Rare Rides Icons: The Cadillac Eldorado, Distinctly Luxurious (Part II)

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
rare rides icons the cadillac eldorado distinctly luxurious part ii

We began our journey through 50-plus years of the Cadillac Eldorado last week. Conceived as a new high-end convertible in the years leading up to the personal luxury car, the Series 62 Eldorado “sports convertible” wore unique sheet metal to all other Cadillac models in 1953. Joined that year by the Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight Fiesta and Buick Roadmaster Skylark, the trio represented GM’s new high-cost, low-volume halo convertible experiment. Unlike later examples of two-door vehicles from the three most expensive GM brands, these three were not the same underneath.

All three new convertibles rode on different lengths of GM’s C platform. In nomenclature that lasted from 1925 through 1984, the C was for full-size, rear-drive vehicles. The platform was mostly used for Cadillac and Buick vehicles, along with the largest Oldsmobiles, and a couple of Pontiac and Chevrolet wagons later in history (1970s).

The smallest of the three was Buick’s Roadmaster Skylark. With a 121.5-inch wheelbase, the Buick spanned a tidy 207.6 inches, shorter than any regular Roadmaster. Overall height was 58.9 inches, and width was 79.9 inches. It was also the lightest of the three, at 4,395 pounds. Worth noting, the Skylark’s wheelbase was much shorter than the 126-inch one used on the Roadmaster.

Despite Buick’s more premium positioning over Oldsmobile (debatable sometimes), the Ninety-Eight Fiesta was larger, heavier, and more expensive than the Roadmaster Skylark. On a 124-inch wheelbase (same as the regular Ninety-Eight), Fiesta was 215 inches long and 76.7 inches wide. The overall weight of the chromed Fiesta was 4,453 pounds, its height measurement was not located.

Of course, the Cadillac needed to be several orders more grandiose than its two companions. Eldorado used a 126-inch wheelbase, which matched the concurrent Series 62 upon which it was based. It was the same overall length as the Series 62 offerings too, at 220.8 inches. In addition to being the longest of the new trio, it was also the widest at 80.1 inches. The overall height of the Eldorado was 58.5 inches, and it weighed an even 5,000 pounds.

At a time when each of General Motors’ divisions maintained their own separate engine lines, the Cadillac used the company’s overhead valve 331 cubic inch (5.4L) V8. An engine that debuted alongside another new OHV V8 from Oldsmobile for 1949, the 331 series produced 160 horsepower (210 gross). More notably it was lighter than the flathead V8 it replaced and was more compact in size. 

The 331 was designed with higher compression in mind, as octane in fuel increased after World War II. The only transmission on offer was a four-speed Hydra-Matic, the progenitor of the legendary Turbo Hydra-Matic automatic transmissions. At the time this transmission was optional on the Series 62 cars, which came standard with a three-speed manual.

Though its power plant was standard fare, the design and equipment the Eldorado carried were not. It debuted with a new feature destined to appear on many cars in the Fifties and was the first production Cadillac to have a wraparound windshield. That design feature would spread to other Cadillacs the following year, but for a brief moment, only the Eldorado buyer had it. 

Another feature exclusive to Eldorado was the integrated metal tonneau cover for the cloth roof. It created a slicker, streamlined appearance when the top was down, in an era where there was usually a separate cloth tonneau cover attached via many snaps. There was an 11-page instruction book for the operation of the Eldorado’s roof, as it was largely manual

The roof could be raised or lowered in just a couple of minutes, and 10 steps (only about half shown here) were performed in a specific order. While the top movement itself was “automatic” via a switch, everything else involved in the process was manual. Each time the top was lowered, the top material had to be manually smoothed, folded, and tucked in order to fit under the tonneau and not catch on the latches.

It’s important to remember that in the car equipment context of the Fifties in America, most equipment was an optional extra even on higher-end vehicles. In contrast, most everything was standard equipment on the Eldorado. Appropriate given its position as a halo and high asking price, standard features included wire wheels, windshield washers, and a radio that could seek out signals. An automatic transmission was standard as mentioned, as were power windows and a heater.

The windshield’s design was a new feature special enough to warrant mention in GM’s marketing materials. The back of a photo printed for the 1953 Motorama show described the Eldorado as a “...new trend in design for American motor cars. Its long low lines (58½” height) is accented by the new deep angle wrap-around windshield.”

Worth an aside, Motorama was a huge event for General Motors. Previously a New York City affair, it went on the road for the first time in 1953. Motorama was a Harley Earl invention: A traveling circus-like showcase of GM vehicles that visited various cities around the country. 

Motorama began in conjunction with the New York Auto Show in 1949 and was held at the Waldorf Astoria hotel. In 1953, Motorama was complete with a live orchestra, singers, and dancers. The show exhibited exciting new vehicles from GM and drew huge crowds. The 1953 Motorama had over 1.9 million visitors. 

And most of those nearly 2 million people probably had a long gawk at the big, shiny new Series 62 Eldorado (even before they saw its astronomical asking price). Curvaceous lines and hundreds of pounds of chrome bumper finished off an exterior that was immediately recognizable as a Cadillac, but different from any of the standard production models. We’ll pause there for today, and take a dive into the exterior and interior styling of the exclusive ‘53 Eldorado next time. 

[Images: dealer, GM]

Become a TTAC insider. Get the latest news, features, TTAC takes, and everything else that gets to the truth about cars first by  subscribing to our newsletter.

Join the conversation
2 of 24 comments
  • Tassos Tassos on Aug 20, 2023

    Since this is the only recent article about GM here:

    In the news last week:

    "Billionaire investor Warren Buffett's company Berkshire Hathaway has sold nearly half of its stake in General Motors, with experts speculating that the move was prompted by concern over slow electric vehicle launches and an uncertainty over UAW talks as the potential for a strike looms.

    Berkshire Hathaway said it reduced its shares of GM stock from 40 million to about 22 million during the second quarter, according to Monday's quarterly filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission."

  • El scotto El scotto on Aug 20, 2023

    He was dressed like 1950 half-drunk and hollow eyed.

  • Bkojote Oil cartel prices have been the best incentive for switching to an EV this year.
  • Arthur Dailey https://grassrootsmotorsports.com/news/type-4-marked-beginning-end-air-cooled-volkswagens/ 'In its marketing VW highlighted the Type IV's upscale features like draft-free air circulation, a thermostat-controlled auxiliary heat system, and six-way adjustable front seats that were able to fully recline. The 411 had front and rear crumple zones, a padded instrument panel, a collapsible steering column and steering wheel with padded spokes. Brochures touted the 411’s suspension as being similar to that of the Porsche 911, but with a focus on stability rather than speed. Complete with an independent suspension with MacPherson struts and coil springs in front, as well as a coil-sprung trailing wishbone rear suspension with double-jointed axles and an anti-roll bar. Eleven-inch front disc brakes, plus rear drums, hid behind 15 x 4.5-inch wheels mounting radial tires. 'For carrying stuff, the Type 4 sedan was shockingly adept, having a 14.1-cubic-foot trunk in front, plus 6 cu.ft. of space behind the rear seat. The wagon was even better, carrying around 48 cu.ft. inside with the rear seat folded. 'The original Type IV did have traditional controls. Modern controls were added in later production models. But still in advance of the domestics. Just under 368,000 Type IV's were sold.
  • Cprescott Union workers are only concerned about themselves. They don't care who else gets hurt when they throw a tantrum, er, strike.
  • SCE to AUX Not sure where that photo came from, but it wasn't Canada.
  • Arthur Dailey Very few probably share my view, but I believe that the T-roof option is well worth that price.Bring back T-Tops!!!!!!!!