Rare Rides: The 1991 Cadillac Eldorado Touring Coupe

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
rare rides the 1991 cadillac eldorado touring coupe

We’ve featured two special Eldorados in the Rare Rides series previously. Most recent was the final Collector Series of the ETC, or Eldorado Touring Coupe. Long ago we also featured the very first Eldorado Touring Coupe from the Eighties.

Today we’ll have a look at the ETC in the middle, and complete our collection with the smallest Eldorado generation of all.

The Eldorado was an early adopter of front-wheel drive at the 1967 model year, alongside the Oldsmobile Toronado. Very much the full-size coupe it had long been, it reached a zenith of length in 1971 when its overall size increased from 221 to 224 inches with a 1971 redesign. The end of the Seventies meant more downsizing and a 10th generation that lost almost 20 inches over its predecessor.

In the early Eighties, as the 10th-gen was about due for replacement, GM made a critical error. Projecting a fuel price spike through the rest of the Eighties, it downsized the vast majority of its car lineup for the 1985 and 1986 model years, including Cadillac. The Eldorado lost another 16 inches for its 11th generation, just around the time the fuel price spike didn’t happen.

Cadillac hit a weird middle space with the Eldorado, where it was then too small to appeal to the America-centric personal luxury coupe buyer, and not sporty enough to attract the customer Cadillac really wanted, who was a BMW man. Sales plummeted immediately, and Eldorado production dropped to about a quarter of what it was at the end of the 10th generation two years prior. Dousing sales even further, GM hiked the price of the Eldorado in ’86 by 16 percent over the prior year. More money, less car.

Part of the blame fell to the lame HT 4100 V8, which was the only engine offered in 1986 and 1987. It was known to be unreliable and underwhelming. The 4.1 was swapped for the 4100-sourced 4.5-liter (a better engine) from 1988 through 1990. The ultimate evolution of the 4.1 arrived in 1991 for Eldorado: the 200-horse 4.9. All engines were paired to the same four-speed automatic used by so many front-drive GM cars from 1986 to 1993.

The Eldorado Touring Coupe version returned for ’86 after its debut on the prior generation, as Cadillac attempted to sway more Euro car buyers into its brown tile and brass railing showrooms. The Touring had a special suspension and featured much less brightwork than the standard Eldorado. There was no hood ornament, no whitewall tires, and no carriage roof. Simplified chrome trim surrounded the tidier bumpers of Touring Coupe, along with special polished alloy wheels, and three-section dual exhaust tips. Rear lamp clusters featured amber lenses, and badges aft of the C-pillar were cloisonne like the prior Touring Coupe. Sporty body-colored front and rear air bumper trim aided the cohesive look, and door handles were also color-matched.

Inside the Touring were sport bucket seats that lacked the ghastly button tufting of other trims. Real wood replaced the wood panel, and there was less of it than in the standard car. A floor shift also replaced the traditional column shift loved by elders. The look was overall much better than the standard Eldorado, but buyers paid a hefty premium for the Touring Coupe: The standard car was over $31,000 by 1991. Buyers were not lured from their European cars, and GM gave the E-body one more try in the final 12th Eldorado featured here previously. You know the rest.

It’s hard to find a Touring of this generation for sale at all, much less with good photos. Today’s Rare Ride was for sale recently at a dealer in Pennsylvania. The final year of its ilk, it had the 4.9 and just 14,000 miles on the odometer and sold for an undisclosed sum.

[Images: Cadillac]

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  • Ponchoman49 Ponchoman49 on Jun 22, 2021

    I will say the reliability was far better by this point with these cars. The steering rack, HT4100 and 440 trans-axle issues were all well sorted out and styling was a bit better by the added rear girth out back and the power dome hood up front. If I was going to buy American during this time I would have headed right over to my Lincoln dealer and purchased the still nice looking Mark VII coupe in LSC trim of course with the hot rod version of Ford's 302 SFI engine that was rated for 225 horses.

    • Corey Lewis Corey Lewis on Jun 22, 2021

      For the money, this gen Eldorado didn't make sense. Clearly it didn't fool too many people, and the Mark was clearly superior. Now, the lesser versions from Buick and Olds, could possibly make a case for those with their 3800 goodness.

  • Sckid213 Sckid213 on Jun 23, 2021

    As someone who roots for Caddy who considers 1986-1992 the brands "blackout years," I appreciate what they were trying to do with the ETC, even if it came across about as authentic as the Lumina Eurosport. These '80s ETCs were actually much more "Euro" style sport than the following ETCs of the '90s. I think Caddy can make up for the sin of the 1986 Eldo by coming out with an all-electric showpiece of a PLC called the EldoRODo.

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