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

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis

We concluded our coverage of the fourth-generation Eldorado last week, as the 1959 to 1960 run resulted in very mediocre sales. The Eldorado Seville and Biarritz sold poorly compared to the rest of the Cadillac line, and the Eldorado Brougham was the slowest selling model the brand had on offer. While low sales of the Brougham were more understandable given its huge asking price, the regular Eldorados seemed to have lost their mid-Fifties appeal. Cadillac needed to take action and rework its lineup, particularly where Eldorado was concerned.

All Cadillac models were new and re-engineered for the 1961 model year. There was less chrome, a simpler profile, a new greenhouse with less forward curved A-pillars, and a roofline that was more upright and less fastback in design. As planned by Bill Mitchell, the signature fins of his predecessor Harley Earl continued their retreat, and were part of simpler looking rear profiles.

In your author’s opinion, Cadillacs of 1961 and 1962 were too close to Chevrolet in their front end appearance and didn’t really look like Cadillacs again until 1963. The lineup was in an odd transitional time where Mitchell could not make a clean break from the styling Earl had built up over the prior decades, but also wanted to appeal to customers who were turning their back on giant fins. By the end of the generation that began in 1961, the Cadillac's look had been transformed into something more modern, with a revised identity.

Aside from outward appearances, the reworked lineup promised greater passenger comfort via better stats in headroom, ease of entry and exit, legroom, and better seating surfaces. Further, Cadillac stated all its models had better ride comfort, were easier to handle, stopped better via improved braking, and were more quiet inside. All Cadillacs had a higher seat height than they did previously. Customers were meant to be bowled over by even more interior color combinations, as there were 113 in total.

At the base of the range remained the Sixty-Two, now in its seventh generation for 1961. The range expanded into additional body style offerings, again with four- and six-window designs. With two doors, Sixty-Two was offered as a hardtop coupe or convertible.

With four doors, Sixty-Two was available as a six-window hardtop sedan, four-window hardtop sedan, and a new hardtop Town Sedan in 1962. The Town Sedan was a response to consumer complaints that Cadillacs had become too long for the average suburban garage. Interestingly, the Town Sedan had shorter rear fenders than other Sixty-Twos, and was seven inches shorter than the rest of the model range. 

Layered atop the Sixty-Two was the DeVille line, a trim level experiment Cadillac started in 1959. DeVille proved immediately popular, and its sales were over 50,000 units in both 1959 and 1960. As a higher margin vehicle than Sixty-Two, Cadillac brass were eager to push DeVille onward and upward. 

For its first generation the DeVille had only three body styles, this increased to five the following generation. Two-door options included the hardtop and convertible, matching Sixty-Two. However, the four-door options expanded to include a four-window hardtop, six-window hardtop, and the six-window hardtop Town Sedan.

The DeVille Town Sedan existed in 1961 only. In 1962 it was demoted to the Sixty-Two line (and became a four-window), and replaced with a more upmarket version suitable for DeVille customers. The new name was the four-window DeVille Park Avenue. Both the Town Sedan and Park Avenue are very rare, and largely forgotten today.

Newly part of the DeVille lineup was the demoted Eldorado. It was relegated with its uncertain future to some unspoken relationship with the DeVille and was available in only one body style, the convertible. The Eldorado Biarritz wore no DeVille badge; it was just sort of there next to the other DeVilles. The Brougham and Seville names were retired, and would be used later by Cadillac at their leisure.

Returning in its upmarket and more formal guise as per usual was the eighth generation Sixty Special. It was more formal now than it was previously, with a squared-off, upright roofline. Sixty Special persisted in its four-door hardtop guise as expected. 

Worth noting, Sixty Special customers really wanted that upright roof, and in 1961 the model became the biggest seller for the entire brand. A great achievement for a model with only a single body style. At the time the Sixty Special and line-topping Seventy-Five were the only models to wear Fleetwood bodies, and received Fleetwood crests on their exteriors.

The staid and conservative eighth generation Seventy-Five Sedan and Limousine retained as much Fifties styling as Bill Mitchell allowed. Their bumpers were more conservative than other ‘61s, their fins notably taller and 1959-like than the rest of the lineup. The enormous sedans lost a couple inches in length this year, down to 242.3”.

For the first time since its inception in 1953, Cadillac waded into a new model year where it would not emphasize the Eldorado. Listed as a subsection of the more popular DeVille, perhaps DeVille popularity would rub off on the lonely convertible. It didn’t even get its own brochure that year: Eldorado was shuffled among the other standard Cadillac models. 

In our next installment we’ll review the engineering changes made to Eldorado Biarritz for 1961, and wade into the exterior styling of a very short-lived generation. 

[Images: GM]

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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 18 comments
  • Ras815 Ras815 on Jun 15, 2024

    We're getting within striking distance of Don Draper's Caddy!

  • Jeff Jeff on Jun 15, 2024

    Arthur Dailey--If you really want to see a similarity between Chevy and Cadillac look at the 71 Chevy Caprice compared to the 71 Cadillac Deville more similar in looks than the 61s. Motor Trend even had an article comparing them and stating that you could buy a comparably equipped 71 Caprice and save thousands.

    The 1971 Chevrolet Caprice/Impala: Value-Priced, Cadillac ...

    YouTube · Rare Classic Cars & Automotive History

    16 minutes, 53 seconds

    Feb 3, 2024

    • Arthur Dailey Arthur Dailey on Jun 17, 2024

      Believe that Baruth posted a column on this site stating that the decline of Cadillac and Sloan's marketing/segmenting strategy for GM products occurred once you could purchase a Chev or a Pontiac with many of the same luxury options as a Cadillac. I had a 1975 Caprice Classic Coupe fully optioned including a 454 cid engine. A true 'highway queen' I preferred driving it to my then girlfriend's father's 1973(?) Sedan de Ville.

      And the 'downsized' Chevs introduced in 1977 were truly ground breaking. One of the best vehicles produced by GM.

  • ToolGuy I would answer, but the question might change again, and then where would we be? Also, bran... wheat bran? Bran Castle? The coliva served at Bran Castle is made with wheat, I checked. (Some places use rice, because collectivism does not work.)
  • ToolGuy Learn to drive, people.
  • Corey Lewis I saw a TVR Griffith 500 (mfd 1990-2002) back in June 2014 at the Ault Park Concours, in a side parking lot. It had plates on it, but was MUCH too new to be in the US, especially so as the 500 was a later model 1993+. Luckily I took pics as proof!
  • Bd2 This is when BMW started to go downhill design-wise...
  • Jalop1991 "...their resale value to be in par with a 80's GM diesel wearing a Yugo badge." Those words, sir, paint a picture.