Rare Rides: The 2002 Cadillac Eldorado Collector Series

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis

They say all good things must come to an end, and so it was in 2002 with the Cadillac Eldorado. Today’s Rare Ride was the last in a long line of flagship coupes from Cadillac, and one which saw the name exit with a whimper instead of a bang.

The Eldorado name debuted in 1953 as the most expensive car on offer from General Motors’ most exclusive brand. It was first a convertible, then a coupe and the extremely costly Eldorado Brougham sedan. After that, it occupied the second most expensive space in the lineup, next to the Series 75 limousine. It was a rear-wheel-drive offering through 1966, at which point it converted to front-drive and shared the new E-body with the Oldsmobile Toronado and Buick Riviera. It was much more popular in personal luxury coupe guise than ever before.

Eldorado remained front-drive and went through various downsizings, ups and downs, and modernization. It remained on the contemporary version of the E-body platform for the rest of its days and entered its 12th generation for the 1992 model year. At the time, Cadillac was in the process of creating stylistic excitement, adding European flavor to its models, introducing the revolutionary new Northstar V8, and generally attempting to become America’s version of BMW.

The ’92 Eldorado drew inspiration from the design of the 1988 Solitaire concept car and was new inside and out. It was also considerably larger than the outgoing 11th generation car which was criticized for its less than full-size dimensions. Cadillac designed a body that was three inches wider and 11 inches longer than the outgoing coupe.

The Northstar was supposed to power the 12th-gen Eldorado at introduction, but delays with the complex engine meant that debut models in ’92 were all powered by the trusty 4.9-liter V8. The standard 295-horsepower L37 Northstar was ready for 1993 and was fitted into the Eldorado Touring Coupe, while the Eldorado Sports Coupe used the 4.9 again. In 1994, the ESC switched to use the LD8 Northstar, which had less power at 275 horses, but five more torques (300) than the L37 version. All examples used a four-speed auto shared with many other GM front-drive cars.

Interiors on the new Eldorado featured copious power equipment, real wood trim on the dash, power seats, climate control, digital gauges, and suspension which adjusted with the speed of travel. Upscale ETC versions added to the visuals with unique alloys, quad exhaust tips, “Touring Coupe” embroidery inside, and ruched leather seating. Standard seating on ESC was cloth, though your author has never seen one so equipped.

Once the Northstar was ready, the Eldorado saw incremental changes through the rest of its run. As the North American market had largely turned from the personal luxury coupe class by the late Eighties, the Eldorado was the last of its type and outlived Lincoln’s Mark VIII by four years when it ended in 2002. To commemorate its demise, GM built 1,596 special Collector Series models. Available only in red or white to match the Eldorado’s debut colors in 1953, their theme carried through to a special two-tone interior. Each one had its own plaque on the dash which indicated which number it was in the series. Carbon fiber look trim replaced wood, to make it even more true to the Fifties unique. Perhaps most notably, the Collector Series had a tuned exhaust that was meant to sound like a Fifties Cadillac. The last one was built in April of 2002 at the Lansing Craft Center, just before it was retooled to make the new Chevrolet SSR.

Today’s Rare Ride was listed in Michigan until very recently, but the posting expired. It was number 894 of 1596, and asked $7,500.

[Images: seller]

Corey Lewis
Corey Lewis

Interested in lots of cars and their various historical contexts. Started writing articles for TTAC in late 2016, when my first posts were QOTDs. From there I started a few new series like Rare Rides, Buy/Drive/Burn, Abandoned History, and most recently Rare Rides Icons. Operating from a home base in Cincinnati, Ohio, a relative auto journalist dead zone. Many of my articles are prompted by something I'll see on social media that sparks my interest and causes me to research. Finding articles and information from the early days of the internet and beyond that covers the little details lost to time: trim packages, color and wheel choices, interior fabrics. Beyond those, I'm fascinated by automotive industry experiments, both failures and successes. Lately I've taken an interest in AI, and generating "what if" type images for car models long dead. Reincarnating a modern Toyota Paseo, Lincoln Mark IX, or Isuzu Trooper through a text prompt is fun. Fun to post them on Twitter too, and watch people overreact. To that end, the social media I use most is Twitter, @CoreyLewis86. I also contribute pieces for Forbes Wheels and Forbes Home.

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3 of 36 comments
  • PrincipalDan PrincipalDan on Dec 31, 2020

    I sometimes wonder about a counterfactual history where the Northstar ends up being world class in reliability. If that was the ONLY change in Cadillac's history in the last 30 years - would the brand be in better shape than it is today?

    • MRF 95 T-Bird MRF 95 T-Bird on Dec 31, 2020

      A counterfactual history of the Northstar would have to have a larger supercharged version in the Escalade. The 4.0 Northstar in the Oldsmobile Aurora was quite reliable same with the 3.5 aka Shortstar V6 that was offered in the second generation model.

  • RyJoe RyJoe on Aug 30, 2021

    The article failed to mention the ESC has a sportier feel and performs better in cornering.

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