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

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis

In 1959, Bill Mitchell was newly in charge of Cadillac’s design department. Keen to shrug off his predecessor’s gaudy choices, Mitchell made sweeping exterior changes for a single all-out year full of sweeping body lines and excessive fins. Alongside the exterior design changes on the new Eldorado Seville, Biarritz, and four-door Eldorado Brougham of 1959 were interior advancements and upgrades.

(Note: The 1958 Eldorado Seville has the silver and black interior, while the 1959 is red and white.)

Interior revisions in 1959 were not as drastic as their exterior counterparts. All car designers knew exterior styling mattered much more than the interior, but additionally all Cadillacs of 1959 were on the same platform as they were the prior year. Though the brand considered them new generations, underneath these were essentially a heavy refresh. 

Upon entry into the new 1959 Eldorado Seville or Biarritz, an occupant was faced with a redesigned gauge cluster. The cylindrical shape of the fifties was gone, replaced with a recessed rectangle trimmed in chrome. The eye was drawn toward the gauges by ribbed detailing in the chrome bezel. 

The same horizontal speedometer was present as before, but was now faced with smaller markings, and looked more compact. Integrated underneath the speedo were temperature and fuel gauges. In 1958 these dials were separated off into a pod at the left. Easily to argue the 1959 design was better for quick viewing.

The clock which occupied the right ovoid pod of the gauge cluster in 1958 moved to its own separate pod to the right of the gauges. It protruded outward, and could be better seen by all occupants than the previous iteration. So the dash did not look lopsided, a duplication of the pod was presented to the left of the gauges. And though it looked like an ideal place for a ventilation outlet, it contained a decorative stylized Cadillac crest, surrounded by circles. 

Most inconveniently, ventilation controls remained in their same general position in 1959. They had to be reached under or through the steering wheel, separated into two sliding levers at either side of the steering column. For its part, the steering wheel looked a bit less modern than it did in 1958.

With the same two-spoke design as before, the center of the wheel returned to a rounded design rather than flat. Covered in chrome to reflect the sun, the center contained a small Cadillac crest. Wheel spokes were thicker and rounder than they were previously, and were now painted to match the body color. The spokes were also horizontal in 1959, where in 1958 they angled downward slightly.

The steering wheel’s rim had a larger body color section than it did the previous year, and a slightly thicker horn rim. Stalks for the automatic transmission and indicators remained the same in 1959. Visible through the steering wheel were new brake and accelerator pedal designs: The brake pedal now wore two separate rubber pads instead of horizontal rubber strips. The accelerator was fully covered in ribbed rubber, with no metal visible except the outer perimeter. 

To the left of the wheel were the lighting controls in their usual place, wiper controls moved house. They migrated upward and onto the top left part of the dash, and were located in an assembly with the power window controls. It would be some time before wiper controls found their permanent place on stalks. 

Audio controls and the radio’s appearance were not changed much in 1959. For that matter, the passenger side of the dash wasn’t subject to many edits either. The same chromed and vertically ribbed detailing remained in front of the passenger, with a new metal trim panel added that better covered the seams for the ashtray and glove box. 

Notably removed was the wrap-around dash appearance, as the 1959 Eldorado went back to a clear division between dash and door panel. As the importance of ventilation increased in the minds of consumers, so too did ventilation count and placement. The 1959 Eldorado’s center vent was a welcome addition underneath the ashtray. 

The passenger vent was relocated, and moved upward from the lower fire wall area to the bottom right side of the dash. The vent was mirrored on the driver’s side, and allowed fresh air to be angled toward the face for the first time, rather than at the floor. A nice quality of life improvement.

Eldorado door panels in 1959 were a case of win some, lose some. While the loss of a wrap-around appearance was decidedly less modern looking, the door panel design itself marched toward a more modern looking shape. The theme of two-tone trim continued unabated, with a new, more sculpted appearance to the door panel.

Materials were revised, and included leather or vinyl over the prior year’s brocade treatment. The padded bi-level armrest area of the door morphed into a ranch in 1959, and lost its rounded vent detailing. The chromed panel that contained vent window controls and seat adjustments was gone: Seat controls moved onto the base of the seat, and vent window switches relocated up top by said vent.

Modernized too was the door handle, as it moved to an assembly within the arm rest. Its design also transitioned to a pull lever rather than the trigger style pull of 1958. Along the bottom of the door carpeting appeared to replace ribbed metal vent detail. Also new were dual puddle lamps on either door, aiding in entry and exit.

Inside the airy redesigned cabin of the 1959 Eldorado with its taller roofline and greater use of glass, passengers found slightly upgraded seating but no additional leg or shoulder space. A front bench with a large central armrest was much the same as 1958, though upholstery patterns were revised.

Horizontal ribbing appeared across the seating surfaces and up the seatbacks. It was separated into sections by contrast-colored leather near the shoulder area that wrapped around the sides and lower cushion of the seat. The design smartly replicated the upholstery of the door panels, a detail not found on 1958 models. 

Seats looked more substantial in part due to the ribbed chrome trim detail found at the side of the seatback, visible upon entry. This detailing replaced the metal bar look present on Eldorados of the past few years. Rear passengers enjoyed much more light than in 1958 courtesy of the upright roof, tall side glass, and very large arched rear windshield.

Given the Eldorado Brougham moved onto the standard Eldorado’s C-body platform for 1959, one might assume their interiors drew closer to convergence. And you’d be right. As we’ll see next week, the elite Brougham’s interior was far too similar to standard Cadillac sedan models. 

Images: [ dealer, dealer, 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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5 of 13 comments
  • FreedMike FreedMike on May 12, 2024

    Not my favorite car design, but that blue color is outstanding.

    • Jeff Jeff on May 12, 2024

      For me gm designs got better in the 1961 MY. My favorite Eldos were the 1967 thru 1970. Corey has many more installments before he gets to the 1967 Eldorados. The 1967 Eldorado, 1966 Toronado, and 1963 Rivera were to me the pinnacles of gm design.

  • Mike Beranek Mike Beranek on May 13, 2024

    All that chrome on the dashboard must reflect the sun something fierce. There is so much, and with so many curves, that you would always have glare from somewhere. Quite a contrast to those all-black darkroom interiors from Yurp.

    • See 1 previous
    • Jeff Jeff on May 14, 2024

      I can barely see the screen on my wife's CRV in bright sunshine.

  • 3-On-The-Tree I don’t think Toyotas going down.
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