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 and an adroit application of familiar design cues 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 were 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 its 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.
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 relative 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.