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

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis

Last week we reviewed the dramatic and super finned exterior design of the 1959 Eldorado, in its two-door Seville hardtop coupe format. While its less popular convertible sibling Biarritz received matching styling in all ways except its roof, there was exclusive and different styling reserved for the third type of Eldorado: the four-door Brougham. Assembled by hand in Italy at Pininfarina, the large sedan was very rare, a last-of-type, and was a sneak peek of future Cadillacs.

The 1959 Eldorado Brougham’s styling previewed the look Cadillac’s line would adopt in 1960. This was a change in tack from the 1957 and 1958 version which was an amalgam of current and past Cadillac styling cues, some of which dated back to 1955. Reasoning is likely that development of a hand-assembled car took additional time, and the second edition Eldorado Brougham was known further in advance of its launch. The styling advancement of the 1959 in comparison to the ‘58 makes the latter look older than it actually is.

Much like the Seville and Biarritz, the Brougham used sleeker sheet metal on a wider body. The front clip was similar to the standard Eldorado in 1959, with headlamps that were farther apart, and a revised grille design sans Dagmars. Though hood shape was shared generally between the two cars, the Eldorado Brougham had a very different hood shut line that was nearer to the windshield. It looked less sleek than the standard Eldorado, and the more concealed Brougham line of 1958. Notably there was no Cadillac badging on the front end, just a spear-shaped hood decoration with no branding.

The grille design was new, and a variant of the one found on the standard Eldorado. An egg crate design, it wore thinner vanes than other 1959s. It was also a single piece, and lacked the chrome bar separation of its siblings. Under the grille, Brougham’s bumper was a shared part with other Eldorados and featured ovoid pods for fog and indicator lamps. 

Brougham’s front wheel arches were modernized in 1959, and swept downward at a faster angle. However they did not wrap as close to the wheel as the Biarritz and Seville, which added a slightly more conservative look to the sedan’s side profile. Given the exclusivity of the Brougham, its buyers were well-heeled and older and likely respected a more conservative design approach.

While standard Eldorados adopted a funky A-pillar which curved forward and then rearward around a wrap-around windshield, the Brougham nearly eliminated wrap-around styling altogether. There was a slight bend forward at the base of the pillar, then the rest was all rearward. The windshield was at a much faster angle, especially compared to the very upright stance of both the ‘58 Brougham and other ‘59 Cadillacs.

The stainless steel roof design of the ‘58 was tossed, in favor of a painted roof the same color as the rest of the body. As a pillarless hardtop sedan with front and rear quarter lights, four windows per side made it an eight-window sedan. And there was a very sexy secret feature of the window design, previously unknown to your author until this writing.

Rear side quarter light glass was electrically operated, and the window slid rearward when rear doors were opened to aid in passenger ease of entry. This design feature was not replicated on other Cadillac models, and possibly not on any other sedan anywhere. Imagine the excitement of revealing this feature in 1959, or allowing a passenger to discover it for themselves. This was only possible because the coach door feature of the ‘57 and ‘58 Brougham was ditched in favor of very large traditional doors.

The B-pillar at the rear was another serious departure for Brougham and Cadillac, as it headed downward to the trunk sharply. Gone was the wrap-around rear windshield and cantilevered pillar of the prior year. Also gone was any side vent detailing, thick chrome trim around doors and windows, and indeed any lower body chrome cladding. 

Bill Mitchell saw to it that the Brougham had the least amount of chrome of the Eldorados. A simple thin chrome strip along the flanks, and thin chrome around the wheel wells were the only brightwork at the sides. Buyers were surely keen to see the dark blue Pininfarina badge outline, which read “Brougham, by Cadillac.” The brass at Cadillac wanted this car to be seen as separate to the brand. 

Side flanks headed toward the rear with a rocket fuselage appearance. Although it was similar to the standard Eldorado, it stood out for a couple of reasons: There wasn’t body chrome highlighting the fins, and the fins themselves were much more restrained. Fins on the Brougham were roughly half the other Eldorados in height, and were thinner and more cleanly defined. It was a similar approach to the ‘55-era fins on the ‘58 Brougham.

Wheel cover discs were the same sort of turbine appearance as in 1958, with a brighter chrome look. Part of the brightness was down to thicker whitewall tires, which entered their heyday in the late Fifties. As mentioned previously, the wheel disc was shared with other Cadillac models (everything but the base 62 and DeVille), and lost a Brougham-specific wheel center.

Indicator lamps were not bullet shaped, but instead were cleanly integrated into the rear vertical surface of the fin. This carried the design theme from the prior Brougham. The trunk lid was broad and flat and without chrome decoration. It wore a Cadillac crest at its lower edge, and unlike other Eldorados did not have a rear grille-type fascia surrounded in chrome. 

Instead it had two simpler looking chromed brake lamp pods at either side. They were the same shape as the reversing lamps on other Eldorados, but much less decorated. Reverse lamps in this case moved down to two punch-out areas of the standard Eldorado Bumper. Compared with the excess of the ‘59s we reviewed last week, the Brougham was remarkably simple and restrained. The ‘59 Brougham was Bill Mitchell showing what he wanted Cadillac to be.

Next week we’ll revert back to the regular Eldorado, and take a look at its interior advancements for 1959. 

[Images: BaT, seller, seller, YouTube]

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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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4 of 22 comments
  • Craiger Craiger on Apr 29, 2024

    The word is intact, not "in tact." This particular spelling error is becoming more common. It's not as prevalent yet as using apostrophe's to denote plural word's, but it's climbing in the ranking's.

    Love these retrospective pieces though. Always nicely done.

    • Corey Lewis Corey Lewis on Apr 29, 2024

      One of those instances that's all about context. I'm not saying intact. "This was a change in tact from the..." But it should say change in tack. Which I'll now correct.

  • Arthur Dailey Arthur Dailey on Apr 29, 2024

    Still prefer the 59's. Auto styling as mentioned was in the 50's derivative of military aircraft styling, and the 'space age'. The '59 Caddies 'nailed this' in an in your face manner. If you are going to put fins on a car, why use small, vestigial, almost apologetic fins, like M-B did with their 110?

    I did have an appreciation for Dagmars, but the front end/grille of the '59 is so much cleaner and more modern than the '58.

    As for the back/trunk of these vehicles the '58 appears to me to be clunky and cluttered.

    Corey what about a column specific to the Eldorado Biarritz Convertible from 1959? I need to see if my memories are correct or have been tainted over time. How many were built, did they have any special/unique features? What about body flex, etc?

    • Jeff Jeff on Apr 29, 2024

      Arthur-- The 58 Caddies were designed before the Exner 57 Chryslers were spotted by GM employees in the Summer of 56. GM's plans were to update the 58s for 59 and eventually get away from tail fins on all their cars. The 59s were a hurried redesign that took 2 years after GM spotted the 57 Chryslers. Also Harley Earl, Chief GM designer, retired in 58 and before Earl's retirement Bill Mitchell 2nd designer to Earl influenced the 59 designs. Mitchell got away from the vestiges of prior designs and wanted a clean slate for all GMs a departure from Earl.

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