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

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis

We return to the Cadillac Eldorado saga today by popular demand. In our last entry, we delved into the engineering and platform changes that arrived for the entire Cadillac line in 1954. In short, the same C-body platform continued in use for Series 62, Sixty Special, and Eldorado with new bodywork and additional standard features. Eldorado was repositioned in ‘54 to become mass market, and lost its unique styling. That meant visual differences between it and the lesser Series 62 convertible were down to pieces of trim. 

Though it was suddenly much more affordable, the 1954 Eldorado was not all that visually different from the 1953. With yearly changes an expectation of the buying public, observers still noted the differences between the two. At the front end, the ‘54 adopted the new corporate look with a revised, tiered hood design. 

The squared-off domed hood featured a new crease down its middle. A more slabby-looking design, there was additional definition between the central power bulge and the remainder of the hood on either side. The stepped look meant the hood blended into the fender shape more smoothly in 1954.

Fenders themselves were taller in 1954 and adopted a sharper upper edge in place of the tubular appearance of the prior year. On either side, the headlamps kept their respective awnings, but those were now a part of the fender instead of a separate chrome ring around the headlamp. Just below the lamps, a larger-looking grille appeared for ‘54.

A visual trick, the grille was approximately the same size as before but had a thinner chrome frame around it. Additionally, the grille used a much tighter egg crate design than in 1953. Its thinner border obscured the hood shut line across the top, as the upper portion of the grille’s trim was attached to the hood that year. 

The grille wrapped across the front and downward under the headlamps as it did previously, and then around the front corners. It was a more cohesive look, with driving lamps being relocated from either corner and inset of the headlamps instead. Inset even further were the chrome Dagmars, which underwent a reduction surgery for 1954. 

Dagmars formed a focal point (ha) for the bumper, which was split into two sections in the 1954 Eldorado. The chromed points were a decoration of the bumper design itself, rather than an accessory attached to the top of the bumper. Squeezed between them was some additional grille, which extended much lower than in 1953.

The bumper wrapped around either corner of the Eldorado much as it did in 1953, where it combined with the grille to form the front half of the front wheel arch. Above the wheel arch remained a long chrome spear that ended at the far edge of either door and looked exactly as it did in 1953. 

The Eldorado’s exclusive wraparound windshield of 1953 spread to all Cadillacs in 1954, as it was a popular design feature and worth replicating across the line. The windshield was almost unchanged from the debut Eldorado, as intended. However, not all the windows fared that way.

Notably revised was the drop side window line of 1953, which reverted to a standardized near-horizontal line in 1954. Remember, the cheapened Eldorado was allowed no unique body panels. The leading and secondary character lines of the prior year were reduced into a single line, as the fenders raised themselves to be level with the top of the door. 

Similarly subdued was the rear three-quarter view, as aft of the door there was less detailing than in 1953. A very similar fender line to the prior year highlighted the absence of the metal tonneau cover that was a stand-out in the luxury field. The Eldorado had a regular vinyl snap-on tonneau cover in ‘54.

Tailfins were more exaggerated in the second generation Eldorado, as one might expect as the Fifties progressed onward. Though the rest of the fender was about the same shape as before, it all looked more upright since the ‘54 did not receive the drop in ride height like it did in 1953. Distinguishing the Eldorado was some extruded aluminum trim on the rear fender “or beauty panels” complete with strake detailing. Above the panels near the door shut line was another Eldorado signifier: Golden Cadillac crests.

Tail lamps perched at the end of either fender were nearly identical in design to the prior year. Below were exhausts integrated into the end of the bumper as before, though the circular outlets were not as graceful as the 1953’s design. Notably restrained was the rear bumper of the 1954, as it did away with almost all detailing and went for a plain horizontal bar.

There were two vertical bars to frame the license plate, but otherwise, the rear bumper was devoid of detailing, Dagmars or otherwise. Cadillac’s V insignia remained on the trunk lid in gold that year, but above it, the Eldorado script replaced the Cadillac crest. Cadillac needed to include as many affordable visuals as possible that this was a much more expensive Eldorado and not a Series 62. The taller 1954 Eldorado rode on standard wire wheels which were optional in 1953, but available on any Cadillac in 1954.

The new Eldorado was so similar to the Series 62 convertible that a disinterested onlooker was unlikely to realize which model they saw. The Cadillac script on an Eldorado’s fender was always gold, while Series 62 had silver lettering. The aforementioned aluminum panels and fender crests were not available on the Series 62. Additionally, any Cadillac convertible with wheel covers in 1954 was a Series 62. And finally, if one were close enough to see there was script on the trunk, then they were certainly viewing an Eldorado.

It was all treading a thin extra luxury line to justify the 33 percent price jump between Series 62 and Eldorado. And Cadillac’s designers took a similar approach to the Eldorado’s distinguishing interior features. That’s where we’ll pick up in our next entry.

[Images: seller, dealer]

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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 44 comments
  • Craiger Craiger on Nov 23, 2023

    Like most of us, I really enjoy Corey's history pieces. One thing which I think would be a major improvement is instead of just describing styling changes in words, how about also having side by side pictures of, for example, the grill design on the '53 vs. the '54? I realize that Corey would have to search for pictures, and then have to spend some time in Photoshop, but I think it would make the story even more enjoyable.

    Keep up the good work!

  • Lou_BC Lou_BC on Nov 23, 2023

    This series and the mention of "Dagmar"s" caught me chuckling to myself one day when the song "High School Confidential" by "Rough Trade" came up in my play list:

    "She's a combination

    Anita Ekbert, Mamie Van Dorne


    A high school confidential"

    • Arthur Dailey Arthur Dailey on Nov 23, 2023

      Was able to see Rough Trade in person a number of times. We always referred to 'Dagmars' as 'Mansfields' as by then Dagmar was out of the public eye but Jayne Mansfield was a name we all recognized.

  • Sobhuza Trooper Subaru, they were almost there with the BRAT. --On a lighter note, where the hell is my Cooper Works Mini truck?
  • Mike Evs do suck, though. I mean, they really do.
  • Steve Biro I don’t care what brand but it needs to be a compact two-door with an ICE, traditional parallel hybrid or both. A manual transmission option would be nice but I don’t expect it - especially with a hybrid. Don’t show me an EV.
  • ToolGuy Lose a couple of cylinders, put the rest in a straight line and add a couple of turbos. Trust me.
  • ToolGuy Got no money for the Tasman, it is going to the Taxman. 🙁