bumpers were incorporated and a fin-like crest or skeg ran from behind the front wheel opening to the rear of the car on the lower bodyside with the crest medallions relocated to the trailing edge of the rear fenders. The standard equipment list matched those of other Eldorados, plus Cruise Control, Autronic Eye, air conditioning and E-Z Eye glass.
The Eldorado Brougham was moved to its own unique Series 6900 from Series 70 for its remaining two years.
Fifth generation (1961–1962)
1961All Cadillacs were restyled and re-engineered for 1961. The Eldorado Biarritz convertible was technically reclassified as a subseries of the De Ville, a status it would keep through 1964. An Eldorado convertible would remain in the Cadillac line through 1966, but its differences from the rest of the line would be generally more modest. The new convex jewelled grille slanted back towards both the bumper and the hood lip, along the horizontal plane, and sat between dual headlamps. New rear-slanting front pillars with a reverse-curved base as first used on the 1959-60 Broughams with a somewhat less expansive windshield was incorporated. The Eldorado Biarritz featured front series designation scripts and a lower body "skeg" trimmed with a thin three quarter length spear molding running from behind the front wheel opening to the rear of the car. Standard equipment included power brakes, power steering, automatic transmission, dual back up lights, windshield washer, dual speed wipers, wheel discs, plain fender skirts, outside rearview mirror, vanity mirror, oil filter, power windows, 6-way power bench seat or bucket seats, power vent windows, whitewall tires, and remote control trunk lock. Rubber-isolated front and rear coil springs replaced the trouble prone air suspension system. Four-barrel induction systems were now the sole power choice and dual exhaust were no longer available. With the Seville and Brougham gone sales fell to 1,450.
1962A mild facelift characterized Cadillac styling trends for 1962. A flatter, upright grille with a thicker horizontal center bar and more delicate cross-hatched insert appeared. Ribbed chrome trim panel, seen ahead of the front wheel housings in 1961, were now replaced with cornering lamps and front fender model and series identification badges were eliminated. More massive front bumper end pieces appeared and housed rectangular parking lamps. At the rear tail lamps were now housed in vertically-oriented rectangular nacelles designed with an angled peak at the center. A vertically ribbed rear beauty panel replicating the grille treatment appeared on the deck lid latch panel. Cadillac script also appeared on the lower left side of the grille. Standard equipment included all of last year's equipment plus remote controlled outside rearview mirror, heater and defroster and front cornering lamps. Cadillac refined the ride and quietness, with more insulation in the floor and behind the firewall.
Sixth generation (1963–1964)
1963In 1963, the Eldorado Biarritz joined the Cadillac Sixty Special and the Cadillac Series 75 as the only Cadillac models with Fleetwood bodies, thus acquiring the Fleetwood wreath and crest on its rear quarters and Fleetwood rocker panel moldings. The 1963 Eldorado was also the first Fleetwood bodied convertible since the Cadillac Series 75 stopped offering four- and two-door convertible body styles and production of the Cadillac Series 90 ceased in 1941. In overall terms the 1963 Cadillac was essentially the same as the previous year. The completely redesigned body imparted a bolder and more angular look. The front fenders projected 4.625 inches further forward than in 1962 while the tailfins were trimmed down somewhat to provide a lower profile. Body side sculpturing was entirely eliminated in favor of smooth, flatter slab sides. The slightly V-shaped radiator grille was taller and now incorporated outer extensions that swept below the dual headlamps and housed small circular front parking lamps. The Eldorado also had a rectangular front and rear grille pattern that it again shared with the Fleetwood Sixty Special. A total of 143 options including bucket seats with wool, leather or nylon upholstery fabrics and wood veneer facings on dash, doors and seatbacks, set an all-time record for interior appointment choices. Standard equipment was the same as the previous year. The engine was entirely changed, though the displacement and output remained the same, and.
1964The Eldorado received a minor facelift for 1964. The main visual cue indicating an Eldorado Biarritz rather than a De Ville convertible was simply the lack of fender skirts. New up front was a bi-angular grille that formed a V-shape along both its vertical and horizontal planes bisected by a central body-colored horizontal bar. Outer grille extension panels again housed the parking and cornering lamps. It was the 17th consecutive year for the Cadillac tailfins with a new fine-blade design carrying on the tradition. Performance improvements including a larger 429 cubic inch V8 engine were the dominant changes for the model run. Equipment features were same as in 1963 for the most part. Comfort Control, a completely automatic heating and air conditioning system controlled by a dial thermostat on the instrument panel, was introduced as an industry first. The engine was bumped to, with 340 hp available. Performance gains from the new engine showed best in the lower range, at traffic driving speeds. A new technical feature was the Turbo-Hydramatic transmission, also used in the De Ville and the Sixty Special. Series 62, 75. and the Commercial Chassis continued with the old Hydra-Matic until 1965.
Seventh generation (1965–1966)For 1965, the Eldorado gained Cadillac's Fleetwood designation, marketed as the Fleetwood Eldorado, in a similar fashion to the Fleetwood Series 75 and the Fleetwood Sixty Special. The Biarritz nomenclature was finally dropped from sales literature, probably because there was no need to distinguish the convertible from the long defunct Eldorado Seville and Brougham. This was the last generation Eldorado to be equipped with rear wheel drive.
The redesigned Eldorado still rode on the same wheelbase. The elevated tailfins were removed, with fins planed flat, and sharp, distinct body lines replaced the rounded look. Also new were a straight rear bumper and vertical lamp clusters. The headlight pairs switched from horizontal to vertical, thus permitting a wider grille. Curved frameless side windows appeared with a tempered glass backlight. New standard features included lamps for luggage and glove compartments and front and rear safety belts. Power was still supplied by the 340 horsepower V8. Perimeter frame construction allowed repositioning the engine six inches forward in the frame, thus lowering the transmission hump and increasing interior room.
In 1966, changes included a somewhat coarser mesh for the radiator grille insert, which was now divided by a thick, bright metal horizontal center bar housing rectangular parking lamps at the outer ends. Separate rectangular side marker lamps replaced the integral grille extension designs. There was generally less chrome on all Cadillac models this year. Cadillac "firsts" this season included variable ratio power steering and optional front seats with carbon cloth heating pads built into the cushions and seatbacks. Comfort and convenience innovations were headrests, reclining seats and an AM/FM stereo system. Automatic level control was available. Engineering improvements made to the perimeter frame increased ride and handling ease. Newly designed piston and oil rings and a new engine mounting system and patented quiet exhaust were used.
Eighth generation (1967–1970)The Eldorado was radically redesigned in 1967, becoming the brand's first entry to capitalize on the era's burgeoning personal luxury car market. Promoted as a "personal" Cadillac, it shared the E-body with the second-generation Buick Riviera and the first-generation Oldsmobile Toronado, which had been introduced the previous year. To enhance its distinctiveness, Cadillac adopted the Toronado's front-wheel drive Unified Powerplant Package, adapted to a standard Cadillac 429 V8 coupled to a Turbo-Hydramatic 425 automatic transmission. Based on the Turbo-Hydramatic 400, the THM425 placed the torque converter next to the planetary gearbox, which it drove through a metal, motorcycle-style roller chain. Disc brakes were optional, and new standard safety equipment included an energy absorbing steering column and generously padded instrument panel. The Unified Powerplant Package was later shared with the GMC Motorhome starting in 1972.
The 1967 Eldorado was a great departure from previous generations, which shared styling with Cadillac's De Ville and Series 62, the exceptions being the rare 1953 model, and the even more rare 1957-60 Eldorado Brougham. The front drive Eldorado's crisp styling, initiated by GM styling chief Bill Mitchell, was distinctive and unique, more angular than the streamlined Riviera and Toronado. The rear end was inspired by the GM-X Stiletto concept car. This was the only production Cadillac to be equipped with concealed headlights behind vacuum operated doors.
Performance was 0-60 mph in less than nine seconds and a top speed of 120 mph. Roadability and handling were highly praised by contemporary reviews, and sales were excellent despite high list prices. Its sales of 17,930 units, nearly three times the previous Eldorado high, helped give Cadillac its best year ever.
In 1968, the Eldorado received Cadillac's new V8, and disc brakes became standard. Only slight exterior changes were made to comply with new federal safety legislation. Sales set another record at 24,528, with Eldorados accounting for nearly 11% of all Cadillacs sold.
In 1969 hidden headlamps were eliminated, a halo vinyl roof was available as an option, as was a rim-blow steering wheel - the only year Cadillac offered it.
In 1970 the Eldorado introduced the new V8 engine, Cadillac's largest-ever production V8, rated SAE gross and, which would remain exclusive until it became standard on all full size Cadillacs in the 1975 model year. A power sunroof became an available option.
Ninth generation (1971–1978)The 1971 Eldorado was substantially redesigned, growing two inches in length, six in wheelbase and featuring standard fender skirts, all of which gave the car a much heavier appearance than the previous year. An Eldorado convertible model was available for the first time since 1966. Door glass remained frameless, and the hardtop rear quarter windows were deleted, replaced by a fixed "opera window" in the widened "C" pillar.
Inside, there was a new curved instrument panel and redesigned seat configurations. A fiber-optic "lamp monitor" system, which displayed the functionality of the headlamps, parking lamps, taillamps, brakelights and turn signals was mounted on each front fender and the shelf below the rear window. This wheelbase version Eldorado would run through 1978, receiving major facelifts in 1973, 1974 and 1975. Sales in 1971 set a new record at 27,368.
In 1972, sales rose to 40,074.
In 1973, the Eldorado was removed from the Fleetwood series and reestablished as its own series. The 1973 models received a major facelift, featuring a massive egg-crate grille, new front and rear bumpers, decklid, rear fenders and taillamps. Interiors featured new "soft pillow" door panels, with larger, sturdier pull-straps. The rear "lamp monitor" display which showed the driver the function of the turn signal, brake and taillamps, was relocated from the rear shelf, to the headliner just above the rear glass.
The Cadillac Eldorado was chosen as the official pace car for the Indianapolis 500 in 1973. Cadillac produced 566 of these special pace car convertibles. Thirty-three were used at the track during the race week, with the remainder distributed to U.S. Cadillac dealers one per dealership. Total sales soared to 51,451, over a sixth of all Cadillac sales.
The lengthened wheelbase reduced performance relative to contemporary premium personal luxury cars, but offered comfortable seating for six adults rather than just four.
|Make & model||Horsepower 'SAE net'||Top speed||Acceleration 0 to 60 mph||Fuel economy|
|Cadillac Eldorado||9.7 sec|
|Continental Mark IV||10.8 sec|
|Oldsmobile Toronado||10 sec|
|Buick Riviera||8.9 sec|
|Chrysler Imperial||10.4 sec|
|Rolls-Royce Corniche||9.7 sec|
|Jaguar XKE Series III V12||6.8 sec|
|Citroën SM||8.5 sec|
|Mercedes-Benz 450 SLC||9.5 sec|
|Jensen Interceptor||7.5 sec|
|BMW 3.0CS||7.9 sec|
|Stutz Blackhawk||8.4 sec|
''Eldorado Biarritz''Unlike the Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham and De Ville, which both boasted the opulent d'Elegance luxury package, Eldorado did not offer a similar plush option. This was rectified late in the 1976 model year with the Biarritz package. The car featured unique exterior trim and the rear half of the cabriolet roof was covered with a heavily padded landau vinyl top accented with large "opera" lights. Body colored wheel covers were also featured. The 1977–1978 interior featured "pillowed"-style, "tufted" leather seating, while the 1976 interior did not. As with other Cadillac models, special order contrasting upholstery piping and exterior colors were available.
The 1978 Biarritz option packages consisted of the Eldorado Custom Biarritz ; w/Astroroof ; w/Sunroof and Eldorado Custom Biarritz Classic ; w/Astroroof ; w/Sunroof.
2000 Eldorado Custom Biarritz Classics were produced for 1978 only, in Two-Tone Arizona Beige/Demitasse Brown consisting of 1,499 with no Astroroofs or no Sunroofs; 475 with Astroroofs; 25 with Sunroofs and one was produced with a Power Sliding T-Top. Only nine of the latter are known to have been retrofitted by the American Sunroof Company under the direction of General Motors' Cadillac Motor Car Division.
The Biarritz option was available on the Eldorado through the 1991 model year and was replaced with the "Touring Coupe" option for 1992. Some of the original Biarritz styling cues vanished after 1985, such as the brushed stainless steel roofing and the plush "pillowed" interior seating designs, but the Biarritz remained unique just the same.
Tenth generation (1979–1985)The tenth generation Eldorado debuted in 1979, continuing as a platform-mate of the Buick Riviera and Oldsmobile Toronado. A smaller, more fuel efficient 350 ci V8 replaced the 425 ci engine from the previous year. A diesel 350 was available as an option.
In 1980, the gas 350 was replaced with the 368 except in California, where the Oldsmobile 350 was used. In both the 1980 Eldorado and Seville the 368s came with DEFI, whereas in the larger rear drive Cadillacs it came only with a 4-barrel Quadrajet carburetor. Independent rear suspension was adopted, helping retain rear-seat and trunk room in the smaller body. The most notable styling touch was an extreme notchback roofline. The Eldorado Biarritz model featured a unique stainless-steel roof, similar to the 1957–1958 Eldorado Brougham. The Eldorado featured frameless door glass, and rear quarter windows, similar to those from 1967–70, without a thick "B" pillar. The cars were not true hardtops, as the rear quarter windows were fixed. Sales set a new record at 67,436.
For 1981, the Eldorado was powered by Cadillac's V8-6-4 variable displacement variant of the 368 engine, which was designed to deactivate two or four cylinders when full power was not needed, helping meet GM's government fuel economy averages. It was a reduced bore version of the 1968 model-year 472, sharing that engine's stroke and also that of the model-year 1977–1979 425. The engine itself was extremely reliable and durable, but its complex electronics were the source of customer complaints.
1981 was the first year full electronic "digital" instrumentation was an available option on the Eldorado and Seville. In addition to the digital electronic climate control that was standard on all Cadillacs, the standard analog speedometer and fuel gauges could be replaced with digital displays with features displaying gallons of remaining fuel and approximate range.
For 1982, Cadillac unveiled the 4.1 L HT-4100. This engine, used in all full-size 1982 Cadillacs was an in-house design that mated cast-iron heads to an aluminum block. Many HT-4100s were replaced under warranty because it was prone to failure of the intake manifold gasket due to scrubbing of the bi-metal interface, aluminum oil pump failure, cam bearing displacement, weak aluminum block castings and bolts pulling the aluminum threads from the block..
From 1982 through 1985, Cadillac offered the 'Eldorado Touring Coupe', with heavier duty 'Touring' suspension, aluminum alloy wheels, larger blackwall white-letter tires, cloisonné hood ornament, body-colored headlamp and taillamp bezels, wide-ribbed rocker moldings and available only with saddle leather interior and three exterior colors. These Eldorados were marketed as 'driver's cars' and included reclining front bucket seats with lumbar support, leather wrapped steering wheel, a center console and standard digital instrument cluster.
In 1984, Cadillac also introduced a convertible version of Eldorado Biarritz. It was 200 pounds heavier featuring the same interior as other Biarritz versions. The model year of 1985 was the last year for the ASC, Inc., aftermarket conversion Eldorado convertible. Total sales set an all-time record of 77,806, accounting for about 26% of all Cadillacs sold.
Prior to the 'official' 1984 and 1985 Eldorado convertibles marketed by Cadillac, some 1979–1983 Eldorados were made into coach convertibles by independent coachbuilders e.g. American Sunroof Corporation, Custom Coach, Hess & Eisenhardt. The same coachbuilders also converted the Oldsmobile Toronado and Buick Riviera into a ragtop.
Late in the 1985 model year, an optional 'Commemorative Edition' package was announced, in honor of the last year of production for this version of the Eldorado. Exclusive features included gold-tone script and tail-lamp emblems, specific sail panel badges, gold-background wheel center caps, and a "Commemorative Edition" badge on the steering wheel horn pad. Leather upholstery was included in the package, along with a Dark Blue dashboard and carpeting. Exterior colors were Cotillion White or Commodore Blue.
Eleventh generation (1986–1991)The Eldorado was downsized again in 1986, losing about 16" in length and 350 pounds in weight and once again sharing a platform with the Oldsmobile Toronado and Buick Riviera, as well as Eldorado's four-door companion, the Cadillac Seville. The coupés from Buick and Oldsmobile both used Buick's 3.8 liter V6 engine, while Cadillac continued to use their exclusive 4.1 liter V8. The convertible bodystyle ceded to the Cadillac Allanté roadster. The ninth generation Eldorado carried a base price of $24,251 which was nearly 16% higher than the 1985 model.
Despite its smaller exterior size, the Eldorado's interior volume remained comparable to the previous generation model as well as Lincoln's Mark VII. For the first time, the Eldorado abandoned its "hardtop" heritage and featured framed door glass. News reports later indicated that GM had been led astray by a consultant's prediction that gasoline would be at $3 per gallon in the U.S. by 1986, and that smaller luxury cars would be in demand. In fact, gasoline prices were less than half that. With a sales drop of 60%, seldom has any car model experienced a more precipitous fall. Production was only about a fourth of what it had been just two years earlier.
Aside from a longer, 5 year/50,000 mile warranty, Eldorado was virtually unchanged for 1987. A slight price drop, to $23,740, did not raise sales, as only 17,775 were made this year compared to 21,342 for 1986. The standard suspension, with new taller 75 series tires and hydro-elastic engine mounts, was slightly retuned for a softer ride, while the optional Touring Suspension, with deflected-disc strut valves and 15" alloy wheels, remained for those desiring a firmer ride. As part of a federal requirement to discourage "chop-shop" thieves, major body panels were etched with the VIN. Also new, a combination cashmere cloth with leather upholstery, and locking inertia seat belt reels for rear seat passengers, which allowed for child-seat installation in the outboard seating positions in back. The formal cabriolet roof was added this year. Available for $495 on the base Eldorado, it featured a padded covering over the rear half of the roof, and turned the rear side glass into smaller opera windows. One of Eldorado's most expensive singular options was the Motorola cellular telephone mounted inside the locking center arm rest. Priced at $2,850, it had been reworked this year for easier operation, and featured a hidden microphone mounted between the sun visors for hands-free operation. Additionally, the telephone featured a clever radio mute control: activated when the telephone and radio were in use at the same time, it automatically decreased the rear speaker's audio volume, and over-rode the front music speakers to be used for the hands-free telephone. On an interesting note, the rectangular marker lamp, located on the bumper extension molding just behind the rear wheel well on 1986 and '87 Eldorado models, would suddenly re-appear on the 1990 & '91 Seville and Eldorado Touring Coupé.
The Eldorado received a major facelift for 1988, and sales nearly doubled from the previous year, up to 33,210. The wheelbase, doors, roof, and glass remained relatively unchanged and body panels were revised. Now available in 17 exterior colors, the Eldorado was 3" longer than the previous year. Underneath the restyled hood was Cadillac's new 155 horsepower 4.5 liter V8. A comprehensive anti-lock braking system, developed by Teves, was newly available. Longer front fenders held "bladed" tips, and a new grille above the revamped front bumper. In back, new three-sided tail lamps - reminiscent of the 1987 Deville - appeared along with a new bumper and trunk lid. Bladed 14" aluminum wheels remained standard, while an optional 15" snowflake-pattern alloy wheel was included with the Touring Suspension option. The interior held wider front seat headrests and swing-away door pull handles. New upholstery patterns, along with shoulder belts for outboard rear-seat passengers, appeared for both base and Biarritz models, with the latter returning to the tufted-button design - last seen in the 1985 Eldorado Biarritz. A new vinyl roof option, covering the full roof top, featured a band of body color above the side door and windows - similar to the style used until 1978. This replaced the "cabriolet roof" option, which covered the rear half of the roof, introduced just a year earlier. With the Biarritz option package, the padded vinyl roof covered just the rear quarter of the roof top, behind the rear side windows. Biarritz also included slender vertical opera lamps, as in 1986 and '87, but now added a spear molding that ran from the base of the roof top, continuing horizontally along the door, and down to the front fender tip. The standard power antenna was moved from the front passenger fender to the rear passenger fender. Pricing went up this year - to $24,891. This 1988 restyle would be the last, until the model was replaced by an all-new Eldorado for 1992.
With such big changes for Eldorado just a year earlier, 1989 saw little that was new. The optional automatic rearview mirror went from an electrically operated mechanical tilting mechanism to the new electrochromic style, using a clear fluid filled between the mirror and a thin sheet of glass, which tints upon activation. A new exterior color, White Diamond, brought the color choices up to 18. Gone were the 14-inch wheels, as the previously optional 15-inch "snowflake"-style aluminum wheel, introduced last year, was made standard for the base Eldorado. A compact disc player, available only with the Delco Bose Gold Series music system, was a new option this year, as was reversible floor mats, and gold-plated ornamentation. New standard items include an express-down module for the driver's window, electronic oil-life indicator, a more powerful Delco Freedom II battery, a revised factory warranty, and GM's PASS KEY theft-deterrent system, which activated the fuel system based upon a coded pellet within the ignition key. Previously optional items that were now added as standard equipment included a cassette player with graphic equalizer, remote fuel filler door release, and a front license plate mounting. In an effort to use up existing warehouse stock, the brushed chrome lower bodyside accent molding, optional through last year, was added as standard equipment for 1989. New high-gloss Birdseye Maple trim on the instrument panel and console was standard on Eldorado Biarritz, and available on the base Eldorado. The optional full cabriolet roof, which re-created the dashing look of a convertible top, was offered this year in limited colors. Pricing rose again, now at $26,738. Production slipped slightly, down to 27,807. The dip in sales was partly due to competition from GM's own Buick Riviera, which grew 11" this year in a dramatic restyle, and had a production increase from 8,625 units in 1988 to 21,189 in 1989.
Aside from the new-for-1990 Touring Coupe model introduced later in the model year, it was a year of enhancement for Eldorado. A driver's side airbag was introduced as standard equipment, but as a result, the telescoping steering column was discontinued. Cruise control buttons were mounted on the center of the previous steering wheel, but with the advent of the air bag, they were now moved to the turn signal stalk. A new multi-point fuel injection replaced the throttle-body style from last year, and horsepower rose from 155 to 180, although the new system required the use of premium fuel. A new cast aluminum wheel design was optional for those customers who desired something different than the standard "snowflake" alloy wheel on the base Eldorado. Seating received numerous enhancements, including new molded trim panels, additional lateral and lumbar support, French seams, and revised front headrests. Full leather upholstery was now standard on the Biarritz model, but the base model lost the seat-back map pockets. The cellular telephone disappeared from the option list, and the vinyl center armrest was revamped. The electronic climate control received an update in the form of three automatic and two manual settings. The optional leather upholstery package on the base model now included a power passenger seat recliner. Last year's "Eldorado Option Package" was now standard. Additionally, previously optional items that were added as standard equipment this year included the rear window defogger with heated outside mirrors, and bodyside accent striping. New options for 1990 included a central-unlocking feature added to the automatic door locks. A revised deck-lid engine plaque now mentioned the port fuel injection, and the deck-lid itself held a chromed handle above the license plate opening. Also, the rear safety reflectors moved from the bumper onto the panel below the decklid this year. A new charcoal-colored vinyl strip accented the chrome bumper and bodyside moldings this year, while the front bumper guards changed from body-color to charcoal. In the front suspension, the stabilizer shaft was revised for ride and handling, while the tire jack located in the trunk had a new carpeted storage container. Price for 1990 was $28,885, with the Biarritz model an additional $3,180. Production dropped to 20,874 units, about 1/3 of which were the Biarritz model. An additional 1,507 Eldorado Touring Coupe models were made.
1991, the last year for this body style, was also the first year for Cadillac's new 4.9 liter V-8 engine with port fuel injection, teamed up with GM's 4T60-E electronically controlled 4-speed transmission. Cadillac set apart its GM transmission from other corporate models it was shared with by use of a Cadillac-exclusive viscous converter clutch which provided even smoother shifting under hard acceleration. Engine controls were monitored by the GMP4 Powertrain Control Module, an on-board 64-kilobyte computer. A new exhaust set-up with a wider catalytic converter reduced restriction by 38% from last year, while the 0-60 mph speed went from 9 seconds in 1990 to 8.2 for '91. Revised engine mounts prevented engine noise and vibration from affecting the cabin, while the new Computer Command Ride system, optional on most other Cadillac models, was standard on Eldorado. CCR would automatically adapt the suspension mode with regard to vehicle speed for better handling and ride comfort. A $309 electrically heated windshield was new to the option list this year, as was the available "Security Package" which now included remote keyless entry along with automatic door locks with central unlocking, and the theft-deterrent system. The Bosch II anti-lock braking system, previously a $925 option, was made standard this year, as well as a more powerful 140-amp alternator. A revised windshield washer system rounded out the changes for 1991. Base price was $31,245, almost $2,400 up from 1990, but the jump was not nearly as dramatic when considering the new powertrain and sophisticated suspension system, and that anti-lock brakes were now standard equipment, as well as other previously optional items that were now available at no-charge. In an effort to exhaust parts inventory - and to make the Eldorado appear to be a better value in its last year of current style production, several optional items were available at no-charge on the base Eldorado, including choice of full vinyl roof covering or full-cabriolet roof, leather upholstery with power passenger recliner, and the Delco-Bose sound system - with choice of CD or cassette. Additionally, both the $2,050 Touring Coupe and the $3,180 Biarritz packages included the power moon roof and Delco-BOSE stereo at no additional charge. This would be the last year for the Eldorado Biarritz. Production dropped to just 16,212, the lowest output seen since 1966.
Twelfth generation (1992–2002)The 1992 Eldorado was all new, drawing both interior and exterior styling cues from the 1988 Cadillac Solitaire show car. It was significantly larger than its predecessor—approximately 11" longer, 3" wider, and substantially heavier. Window glass was once again frameless, and shortly after introduction Cadillac's new Northstar V8 became available in both 270 and variants, replacing the previous generation's 4.9 L L26. The car was sold under ESC and ETC trim. The former was distinguished by a stand-up hood ornament, Cadillac crests on the rear roof pillar, and 16" multi-spoke alloy wheels, and concealed exhausts. It came standard with cloth upholstery, Zebrano wood dashboard trim, 6-way power front bucket seats, climate control, digital instrumentation, column-mounted automatic transmission shifter, and three-position electronically adjustable "Speed-Sensitive Suspension". The more handling-oriented Touring Coupe could be recognized by the grille-mounted Cadillac wreath and crest, "Touring Coupe" scripts on the doors, integrated fog lamps, flat-face 16-inch alloy wheels, and quad exhaust outlets. Its standard equipment included "Nuance" gathered leather seating areas, 12-way power seats, Zebrano-trimmed full-floor console with shifter, analog instrumentation, and specially tuned suspension. Sales of the Eldorado were up, though never again at record heights.
The Eldorado continued for the rest of the decade with incremental changes and tapering sales. For 1993 the Touring Coupe received a new two-spoke steering wheel and a body-color grille, and lost the 12-way power seats in favor of 6-way ones. A new Eldorado Sport Coupe model was introduced, featuring the new Northstar V8 and some of the accoutrements of the more expensive Touring Coupe. The most notable ones were quad exhaust, full-floor console with shifter—albeit stripped of the Zebrano trim, and even the Touring-tuned adaptive suspension, which was now touted "Road Sensing Suspension". A passenger side airbag was added as standard equipment on all models, and new 16-inch chromed alloy wheels became available.
For 1994 the lineup went back to just Eldorado and Eldorado Touring Coupe. The steering wheel was changed again, this time to a four-spoke design. Both models came with quad exhausts. A "Sport Appearance Package" allowed the buyer to get most of the Touring Coupe's cosmetic features on the base Eldorado.
Styling was freshened in 1995, with updated bumpers front and rear, side cladding, a new chrome eggcrate grille, and new seven-spoke alloy wheels. For 1996, the interior received attention, with a larger analog gauge cluster, relocated climate control system, updated stereo faces, a new upholstery style—perforated instead of the out of fashion gathered leather on the Touring Coupe. The Touring Coupe received rain-sensing wipers called "Rainsense", and once again a body-color radiator grille. Daytime running lights were standard.
In 1997, the Integrated Chassis Control System was added. It involved microprocessor integration of engine, traction control, Stabilitrak electronic stability control, steering, and adaptive continuously variable road sensing suspension, with the intent of improving responsiveness to driver input, performance, and overall safety. It was similar to the Toyota/Lexus Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management. In the wake of declining sales, circulating reports that the Eldorado would get a redesign for 1999—similar to that which the Seville underwent for 1998—would prove false as the car soldiered on largely unchanged into the new millennium, although it did get some upgrades from the 1999 Seville.
By 2000, the Eldorado was the last of a dying breed: its Buick Riviera and Oldsmobile Toronado stablemates had been discontinued, as had its perennial rival the Lincoln Mark VIII, while its Seville and Deville sedan counterparts no longer shared its platform. At this point, the Eldorado was the last production K- or E-body, and its assembly was moved to the Lansing Craft Center.
In 2001, GM announced that the Eldorado's 50th model year would be its last. To mark the end of the nameplate, a limited production run of 1,596 cars in red or white—the colors available on the original 1953 convertible—were produced in three batches of 532, signifying the Eldorado's first year of production. These last cars featured specially tuned exhaust notes imitating their forerunners from a half-century earlier, and a dash-mounted plaque indicating each car's sequence in production. Production ended on April 22, 2002 with the Lansing Craft Centre retooled to build the Chevrolet SSR. The last Eldorado to roll off the assembly line was donated to the Cadillac Museum in honor of well-known Cadillac dealer Don Massey.