1955 Cadillac Eldorado
If you were glued to your television set on Jan. 20, 1953, that's where you would catch your first glimpse of the gorgeous new Cadillac that we'd all been reading about: the original Eldorado.
The occasion was the inauguration of President Dwight D. Eisenhower. As the inaugural parade made its way down Pennsylvania Avenue, we beheld the popular new leader of the Free World, riding -- top down -- in the back seat of this sporty, yet elegant automobile.
Think about that for a moment, by the way. Nineteen fifty-three wasn't all that long ago. Yet here was the President of the United States riding in an open car. No armor plate. No bullet- proof glass. No effective protection, really -- and none of us thought anything about it. America had not yet lost its innocence.
Patterned after a 1952 "concept" car, the '53 Eldorado was the first of GM's "dream" machines to be put into production -- albeit on a limited basis. Standing three inches lower than that year's Series 62 convertible, it featured a panoramic "wraparound" windshield, the industry's first. The cut-down doors were distinguished by a stylish dip, and a sparkling set of chromed wires added a further touch of class. The interior was upholstered in the finest leathers, while the list of standard equipment included virtually all of the amenities with the exception of air conditioning, a $620 option.
The car was well named. Eldorado means, in proper Spanish, El Dorado, "the gilded one." In the lore of the ancients the term referred to a mythical kingdom of fabulous riches. This time it stood for an automobile designed to underscore Cadillac's hard-won status as America's premier luxury car -- and its most conspicuous status symbol.
Production, as we've indicated, was limited. Only 532 examples were built during the 1953 model run; and no wonder. The price -- $7750 at the factory -- though it may sound reasonable enough by today's standards, was an astronomical figure in those times. For that kind of money, in fact, the buyer could have purchased three cars: a Cadillac 62 convertible, a Pontiac sedan and a Chevrolet business coupe.
But of course there's no money to be made on a production of 532 cars, so for 1954 the formula was revised. The entire Cadillac line was completely restyled that year. Overall length was unchanged, but the wheelbase was stretched from 126 to 129 inches, and the cars were heavier and more massive-looking. There was, for the first time, an integrated bumper/grille incorporating two enormous chrome bullets which quickly became known as "Dagmars," in honor of a generously-endowed actress of the day. And the Eldorado's wraparound windshield was extended to the entire Cadillac family.
In contrast to the first edition, this time the Eldorado used the same body shell as the 62 convertible, though it was distinguished by its chromed wire wheels and a number of decorative touches including ribbed bright metal panels on the lower rear fenders. The impressive list of standard equipment remained, yet the price was sharply cut -- to $5,738, a difference of 26 percent. Not surprisingly, Eldorado sales increased fourfold, to 2,150 units, despite a somewhat abbreviated model year.
During its first two seasons, the Eldorado employed the standard Cadillac engine, the familiar and still highly advanced 331-cubic inch overhead-valve V-8. For 1954 it was rated at 230 horsepower, a 20 bhp increase that had been accomplished by the stroke of a pen. Truthfully, the 1953 and 1954 engines were identical, the former having been deliberately underrated.
The 1954 Eldorado was perceived -- correctly, no doubt -- as an outstanding value. But in the eyes of many observers it wasn't distinctive enough. It was altogether too easy for all but the most knowledgeable to mistake it for a dressed-up Series 62.
That situation was rectified for 1955. Rocketship tailfins topped the rear fenders, providing the Eldorado with a point of instant identification. Fender skirts were eliminated and wheel cutouts were enlarged, the better to show off the flashy new "Sabre-spoke" wheels. Destined to be retained through the 1958 model year, these gorgeous wheels were exclusive to the Eldorado. Add on the dashboard of each one of these fine automobiles was a small brass plate on which the owner's name was engraved.
Even the engine was different. Bore and stroke remained the same; but the compression ratio for all Cadillacs was raised that year from 8.25:1 to 9.10:1, boosting the standard horsepower to 250. But the use of dual four-barrel carburetors gave the Eldorado an additional dose of vitamins, nudging the advertised horsepower to 270 -- a figure topped only by the 275-hp Packard Caribbean. According to Motor Life magazine, this provided the Eldo with a theoretical top speed of 117 miles an hour, which spells F-A-S-T in any language.
Remarkably enough, Cadillac very nearly held the line on the price of this fine automobile. At $5,814 it was only $76 more costly than the much less distinctive (and less powerful) 1954 version. Of course, production surged ahead once more, to 3,950 units this time. That figure would prove to be the all-time high for the Eldorado ragtop.
A hardtop version of Eldorado, known initially as the Seville, was added in 1956. The glamorous $13,000 Eldorado Brougham joined the line the following year. But then from 1961 until production of the rear-drive Eldorado was discontinued in 1966, the Eldos were exclusively ragtops. By that time the engine displacement had grown to 429 cubic inches and horsepower had reached 340. But the price, remarkably enough, was still more than a thousand dollars lower than that of the original, 1953 car.
The 1955 body style number remained as 6267SX. Standard equipment on the Eldorado special sport convertible included customized interior and rear body styling: 270 horsepower dual four-barrel inducted V-8; radio and antenna; heater; power brakes; power seat; power windows; whitewall tires; metal tonneau cover; custom trim and ornamentation; individual circular tail and rear directional lights and saber-spoke wheels. The 1955 Eldorado is a certified Milestone Car.
A whole new chapter in Cadillac history began with the 1967 introduction of the front-wheel-drive Eldorado. A popular model even today, it was destined to shatter all previous sales records for the Eldo. For that story, read about the Eldorados for 1967
- V-8: Overhead valves
- Cast iron block
- Displacement: 331 cubic inches
- Bore and stroke: 3.81 x 3.63 inches
- Compression ratio: 9.0:1
- Brake horsepower: 270 @ 4600 rpm
- Five main bearings
- Hydraulic valve lifters
- Carburetors: Two (2) Rochester 4GC four-barrels
- front: Model 7007240
- rear, without air conditioning: Model 7007240
- rear, with air conditioning: Model 7007241.
|Feature||Series 62 Eldorado|
|Overall Length||223.2 inches|
|Front Tread||60 inches|
|Rear Tread||63.1 inches|
|Tires||8.20 x 15 four-ply whitewalls|
|Exhausts||Standard dual exhausts|
|Standard Rear axle ratio||3.36:1|
|Optional Rear axle ratio||3.07:1|
- Vertically adjustable power seat ($54)
- Air conditioning ($620)
- E-Z-Eye safety glass
- Autronic Eye automatic headlamp dimmer
- Other standard GM options and accessories available
- Standard equipment on the Eldorado special sport convertible included
- customized interior and rear body styling
- 270 horsepower dual four-barrel inducted V-8
- radio and antenna
- power brakes
- power seat
- power windows
- whitewall tires
- metal tonneau cover
- custom trim and ornamentation
- individual circular tail and rear directional lights
- saber-spoke wheels
- The 1955 Eldorado is a certified Milestone Car.
- The Park Avenue sedan, a futuristic show car which became the predecessor to the Eldorado Brougham, appeared at the New York Motorama on Jaunary 19. 1955.
- It was built in less than 74 days!
- Another show car seen this year was the Celebrity hardtop coupe.
- Total 1955 output of all models reached 140,777 units, a new record high for Cadillac Division.