The Cadillac name has been synonymous with luxury and opulence since it started building cars in 1908. With its claim to being the ‘standard of the world’ Cadillac really pulled out all the stops for the third generation Eldorado range in 1957. A comprehensive visual redesign with an options list to rival any car on the market ensured that the new Eldorado retained its spot at the top of the automotive food chain.
1957 also marked the introduction of the Eldorado Brougham, a car built to showcase Cadillac’s dominance in the luxury sector and they went all out went it came to the specifications. It offered a number of automotive firsts such as a pillarless four-door design and memory powered seats as well as some pretty extravagant optional extras. The late ‘50s Eldorado today is a highly prized car, and provide a great insight into the booming post-war American automotive industry.
Which one to buy?
Available in two and four-door hardtop or two-door convertible, the Eldorado was at the top of Cadillac’s range of luxury offerings. Built on the series 62 chassis, the Convertibles were named Biarritz while the coupes were Sevilles. Topping this luxurious range was the Brougham Sedan, a hand-built opulent car based on the series 70 chassis, with options such as drinks tumblers, lipstick and cologne, polarised sun visors and automatic release parking brakes. Autronic eye automatic headlight dimmers and self-levelling air suspension were also way ahead of their time.
Pricing was equally jaw dropping; the Eldorado Brougham costing a fair chunk more than some other established luxury cars like the Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit. Only 400 cars were sold in the first year of production and these cars are now highly collectable thanks to their rarity.
Choosing between these models boils down to which shape you prefer. Numerous detail changes were carried out each year, as was common for Cadillac and most US manufacturers at the time. The introduction of a larger 6.4-litre V8 in 1959, as well as some of the largest tailfins ever seen on a car, makes these models among the most desirable. Initially labelled as extravagant and over the top by contemporary reviewers, these ‘59 models have developed quite a following in recent years.
Eldorado Brougham production was moved to Pininfarina from 1959 onwards, and these cars were slightly less extravagantly specced than the 1957-1958 models that were built in-house. Demand for these ultra-luxury cars remains high regardless of their model year.
The 1960 model Eldorado featured toned-down styling, and some prefer these slightly more understated looks. A large number of these cars would have been through a restoration process in the intervening years and upgrades and modifications mean that many will have engines and interior trim from various model years. The vast array of standard equipment and optional extras means that these cars are as highly specced as any contemporary luxury car, it also means that great care should be taken to ensure that all of these options work when considering one of these cars for purchase.
Performance and specs
Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz 1959
Engine 6382cc 16valve OHV V8
Power 345bhp @ 4800rpm
Torque 435lb ft @ 3400rpm
Top speed 124 mph
0-60mph 10.7 seconds
Consumption 12.3 mpg
Gearbox Four-speed automatic
Dimensions and weight
• Trim items and spare parts can be sourced from US specialists and body panels are also available. Joining a car club is a good way to get to know these cars and to find out where the best restorers and specialists can be contacted.
• Values of these cars are high and they are generally well cared for by their owners. Many have undergone restorations, but the work is not always carried out to great standards, so a thorough check should be carried out. Verification of the model history is essential too, as prices are strongly linked to originality.
• The very complex air suspension available on the Brougham can be tricky to repair and was unreliable even when new. Many owners have converted their cars to the standard springs, and Cadillac actually offered conversion kits to owners in the 60s, so it’s not unusual.
• Rust is a common problem and special attention should be given to the boot floor, foot wells and under both front and rear wheel arches. Convertibles tend to have more rust than the hard tops.
• Automatic transmissions are strong, however long periods of dormancy can cause hesitation between gear shifts. A filter and oil change generally sorts this out.
• The electrics can corrode and cause contact issues over time. There’s a lot of equipment that is electrically operated on these cars so it is essential to check that all the windows, seats, lights and assorted switches and dashboard buttons are working as they should.
1957: Third Generation Cadillac Eldorado launched, with the super luxurious, hand-built Eldorado Brougham toping the range. Standard engines now made 300bhp with dual carbs up to 325bhp
1958: Eldorado range received minor facelift with the major changes focussing on interior trim. Cadillac 50th anniversary models offered
1959: Styling changes include larger tail fins and more chrome accents, and larger 6.4-litre engines introduced across the range. Standard output now 325bhp with an optional 345bhp upgrade available. Improved power steering and shock absorbers also fitted, with Eldorado Brougham production moved to Pininfarina
1960: Final year of production for third generation Eldorado. Styling changes take a more restrained approach, reducing tail fin size and chrome detailing
Eldorado Seville: 5005
Eldorado Biarritz: 5220
Eldorado Brougham: 904
Clubs and websites
• www.caddydaddy.com - Classic Cadillac Parts
• www.cadillacforums.com - Cadillac enthusiasts’ forum
• www.cadillacownersclub.net - Cadillac Owners Club
Summary and prices
Values of Eldorados vary greatly based on condition and originality. Good Sevilles start at around the £40,000-£60,000 mark, with the convertible Biarritz body styles commanding a bit more. Great condition restorations are £100,000 and up today. The Brougham models are another level up in pricing too, especially for the early 1957 models. The majority of cars are based in the US.
The third-generation Eldorados are a milestone in automotive opulence and a symbol of 1950s America culture. Find a well looked after example and you can savour this unique mix of undisguised luxury and automotive excess as long as you have a garage big enough and a petrol station close enough.
Words: John Tallodi