This Time, It’s Personal: The 1967-1970 Cadillac Eldorado

THE XP-825 AND A NEW ELDORADO

In December, the Cadillac studio started what would become the final clay model, the XP-825. This was not so much a new direction as a refinement of the existing themes, combining the low beltline, sail panels, V-shaped backlight, sharp-edged fenders, and pointed tail of the XP-820 with a new nose treatment featuring a broad, flat eggcrate grille and concealed headlights.

1964 Cadillac XP-825 model side 178482 - Copyright 2010 General Motors LLC. Used with permission, GM Design. (GMMA 14416 part 3)
A fiberglass model of the XP-825, photographed in May 1964. It is close to the production design, but the front and rear overhangs are longer and it still retains the small grilles in the fender valances, a feature previously seen on the XP-727-3. There are also a number of detail differences: The front cornering lamps are mounted above the body side crease rather than below it and there are Cadillac crests on the rear fenders rather than on the sail panels. The earliest version of the XP-825 retained the XP-820’s concave windshield, but that feature was evidently discarded before this model was built. (Photo copyright 2010 General Motors LLC. Used with permission, GM Design.)

Under the circumstances, the XP-825 could easily have become a hodgepodge, but Stan Parker told Edson Armi that all the designers who worked on it were of a single mind about its purpose and identity. The XP-825 looked almost nothing like its Oldsmobile cousin despite the two cars’ structural commonality. An adroit application of familiar design cues also made the XP-825 immediately recognizable as a Cadillac, although it really looked no more like a Calais or Coupe de Ville than it did a Toronado.

According to Dave Holls, Ed Cole liked the XP-825 clay, but was apparently concerned that Jack Gordon would not and took steps to minimize Gordon’s exposure to it, even asking the designers to hide the model after Gordon had seen it so that Gordon couldn’t come back for a second look. This bit of skulduggery evidently either worked or proved unnecessary, because the XP-825 received production approval in May 1964.

1969 Cadillac Eldorado backlight
Conceptually, the 1967 Cadillac Eldorado’s V-shaped rear window dates back at least to the XP-820 clay; the photos we’ve seen of the XP-784 or XP-727-3 don’t clearly indicate if it was present on those concepts (although they did have V-shaped windshields). The backlight is glass — not plastic, as some observers assumed. Some contemporary reviewers complained that the crease caused peculiar distortions in the rear-view mirror.

Although there was apparently talk of calling the XP-825 “LaSalle,” as Bill Mitchell had suggested for the XP-715, the production car would be simply “Eldorado,” replacing the undistinguished rear-drive Fleetwood Eldorado convertible.

By the time the XP-825 was approved, Cadillac had requested an additional year for development, pushing the new Eldorado’s introduction back to the 1967 model year. Many historians have assumed that request stemmed from a desire to refine the new FWD powertrain — which may have been partly true — but we suspect that the delay in styling approval would have made a 1966 introduction very challenging. By the spring of 1964, Buick and Oldsmobile had almost a full year’s head start in production design and body engineering; Chuck Jordan said later that the Cadillac studio had to scramble to catch up.

1967 Cadillac Eldorado front 3q © 2009 Carchelogisch Onderzoeker (Wouter Duijndam) (CC BY-SA 2.0 Generic)
All 1967–1970 Cadillac Eldorados were 221 inches (5,613 mm) long on a 120-inch (3,048mm) wheelbase, making them about 10 inches (254 mm) longer than a 1966–1967 Oldsmobile Toronado or Buick Riviera. Curb weight of a 1967 model, like this one, was a bit under 4,800 lb (2,172 kg) fully equipped, rising to nearly 4,900 lb (2,220 kg) for the 1970 model. From this angle, you can see the way the body sides curve inward above the beltline, like the earlier XP-727-3. The long hood, incidentally, is not an optical illusion — it’s 7 inches (178 mm) longer than the hoods of other ’67 Cadillacs. (Photo: “AM-20-20 Cadillac Eldorado 1967” © 2009 Carchelogisch Onderzoeker (Wouter Duijndam); used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license)

ENGINEERING THE ELDORADO

Although the E-body Eldorado didn’t look like the Toronado or Riviera, all three cars shared the same cowl, windshield, and many inner body stampings. From there, the Rivera went its own way (Buick management convinced Ed Cole to let them retain rear-wheel drive and a separate cruciform frame), but the Cadillac and the Oldsmobile were mechanically very similar. Both had semi-unitized body shells, carrying their powertrain and front suspension on a long subframe (designed by Cadillac during the joint development program). Their suspensions — double wishbones and torsion bars in front, a beam axle on single leaf springs in back — differed mainly in tuning, although Cadillac added a standard rear load leveler and Saginaw’s new variable-ratio power steering, neither of which was offered on the Toronado. Cadillac used its own drum brakes, but both cars shared the same TH425 transmission and novel chain-driven gearbox. Even their final drive ratios were identical.

Despite that commonality, the Eldorado and Toronado did not share the same engine. Since the OHC V-12 had been canceled, Cadillac adapted its existing 429 cu. in. (7,025 cc) V-8 for front-wheel drive, using a special oil pan to allow clearance for the right-hand driveshaft. The 429 cu. in. engine was nominally less powerful than Oldsmobile’s high-output 425 cu. in. (6,965 cc) V-8 — 340 gross horsepower (254 kW) to 385 (287 kW) — but the claimed 480 lb-ft (648 N-m) torque output was very similar and the Cadillac engine was around 40 lb (18 kg) lighter than the Olds.

Like the Toronado, the Eldorado boasted a completely flat cabin floor, although it had its own interior treatment, substituting a familiar Cadillac ambiance for the Toronado’s space-age flair. As with the Toronado Deluxe, bucket seats were optional (curiously available only with leather upholstery, except by special order), but the standard front seat was a split “Strato Bench,” upholstered to look like buckets. Interior space was reasonable but not generous for the car’s overall dimensions, a consequence of the close-coupled proportions and stylish roofline.

1968 Cadillac Eldorado headlights
The 1967–1968 Cadillac Eldorado had concealed headlamps, hidden behind doors on either side of the grille. The lights themselves do not move, avoiding potential alignment problems. Nonetheless, the vacuum-powered mechanism can fail or jam, which is what we presume has happened to this 1968 car.

By the time the new Eldorado went into production in the summer of 1966, Cadillac had completed its expansion program, increasing its production facilities by more than 400,000 square feet (38,000 square meters). Nonetheless, the E-body Eldorado was different enough to merit a separate assembly line, a first for Cadillac. Although the body panels were produced at the Fleetwood plant in Detroit, the Eldorado was assembled in a converted engine foundry on Clark Street, which had been retooled for assembly use in 1964. The line moved at a modest 10 cars per hour; Cadillac’s first-year target for the new Eldorado was only 15,000 units, less than 10% of the division’s total volume.

DEBUT: THE 1967 CADILLAC ELDORADO

The 1967 Cadillac Eldorado finally arrived in October 1966. Although it was in some ways more sophisticated than the old Eldorado Brougham, it cost considerably less. In fact, the new Eldo’s $6,277 sticker price was about $350 less than its RWD predecessor. The new car’s position in the Cadillac line was analogous to that of the original Sixty Special; the Eldorado was priced below the Series Seventy-Five formal cars, but about 15% above the popular de Ville line. The Eldorado was also about $1,600 more than a base Toronado.

1967 Cadillac Eldorado front © 2009 abumatic (used with permission)
With the standard 429 cu. in. (7,025 cc) engine, a 1967 Cadillac Eldorado was capable of 0-60 mph (0-97 km/h) in around nine seconds and a top speed in the neighborhood of 125 mph (200 km/h). Stopping power was less impressive; the standard drums were inadequate and stopping distances were lackluster even with the optional front discs. The only upside was that the Eldorado seemed less prone to the abrupt rear-wheel lockup that plagued the early Toronado in panic stops. (Photo: “’67 Cadillac Eldorado” © 2009 abumatic; used with permission)

Critical reaction to the new Eldorado was mostly positive. While the Eldo was in no danger of being mistaken for a sports car, it actually had a modicum of road feel, reasonably accurate steering response, and adequate damping. As with the Toronado, there was almost no torque steer; other than heavy understeer, reviewers noted no serious handling vices. Straight-line performance was more than adequate and the only real dynamic sour note was the brakes, which were unimpressive even with the optional front discs.

Other than its relatively firm ride and a bit more road noise, the Eldorado behaved much like any other contemporary Cadillac. Engine and wind noise levels were low and it offered all the mod cons, including an optional automatic air conditioning system that many reviewers considered the best in the world. Car and Driver ultimately dismissed it as a Toronado in a Cadillac suit and wished for something more original, but as a sportier Cadillac, the Eldorado had much to recommend it.

1967 Cadillac Eldorado rear 3q © 2009 Carchelogisch Onderzoeker (Wouter Duijndam) (CC BY-SA 2.0 Generic)
The Eldorado was the only Cadillac to offer disc brakes for 1967, but its standard brakes were 11-inch (279mm) cast-iron drums with 2.75-inch (70mm) shoes in front, 2.0 inches (51 mm) in back. The optional front discs ($105.25 extra) were also 11 inches (279 mm) in diameter, with ventilated rotors and (initially) four-piston calipers; rear drums were retained. Note the slot on the inside face of the car’s rear fin, which exhausts cabin air. (Photo: “AM-22-20” © 2009 Carchelogisch Onderzoeker (Wouter Duijndam); used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license)

24 Comments

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  1. Nice update of the original article. One minor quibble – I believe that disc brakes were optional on the “regular” 1967 Cadillacs, too.

    They were standard on the 1967 Lincoln Continental and Imperial, so Cadillac would have wanted them available at least as an option.

    1. You would think, but both contemporary and modern sources indicate that in 1967, they were optional only on the Eldorado. If somebody actually has a ’67 with factory front discs, I’ll go with that, but as best I can tell, it appears they only became optional on RWD Cadillacs in 1968.

      1. Hi, My 67 has factory four piston front disc brakes with rear drums. The car was made in April of 67, fairly near the end of the production run. The brakes seem adequate for such a heavy car. Rear wheels will lock up under heavy emergency stopping. Thankfully I’ve only had this happen twice. Thanks, Steve

        1. The braking issues of the early FWD E-bodies (Eldorado and Toronado), even with front discs, are twofold. With front discs, the brakes are adequate for one (1) panic stop from freeway speeds, but they will get hot very quickly with repeated use, leading to substantial fade. In stop-and-go traffic or descending a mountain grade on a hot day, that can get dicey. The other problem, as you’ve experienced, is that not only are these cars heavy, they’re nose-heavy even by the standards of late sixties big American cars, so the weight transfer from a panic stop will unload the rear wheels almost completely, causing abrupt rear-wheel lockup. Eldorados suffered a bit more from both of these issues than Toronados did because of the different OEM tires, although with modern replacement rubber, that’s probably mitigated.

          The solution to the first problem would be more brake while the second problem calls for antilock control. GM started offering rear ABS in 1970 for that reason, which of course doesn’t keep the front wheels from locking or the brakes from fading on repeated application.

  2. You’re right…the 1967 brochure makes no mention of disc brakes. Interesting that Cadillac would lag behind Lincoln and Imperial in this important area – especially considering that the latter two had made disc brakes STANDARD by that point.

    Lincoln had made them standard for the 1965 model year!

    1. What’s especially peculiar is that in 1967, front discs were now optional on a many lesser GM cars. If memory serves, the only other line where the option wasn’t available in ’67 was the Corvair.

  3. Disc brakes were available on the ’67 Eldorado. They were unusual though in that the hub and rotor were a single casting making it an expensive and complex part if the disc needed to be replaced. By ’68 front discs were standard on the Eldorado, and by ’69 they had been upgraded to replaceable rotors. It is possible to adapt the 71-75 Eldorado front spindles, hubs and rotors to the earlier cars, and many owners have done so. It’s possible to tell if your car is equipped with factory discs since the cowl tag will be stamped with the letter ‘B’ along with the other factory options.
    Front discs were also optional on the RWD Cadillacs. You might want to check out the Cadillac La Salle Club website for more info, http://www.cadillaclasalleclub.com or Gerald Loidl’s http://www.eldorado-brougham.com website which has a lot of information about both the front and rear drive 1967 models.

    1. As the article says, discs were a $105 option on ’67 Eldorados, but I’ve never seen anything indicating that they were even optional on RWD 1967 Cadillacs. However, as I stated above, if somebody has evidence that they were (either factory literature or an actual 1967 — not ’68 or later — RWD model with OEM discs), I’ll go with that. I have no vested interest in saying you couldn’t get a ’67 DeVille with discs; that’s just what the evidence I’ve seen to date implies.

      I’m not a member of the Cadillac-LaSalle Club, so most of their resources are not available to me. I’m not familiar with Gerald’s site, but I will check that out — thanks for the reference.

      1. thanks ad8n for referring to my website – the correct link would be http://www.eldorado-seville.com

    2. You can find all the information about the 1967 Cadillacs on my website:
      http://www.eldorado-seville.com. No disc brakes on the RWD models were available in 1967. I do own a 67 Eldorado with the rare disc brakes.

  4. My current dream car is a 69 Cadillac Eldorado but I’ll take a 70 or even a 66. ;-)

  5. The wooden trim fitted to the 1968 Eldorado was genuine rosewood – admittedly a thin veneer, but the real deal all the same.

    1. Thanks for the correction!

  6. The Cadillac XP 840 is mislabeled. Not done in Cadillac studio by Kady. This car was modeled ,and latter built
    As a full sizer fiber-glass model in a special studio set up by Bill Mitchell who took an active part in its development.
    Mitchell had his friend Ned Niclols in charge of the studio and moved me from ast.chief designer in Cadillac studio
    To be Nicols ast. On this project. The car was to have 2 Cadillac 500ci engines becoming a V-16 ! This was just before gas mileage became a big issue! The car went nowhere as Jordan pointed out. David North ret. chief designer at GM

    1. Mr. North,

      Thanks for the clarification — I’ve amended the text. I’m assuming the Nichols studio was the same one in which the original Riviera was done; that car too was done as a Cadillac (or a LaSalle), but not by the Cadillac studio.

  7. There is a new book,in fact two comming about Bill Mitchell. I was asked to comment about rembering Mitchell
    And thie xp 840 came up. I was sent your price as reference. Good story,nice some are still interested in these
    Cars and people.

  8. Because memory is sometimes clouded I do not remember the designers name but I clay modeled the tail light for the 66 or there abouts Cadillac Eldorado in the studio across from the Cadillac Studio.
    The designers name/last might have been Smith same as Smiths garage.
    Hope he reads this and confirms or not.
    Thanks for the memories.

    1. Nick — You might also leave a comment over on Gary Smith’s Dean’s Garage website (deansgarage.com) and ask him directly. I don’t know if he regularly reads this site.

  9. The studio name was Body design next to Body Development.

  10. The original Brougham’s roof panel wasn’t aluminum, it was stainless steel, which makes more sense given the over-the-top nature of the car. It also had a reputation for getting super hot when parked out in the sun.

    1. Ack, you’re absolutely right. I’ve fixed that in the text. Thanks!

  11. Just picked up a 1967 Cadillac Eldorado for $200. Totally original. She needs some TCL, but it’s all there. Did I get a deal, or did I get screwed?

    1. Well, I’m no authority when it comes to values or cars as investments (anybody with a recent price guide can tell you as much or more than I on that score), but I would imagine it will depend a lot on how much TLC it actually requires. Obviously, at $200, you’re not likely to lose much on the initial purchase price, but the tricky bit with cars that cheap is that it can become harder to draw the line on how much is too much. The hard part comes when you’ve put five grand into fixing it up and realize that you don’t have the ability or the will to put in the additional seven grand it will take to finish it or to have a chance of getting back the money you’ve already put in. So, it depends on your goals for it, how much work it needs, and how much you’re prepared to spend, I guess.

  12. I been driving a 67-70 Eldorado everyday since 79.My car now since 2003.67/with discs and a wild built 514!No other car compares,new or old in my opinion! I also have a killer GMC motorhome with the same tranny,starter…I love being smarter than the transportation,and having assets not liabilities in the driveway that the light comes on “Service Engine Now”!

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