By on February 5, 2010

What words shall we use to describe this 1978 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz Classic Coupe?  (actually, it might be a 1978 Cadillac Eldorado Custom Classic Biarritz Coupe). Maybe we don’t need any more words at all; the name pretty much says it all. But let’s throw a few at it and see if they stick: faded glory, wretched excess, the last big Eldorado, the perfect symbol of the seventies, the Bizarritz, a bloated horror, a handsome classic; we could go on all day (and I invite you to add your own to the list). Or we could just look at it in wonder (horror?), this vivid reminder of just how far we’ve come as well as Cadillac with their new CTS Coupe, since the decade when this Eldorado and its Lincoln Mark IV and Mark V counterparts roamed this land, proud and unfettered.

Well, maybe proud, but not exactly unfettered. When the new 1971 Eldorado first burst forth from its Brontosaurus sized egg, it proudly proclaimed the title of the biggest engine ever in a post-war car. A nice round 500 cubic inches (8.2 liters) cranked out some 365 (gross) horsepower and about as much torque as a ship’s prime mover. Somehow, the Eldorado’s engine stumbled through energy crisis one without giving up a precious cubic inch, but in 1977, it lost the title. The big Caddy V8 started out in 1968 with 472 cubic inches and was designed to potentially grow up to some 600 cubes in the expansive mood and outlook of the times. For 1977 and 1978 it now was 425 cubic inches and 195 (net) horsepower, but this wasn’t the last stop in the gelding process.

Perhaps Caddy waited until 1977 because they wanted the last convertible Eldorado in 1976  to bow out in 8.2 liter style. That caused quite a sensation and a run on them, having been dubbed the last American convertible ever due to proposed roll-over restrictions that were later rescinded. So to throw a little interest in the coupe after the passing of the rag top, the Biarritz, and its Custom and Classic variants were deployed in that Super-Fly era of Eldorado customs.

The wretched excess and tastelessness of the seventies custom era were all the classic signs that this era of giant personal coupes was already morbid, and due to be resigned to the schlock and kitsch chapters of automotive history. I doubt Cadillac envisoned that when the dramatic 1967 FWD Eldorado first appeared in its knife-edged glory. Trying to recapture the exclusive and true luxury of earlier coupes, like the 1956 Continental, the Eldo arrived at a critical time for Cadillac and Americans. Incomes were up, taxes were lower, as were Caddy prices. Whereas the failed Continental coupe was truly exclusive, the Eldorado ushered in the era of affordable non-exclusivity. And in doing so, it sowed the seeds of the ultimate destruction of the genre.

Lincoln’s down-scale but up-sized Mark III of 1969 managed to capture the public’s frenzy for long-hood luxo-coupes even more definitively, and outsold the Eldorado by healthy margins during their heyday. The ’67 Eldorado’s styling was still trying to be a bit “interesting”; the Mark III was just a blatant land-grab for the biggest hood and most pretentious grille. Not surprisingly, that was the formula for success.

The 1971 – 1978 Eldorado was not a particularly handsome beast, foreshadowing American’s battle with love handles. Lincoln’s Marks stayed with the angular ultra-long hood theme, and steam-rolled the pudgy Eldo. The Eldorado wasn’t an inspiring car to drive either; which probably won’t come as a surprise to those whose lives might feel incomplete for not having had wheel time behind one of these. Use your imagination, and you’ll have the experience down perfectly: billowing, narcoleptic, floating, swimming, drowning, slewing, sloshing; you Eldo drivers feel free to add more to the list.

Obviously, the plastic material Cadillac used to fill the gaps between the steel fenders and the bumper end caps was not a long-lived substance. I see Caddys of this vintage and into the eighties with these charming gaps everywhere. And that’s in western Oregon, one of the most benign climates for solar damage. I find them to be a fitting symbol of the decay of America’s big luxury cars, when cheap plastics were massively employed for all sorts of fraudulent roles inside and out. You won’t see this happening to a 1978 Mercedes. Live and learn.

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97 Comments on “Curbside Classic: 1978 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz Classic Coupe...”


  • avatar
    texlovera

    Paul, as much as I enjoy your writing, I think you could have just posted the pictures this time – they tell the whole, sad story all by themselves.

    EDIT: Hah! The “clue” for this was on the next page; just noticed you said you were going to let the picture do the talking there…

  • avatar

    This thing was faded glory when it was new. That ’67 was so much more beautifully styled, if equal in excess. The striking thing about Cadillac’s evolution is that they did all sorts of baroque detail, and did it extremely well in the ’60s–which is hard to do as it’s much easier to do a good job on style while keeping it simple–and in the ’70s, there was less detail, and even with the simplicity, the styling went down the toilet. This thing is not as good looking as some of your contemporary family sedans, most of which are boring at best.

    Funny about those gaps–kind of like the cartilage disappearing from a skeleton.

    • 0 avatar
      mikan

      The gaps are from the missing plastic covers from the federally mandated 5-mile bumpers… The bumpers were/are mounted on giant shock absorbers bolted to the perimeter frame, and they can be pushed in about as far as the gap (4-5 inches) before any metal-on-metal contact (i.e., before any repairs are necessary).

      I used to have a ’74 and I was rear-ended by a Mercedes 300 (late 80s I think) one time. Not one bit of damage to the Eldorado (not as much as a scratch on the bumper—well it had rubber impact strips too) but the Benz had to be towed, as its bumper was completely ripped off and poked into one of the front tires.

      Much as people malign the handling of the Eldorado here, I’d say it was in many ways a more “modern” feeling car than the older-designed RWD Cadillacs. Now I have a ’70 De Ville Convertible, which is a much more fun, faster, sexier car, also built to a much higher standard of workmanship and with almost no plastic anywhere. Still…. the Eldorado was more pleasant to drive fast. It didn’t roll around as much and felt much more steady over bumps. When pushed it would start not responding (just plowing with a front-end slide) and there wasn’t much you could do about it. The De Ville is more of a squirrel when you step on the gas on a windy road, more body lean, etc. Although the Eldorado really was good at scaring passengers—owing to the pretty messed-up front-end design, it would start squealing tires LONG before there was any real risk of loss of control. You could literally squeal the tires in every corner and not really be driving close to any danger zones. Scary for the girls… heh

  • avatar
    mtymsi

    Back in their day both the Eldo and Mark III/IV/V were very popular in the metro Detroit area. In fact when the Mark V was introduced in the fall of 76 Ford went on a ten week strike and demand for the car was never caught up for the entire 77 model year. By 79 you couldn’t give them away. (I sold LM at the time for the largest Lincoln store in the U.S.) They were both cars of their era and I enjoyed them. Glad I had the opportunity. I’ve often thought there was enough room on the hood for a large picnic table.

  • avatar
    Canucknucklehead

    This thing has to win the award for the smallest interior on the largest car. The worst driving, floating nightmare ever. Suck the most gas for the least acceleration. Midas of the year award for their habit of devouring brakes.

  • avatar
    jpcavanaugh

    OK, Paul. Remember your state of mind as you wrote about the 71 LTD? These cars do the same thing to me. A few deep breaths. OK, I’m better now.

    My father had a series of Lincolns in the 70s. Other than the 70 Mark III, they were good cars. Every one of them was better built and used better materials than any 1970s Cadillac.

    You did not take a picture of the full inside door panel. When that car was 3 years old, the cheap foam filled vinyl armrest had at least one big split, as did the billowing upper door panels (which split when you pushed against them in cold weather to push open the massive door). I did not notice if the windshield was cracked from the flexing body. When hot, they never wanted to start because with the carbon deposits upping the compression in the 500 cid engine, the poor starter could barely turn the thing over.

    And they are UGLY. I never liked them when new, but it is hard to find an attractive line anywhere on the car. Can you tell that I positively hate these things?

    Spend a little time with both and it will become readily apparent why Lincoln was eating Cadillac’s lunch in the 70s. They were floaty and scary in their handling, but were nowhere near as quiet as the Lincolns. It is unfortunate that Lincoln, so giddy about finally catching Cadillac, did not notice that Mercedes had already sprinted ahead of them both in the marathon.

    Here is the rule. If there is a wreath around the Cadillac crest, just walk away.

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      It’s seldom easy to pinpoint when a marque began its decline, but parking any 1971 Cadillac beside its 1970 counterpart will yield a very stark comparison. Driving them makes it even more apparent.

      The 1967-70 Eldorado is a large car that somehow seems smaller and more “personal,” thanks to very deft styling and clean, but not boring, lines. It still looks “special” over 40 years later.

      That generation of Eldorados also shows more attention to detail in workmanship and build quality than lesser cars. The first two model years were built on a special line that was supposedly the slowest-moving one in Detroit at that time.

      The 1971-78 Eldorados are big, blowsy, not-too-well-built barges that only show how far Cadillac was fallen by the mid-1970s. In many ways, the 1971-78 Eldorado, Toronado and Riviera are to Bill Mitchell what the 1958 GM cars were to Harley Earl.

      Interestingly, the 1959 Cadillac was “over the top,” but it works in its own way…whereas the 1959 Lincoln just comes across as a big, fat mess. By 1971, the two luxury marques had swapped positions in this regard.

    • 0 avatar
      rnc

      Funny that the 70′ CBA was when GM agreed to “30 and out”. And in 71′ you could already see the results in thier vehicles.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      I don’t know if it started here, but you forgot the part about the surrounds around the a/c deflectors in the IP shrinking and making the deflectors nearly impossible to move up or down.

  • avatar
    educatordan

    I remember seeing these Cadillac and Lincoln land-bardges in the 80s as a child and thinking: “Wow when I have enough money that I can not care about fuel economy like that guy, I’ll be truly wealthy.” I wonder if kids today ever look at an Escalade and think the same thing?

    BTW I’m probably in the minority here but I think that the 1979-85 Eldorado’s and Toronado’s were the best of this breed. I would love to get my hands on a 1979 Toronado with the rare 350V8 or an early years Eldo with the V-4-6-8 for the big block torque, removing the fuel saving solonoids (sp?) of course.

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      More and more of the 1979-85 “big” GM personal luxury coupes have been showing up at the Carlisle Collector Car events for sale. Given who bought them new, there are a fair number of clean, low-mileage, all-original cars left today.

      They are the right size, and the period styling works, but the dashboard and inner-door panels feel as though they could be taken apart with your bare hands.

    • 0 avatar
      catbert430

      My Father had a 1985 Toronado which I last drove in 2005 just before he got rid of it. I was a bit sorry to see it go but, not sorry enough that I wanted to take it off his hands.

      The 307 CID V8 felt very weak in so heavy a car but, otherwise it held up very well for a 20 year-old car; button-tufted pillow-top velour and all.

      I actually liked the last-generation (1986-199?) downsized Toronado, Riviera, and Eldorado best but, I think I’m in the minority there. They sold really poorly.

    • 0 avatar
      educatordan

      I’m a bit biased in my opinion too. My dad brought home a 1985 Olds Toronado for a test drive when he was considering replacing his 1982 Chevrolet Celebrity. (It was the early 1990s, dad aways bought used.) I got a chance to drive it being over the age of 16 and found it the quietest, softest riding, vehicle I have ever driven or riden in. He didn’t take it cause of the rust issues he didn’t want to spring for bodywork on, and the 307V8 had been stripped of its smog equipment. My dad is the kind of guy who would put all the smog equipment back on, although he is a hotrodder he also believes in the law. His eventual choice to replace the Celebrity was a 1987 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme sedan with the 307V8 and a positrac.

    • 0 avatar
      supremebrougham

      Don’t forget the Riviera, Dan. Despite the quality woes from those years, those cars were special. First time I rode in one as a teen I was hooked.

  • avatar
    rudiger

    The ’53-’78 Eldorado: the Elvis of cars (appropriate since both followed similiar career trajectories over the same time frame).

    Does anyone have any information or interesting tidbits about the power-sliding T-tops on the ’78? I’d never heard of the option and, apparently, only seven were ever built.

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      The 1977 Toronado XSR was supposed to offer power-sliding T-tops, but the leaks were so numerous that GM never offered it for sale to the public. Only one prototype survives. I had never heard of the Cadillac Eldorado offering this option.

  • avatar
    Opus

    I thought the Biarritz was the one with the stainless steel roof? Doesn’t look like this one had it, did that come later?

    • 0 avatar
      fincar1

      The 1957-58 Eldorado Brougham, an entirely different vehicle, is the one that had the stainless steel roof.
      By the way, Opus, I think I’ve figured out where the manufacturers get the green color they use on all the new “green” showcars….

  • avatar
    Robert.Walter

    I like how the spiders are trying to fill in the missing gap hider between the body and the RT RR bumper extension…

    There is something symbolic in that, I just can’t figure it out…

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    I grew up in this time era so used to see these cars on a daily basis. One must keep in mind that this car is now 32 years old so thus things like plastic end caps and certain plastic interior pieces will not still be in pristene condition today! In it’s day these cars held up fairly well and in all fairness it is only in this decade do I recall seeing the plastic end caps starting to crack and split. The government at the time was forcing the manufacturers to downsize and lighten there cars and get better mileage, improve crash worthiness and also lets throw in emissions. Some comapnies handled this better than others but Cadillac in there infinate wisdom kept the Eldo huge and soft until the bitter end in 1978 while adding more pastic to lower weight and downsizing engines to improve on gas. Lincoln did this too in the same time period reducing there 460 to a 400 V8. The best Elderado was saved for 1979. This 79-85 series was a big improvement (80′s engines aside) for massive weight reduction, ride and handling and much lower fuel consumption. They looked better too. Shame that Cadillac swallowed there stupid pills for 1981 with the 8-6-4 disaster and a rematch in 1982 with the undersized and ill conceived HT 4100 V8 that put out a massive 125 HP! Think how much better there reputation would have been in the 80′s if they made one simple decision. Using the Olds 307 with the fuel injection system as used on the 70′s Olds 350 in the Seville. The 307 put out between 140-150 HP with a 4BBL carb and would probably have made closer to 160 with fuel injection. That would have made it stronger and far more reliable than Caddys 140 HP V8-6-4, 125 HP HT 4100 V8, Buicks 125 HP 4.1 liter 252 V6 or the Olds 105 HP diesel. Paired to the 200R4 overdrive automatic it would have been better on gas than any of those engines save the diesel. But back then it was about reputation having a Caddy motor in a Cadillac. If only they knew!

  • avatar
    duncan36

    The mid 70′s Cadillac cars were the worst built cars in the history of the world. They were so badly built they were flat out dangerous. We were driving in a mid 70′s Cadillac Sedan De’Ville in the early 80′s and the entire exhaust assembly from front to back fell out of the car while the car was going 55mph. Thats is the only time you’re thankful that the suspension is so loose and has so much travel you feel like you’re piloting a boat not a car. When the car runs over its own 20 foot long mess of exhaust pipes is one of those times.
    We finally got rid of the car after it made another attempt at our life. We parked it at a corner store and went in to get some sodas on a hot summer day. When coming out one of the family sniffed the air and said ‘is something burning?’. Well yes, yes it was and that sniff could well have saved our lives. The trunk was opened and electrical smoke came billowing out and a small electrical fire was burning away in the trunk.
    If we’d have driven another 50 miles in the heat without noticing the fire God knows what could have happened. But that was it for the Caddy it was put out of its misery after that.

    • 0 avatar
      rnc

      My dad was life long GM person, he got his first cadillac when he made lt. col. (late 70′s), with-in weeks the interior started falling apart (was put together like a snap-together model w/o the model glue), I was young, don’t remember much else besides the interior falling apart, but I remember hating having to ride with him in it, you could feel the anger. One Old’s 98 diesel later and he was done with GM.

    • 0 avatar
      rudiger

      While GM might have been bad in the seventies, Chrysler still seems to have been worse. There’s a story that a stoplight was located in front of some Chrysler dealership. The cars were so bad that the salespeople would watch out that front window and pray that the light wouldn’t be red and catch a new Chrysler owner as they pulled out, because chances were very good the car would stall while waiting at the light and wouldn’t start again.

  • avatar
    tech98

    I once drove a borrowed 71 Eldorado convertible, white with red interior and the 500 cu in V8, around Carmel, California on a weekend afternoon. Even in a town chock-full of Porsches, Ferraris and other big-money rides, I’ve never gotten so much attention in all my life.

  • avatar
    gottacook

    With respect to various remarks above:

    “Biarritz” in that era referred to the stainless steel side molding, which extends the whole length of the car (most easily seen at the beltline in these photos, where the molding is broadest at the rear edge of the door). That molding doesn’t appear on standard Eldos. The brushed stainless-steel roof was offered the next generation.

    “…the 1959 Cadillac was ‘over the top,’…whereas the 1959 Lincoln just comes across as a big, fat mess. By 1971, the two luxury marques had swapped positions”: Absolutely. I was a passenger in a then-new ’72 De Ville coupe a few times, and later as a teenager got to drive and be driven in our family’s ’72 Lincoln Continental 4-door. The Lincoln felt more special – not just that it had its own body (whereas the De Ville shared many components such as window glass with the Electra 225 and Ninety Eight), but that it was a lot more elegant besides. The rear end especially: no script or block letters, thank you, simply the Lincoln logo turned on its side (following a tradition that went back at least 10 years). And anyone who had spent time in the tuck-and-roll-upholstered interior (leather in this case; I’m sure the base cloth was comfy as well) would think it was more inviting and comfy than that of the DeVille.

    “This thing has to win the award for the smallest interior on the largest car”: I think the 1971-76 full-size cars’ interiors were wider than those of the 1965-70 cars. And certainly my 1966 Bonneville convertible (owned 1974-91) had a smaller interior front-to-back than these Eldos did. So, as a ratio of interior size to outer dimensions, my 222-inch-long, 124-inch-wheelbase Bonneville might offer the same space (in)efficiency as the Eldo.

  • avatar
    mtymsi

    The quality of these cars was the same as anything else Detroit built in this era-crap. It’s just that at that time that’s what people were used to and expected. It would be still another decade before the far superior Japanese quality vehicles had made serious inroads in the U.S. market.

    I remember in the mid seventies Honda approached the owners of the LM store where I worked to offer their franchise and the owners laughed at them. Obviously a decade later they knew they had made a serious mistake and should have accepted Honda’s offer.

  • avatar
    also Tom

    I am amazed at the cubic wordage unleashed so far about this car. When I look at it I am left speechless.

  • avatar
    ClutchCarGo

    Wretched excess works for me…

  • avatar
    Lokki

    “…it is only in this decade do I recall seeing the plastic end caps starting to crack and split.”

    Would that this were true. I had a friend who had one of these in 1985 or so, and the plastic on his was already cracked and falling out then. I remember being shocked that those pieces were plastic… on a Caddy. I hadn’t known until he showed up at work with a big piece missing one day. Plus, in those days it was hard to get those as replacement parts.

    I believe that they make them now for the collectors.

  • avatar
    itanibro

    Why is it that almost every one of the curbside classic photos includes a car with a missing door panel?

  • avatar
    relton

    I can’t believe that no one mentioned the fact that these are front wheel drive cars. That was quite a technological achievement back then. It worked so well than most people never noticed.

    I worked on the development of the front wheel drive transmission when I first came to Michigan in 1965.

    The 1970 Eldorado was the first year for the 500. They were so proud of the larger engine that the car wears 2 “8.2 litre” badges. Perhaps teh euro spelling was intended to add some class. It still had the older body style. While it looks smaller than the next generation Eldo, the difference was less than 1 inch.

    Bob

    • 0 avatar

      Cadillac (and Old, which used the same FWD system for the Toronado) never promoted the front-wheel drive very much. The persistent rumor I’ve heard — and maybe you would know something about this — is that at some point during the development of the Unitized Power Package, GM discovered that it fell under a Ford patent, and ended up paying royalties to FoMoCo on each car built.

      The Unitized Power Package was a really clever concept. Take a standard longitudinal engine, attach a torque converter, turn the transmission itself 180 degrees and mount it next to the engine, driven by a chain. It was only a little bigger than the engine itself, and it created a new powertrain layout using a lot of existing pieces. It worked pretty well, too.

    • 0 avatar
      A is A

      “the car wears 2 “8.2 litre” badges. Perhaps the euro spelling was intended to add some class”

      In Europe “8.2 litre” puts you into the TRUCK CLASS. I love efficiency, and there is something DEEPLY WRONG with a car with a 8.2 litre engine.

      Priceless anecdotes like the dissolving plastic pieces on a 1970s Cadillac body keep me coming at this site every day. Initially I thought that there was a gimmick to telescopcally extend the bumpers to change the bulbs or something like that.

    • 0 avatar
      shaker

      I think the plastic was designed to crush (thus protecting the fenders) during a low-speed impact to the “energy-absorbing” bumpers, which I believe were spring-loaded and would return to the pre-impact position (as long as the frame was undamaged).

      But, I could be mistaken.

  • avatar

    I prefer the 1967-1970 Eldorados: http://ateupwithmotor.com/model-histories/luxury-and-personal-luxury-cars/185-1967-cadillac-eldorado.html. They were much more tasteful, and they have a very jazzy, Rat Pack sort of feel that I like. The ’71-78 big’uns are just bloated.

    The Mark III was pretty much neck and neck with the Eldorado; it wasn’t until the 1972 Mark IV that it really moved out in front. Unlike the Eldorado, however, the Mark was a marketing concept first and foremost. Cadillac management was never very interested in the idea of the “personal luxury” Eldorado, and it was really a matter of Bill Mitchell shoving it down their throats because he wanted to do it. The Mark was Lee Iacocca’s idea, a sort of bucks-up Thunderbird. (The Mark shared the T-Bird’s platform, and was built in the same plant.) The stylists were skeptical of it at first, although it turned of to be extraordinarily popular. Dave Ash, who designed it, said that when Henry Ford II saw the full-size Mark III prototype, he walked around it, salivating, and declared that he wished he could drive it home.

    More on the origins of the Mark series:

    http://ateupwithmotor.com/model-histories/luxury-and-personal-luxury-cars/192-mark-of-success-lincoln-mark.html

  • avatar
    mrh1965

    This reminds me of my mother’s 79 Fleetwood Brougham that I learned to drive on. I loved that car, in all it’s 8-track, blue velour interior glory. Sure, it was a wallowy barge but it had the 425 and that’s all I cared about.

    • 0 avatar
      OM617

      My grandparents had a ’79 coupe deville, two tone turquoise exterior and green inside. (had a cassette player though!) The 425 was driven to its grave @ at over 500,000kms. The 85 fleetwood brougham (HT4100) that we had later was much crappier

    • 0 avatar
      HankScorpio

      My old man bought an 85 Fleetwood Brougham used in the early 90s. Everything, and I mean everything broke or fell apart at one point. Sometimes, the entire electrical system would give out and shut off the car. Maybe while you were on the interstate or at a stop light. Maybe just in the drivethrough with a dozen cars behind you. Then, seconds or minutes later, the beast would blink back to life, allow you to start her and then behave for a few weeks.

      I still have fond memories of driving that car. The crushed velour was luxurious and though it was slow to accelerate, it was a fine highway cruiser.

      Its final demise was when someone broke into it and stole the climate controls. They were some weird hybrid of vacuum lines and electronics and far too expensive to replace.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    Paul: Thanks once again for a wonderful exposition about an American car, that, while very imperfect, was very important in the development of the industry.

    My Father, may he rest in peace, won a 3 month lease on a Eldorado of this vintage (it might have been a 73) at a charity auction. I was in law school at the time, and I drove it quite a bit. I do not remember any quality issues, but, we only had it for three months.

    I do remember that the car was a beast. It was 224 in long*. I could not get it up the ramp at the parking garage at Dad’s office building in one pass. I had to go up part way, back up and try again. I also remember getting it up over 100 mph on a newly opened stretch of I270. It felt kind of floaty. The other thing I remember is that, despite the immensity of the thing, there was very little room in the back seat.

    *Longer than any current car other than the Maybach and the Rolls-Royce Phantom.

    Dad traded his old Buick (’68 IIRC) on a Mercedes Benz 280 SE 4.5. He never looked back,and he never bought another American car.

  • avatar
    Zammy

    It saddened me to see the Eldorado reviewed so harshly. I grew up with my grandparents and my grandfather would only drive Cadillacs. I have very fond memories of new Eldorados coming and going as he upgraded every few years.

    In the world of my childhood and early teens, 472 and 500 cid engines were the norm. The first car I was entrusted to drive daily was a Fleetwood Seventy-Five and how I loved all twenty feet (245 inches from stem to stern) of that beast.

    After leaving home the first vehicle I bought for myself was a Chevy, and I remember the shame of having only 350 cid under the hood.

    How low we have all fallen.

    Edit: I have to add, my grandfather knew that the mid-70s Caddies had jumped the shark, but that didn’t stop him from buying them. We did manage to keep a few late 1960′s models going almost into the 1990′s. I can’t remember right now what year they shortened the trunk, but that was the year the love affair ended.

    • 0 avatar
      Michal

      How low we have all fallen?

      How about how atrocious the cars were back then. Today, a 2 litre engine will produce as much power as that ‘good old’ 8.2 litre, while burning one third of the fuel. The 2 litre featured car will be better built, more reliable, and won’t make passengers seasick.

      They don’t build them like they used to. Thank goodness.

    • 0 avatar
      Maxb49

      How about how atrocious the cars were back then. Today, a 2 litre engine will produce as much power as that ‘good old’ 8.2 litre, while burning one third of the fuel.

      Rubbish. The 500 cubic inch Cadillac is a very powerful engine. Out of the factory in 1970 the engine produced 300 net horsepower. Give me a 2.2 liter engine that will do 300 naturally aspirated horsepower. You can’t. It’s not possible. Most of the 500 c.i. blocks are still in existence and use today. The blocks were products of advanced metallurgy – they are physically stronger than a big block Chevy and only slightly heavier than a small block Chevy. 500 c.i.d. Cadillacs are routinely built to 500 horsepower and occasionally pushed past 1000 horsepower. In 40 years, those blocks will still be around when youre little Japanese garbage 2.2 liter is in the junkyard. It will be a cold day in hell before I drive a four cylinder.

    • 0 avatar
      rudiger

      The reason many who remember them wax poetic and melancholy over those big American cars of yore is the axiom “There’s no replacement for displacement”.

      Yeah, they were some of the biggest piles of crap to ever come out of Detroit but until you’ve gotten behind the wheel of one of those behemoths and felt your back push against the seat cushion when they lunge forward from a dead start, effortlessly moving tons of metal and yards of sheetmetal in the process, it’s difficult to understand.

      I don’t see how any of the diminutive (but high-horsepower compared to the old ones) engines that power virtually every car today could ever match the torque of those old, big-inch, pushrod engines.

    • 0 avatar
      zerofoo

      My 2007 G35X produced 306 naturally aspirated horsepower from 3.5 liters. Granted it’s a bit bigger than 2.2 liters, but still, it could make over 300 horsepower while getting around 20 MPG mixed in mixed driving.

      I’m sure the 268 ft-lbs of torque the motor produced is quite a bit less than the caddy motor, but is 500 ft-lbs of torque really necessary if you aren’t towing or pulling stumps out of the ground?

      -ted

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    When I was dating my x wife her parents owned a 70 eldo, which was the first year for the 500 engine. This first year only it was rated at 400hp and 550lbs. of torque. These models, unlike the later smog ridden units could actually move those big cars pretty well. I believe that cadillac’s 550lbs. rating was pretty accurate, because those things could smoke the front tires on dry pavement with little effort.
    The first time I rode in that beast was one summer when we all went to sea world. My x wife, myself and her brother were all in the back seat, and her parents and other brother were in the front. The very first thing I noticed was that the interior was not plush or expensive looking at all for a car with a cadillac badge on it.
    It seemed pretty well made, though, no loose pieces, nothing coming off, no squeaks or rattles.
    And even though there was not an abundance of leg room in back it was adequate, my knees were not against the front seats, and the perfectly flat floor allowed the center passenger so sit just like the people on the sides.
    This was on a very hot day in august, and I loved how well the ac worked, I think it was the most powerful unit I have ever seen in a car. You caould feel the ice cold air blowing from the vents almost like you were sitting in front. the car’s ride was nice, not pillow soft like you would expect in a caddy, but it was smooth and well controlled. I quickly noticed out on the interstate how steady the car was for it’s size without that buoyant feel that you normally get in a car this heavy, and this was with six people in the car.
    This was most likely because the eldo used torsion bars up front similar to mopars.
    My x fatherinlaw drove this car until the early 80′s and it held up very well. The only real problem he ever had with it was with the junk quadrajet carb.
    He later ended up getting a 77 lincoln mark V. The lincoln marks had nicer, more luxurious interiors than the caddies,with a little bit smoother ride and rode a little more quietly.
    That eldorado held up well though, and everything still worked on it when it was sold.
    He also got good service out of the lincoln, both the lincoln and the early eldorado were well built cars. I live in the rust belt, and I remember that even the ugly 71-78 eldorados held up pretty well to the salted roads, save for the plastic filler caps between the body and bumper. Those pieces weren’t as bad as the article states, though, they seemed to last about 8-10 years here in ohio.

  • avatar
    lilpoindexter

    EWWW, Gross. This car reminds me of everything bad about the 70′s. It simultaneously reminds me of John Waters movies and the smell of a dirty old sofa with tranny fluid stains.

  • avatar
    eastcoastcar

    With the reminder brought on by these pictures, I now remember why I was so depressed in the 70′s. I see why I went for a used BMW 2002 more clearly now.

  • avatar
    MadHungarian

    1971-76 Cadillacs may not have the quality of body/interior materials and assembly of Cadillacs from the 1961-66 period (the peak, arguably), but they are mechanically hard to kill and much better machines than their Ford and Mopar competition. I have owned two beater-grade Sedan de Villes (’75 and ’76) and they just ran and ran. A well-tuned 500 cube Caddy will give you 12-15 MPG, which doesn’t sound like much till you compare it to the 9-10 you will get from a Lincoln of the same vintage. GM’s HEI ignition is simple and reliable, while Ford and Chrysler experimented with more elaborate systems in the 70′s which had more issues.

    The dash and upper door panel vinyl would crack, but outside of that the interior materials in 1971-76 Cadillacs held up quite well. Both of my beater Cadillacs had excellent interiors, the ’75 near mint, this on a car whose paint and missing filler pieces indicated it did not spend too much time in a garage.

    It was in ’77 when Cadillac quality really declined. That was when you got the felt headliners that all sagged, the cheaper seat leather that shredded, the plastic window/lock switch holders that broke, etc., etc.

    • 0 avatar
      zenith

      I agree about the GM HEI system. Ford went thru 4 generations of its Duraspark and then moved onto the massively-recalled “thick film” ignition module whilst adverts in specialty mags aimed @ owners of older Fords touted conversion to electronic ignition via HEI units despite the fact that Ford designed the Duraspark distributor drive as a drop-in replacement for their old points-type distributor. GM engineered this system to incorporte both the control module and the coil into the distributor while everyone else spread components out all over the engine compartment.

      I thumbed thru a “classic Mopar” type mag recently and THEY touted HEI as an upgrade to electronic ignition, too.

      GM’s 1-wire internal regulator alternator of this same vintage is also THE system to upgrade an old car to.

  • avatar
    jonnyguitar

    This car was emblematic of its times. A long (pun intended) bitter disappointing hangover.

  • avatar
    55_wrench

    wow. 50+ comments and no one mentioned the rippled metal at the top of the front wheel arch. It seemed the inner wheelwell liner was stiffer than the outer skin, so when they were bolted together it always looked warped. I never did see a straight one on the road.

    There’s some sort of symbolism there-the Linclons of the era seemed to have better body integrity.

  • avatar
    BuzzDog

    Having read, seen and experienced Cadillac’s sudden decline in quality around 1970, I think it was due to four separate factors that contributed to a perfect storm.

    Full disclosure: My dad’s business did contract work for several local GM dealers from the 1960s through the 1990s (mostly Oldsmobile, Buick and Cadillac) so I may have seen some of the above issues from a decidedly dealer-centric perspective.

    Forgive me for the long post, but it boils down to these items:

    The DeLorean/Iacocca Factor - The Riviera, GTO, Mustang and Mark III were a wake-up call to the Big 3. Once the automakers saw the profitability of selling relatively mundane mechanicals with marginally better body styling and trim, it had an obvious effect on the focus of their product development efforts. Whereas engines and transmissions other mechanicals went through a major metamorphis from 1950 to 1960, it’s difficult to say the same thing occurred from 1960 to 1970. Instead, we got more variety in size and trim levels.

    The Corporate Consolidation Factor - At some point in the late 1960s (when GM still controlled close to half of all U.S. auto production), GM made the decision to consolidate its assembly operations for the primary purpose of making it difficult for the Justice Department to break up the company under antitrust action. So instead of a Cadillac being built in the Clark Street plant by Cadillac workers and under the scrutiny of Cadillac managers, it was now built by “GM Assembly” workers under the scrutiny of “GM Assembly” managers. Even the proud point of promoting “Body by Fisher” was lost, as it was all part of a corporate quagmire. But wait, there’s more…

    The Platform-Sharing Factor - Remember that the primary purpose of consolidation was to keep the Justice Department at bay; of course, a secondary factor was that GM saw an opportunity to reduce production costs. Platform sharing actually started in earnest in the 1950s, but by time that 1971′s redesigned E-, B- and C-platforms appeared the sharing included just about everything except the most superficial elements (seats, instrument panels, secondary sheet metal and trim…but note that GM divisions kept unique engines for a few more years). The major problems of the 1971′s redesign were weight compromises (making Chevrolets too heavy and Cadillacs that felt cheap) and the horrible HVAC system that was quickly redesigned. Some feel that the previous GM system of autonomous development within each division might have avoided some of these issues.

    The Labor Factor - Let’s face it, the 1970-71 era was not a high point of GM-UAW relations. GM eventually conceded to union demands so thoroughly that it earned the nickname of “Generous Motors,” and thus set the stage for the wage and benefits cost debacle that some say eventually brought it to its knees; personally, I think it was but a cloud in the perfect storm.

    —-

    In my opinion, it impresses me that GM survived as long as it did given the above factors. Seriously, despite the auto industry’s recent woes it gives me hope for our industrial and economic future, as the U.S. has typically shown a “can do” and “make it work” attitude.

    • 0 avatar
      Paul Niedermeyer

      All good points.

    • 0 avatar
      educatordan

      Ahhhhhh… “The Labor Factor” thank you for finally clarifying for me why my grandmother (UAW widow since 1978) still calls GM Generous Motors. She still has GM/UAW health care and gets an employee discount when she buys cars at the local GM dealers. My grandfather worked at the Defiance, OH foundry where millions of engine blocks and cast iron suspension parts have been cast since 1948.

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    You know, in all fairness, the 71-73 version of this body style, even though it doesn’t compare to the 67-70 model, I think it still looked pretty nice in those years. They totally ruined it in 74 when they tacked on those ugly bumpers, the hideous grille and rectangular headlights, ugly taillights and did away with the fender skirts.

  • avatar
    mtymsi

    The one point I think some that responded on this thread missed entirely is these cars can only be judged in their era, not 30-40 years later by current day standards. Back when they were new the people that bought them weren’t interested in Audi/Infinity type vehicles which did exist as MB/BMW/Audi. The only reason so many were sold is because these were the kind of cars their buyers wanted and that wasn’t because there was a lack of alternatives.

    • 0 avatar
      BuzzDog

      …AND they were relatively inexpensive.

      Then came a recession, a backlash, and a significant number of consumers demanded true quality instead of the tacked-on, button-tufted version. And they were willing to pay a premium for it.

      I firmly feel that such a thing is about to happen again, except this time in addition to cars it will include a surprisingly large number of consumer goods. To some degree consumers are starting to realize that cheap goods come with a higher long-term cost, both in terms of less durability and the impact on the overall economy.

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    You couldn’t have said it better, mtymsi. The fact is that in the 70′s people wanted a long hood, siny paint, vinyl roofs and opera windows. They also wanted a smooth quiet ride, and didn’t much care about handling. These cars as well as the lincolns and Imperials did what they were intended to do very well.

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    Those cars were overbuilt, mechanically. Those big slow revving V8′S would run forever. The caddy used a th425 trans, which was a modified version of the th400. Ford used the heavy duty C6 trans in the lincoln, which was also used in musclecars and heavy duty trucks, along with the 9 inch rear end. Chrysler used the indestructble 727 in their big cars, with the 91/4 rearend. All three cars used the same brakes as the half ton trucks. And the suspensions were heavy duty.
    With normal maintenance and if driven decently these cars were just broken in at 100k.

    • 0 avatar
      HankScorpio

      Of course by 100k miles, the interior had disintegrated, the chrome was pitted and the rust was starting to spread. The powertrains may have been bulletproof and over-engineered, but the rest was crap.

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    Alot depends on how the car was treated. My 78 New Yorker brougham has 119k on it, and the interior looks almost new. No squeaks or rattles. The inside plastic door handle broke off my buddies 02 corolla. I don’t have to worry about that, mine are metal. My headliner is also still intact, his hangs down at the rear window.

    • 0 avatar
      duncan36

      A lot depends on the crew/factory that built your car also. Some factories were totally dysfunctional and half the workers were out of their mind on smack. Back in the day actual people were given quite intensive and complicated assembly tasks.
      I’ve seen some cars of one model run forever and another car of the same model fall apart after 2 years.

  • avatar
    relton

    I am pretty sure that people who talk about the specific output of 2.2 liter turbocharged engines would never buy a car with 8.2 liters. And I am absolutely certain that they would never understand the rationale for the 8.2 liter engine. If you have to explain it to someone, you know they would never understand. The reason my Eldo has the “8.2 litre” badges is so that no one will confuse it wioth the ’69 Eldo, which limped along with only 7.7 liters (472 CID).

    I worked at Hydra-matic for a few years, in engineering, and I never heard any mention of GM paying royalties to Ford or anyone else. I have never seen any indication that GM copied anyone with the FWD layout. We had 2 dozen competitors front wheel drive cars and trucks, and none of them had a similar layout. In fact, no one had used a chain drive like that before to take all of the engine’s torque, multiplied by the torque convertor.

    While the Eldo and Toro used torsion bars inthe front supension, they were signifigantly more sophisticated than the Chrysler setup. The Eldo bars were arranged so that they bent as wll as twisted, giving them a rising rate under deflection.

    I would agree that the interior of the 67-70 Eldos does not live up to the exterior and the mechanical sophistication of the rest of the car. It almost looks like they used parts from the regular Cads, and they certainly look like the newer and less sumptious interiors of later GM cars.

    Bob

    • 0 avatar
      BuzzDog

      Nice post, Bob. I’ve read about the “Ford FWD patent” story, but later learned from more credible sources that Olds started work on FWD in 1958, under the direction of John Beltz. It may be that Ford developed a similar powertrain simultaneously, and in fact Ford holds a patent with Fred Hooven listed as the engineer.

      One question, since you worked at GM on this powertrain: Any idea why GM didn’t use this longitudinal design on the 1985 and 1986 redesign of the C- and B-platforms? I never understood why GM stuck transverse-mounted engines in its large cars when it had so much experience with the Toronado and Eldorado…

    • 0 avatar
      Maxb49

      I am pretty sure that people who talk about the specific output of 2.2 liter turbocharged engines would never buy a car with 8.2 liters. And I am absolutely certain that they would never understand the rationale for the 8.2 liter engine.

      The 8.2 liter engine is very nice. And it can be turbocharged! This thread convinced me to go shopping for an 8.2 liter Cadillac. They last forever. Most people who actually drive one (presuming the car is in good condition, which many are) realize how nice a big engine is. What pisses me off about the 2.2 liter people is that they aren’t happy that they have a tiny engine, they want you to have a tiny engine too, and take this condescending superior attitude towards people who want a big powerful engine.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      @Buzzdog –

      Transverse mounting of the engine was done for packaging efficiency.

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    Nice car you have there, Bob. As you probably saw in one of my earlier posts, my x father in law had a 70. These were beautiful cars, and in my opinion, the best looking caddy ever made. And they were well built and reliable.

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    The reason they used the transverse design on the 85 cars was because the hoods on those cars were steeply sloped, which made them lower. There would not have been enough underhood space to mount the engine longitudionally.

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    I think the ppl talking about the 2.2 engines are probably kids, that don’t understand a few things about engines. The reason these cars used big engines is because it has always been well known that to move heavy weight you need torque, and the easiest way to get torque is through displacement. ever seen a fullsized pickup with a 4 cylinder?

    • 0 avatar
      BuzzDog

      Exactly. Or as the old saying goes, “Americans talk horsepower, but they drive torque.”

      By the way, Toyota came very close to having a full-sized, four cylinder pickup with the T100 (which was featured a few weeks ago).

  • avatar
    JD Miller

    Wow, there is a lot of anger here over the style, size, and quality of this car, as if it were too ugly, too big, and too poorly made to sell even one copy. Working against your personal beliefs is the fact that Caddy sold a lot of these, and production only INCREASED after 1978, to reach its pinnacle around 1985- still a huge car and still based on this same body. So I guess the question is- did GM respond to the market, or did the market respond to GM?

    I did not own one of these, but my dad has a 72 Coupe DeVille, coming off a 69 Buick Electra 225, and were were pretty much a GM family, so I was familiar with the product line, and the subsequent decline in quality as it started showing up in later years. My sense was that the poorly made plastics used to lighten things up (probably due to government CAFE and EPA regs) was the main culprit. Regardless, if one was buying a new car during this period, one didn’t notice it too much until the car was pretty long in the tooth- and likely traded in well beforehand. As for the rest of the car, my experience were they were relatively trouble free. Neither of these were ever in the shop save for a few minor adjustments when new, and routine service. The 77 Monte Carlo dad bought to replace the De Ville went well over 275,000 miles- and only showed its age by way of split plastics.

    My boss drove a 1980 380SL -and a couple of Jag XJS coupes after that- which I got to borrow quite often. The Merc was one of the hardest cars to drive ever- felt like a 120mm cannon recoil spring under the gas pedal, and the steering seemed to have zero assist. There were few lux features on the car- maybe AC (A Joke) and power windows- and the manual top rotted easily due to its ability to trap and hold water when using the hard top. I recall the timing chain needed replacement (cost thousands) at about 30K due to its being a single row running both banks of the V8. Then there were the Jags- first one delivered burned up in a parking lot within a week of delivery due to faulty wiring, and the second was always in the shop. My impressions were these were the best of European sport coupes and they couldn’t hold a candle to an American car for luxury, convenience, ride (assuming you wanted smooth- and not a buckboard like the Merc) and durability (save the plastics- but the dash on the Merc split in 2 years while the GM “junk” took 5 or more years to split).

    So while the current crop of euro cars have come a long way- are every bit as luxurious, ride great, have far better durability, I think if I had to pick a daily driver from a 1980 380SL or a 1980 Caddy Eldo- give me the Caddy. I am sure the replacement plastics are a lot cheaper than the timing chains and convertible tops of the Merc.

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      The 1979 Eldorado was all new – it was not based on this model. The downsized 1979-85 models did sell well, but the drivetrains used after the 1980 model year were very problematic.

  • avatar
    Gottleib

    seems to me that some of those making comments have either forgotten or don’t know that during the 1970′s when cars such as this Cadillac were being produced owning a foreign car in the US was not quite as easy as it is today. The foreign car dealers were not as convenient nor present in all parts of the US. Cars that competed with the Cadillac and Lincoln at that time were generally more expensive, i.e. the Mercedes, and had inferior air conditioning, didn’t ride as well and were less forgiving when not maintained on a regular schedule.
    I had the opportunity of living in Europe in the early 70′s and took a liking to the ride and handling characteristics of European autos. I also realized that those attributes were really useful driving in Europe. When i returned to the US in the late 70′s I switched back to an American made car mainly because of the ease to get them serviced and that American cars were much better at cruising the interstates than their foreign counterparts.
    Sometime in the 1990, the foreign autos became more Americanized. Dealers were more common and repair facilities could work on foreign made cars, thus making them a more practical alternative to what was offered by the American companies.

    In other words we now live in a world much different from the one 35 years ago with respect to the cars we drive and own.

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    Exactly, Gottleib. american luxury car buyers wanted a car with bling in those days. A mercedes did not appeal most buyers, because of the spartan interior and bland styling. The fact that a mercedes handled well did not appeal to them, they preferred the isolation that the american cars provided.
    That was also the reason that luxury midsized cars such as the monty carlo, for elite and cordoba sold so well. They offered almost as much bling as the big luxury cars for about half the price.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      I disagree with you on that…foreign luxury cars, like Mercedes, BMW and Jaguar, were all very exotic and exclusive in the early to mid ’70s. If you think of bling as a high-fashion, expensive item, these cars were blingy as hell, even though their styling was definitely less baroque than many American cars of the time.

      And Detroit noticed. Why else would they have made cars like the Ford Granada, Cadillac Seville, and Dodge Aspen, with styling blatantly copied from Mercedes?

  • avatar
    relton

    Three reasons GM did not continue the use of this FWD design.

    1. Packaging. The transverse layout makes a much more compact package, especially with smaller engines that can be carried ahead of the front axle.

    2. Cost. This is an expensive product. While it was scaled down for the 79-85 cars, it still costs more than a contemporary FWD setup.

    3. The engine has to be raised somewhat to allow the axles to pass underneath. This raises the CG, something that is never a good idea.

    GM flirted with station wagons using this layout, but, in the 60s and 70s, FWD held no cachet for marketing, and no other platforms were pursued using the FWD layout.

    From personal experience, I know that patents are easy to get. But what do they mean? Signifigant patents are few and far between.

    Bob

    • 0 avatar
      BuzzDog

      Thanks, Bob. It’s something that I’ve wondered about since the day that my Dad and I sat in the Cadillac showroom in my sophomore year of college (1984) and were looking at the pros and cons of the old-style, RWD Fleetwood Brougham and the soon-to-be-released FWD Fleetwood.

      Given GM’s proven experience with the longitudinal layout (then used in the Eldorado and Seville, as well as the Toronado and Riviera), it seemed like to be a logical choice to a non-engineer like me…especially as it was rumored that the introduction of the FWD C-platform was delayed due to durability concerns with the TH440 transmission. To my knowledge, up to that point no one had attempted to use a transverse V8 and automatic transaxle in a FWD application.

  • avatar
    relton

    I was long-gone from HM when the TH440 trans came along, but I heard a lot of horror stories about its durability. A number of old-timers resigned or retired after trying to improve it, and the result was one of the worst transmissions GM ever made.

    How to build a luxury car brand:

    1. Give customers cars with incredibly poor drivetrains
    TH440
    THM200 (used in FULL-SIZED Cads!
    Put in Olds diesels
    Replace with HT4100 engines
    Replace with HT4500 engines
    Replace with HT4900 engines
    Create axle failures in RWD cars

    2. Make the cars consistently smaller and cheaper looking
    FWD Devilles and Fleetwoods
    Downsize the Eldo so it looked like a Grand Am
    Raise prices
    Stick Cadillac name on a Cavalier
    Stick Cadillac name on an Opel
    Fail to support said Opel with parts and service

    Ned I go on?

    Bob

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    Freedmike, you are right on one count, the seville had the european styling, but the interior was much more luxurious than a mercedes. As far as the granada goes, a car couldn’t have looked more american. For a compact it was bloated, had the big chrome cow catcher bumpers, large wheel housings, opera windows and many had the padded landau roof. And don’t forget about the oversized eggcrate grille.
    I do remember for coming out with a version of the granada called ess, or something of that sort. It had special seats, wheels and tires and a few other bits. And i do remember the commercials in which they compared it to the mercedes 450, noting the similarity of things like tailights and stuff. Do you think anything about the car really resembled a mercedes? Most people thought that was a joke. And the aspen/volare certainly did not resemble a mercedes, even though they were leaner than the granada/monarch stylingwise.
    My sister dated a guy back then that owned a store, and drove a mercedes, don’t remember the type but it was one of the bigger ones.
    It was down more than he drove it, partly because it always broke and partly because he always seemed to have to wait for parts for it.
    I wish paul would send us another big car to comment on, it’s getting old talking about this one.

  • avatar
    chrisgreencar

    I’m surprised everyone seems to be in such agreement about Lincoln being so much better than Cadillac in the 1970s. To me, taken as a whole, Cadillac had it all over Lincoln then! This particular version of the Eldorado wasn’t Cadillac’s finest moment, but overall the styling and engineering of the cars was strong. To my eye, the Cadillac interiors were more finely detailed and sophisticated than Lincoln’s, especially after 1974 when the “space age” sweeping curved instrument panel was introduced. And though the fender extensions did deteriorate with age, they were a fairly successful attempt to camouflage the *government required* huge bumpers of the mid-70s era. Lincoln used huge cow-catchers. Also, it was Cadillac and GM that reacted the quickest to the fuel crises by downsizing quickly, starting with the Seville, whose design was copied by the others for at least a dozen years. Lincoln itself responded a year later with the Versailles, which was a thinly veiled Ford Granada. Finally, wasn’t Cadillac the sales leader in comparison with Lincoln through most of the ’70s? I love all cars, including huge Lincolns and Chryslers of the 70s, but I don’t think Cadillac is getting a fair shake here!

  • avatar
    Sinistermisterman

    I saw one of these beasts in a Safeway car park the other day. It seems that the cold Canadian weather keeps those horrible plastic inserts in slightly better condition than those on the car pictured.
    But regardless of that, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a car I could describe as ‘The Incredible Hulk.’ Its vast size and awkward proportions is something to behold, and when I watched it’s owner drive it out over the sidewalk and onto the road, I noticed that the damn thing didn’t stop wobbling until it had coasted out of sight.

  • avatar
    Mark MacInnis

    Size for size’s sake….pointless.

  • avatar
    cheezeweggie

    We look back at that era and laugh, but GM and Ford simply replaced them with Caddy and Lincoln pickup trucks.

  • avatar
    buickbaby

    My mom drove a 78 Eldorado Biaritz (sp?) from new. It was pale yellow all over paint, padded landau roof and leather interior. It also was equipped by the dealer at my mom’s request with an after-market continental kit. This was a great car to drive in it’s day. It’s comfortable passenger capacity was two! My mom drove it for twenty five years and then stopped driving. It was parked in a condominium garage with a car cover on it when not in use. My dad had the entire climate control system rebuilt at great cost and had most of the floor board replaced. It was a northern Virginia car.

  • avatar
    aviatorcase

    Easy to maintain. Low cost overall to own & operate. Great car on the highway (getting better than 26/27mpg … with the a/c running). “Very” good in the snow. Safe as can be (the small cars would just crumple & bounce off). Very comfortable on a long trip. Highest quality parts are cheap to buy (“new”alternator $78 / Brake pads: all 4 wheels $63 ) & very easy to work on as an owner. The float to the ride was engineered into it for comfort, not a result of size (duh). Stiffer shocks can eliminate it if you don’t like it. Interior replacement parts are easy to find & very cheap to buy & will last for ever (they make them for all cars of that era even imports, because they ALL had the problem with cracking plastics & new cars have it too). The front & rear bumper spacers giving out is a sunbelt problem. Most are still running originals. With regular maintentance & non crazy use, it can get a million miles before anything “might”need rebuilding. BUT … you can not compare it to today’s cookie cutter, high torque cars. Its like comparing Roast turkey dinner to tofu salad. They both have the same purpose & end result, but are very different in the approach. I will take the old grand Cadillac any day, & save “lots” of money overall (maintenance & actual operating costs), compared to a new vehicle. And when I drive by, people look & know its a Cadillac. Unlike any car today, where they all look similar. When I park & people come over to talk & remember, …. it feels good & it makes it a social vehicle too (better than texting …. imagine …. actually talking to real people … in person) Have a GREAT DAY!

    • 0 avatar
      Bun Bita

      “Safe as can be (the small cars would just crumple & bounce off).”
      -Heavy metal chassis, five mile bumper requirement, and rubber strips that protected the bumper are some of the personal security features that made this car notoriously known for safety.
      “Very comfortable on a long trip. Highest quality parts are cheap to buy (“new”alternator $78 / Brake pads: all 4 wheels $63 ) & very easy to work on as an owner.”
      -So true! With the rocking of the car with the big 425, it was easy for me to doze off while driving. There was even times when I parked the car and fell asleep because the interior was so plush and comfortable. Work and replacement to mechanical things is true as well. I can only do the maintence, like brakes, rotors, altenator and spark plugs, etc, and auto upholstery (as well as audio systems and some electrical work), and I must say, it is so much space under the hood to do so much!
      “And when I drive by, people look & know its a Cadillac. Unlike any car today, where they all look similar. When I park & people come over to talk & remember, …. it feels good & it makes it a social vehicle too (better than texting …. imagine …. actually talking to real people … in person)”
      -I don’t know how many times this has happened to me. People will stop and talk to me about my Biarritz. There has been people that got out of their cars just to compliment me. It makes me feel good and warm inside everytime. I feel humble and grateful to own this car.

      The only thing I would say that is negative about this car is the fuel economy. A 27gal tank would cost me 95 dollars to fill up, and driving around in the city can go from over from full to half a tank if you dont know how to drive and control it.
      /
      E * * / * F
      /
      .

  • avatar
    sckid213

    I realize that I’m almost two years late to this post, but I just stumbled across this article and had to throw my two cents in, as I’m sure I’m not the only one who discovers these posts well after their post dates.

    I have the distinction of having been driven home from the hospital as a newborn in a 1978 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz Classic like the one pictured here, except white with white interior. Burgundy vinyl top (that my dad had dyed from its original white, which was too hard to keep clean), CB radio, 8-track player. I spent the first seven years of my life being driven around in that car, first as a youngster in a child seat/booster in the back (bless my mom for dealing with that hassle in a coupe), and then in the front seat once I became a “big kid.”

    The one thing I remember is it always seemed HUGE to me in every way — from inside and outside. We moved into a new Southern California tract home circa 1987, and I remember it was too long for our garage. I remember lots of little problems, but nothing catastrophic like the engine blowing or the tranny going out. Toward the end, the seats were starting to split, various electronics had stopped working, and rust had begun to set in. I still remember what finally made my mom (who was just 5’2 — imagine such a small being piloting such a large yacht around town) insist on a new car: she had parked outside a wealthy friend’s house and had gone inside to pick me up after a playdate and visit with the other mom. A neighbor saw the Eldo parked on the street and called the police, believing it belonged to a group of burglars! It was time to move on.

    My dad replaced the Cadillac with a 1990 Chrysler Town & Country, white with wood stick-on panels and white snowflake rims, a modern classic in its own right. I remember it seemed so modern at the time compared to the Caddy, but didn’t have nearly the substantial feel.

    This Eldorado may be one of Cadillac’s low points, but I thought this car was so cool as a child, and I still have fond memories of it. Excessive, gaudy, and completely over-the-top — isn’t that was Cadillac is all about? It must be in my blood, as at 28, I recently purchased a loaded new Cadillac CTS, the first car bought on my own (I drove my original high school car for more than 12 years until now).

    Subtle? No. Awesome? Oh yes. And I think that’s exactly how the original buyers of these ’78 Eldos felt, too.

  • avatar
    theditor

    The 500 CID engine was standard equipment on the 1970 Eldorado. It expanded to the entire Cadillac lineup in 1975. The car shown has the Biarritz option consisting of the spear-like bodyside molding, the padded cabriolet vinyl roof with the smaller backlight and the pillow-tufted interior. For 1978, five colors were offered for the Biarritz package: white, red, blue, yellow and brown. Offered as a mid-year upgrade was the Biarritz Classic featuring two-tone (beige and brown) exterior paint and two-tone leather seating plus gold script. The 425 CID engine of 1977 might have been acceptable in the deVille and Fleetwood models (about 1,000 pounds lighter than their ’76 counterparts) but it was no match for the 5,000 pound Eldorado. I drove a ’78 Eldorado Biarritz up a hill and was certain there was a mechanical problem with it. Nope, it just didn’t have enough power. Lovely cars, performance aside. The pillow seating is very comfortable.


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