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

The 1967 Cadillac Eldorado is a milestone Cadillac by any standard. Rakish, sophisticated, and surprisingly sporty, it was the division’s first front-wheel-drive car and its first serious entry in the burgeoning personal luxury genre. This week, we explore the story of the first FWD Eldorado.

Author’s note: An earlier version of this article first appeared in August 2009. We’ve completely rewritten and expanded it, clearing up some errors and misconceptions and adding new information and new images.

1968 Cadillac Eldorado fin

ELDORADO ORIGINS

Cadillac’s first Eldorado was born in the early fifties, but the model’s conceptual roots go back to the mid-thirties, when GM styling chief Harley Earl convinced a wary Cadillac management to approve a stylish new image leader: the 1938 Sixty Special. The work of a young designer named Bill Mitchell, the Sixty Special was mechanically unremarkable, but it justified its higher price with sophisticated styling. It was a commercial success, selling around 21,000 units between 1938 and 1942, and proved highly influential. Unlike the flagship V-16, which disappeared after 1940, the Sixty Special became a permanent part of the Cadillac line, although later editions were less distinctive.

1938 Cadillac Sixty Special front 3q
When it first appeared, the Cadillac Sixty Special’s thin roof pillars, rolled beltline moldings, and lack of running boards were considered very advanced. Offered only as a four-door sedan, the Sixty Special cost about 17% more than a Series Sixty sedan, but less than half as much as a V-16 model.

Around 1951, Cadillac conceived a new image leader: the Eldorado convertible, which debuted in January 1953. Like the original Sixty Special, it was a showcase for advanced styling features, including cut-down fenders and Cadillac’s first wraparound windshield. It was expensive to build, however, and with a lofty $7,750 price tag — more than twice as much as a Series 62 sedan — it was not a volume seller. Cadillac built only 532 for 1953. Subsequent Eldorados were more like other Cadillacs, allowing a lower price and more comfortable profit margins. Sales remained modest, reaching a peak of 6,050 units in 1956, when a hardtop coupe called Eldorado Seville was added to the line.

1957 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham badge © 2005 Matthew Brown aka Morven (CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported)
The Eldorado name was suggested by a Cadillac employee as part of a contest staged by Cadillac’s advertising agency, MacManus, John & Adams, in January 1952. The Brougham series, introduced in 1957, lasted only four model years, although the name returned as a trim series in 1964. (Photo: “Cadillac Eldorado Brougham 3” © 2005 Matthew Brown aka Morven; resized and used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license)

Roughly a year after the debut of the first Eldorado, Harley Earl began pushing for an even more upscale four-door hardtop model, the Eldorado Brougham. As originally conceived, the Brougham was to be both a styling leader and an engineering flagship, with fuel injection, disc brakes, a rear transaxle, and independent rear suspension. Cadillac’s engineering staff was leery of its likely costs, but the corporation eventually approved it as a rival for Ford’s forthcoming Continental Mark II.

Many of the Brougham’s engineering features were subsequently dropped for cost reasons, but the production car debuted in early 1957, sporting air suspension, a full list of power accessories, and a towering $13,074 list price, enough to buy three Series 62 hardtops. Unfortunately, the market for such high-end cars had turned out to be much softer than expected. Cadillac sold only 400 Eldorado Broughams in 1957 and an additional 304 in the 1958 model year, and it’s likely that the division lost a lot of money on them.

1957 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham front 3q © 2005 Matthew Brown aka Morven (CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported)
With its largely unique body — including rear ‘suicide’ doors and a brushed stainless steel roof panel — the 1957–1958 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham was undoubtedly expensive to produce. One oft-quoted outside estimate suggested that each car cost Cadillac about $23,000, although we don’t know that GM ever confirmed that figure. Aside from gadgets like power seats with a memory setting, the Brougham’s lengthy list of standard equipment included an atomizer full of Lanvin’s Arpège perfume! (Photo: “Cadillac Eldorado Brougham” © 2005 Matthew Brown aka Morven; resized and used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license)

Nonetheless, Cadillac introduced a second-generation Brougham in January 1959, more conservatively styled than before, but still priced at over $13,000. To reduce labor costs, it was now built by Pinin Farina in Turin, although the car was styled in Detroit.

With the U.S. economy still in the throes of recession, the new Brougham was not heavily promoted and Cadillac’s contract with Farina apparently called for only 100 cars per year. Total production for 1959 was actually 99, followed by 101 of the mildly restyled 1960 version. We don’t know if Cadillac made money on them or not, but given their unique glass, trim, and exterior sheet metal, as well as the cost of transatlantic shipping, it seems unlikely.

1960 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham front 3q press photo X35308-0001 - Copyright 2010 General Motors LLC. Used with permission, GM Media Archive. (GMMA 14676)
The 1959—1960 Eldorado Brougham featured a new roofline, which former GM designer Pierre Ollier credits to Dave Holls, then Cadillac’s assistant chief stylist. Later adopted by several of GM’s C-body cars, it dispensed with the wraparound windshield and dogleg A-pillars of other 1959–1960 Cadillacs. This is a 1960 Brougham, distinguishable from the ’59 by its revised grille and body-side “skegs,” a feature adopted by other Cadillacs in 1961. (Photo copyright 2010 General Motors LLC. Used with permission, GM Media Archive.)

By mid-1959, the Brougham’s days were numbered. Ford had already given up on the Mark II, rolling the Continental Division back into Lincoln. The Eldorado Brougham was dropped after the 1960 model year, although retired GM designer Pierre Ollier says its styling had a strong influence on Cadillac’s 1961 line. The Eldorado Seville hardtop was dropped at the same time, leaving the convertible, which survived through the 1966 model year.

1960 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham rear 3q press photo X35308-0002 - Copyright 2010 General Motors LLC. Used with permission, GM Media Archive. (GMMA 14676)
The 1959–1960 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham had neither the fin-mounted taillight pods of other 1959 Cadillacs nor the chrome accents of the regular 1960 cars, giving it a cleaner look. Pierre Ollier says that Cadillac designers Chuck Jordan and Dave Holls considered omitting the Brougham’s fins entirely, but Harley Earl didn’t like the results and ordered the fins restored at the clay model stage. (Photo copyright 2010 General Motors LLC. Used with permission, GM Media Archive.)

THE XP-715 AND XP-727

While the demand for ultra-luxury flagships was limited, the arrival of the four-seat Ford Thunderbird in January 1958 revealed a robust market in a somewhat lower price bracket. The new Thunderbird was a curious hybrid — not really a sports car, not quite a luxury car — but it offered flashy styling and reasonable practicality for a high but attainable price. It was an immediate hit and caught GM off-guard.

Around the middle of 1959, Bill Mitchell, who had recently succeeded Harley Earl as GM’s VP of styling, assigned designer Ned Nickles to develop a new Thunderbird-style personal luxury car. Nickles’ initial concept — intended for Cadillac, but developed in a separate Special Projects studio — was a sleek, six-passenger convertible whose styling evoked the 1939–1940 LaSalle, Cadillac’s long-departed companion make. At Mitchell’s suggestion, it subsequently became a hardtop coupe with a sharp-edged roofline inspired by a custom-bodied Rolls-Royce Mitchell had spotted on a recent trip to London. The full-size clay model of Nickles’ design, the XP-715, was badged “LaSalle II.”

1959 Ford Thunderbird coupe rear 3q
The 1958–1960 “Square Bird” was a genre-defining success and one of the very few mid-priced American cars to sell well during the late-fifties recession. It was not a direct rival for Cadillac — a Thunderbird hardtop cost around $1,200 less than the cheapest Cadillac Series 62 — but it was definitely a threat to GM’s mid-price divisions. By 1960, the Thunderbird was outselling both the comparably priced Buick Electra and Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight.

Around the same time, the Cadillac styling studio, then led by Charles M. Jordan, was exploring its own ideas for a sporty personal car, conceived by Cadillac assistant general sales manager Tom La Rue and assistant chief engineer Dan Adams as an eventual replacement for the Eldorado Brougham. By October 1959, this project had yielded a full-size model, dubbed XP-727. We’ve been unable to find any photos of the first XP-727, but it was probably at least broadly similar to the XP-715 — both were two-door hardtops, with five-passenger capacity and long-hood/short-deck proportions in the mold of prewar Classics. The most dramatic difference between the two was the possibility that the XP-727 might have front-wheel drive.

GM’s corporate Engineering Staff had been toying with front-wheel drive since at least 1954 and had at least one Cadillac-engined test mule by 1958. In late 1959, a small group of Cadillac engineers, including Lester Milliken, who had developed the Brougham’s air suspension, joined their counterparts from the corporate staff to conduct winter testing of the FWD prototypes. Details about those test mules are scarce, but it appears they had transverse engines, like Oldsmobile’s first FWD prototype, which was completed a few months later. (We don’t know if they also had a similar dual chain drive system, although it seems likely.)

1963 Buick Riviera front
If the XP-715 design had become a new LaSalle, as Bill Mitchell originally proposed, it might have been offered in more than one body style. There are surviving photos of a four-door clay, probably created sometime in early 1960. When the XP-715 became the 1963 Riviera, Buick opted to offer it only as a two-door hardtop coupe.

Although the FWD prototypes performed well on snow and ice, the XP-727 project apparently stalled by early 1960. According to Chuck Jordan, Cadillac proposed the personal car idea to the corporate Engineering Policy Committee, which said no. If Cadillac really lost as much money on the earlier Eldorado Broughams as some observers have suggested, that’s not surprising; we assume the business case for a Brougham replacement was not strong, particularly factoring in the additional expense of front-wheel drive.

Beyond that, Cadillac general manager Harold Warner appears to have been at best ambivalent about the idea of adding another line. Shortly afterward, he rejected Mitchell’s XP-715 proposal, another personal car idea originally intended as a revival of the LaSalle marque. That project had the support of GM president Jack Gordon (who Mitchell said had been getting an earful from dealers demanding to know why GM had no answer to the Thunderbird), but Warner passed, seeing no need for such a car.

As author Michael Lamm has observed, Cadillac was then pushing the limits of its production capacity (which by late 1962 would prompt Warner to initiate a major expansion program), but Warner also had good reason to be satisfied with the status quo. Demand for new Cadillacs was very strong and Cadillac’s badge cachet was at its peak, so adding a cheaper companion make — particularly a more stylish one — would have been a questionable business decision, Thunderbird or no. There was still an argument to be made that Cadillac needed a personal car, but at that point, the division didn’t need a new LaSalle.

THE BIRTH OF THE BUICK RIVIERA AND OLDSMOBILE XP-784

Although Cadillac had rejected the XP-715, the design was not yet dead. Since Buick, Oldsmobile, and Pontiac were all interested, GM held an internal competition in the fall of 1960 to determine who would build the car. The eventual winner, as we have previously seen, was Buick, and the LaSalle II became the 1963 Buick Riviera.

Well before the Riviera even went on sale, Oldsmobile was asking the corporation for a Riviera-style specialty car of its own. Around the spring of 1962, Car and Truck Group VP Ed Cole finally relented, authorizing the development of a new personal Olds for the 1966 model year. As we discussed in our Toronado history, it would be based on a rendering by Oldsmobile stylist Dave North, created as an exercise earlier that year. That fall, Advanced Styling Studio 3 developed North’s concept into a full-size clay, the XP-784. It would later become the 1966 Oldsmobile Toronado.

1966 Oldsmobile Toronado front 3q2
As Dave North originally conceived his “Flame Red Car,” it would have been about the size of the later Chevrolet Camaro; Bill Mitchell later lobbied unsuccessfully to have it built on the A-body intermediate platform. The production Toronado was considerably bigger than either, stretching 211 inches (5,359 mm) on a 119-inch (3,023mm) wheelbase.

Dave Holls, Cadillac’s assistant chief stylist during this period, says the development of the Riviera and Toronado galvanized Bill Mitchell’s determination to build a sporty Cadillac personal car. If both Buick and Oldsmobile were to have stylish specialty cars, Mitchell argued, it hardly made sense for Cadillac to be left out.

The Cadillac studio had revived the XP-727 project in early 1961, resulting in a new full-size clay, the XP-727-2. We were unable to obtain pictures of that model for this article, but photos of it in other sources show a subtly V-shaped windshield, skirted rear wheels, peculiar headlamp ‘eyebrows,’ and broad semi-fastback sail panels. The XP-727-2 was apparently another dead end and was abandoned after August 1961.

As the Oldsmobile XP-784 took shape, the Cadillac studio developed another clay, the XP-727-3. It once again sported a V windshield, adding rear ‘suicide’ doors and another curious front-end treatment with exposed high beams and concealed low beams. By November 1962, that model had reached a highly finished state, but it was rejected as insufficiently modern-looking.

1962 Cadillac XP-727-3 model front 3q D-43363 - Copyright 2010 General Motors LLC. Used with permission, GM Media Archive. (GMMA 14416 part 2)
A full-size model of Cadillac’s four-door XP-727-3, photographed in late 1962. Note the very low beltline crease — accentuated on this model with bright trim — and round, flared wheel arches, which stylist Don Roper said were intended to emphasize the curvature of the body sides. According to Roper, Cadillac dropped this theme in favor of the squared-off wheelhouses of the XP-820 and XP-825 prototypes because Oldsmobile (or perhaps Advanced Studio 3) had already borrowed the flared-wheelhouse look for the Toronado. (Photo copyright 2010 General Motors LLC. Used with permission, GM Design.)

THE E-BODY CADILLAC

Full-size models of Oldsmobile’s XP-784 design were completed by February 1963 and received management approval in April. By that time, there was a strong possibility that it would have front-wheel drive, with which Oldsmobile had been experimenting since 1957.

The extent of Cadillac’s interest in front-wheel drive up to this point is unclear. Most of the enthusiasm for that idea appears to have come from Styling or the Engineering Staff rather than the division itself. The XP-727 (and possibly the XP-727-2 and -3) was designed to accept either front- or rear-wheel drive, and some early examples of the experimental OHC Cadillac V-12 (described in the sidebar below) were intended for transverse installation, implying at least some tentative notion of using the V-12 in a FWD application. However, both the stylists and contemporary Oldsmobile employees, including former Olds comptroller Dick Elliott, later maintained that Cadillac management remained indifferent to the whole idea.

Harold Warner’s interest or disinterest in FWD would soon become a moot point. By mid-1962, Ed Cole had decided that in order to maximize the corporation’s return on the substantial tooling costs of the new Oldsmobile personal car, Cadillac should have its own mechanically related car for 1966, sharing the corporate E-body shell with the Olds and the second-generation Riviera. Although formal approval for front-wheel drive would not follow for almost two more years, Cadillac was ordered to collaborate with Oldsmobile and Buick on the development of the FWD powertrain and platform.

1963 Cadillac XP-784 model front 3q D-50497 - Copyright 2010 General Motors LLC. Used with permission, GM Design. (GMMA 14667)
1963 Cadillac XP-784 model side D-51376 - Copyright 2010 General Motors LLC. Used with permission, GM Design. (GMMA 14667)
Two versions of Cadillac’s XP-784. The finished two-door model, photographed on July 24, 1963 (top), appears to share the V-shaped windshield of the XP-727-3, but otherwise looks quite different, with a higher beltline and partially shrouded wheels. The headlight arrangement isn’t clear, but it may have been intended to use Sting Ray-like pop-up lights. The less-finished clay model (bottom), dated August 30, 1963, has what appears to be provision for rear suicide doors. Note the sail panel shape and the lack of vent windows, some of the few design elements that clearly resemble the eventual production car. (Both photos copyright 2010 General Motors LLC. Used with permission, GM Design.)

In May 1963, the Cadillac studio, now led by Stan Parker, developed a new clay model based on the package dimensions of Oldsmobile’s XP-784 and confusingly sharing the same designation. Cadillac’s XP-784 had little in common with the earlier XP-727 concepts except that it was initially also a two-door coupe. By August, however, this had been superseded by a four-door version, again with rear suicide doors. This, too, appears to have been a dead end and it was dropped by September.

After the demise of the XP-784, the Cadillac studio started over, leading to a new clay, the XP-820. Photos of that model suggest a return to the themes of the earlier XP-727-3, including a similarly low beltline molding and bladed fenders, which, according to Stan Parker, were originally suggested by Bill Mitchell. The XP-820 also added a number of new elements, including a V-shaped backlight and a curious concave windshield. There were studies of a possible convertible version, although the eventual production car would be offered only as a two-door hardtop.

1963 Cadillac XP-820 model front 3q D-52440 - Copyright 2010 General Motors LLC. Used with permission, GM Design. (GMMA 14667)
The XP-820’s concave windshield and front fenders are obviously quite different from those of the earlier XP-727-3, but the low beltline crease and V-shaped prow are similar, as is the relationship between the sail panels and the rear fenders. This photo illustrates one of several headlamp treatments tried on the XP-820; this one would not have been legal in many U.S. states at the time. Note the boards in the background, depicting some of the multicylinder concept renderings the Cadillac studio produced during the same period. (Photo copyright 2010 General Motors LLC. Used with permission, GM Design.)

1963 Cadillac XP-820 model side D-52441 - Copyright 2010 General Motors LLC. Used with permission, GM Design. (GMMA 14667)
According to Automobile Quarterly, the XP-820 was based on the full-size C-body used by other Cadillacs rather than on the E-body shell. While the XP-820’s wheelbase does appear to be significantly longer than that of the E-cars, we have no explanation for why the Cadillac studio would have made such a change given the corporation’s apparent interest in maximizing its use of the E-body tooling. Note the wheel arches, which are still flared, but no longer rounded, like the earlier XP-727-3. (Photo copyright 2010 General Motors LLC. Used with permission, GM Design.)

SIDEBAR: A NEW SIXTEEN AND THE V-12 THAT WASN’T

Although Cadillac had offered both V-12 and V-16 engines during the brief thirties vogue for multicylinder luxury cars, the V-8 had been the division’s bread and butter since 1914. By the early sixties, however, V-8s had become ubiquitous. Some GM designers and engineers felt the division needed something with a little more kick — and a few more cylinders.

Around 1959, both the Cadillac styling studio and Bill Mitchell’s special projects studio (which created the design that became the first Buick Riviera) began playing with ideas for a modern Sixteen. Like GM’s Motorama dream cars, some of these designs were quite fanciful, blending thirties formal coachwork with race car velocity stacks and hoods the size of an aircraft carrier flight deck. (Gary Smith’s Dean’s Garage website has run pictures of a few of them, including a rendering by designer Wayne Kady that presages Kady’s later 1980 Seville.) A few reached the scale-model stage, but Chuck Jordan said later that none of them was really intended for production. There was at least one actual V-16 engine prototype, cobbled together from two V-8s, but it was apparently just an exercise, with no serious engineering development.

1966 Cadillac XP-840 model rear 3q D-70415 - Copyright 2010 General Motors LLC. Used with permission, GM Design. (GMMA 14416 part 2)
To our knowledge, this car — XP-840, photographed circa December 1965 — was the only multicylinder Cadillac styling study to reach the full-size model stage during this era. According to David North, this car was done not by Cadillac, but in Ned Nichols’ special projects studio, with considerable input from Bill Mitchell himself. Not visible in this shot are the split windshield, V-shaped hood bulge, and bladed front fenders; to us, this design looks like the product of an illicit liaison between a Toronado and a Corvette Sting Ray. (Photo copyright 2010 General Motors LLC. Used with permission, GM Design.)

A new Twelve was a more serious production possibility. In the early sixties, Cadillac engineer Paul F. Keydel developed a sophisticated new V-12 for future Cadillacs, featuring chain-driven overhead camshafts and all-aluminum construction. Both the block and heads were die-cast, using a new “Acura-Rad’ process and a high-silicon alloy (like the later Chevrolet Vega engine) that would theoretically have obviated the need for cylinder liners. We don’t know the V-12’s bore and stroke dimensions, but author Karl Ludvigsen says it initially displaced about 450 cu. in. (7.4 L), later expanded to 500 cu. in. (8.2 L).

According to Ludvigsen, the early V-12 prototypes, built in 1962, were designed for transverse FWD applications. This was apparently just an experimental project, but at some point in 1963, Cadillac asked the corporate engineers to adapt the V-12 for longitudinal installation, which would have have facilitated using the V-12 in Cadillac’s RWD production cars or the FWD E-car. Former Cadillac engineer Dan Adams later said the Engineering Staff built five or six prototype engines in all, the last of which was completed by early 1964.

1963 Cadillac OHC V-12 VFutureEngine4 - Copyright 2010 General Motors LLC. Used with permission, GM Media Archive. (GMMA 14416)
In 1981, Richard Langworth reported that the Cadillac V-12 had split crank pins like later editions of Buick’s 3,791 cc (231 cu. in.) V-6, leading him to conclude that the Cadillac engine also had a 90-degree bank angle; at the time, he had not actually seen the engine, since Cadillac declined to release photos of it. However, Karl Ludvigsen describes the V-12 as a 60-degree engine, which is what it looks like. If it did indeed have split crank pins as Langworth reported, we don’t know why! (Photo copyright 2010 General Motors LLC. Used with permission, GM Media Archive.)

The V-12 would have given the FWD Eldorado a clear advantage over the Toronado and Riviera, but if that idea was considered, it didn’t get very far. Although the corporate engineers experimented with various carburetion and fuel injection set-ups, the best output they were able to achieve was 394 horsepower (294 kW) and 506 lb-ft (683 N-m) of torque, underwhelming for an engine of the V-12’s size and complexity. The V-12 would undoubtedly have cost far more to build than a cast iron V-8 of comparable displacement and the viability of the Acura-Rad process was still uncertain. There were also concerns about the V-12’s ability to meet the new state and federal emissions standards then emerging. Prototype testing ended in April 1964, although rumors about the V-12 persisted in the automotive press for some years afterward. In a 2006 interview with Ron VanGelderen, Chuck Jordan insisted that there were never any serious plans to use the V-12 in the new Eldorado.

By the early eighties, Cadillac had become rather cagey about the V-12 program. When writer Richard Langworth was preparing an article about the engine for Special Interest Autos magazine, he found the division unwilling to even release photos of the V-12. However, one of the surviving prototypes is now on display at the GM Heritage Center in Warren, Michigan.

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)

MARKETING COUP

If the buying public recognized the Cadillac Eldorado’s relationship with the Toronado, they weren’t dissuaded by it. While Toronado sales had been disappointing, the 1967 Eldorado exceeded Cadillac’s projections by almost 20%. The final tally for the model year was 17,930 units, nearly three times the Eldorado’s previous record, set back in 1956. Buyer interest was strong enough that Cadillac could easily have sold more. Most of the Eldorados that were sold were fully loaded, bringing the price to nearly $9,000 — enough to buy a house in those days — and discounts were hard to come by. Some customers were so smitten that they didn’t even bother with a test drive.

The Eldorado’s popularity seems to have had remarkably little to do with its front-wheel drive. Popular Mechanics owner surveys found that fewer than 25% of Eldorado buyers had been swayed by its FWD powertrain, compared to more than 40% of Toronado buyers. Owners generally appreciated the Eldorado’s handling and wet-weather traction, but some said outright that they would have bought it regardless of its powertrain. The Eldorado’s biggest selling points were its looks and the undeniable snob appeal of the Cadillac badge. It was the hippest and most stylish exponent of America’s most prestigious automotive brand and buyers responded accordingly.

1968 Cadillac Eldorado front © 2009 Sam Vacheret (used with permission)
The 1968 Cadillac Eldorado retained its hidden headlights, but the body-colored filler plates at the leading edges of the fenders were replaced by parking lamps. Note the apparent absence of windshield wipers — they’re actually concealed behind the trailing edge of the hood, which is 4.5 inches (114 mm) longer than in ’67. (Photo: “2009-03-01 Vincennes 075” © 2009 Sam Vacheret; used with permission)

By all indications, the Eldorado was a profitable car — probably far more profitable than the Toronado — but it had surprisingly little impact on Cadillac’s total volume. The upswing in Eldorado sales for 1967 was balanced by a commensurate dip in sales of the Calais, De Ville, and Sixty Special, so the division ended the ’67 model year within 300 units of its 1966 volume. Since many well-to-do Cadillac owners traded in their cars every year, we suspect that some simply chose the Eldorado over other Cadillac models.

Nonetheless, the Eldorado did appeal to younger buyers — the median owner age was 48, compared to 53 for the marque as a whole — and it had a strong allure for Hollywood celebrities and other taste makers. As with other Cadillacs, many Eldorado owners were neither rich nor famous, but knowing that their ranks included stars like Elvis Presley and Dick Martin (of Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In) undoubtedly enhanced the Eldorado’s appeal.

1968 Cadillac Eldorado maroon wheel
As with the Toronado, the Cadillac Eldorado’s slotted wheels were were intended to allow additional airflow to the brakes; even so, brake fade was a sore point with these cars. Unlike the Toronado, which had special low-profile Firestone TFD tires, the Eldorado used fairly conventional 9.00 x 15 bias-plies (equivalent to a metric section width of about 225 mm), which were not noted for their cornering and braking grip.

As a symbol of conspicuous affluence, the 1967 Eldorado had few direct rivals. Its price and prestige put it in a different class than the Thunderbird and it offered a measure of dash and distinction that Cadillac’s conventional sedans and hardtops couldn’t match. European coupes like the Mercedes W111/W112 series still appealed more to connoisseurs than to the American masses and Lincoln’s Continental Mark III didn’t appear until the spring of 1968 — a rare case in this era of GM beating Ford to the punch in product planning.

THE 1968, 1969, AND 1970 ELDORADO

The FWD Eldorado got only minor design changes for its second year, many of them driven by the new federal safety standards that took effect in January 1968. The most obvious were an even longer hood, concealed windshield wipers, and turn signals integrated into the front fender tips. There was also a new interior with a padded dash and rosewood trim. The previously optional front disc brakes were now standard.

1968 Cadillac Eldorado maroon front 3q
The added torque of the 472 cu. in. (7,734 cc) V-8 apparently made the variable-pitch stator of the 1967 Cadillac Eldorado’s torque converter superfluous; 1968 and later Eldorados had fixed-pitch stators. When the bigger engine was added, the Eldorado’s final drive ratio was reduced (numerically) from 3.21 to 3.07, but fuel consumption was inevitably heavy: around 10 mpg (23.5 L/100 km) in city driving, less than 13 mpg (18 L/100 km) on the highway, on premium fuel.

The bigger change was under the massive hood. Cadillac’s previous V-8 had reached the limits of its capacity and it had fallen behind Imperial’s 440 cu. in. (7,206 cc) and Lincoln’s 462 cu. in. (7,565 cc) engines in size and power. In the fall of 1967, Cadillac introduced an all-new V-8 with greater growth potential and provision for emissions control devices. Still a cast iron OHV engine, it was unremarkable except in size: At 472 cu. in. (7,734 cc), it was the largest passenger car engine in the world, rated at 375 gross horsepower (279 kW) and 525 lb-ft (709 N-m) of torque. Since the new engine was accompanied by taller gearing, acceleration was not greatly improved, but the 472 gave the Eldorado a sense of effortless urge at almost any speed.

Cadillac increased Eldorado production for 1968, enough to clear the back orders, but not enough to dampen demand or undermine transaction prices. By the summer of 1968, Eldorados were still selling for full list price, a rarity for Detroit cars. Total production for the 1968 model year was 24,528.

1968 Cadillac Eldorado maroon rear
Cadillac designed the rear suspension shared by both the Toronado and FWD Eldorado: a beam axle on parallel Mono-Plate leaf springs with both vertical and horizontal shock absorbers, the latter mounted below and parallel to the springs. Spring rates were reduced for 1968, perhaps in response to early owner complaints about the relatively firm ride. The padded vinyl top was a $131.60 extra, but it was a very popular option.

The Eldorado faced its first real competition in April 1968 with the arrival of the Lincoln Continental Mark III. The Mark was about 5 inches (125 mm) shorter than the Eldorado and had a smaller 460 cu. in. (7,542 cc) engine, but in price and appointments, it was clearly aimed at the same market. Thanks to its late introduction, Mark III sales were relatively limited at first, but the Mark and the Eldorado would vie for class supremacy throughout the seventies.

1969 Cadillac Eldorado front
The 1969–1970 Cadillac Eldorado added a new grille design and dispensed with the 1967–1968 cars’ concealed headlights, which Cadillac designers feared were becoming passé. We find the exposed lights a little bland, although they were undoubtedly less troublesome than the previous vacuum-powered covers.

The 1969 Eldorado was little changed mechanically, but it had exposed headlights and another new dashboard design along with side door beams and various other federally mandated safety equipment. For 1970, the big engine was stroked to a full 500 cu. in. (8,194 cc), now rated at 400 gross horsepower (298 kW) and 550 lb-ft (743 N-m) of torque, the latter a record for postwar passenger cars. A power sunroof, made by ASC, was a new option. “Trackmaster” rear ABS became available later in the model year.

Despite competition from the Mark III, Eldorado sales remained strong, totaling 23,333 in 1969 and 28,842 in 1970 — actually edging out the significantly cheaper 1970 Toronado. High demand also boosted the Eldorado’s resale values, which were the best in the industry. Dollar depreciation was quite high, but a well-kept, year-old Eldorado retained close to 95% of its original value.

1969 Cadillac Eldorado side
Although Cadillac still described the 1969–1970 Cadillac Eldorado as Fleetwoods, their major stampings now came from the Fisher Body plant in Euclid, Ohio. Final assembly remained in Detroit through the 1978 model year, but starting in 1979, production switched to the GM Assembly Division plant in Linden, New Jersey.

FRONT-WHEEL DRIVE, TAKE TWO

Both the Toronado and Eldorado were redesigned for 1971, growing larger in nearly every dimension. The main mechanical changes were a new full perimeter frame and a new rear suspension, substituting trailing links and coil springs for the earlier leaf springs. The Eldorado retained the 500 cu. in. (8,194 cc) V-8, although a lower compression ratio trimmed its output to 365 gross horsepower (272 kW) and 535 lb-ft (722 N-m) of torque. In the new SAE net system, the big engine was rated a less impressive 235 horsepower (175 kW) and 385 lb-ft (520 N-m).

1971 Cadillac Eldorado Coupe front 3q C2006-0036 - Copyright 2010 General Motors LLC. Used with permission, GM Media Archive. (GMMA 14676)
According to Irv Rybicki, a GM design director in the early seventies, the 1971 Cadillac Eldorado’s opera windows were originally developed for the A-body “Colonnade” coupes. When a length UAW strike delayed the new intermediates a year (from 1972 to 1973), Rybiciki suggested introducing the opera windows first on the 1971 Eldorado hardtop, although GM president Ed Cole had to authorize the necessary last-minute tooling changes. (Photo copyright 2010 General Motors LLC. Used with permission, GM Media Archive.)

The 1971 Eldorado’s styling, which Michael Lamm credits to designer Wayne Kady, bore a clear resemblance to the 1967–1970 generation, but also evoked the original 1953 Eldorado with features like rear fender skirts and simulated rear fender air intakes. An interesting and influential touch was the narrow opera windows in the rear sail panels, later adopted by many other American cars.

The other big news, discussed in detail elsewhere, was the arrival of a new Eldorado convertible, the first FWD ragtop built in America since the demise of the Cord 812 in 1937. The market for open cars was on the decline in the early seventies, but the convertible accounted for about 20% of Eldorado sales through 1976, its final year.

1971 Cadillac Eldorado Coupe rear 3q C2006-0030 - Copyright 2010 General Motors LLC. Used with permission, GM Media Archive. (GMMA 14676)
The 1971 Cadillac Eldorado was 1.6 inches (41 mm) longer than the 1970 model, bringing overall length to 221.6 inches (5,629 mm). Wheelbase was stretched 6.3 inches (160 mm), to 126.3 inches (3,208 mm). Although the ’71 Eldo looks wider and heavier than before, overall width was fractionally reduced and Cadillac’s quoted shipping weight rose only 20 lb (9 kg). (Photo copyright 2010 General Motors LLC. Used with permission, GM Media Archive.)

Sales of the 1971 Eldorado were down from 1970, but we suspect that had more to do with the protracted UAW strike than buyer reaction to the new styling or the $480 higher price. Business recovered soundly for 1972 and remained strong through 1978, the last year of this generation. Although the Eldorado didn’t sell as well as the more ostentatious Continental Mark IV, Cadillac had little to complain about. Even the energy crisis had surprisingly little effect on Eldorado sales.

THE CADILLAC OF CADILLACS

In the late nineties, Chuck Jordan claimed Cadillac originally had little enthusiasm for the E-body Eldorado project. If that’s true, we hope division management was appropriately chagrined because the E-body Eldorado proved to be a great success and a thoroughly effective piece of merchandising. It’s easy to be cynical about platform-sharing, but the Eldorado demonstrates how well it can work: enough shared components to keep costs within reason, but enough distinction to establish a separate identity and justify a higher price.

Lacking the exclusivity, lavish detailing, and sheer gravitas of the old Sixteen or the ’57 Brougham, the 1967 Eldorado will never be as sought after, but we consider it among GM’s finest designs. Its protracted development and structural commonality with its E-body cousins only underscore its achievement. The Eldorado is a remarkably cohesive and confident design, expressing a deep understanding of what a Cadillac should be.

1969 Cadillac Eldorado rear 3q
Like a tuxedo, we think the 1967–1970 Cadillac Eldorado looks best in black.

We’ve been very critical of General Motors over the years, but the FWD Eldorado is an excellent example of what made the corporation so successful for so long. It did a lot of things right and it reaped the ample rewards.

# # #

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Special thanks to Kathy Adelson of the GM Media Archive for her invaluable assistance in locating rare archival photos for this article.


NOTES ON SOURCES

Our sources on the history of the FWD Eldorado included C. Edson Armi, The Art of American Car Design: The Profession and Personalities (University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1988); the Auto Editors of Consumer Guide, “1967-1969 Cadillac Eldorado,” HowStuffWorks.com, 24 November 2007, auto.howstuffworks. com/ 1967-1969-cadillac-eldorado.htm, accessed 4 December 2010; Automotive Mileposts, “1967-1985 Cadillac Fleetwood Eldorado,” n.d., automotivemileposts. com, accessed 4 December 2010; John Barach, “Cadillac History,” Motor Era, 1998-2010, www.motorera. com/ cadillac/index.htm, last accessed 30 December 2010; Thomas E. Bonsall, The Cadillac Story: The Postwar Years (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2004); “Cadillac Eldorado,” Automobile Quarterly Vol. 6, No. 1 (Summer 1967), pp. 67-73 (no byline, but possibly written by Don Vorderman and/or Maurice Hendry); Cadillac Motor Division of General Motors Corporation, “Cadillac: The 1967 Standard of the World” [1967 full line brochure], 1967; David R. Crippen, “Reminiscences of Irwin W. Rybicki” [interview], 27 June 1985, Automotive Design Oral History Project, Accession 1673, Benson Ford Research Center, www.autolife.umd.umich. edu/ Design/ Rybicki_interview.htm [transcript], last accessed 14 December 2010; Maurice Hendry, “1967 Cadillac Eldorado: It’s What’s Up Front That Counts,” Special Interest Autos #67 (February 1982), reprinted in Cadillac Eldorado Performance Portfolio 1967-1978, ed. R.M. Clarke (Cobham, England: Brooklands Books Ltd., ca. 2000), pp. 130-137, and Cadillac: Standard of the World: The Complete History (Fourth Edition update by David R. Holls) (Princeton, NJ: Automobile Quarterly, 1990); Dave Holls and Michael Lamm, A Century of Automotive Style: 100 Years of American Car Design (Stockton, CA: Lamm-Morada Publishing Co. Inc., 1997); John Katz, “1966 Oldsmobile Toronado vs. 1967 Cadillac Eldorado: The Front Line of Front-Wheel Drive,” Special Interest Autos #168 (November-December 1998), reprinted in The Hemmings Motor News Book of Cadillacs: driveReports from Special Interest Autos magazine, ed. Terry Ehrich (Bennington, VT: Hemmings Motor News, 2000) pp. 110-119; Gerald Loidl, “The History of the 1967 Cadillac Eldorado – how it was developed,” 2010, www.med-user. net/~eldoradoseville/67eldo/ 67eldohistory/, accessed 25 October 2010; and Gary Smith, ed., Ron VanGelderen and Charles M. Jordan, “Exclusive 2006 Interview with Charles M. (Chuck) Jordan,” Dean’s Garage, 24 July 2012, deansgarage. com/ 2012/ exclusive-2006-interview-with-charles-m-chuck-jordan/, accessed 7 October 2012.

Information on the origins of the Riviera came from Michael Lamm, “The Car You Wear: 1963 Buick Riviera,” Special Interest Autos #33 (March-April 1976), reprinted in The Hemmings Book of Buicks: driveReports from Special Interest Autos magazine, ed. Terry Ehrich (Bennington, VT: Hemmings Motor News, 2001), pp. 94-100. Information on the origins of the Toronado came from Helen Jones Earley and James R. Walkinshaw, Setting the Pace: Oldsmobile’s First 100 Years (Lansing, MI: Oldsmobile Division of General Motors Corporation, 1996); Michael Lamm, “Toro & Cord: So different and yet so much alike!” Special Interest Autos #35 (July-August 1976), reprinted in The Hemmings Book of Oldsmobiles: driveReports from Special Interest Autos magazine, ed. Terry Ehrich (Bennington, VT: Hemmings Motor News, 2001), pp. 100-107; and Donald MacDonald, “Developing the Toronado,” Motor Trend Vol. 17, No. 12 (December 1965), pp. 40-45. A few details on the four-seat Thunderbird came from Tim Howley, “1958 Thunderbird: Flying Off in a New Direction,” Special Interest Autos #151 (January-February 1996), reprinted in The Hemmings Motor News Book of Postwar Fords: driveReports from Special Interest Autos magazine, ed. Terry Ehrich (Bennington, VT: Hemmings Motor News, 2000), pp. 86-94.

Additional information about the 1953-1966 Eldorado, Eldorado Seville, Eldorado Biarritz, and Fleetwood Eldorado convertible came from Matt Larson and Yann Saunders, “The Fabulous 1953 Cadillac Eldorado,” The Cadillac Database, 20 February 2003, www.cadillacdatabase. com, accessed 8 December 2010; Yann Saunders, “The Cadillac Eldorado with rear-wheel drive,” The Cadillac Database, 29 June 2009, www.cadillacdatabase. com, accessed 8 December 2010; John G. Tennyson, “SIA comparisonReport: GM’s Glamorous Threesome for 1953: Cadillac Eldorado, Buick Skylark, Oldsmobile Fiesta,” Special Interest Autos #134 (March-April 1993), reprinted in The Hemmings Book of Buicks, pp. 34-41.

Additional information about the Eldorado Brougham came from the Auto Editors of Consumer Guide, “1957-1960 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham,” HowStuffWorks.com, 6 November 2007, auto.howstuffworks. com/ 1957-1960-cadillac-eldorado-brougham.htm, accessed 22 October 2010; “Mark II Meets Eldorado Brougham,” Special Interest Autos #2 (November-December 1970), reprinted in The Hemmings Motor News Book of Cadillacs, pp. 94-101; Pierre Ollier, “The Final Broughams,” Special Interest Autos #46 (August 1978), pp. 34-39; and Yann Saunders, “The Fabulous Cadillac Eldorado Brougham” The Cadillac Database, 10 October 2005, www.cadillacdatabase. com/ Dbas_txt/Brg_chap.htm, accessed 8 December 2010.

Information on Cadillac’s postwar Sixteen concepts and V-12 came from the Auto Editors of Consumer Guide, “Great Expectations: Cadillac’s Postwar V-12 and V-16,” Cars That Never Were: The Prototypes (Skokie, IL: Publications International, Ltd. 1981), pp. 6-9; Roger Huntington, “It makes sense…New V-12 for Cadillac,” Motor Trend Vol 17, No. 9 (September 1965), pp. 70-71; Richard M. Langworth, “Cadillac’s Colossal Postwar Multi-Cylinders: V-12s and V-16s for the Sixties? Well, maybe…” Special Interest Autos #64 (August 1981), pp. 24-29; Gary Smith, “Wayne Kady,” Dean’s Garage, 10 November 2010, deansgarage. com/ 2010/wayne-kady/, accessed 11 November 2010; and Daniel Strohl, “Success! Cadillac’s OHC V-12 engine photos found,” Hemmings Blog, 14 April 2010, blog.hemmings. com, accessed 19 December 2010. The latter incorporates information from Karl Ludvigsen, The V-12 Engine: The Untold Inside Story of the Technology, Evolution, Performance and Impact of All V-12-Engined Cars (Sparkford, Yeovil, Somerset: Haynes Publishing, 2005), to which we did not have access at the time of writing.

Some general information came from the Auto Editors of Consumer Guide, Encyclopedia of American Cars: Over 65 Years of Automotive History (Lincolnwood, IL: Publications International, 1996); “Gordon, John F.,” Generations of GM History, n.d., GM Heritage Center, history.gmheritagecenter. com, accessed 22 December 2010; John Gunnell, ed., Standard Catalog of American Cars 1946-1975, rev. 4th ed. (Iola, WI: Krause Publications, 2002); the Productioncars.com Book of Automobile Production and Sales Figures, 1945-2005; Yann Saunders, “The (new) Cadillac Database Glossary of Cadillac Terms and Definitions,” The Cadillac Database, 1996, www.cadillacdatabase. com; last accessed 22 December 2010; and Eric Weiner, “Time Warp: The GM Strike, Then and Now,” NPR, 26 September 2007, www.npr. org, accessed 20 December 2010.

We also consulted the following period road tests: “Ford Thunderbird [vs] Cadillac Eldorado,” Car and Driver November 1966; Joseph Geschelin, “Assembling the Eldorado,” Automotive Industries January 1967; Robert Schilling, “Eldorado Switches from Push to Pull,” Motor Trend January 1967; “Cadillac V8 – 429 Cubic Inches,” Petersen’s Complete Book of Engines 1967; “Cadillac Eldorado: An Admirable Flagship for the Captain of Industry,” Car Life April 1967; “Cadillac for 1968: Biggest engines in the industry and subtle styling changes for newest ‘standard of the world,'” Car Life December 1967; “The Most Wanted Car in the World,” Road Test September 1968; Bill Hartford, “Too Rough a Ride for the Soft Life,” Popular Mechanics July 1969; “New Cars: 1969 Luxury Specialty: Eldorado,” World Cars 1969; “Cadillac Eldorado: Still Wanted But Worth It?” Road Test April 1970; “Cadillac Fleetwood Eldorado: Ownership is not a symbol of success, but success itself,” Car and Driver April 1970; and Bill Sanders, “King of the Hill: Road testing the Lincoln Continental Mark III and Cadillac Eldorado,” Motor Trend July 1970; “GM: Cadillac,” Motor Trend 1971 Buyers Guide; John Lamm, “King of the Hill: Eldo-Mark III Revisited,” Motor Trend July 1971; “RT/Test Report: Top Luxury for Pennies…It’s not the $10,700 first cost but the $473 first year’s depreciation that makes the Eldorado a best buy,” Road Test May 1972; and John Lamm, “King of the Hill: Cadillac Eldorado vs. Lincoln Continental Mark IV,” Motor Trend July 1972, all of which are reprinted in Cadillac Eldorado Performance Portfolio 1967-1978.


RELATED ARTICLES


24 Comments

Add a Comment
  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”!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Click here to read our comment policy. You must be at least 18 to comment. PLEASE DON'T POST COPYRIGHTED CONTENT YOU AREN'T AUTHORIZED TO USE!
Except as otherwise noted, all text and images are copyright © Aaron Severson dba Ate Up With Motor. (Terms of Use – Reprint/Reuse Policy) Trademarks referenced herein are the property of their respective owners and are used here for informational/nominative purposes.