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

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis

In our last installment of the Cadillac Eldorado saga, we covered the engineering and equipment advancements that arrived with the fourth generation in 1959. All Cadillacs grew longer, lower, and wider, and the exclusive Fleetwood Brougham moved closer to its Biarritz and Seville siblings. But the big news for 1959 was all-new styling courtesy of Bill Mitchell. As we’ve learned lately, even one-year-old styling was reasonable cause for criticism from the competition.

(Note: The red Cadillac pictured is the 1959 Eldorado Seville, and the white example is a 1958.)

The big and bold prow of the 1959 Eldorado Seville and Biarritz were more streamlined and modernized, keeping with Bill Mitchell’s efforts to undo the heavy chrome look cultivated by his predecessor Harley Earl. Quad headlamps appeared as expected, still a hot new lighting fixture in the United States. The lamps were spread apart more than previously, in an effort to cover the wider real estate available.

Above the lamps were fender awnings that extended further than before, and formed an eyebrow look across the front end. The awnings blended inward to the hood line, its opening concealed much more effectively than in 1958. Presented on a less vertical surface was the Cadillac crest and V emblem, both of which were simplified and widened for 1959.

The grille wore a refined egg crate theme that continued from the prior year, with bullet casing type details at each intersection of the grille vanes. New was a thick chrome bar that bisected the grille and created two equally sized sections. The bar wrapped around under the headlamps and terminated at either side at the wheel well. Dagmars were no more, the time for them had passed as they were an Earl hallmark. 

Bumpers were simplified and lightened in 1959, as rib detailing went by the wayside along with some of the vertical surface area. The front bumper wrapped around and under the front of the Eldorado, and presented fog lights and turning indicators in separate circular and ovoid pods. Viewed as a single element, the pods look a bit awkward. Between them was the recessed chrome license plate surround. 

At the front corner there was a notable removal of any vent detailing, and the height of the fender itself was lowered for less surface area. The mainstay chrome strake that extended from the headlamp into the door in 1958 was gone in 1959. Its replacement was a body character line in a similar position that faded to nothing ahead of the front door.

Also more restrained were the wheel well openings: Where the 1958 Earl design saw the front wheel well extended toward the rear, the 1959 Eldorado’s wheel arch tucked downward much closer to the front tire. At the bottom of the arch above the chrome body molding was block ELDORADO lettering; there was no body side script to be found. Other notable body chrome was found just below the window line and extended beneath the rear fins. Side strakes of any kind were removed, and rear wheels were once again skirted like they were in 1954. 

The windshield was still the wraparound style Cadillac pioneered in the first Eldorado in 1953, but wrapped around slightly less than it did in 1958. In its place was a new A-pillar shape that curved rearward at the top edge of the door instead of 1958’s 90-degree angle. Thick chrome surrounded window openings and the windshield as before, but the roofline took a more streamlined shape in 1959. No longer was there a rearward canted B-pillar, but rather one which angled forward in a natural way to the roof. Rear-side windows were much larger than before, and created a much lighter looking greenhouse with more glass area. 

The rear windshield was enlarged considerably, and took a more modern shape with minimal wraparound toward the B-pillar. Rear passengers were treated to much more light than in 1958, as the ‘59’s rear window extended above their heads. If those passengers looked behind them, they’d see the enormous new fins the Eldorado sported. 

Larger than ever before, the rear fins were a “take that” to Chrysler and Imperial. They extended off the fender looking sharp and encased in pointed chrome. Bullet-shaped quad brake lamps were placed in the middle of the fins, each with their own thick chrome surrounds and trim spear. Chrome along the body line extended under the fins and toward the rocket-inspired rear pods, which contained large reversing lamps.

The lamps were much smaller than they were in 1958, and wore new V detailing instead of the matching grille egg crate of 1958. An extended trunk lid sloped longer and further than ever before, and wore no badging at all. The only indication of branding at the rear was ELDORADO block lettering on a chrome trim strip between the trunk lid and bumper. 

The bumper wore new detailing to match the grille, surrounded by two thick bands of chrome. It also extended the full width of the rear, a different approach to the corner covering style seen in the prior generation. Overall there was more fender and less bumper at the rear, and the chromed shape looked more a part of the design rather than attached as afterthought.

Unfortunately, there was no special wheel design for the 1959 Eldorado. Thick whitewalls surrounded a turbine style wheel cover, though more traditional chrome wires were also available (optioned here). Both the wire wheels and turbine wheel disc were shared with other Cadillac models that year, with only two differentiations: Standard Series 62 and DeVille models had a flatter turbine design with more vanes, while Sixty Special, Seventy-Five, Eldorado, and Eldorado Brougham shared a taller turbine look with fewer vanes.

In our next installment we’ll take a look at the design of the exclusive Eldorado Brougham. Its hand-built Italian body was an oddity in the domestic automotive landscape at the time, and would be a one-off sort of experiment. And unlike the prior Eldorado Brougham, the ‘59 was a preview of future styling rather than a pastiche of the past. Until next time.

Images: [ dealer, 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.

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.

More by Corey Lewis

Join the conversation
6 of 16 comments
  • Arthur Dailey Arthur Dailey on Apr 22, 2024

    That red '59 is gorgeous. The front view, the side view and in particular the back end treatment is far superior to that of the '58's. Although I do appreciate the front end of the '58.

    Although I have driven a '59 Caddy convertible, it was very sedately and all too briefly. So I was not concerned about or taking time to notice body flex. Hopefully in a future column Corey could address that?

    Regardless Corey's columns are in my opinion the best things of this site. Not like some clickbait articles we see here. Should we all post multiple comments and check Corey's columns multiple times to demonstrate that we prefer Corey's type of column/articles?

    • See 2 previous
    • Jeff Jeff on Apr 22, 2024

      I concur with Corey's columns being the best on this site. I would like to add Murilee Martin as well. I would have liked more on the Crosley but I understand that Corey is limited to just one post a week. Too bad because even Corey's car reviews were excellent.

  • Marty S Marty S on Apr 23, 2024

    I learned to drive on a Crosley. Also, I had a brand new 75 Buick Riviera and the doors were huge. Bent the inside edge of the hood when opening it while the passenger door was open. Pretty poor assembly quality.

    • Jeff Jeff on Apr 23, 2024

      The doors on the early to mid 70s gm cars were big and heavy. When opening the doors you had to be careful not to dent the door of the car you were parked next to. My 77 Monte had aluminum door edge guards but the shear weight of the doors could do serious damage. Had to replace the pins on the door hinges after the doors started to sag.

  • NJRide So this is an average age of car to be junked now and of course this is a lower end (and now semi-orphaned) product. But street examples seem to still be worth 2500? So are cars getting junked only coming in because of a traumatic repair? If not it seems a lot of cars being junked that would still possibly worth more than scrap.Also Murilee I remember your Taurus article way back what is the king of the junkyard in 2024?
  • AMcA I applaud Toyota for getting away from the TRD performance name. TuRD. This is another great example of "if they'd just thought to preview the name with a 13 year old boy."
  • Jeff Does this really surprise anyone? How about the shoes and the clothes you wear. Anything you can think of that is either directly made in China or has components made in China likely has some slave labor involved. The very smart phone, tablet, and laptop you are using probably has some component in it that is either mined or made by slave labor. Not endorsing slave labor just trying to be real.
  • Jeff Self-driving is still a far ways from being perfected. I would say at the present time if my car took over if I had a bad day I would have a much worse day. Would be better to get an Uber
  • 2manyvettes Time for me to take my 79 Corvette coupe out of the garage and drive if to foil the forces of evil. As long as I can get the 8 track player working...