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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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.
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.
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
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
thanks ad8n for referring to my website – the correct link would be http://www.eldorado-seville.com
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.
My current dream car is a 69 Cadillac Eldorado but I’ll take a 70 or even a 66. ;-)
The wooden trim fitted to the 1968 Eldorado was genuine rosewood – admittedly a thin veneer, but the real deal all the same.
Thanks for the correction!
Wondering why certain 1967 Eldorados had rotary windows in the back seat, but power in the front? Most had all four window power assists
Power front windows were standard equipment on the 1967 Eldorado, but the brochure lists power rear vent windows as an extra-cost option.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
The studio name was Body design next to Body Development.
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.
Ack, you’re absolutely right. I’ve fixed that in the text. Thanks!
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”!
The V shaped rear window has always intrigued me since the car first came out. Can any one explain how it is made? Is it two pieces of glass joined together? Or is there just a simple scoring down the middle?
Wasn’t this an expensive thing to do for so subtle a design feature?
It’s one piece of glass that was bent while heated. A more dramatic version of the same technique was used on the Oldsmobile Toronado XS in 1977–78. I don’t know that it’s intrinsically that much more costly than curved wraparound glass, although anything that requires special facilities or techniques for a small volume tends to be expensive. On the other hand, these were very expensive cars being sold specifically for their styling and exclusivity, so that sort of gesture was exactly what people were paying for!
My grandmother’s ’70 Calais hardtop also had Veed rear glass, so volume wasn’t an issue if the much of the ’69-70 standard line had it. It looked like 2 pieces to me, but I was very young.
She sold it to a friend and got a ’72 because its front seatback was higher than her head, even with the headrest removed. Dad gave the ’72 to my stepbrother about 2011 with under 50,000 miles. I wish we still had her ’64.
Good point, although the rear glass on the standard cars wasn’t nearly as curved as the Eldorado, which I imagine made it somewhat less difficult to produce. Also, the Calais hardtop started at $5,637 in 1970 (and I doubt many went out the door for much under $6,500 MSRP) — not cheap — and these kinds of gimmicks were a big part of what you got over a Caprice or a Delta 88.
Great article and comments! Thanks so much. I just purchased a 1968 Eldorado It has been left out in the weather but it’s salvageable. I’m sure I’ll have it running soon
I worked on the first Toronado design in Oldsmobile Studio. Stan Wilen was the Chief Designer. If yin looknat thre red rendering compared to the final design you will se that there is very little from the rendering hat made itr to the production car. Don Logerquist created he thenme for the Toronado that was originally a back-up for the 1965 B cars. I also worked on the later car, the later one with the wraparound backlight. We modeled the backlight first on the Chevrolet Celebrity as a special Celebrity, the division was quite upset when Irv Rybicki took the design to Oldsmobile. I think there was some kind of “hot wire” involved in creating the “V” windshields, costly and a lot of scrap.
The quality tolerances at the time were so great that anything that had three sides like that piece of glass was very hard to deal with in production.
That makes sense, although it did look quite striking.
Not sure if this is the right place to ask this question but hear it goes . We are doing a slight Resto mods to a 67 Eldo & would like to swap the hood set up to the 68 to clean up the wipers issue is the cowl area the same ? We are trying to find a parts car close to us with not much luck . Any info would be helpful . Tks
Sorry, I can’t provide any advice on repair or restoration, and I can’t help finding cars or parts.