As we learned in our last installment, when the second generation Eldorado debuted in 1954 it was repositioned at Cadillac. No longer was it an ultra expensive and largely hand-built conveyance for a select few who could afford it. Rather it appeared as a sort of premium trim package on top of the company’s bread and butter Series 62. No unique body panels, no special interior design, no single-model windshield. Was there much left to differentiate Eldorado from its sibling?
Of the three high-dollar, limited-production two-door convertibles GM debuted in 1953, Cadillac’s Series 62 Eldorado was far and away the most expensive. With its drop-door styling, a loaded interior covered in additional leather, and a sky-high $7,750 price tag, Eldorado was out of the reach of the majority of consumers. And though it sold only 532 examples, GM felt the model’s future was bright. That is if they could just cut the asking price down to something more reasonable. Enter the all-new 1954 Eldorado, swimming in a sea of fins.
In our last Eldorado entry, we discussed the exterior differences between Cadillac’s standard Series 62 convertible and the limited production Eldorado. Visual differences were few, and limited to a revised window line via “drop door” sheet metal, and a wraparound windshield that was fitted only to the Eldorado in ‘53. There were interior differences too, though they didn’t quite add up to the “specially designed instrument panel” claim in the marketing.
We began our journey through 50-plus years of the Cadillac Eldorado last week. Conceived as a new high-end convertible in the years leading up to the personal luxury car, the Series 62 Eldorado “sports convertible” wore unique sheet metal to all other Cadillac models in 1953. Joined that year by the Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight Fiesta and Buick Roadmaster Skylark, the trio represented GM’s new high-cost, low-volume halo convertible experiment. Unlike later examples of two-door vehicles from the three most expensive GM brands, these three were not the same underneath.
After completing our extensive Rare Rides Icons coverage of every Lincoln (Continental) Mark between 1939 and 1998, it seems only fair we cover the Mark’s arch-rival in a similar fashion. Though the General Motors competition arrived long after the Continental name was applied to a Lincoln, its history is equally varied and interesting. Come along as we learn about another luxurious subject: the Cadillac Eldorado.
We return to our Edsel coverage today during the second model year of the company’s entry-level car, the Ranger. When it debuted amongst the six other Edsel models in 1958 it was the cheapest and the least ornamented of them all. However, it was still more expensive than the nicer Fairlane 500 upon which it was based, and indeed priced similarly to a more upscale Mercury, the Medalist.
Edsel’s first year in 1958 proved very disappointing for the folks at Ford. The company’s unusual styling didn’t click with consumers, there was a sudden recession, and the average American consumer realized they didn’t have to buy a brand new car every year or two. And so it was that Edsel’s seven-model portfolio was reduced to just three for 1959. Leading the charge was the most successful (and cheapest) Edsel, the Ranger. It turned out that for Edsel buyers of 1958, less was more.
We return to our Edsel coverage with the company’s fourth and final launch year model that was canceled immediately. In case you need a refresher, Edsel debuted in 1958 with a seven-car lineup. Four models were sedan-based (with accompanying body variations), while three were wagons.
The sedan models that never made it past 1958 included the lower-mid level Pacer, and the flagship Citation. Immediate wagon cancellations were the base model Roundup, and Edsel’s flagship wagon, the Bermuda.
Thus far in Abandoned History’s coverage of Edsel, we’ve learned about the brand’s introduction to the American consumer, and the immediate confusion its pricing caused. As far as product, thus far we’ve covered two of the four single-year Edsel models: Pacer and Citation. While those two models were sedans, there were also two Edsel wagons that bit the dust after one year. Meet the Roundup.
In our last edition of Abandoned History, we found ourselves in the earliest days of Edsel sales in 1958. The new company offered a full lineup of four sedan-based models and three different wagons. But because Edsel failed so spectacularly, 1958 was the only year it had a broad product offering. Four of seven models were eliminated before the company’s second model year.
Last time we covered the cheapest of the one-offs, the Pacer. Its near entry-level status confused customers as it wasn’t exactly a cheap vehicle at $2,700 ($27,973 adj.) before options like a heater or radio. Pacer was also based on a Ford, but priced more like a Mercury. Still, the Pacer found 19,057 customers in its only year; many more than the upmarket Citation found during its outing.
Ford conducted a lot of marketing research for its Edsel brand and was assured by many well-educated MBA types that its new lineup would be hugely successful. The research scientists said the unique styling and features Edsel offered would appeal to a broad cross-section of the American populace. After a television musical debut in the fall of 1957, Edsels were shipped to dealers where they remained under wraps until it was time for the ‘58 model year.
Crazy styling aside, Edsel’s arrival caused some immediate brand confusion in relation to Mercury, and in more limited circumstances, Ford. Much of said confusion occurred in the company’s debut year when Edsel spread the “lots of new models” sauce a little too thin. We start at the brand’s second most basic offering: Pacer.
Documentary Series The Last Independent Automaker in Production, Will Chronicle the Life and Times of American Motors Corporation
A new documentary is currently in production and promises to be of interest to many of our readership. It’s about everyone’s favorite underdog automaker, American Motors Corporation (1954-1988)! Pride of Kenosha, Wisconsin. The team behind the production of The Last Independent Automaker is assembling a deep dive into the brand’s history, which started in 1954 when car and refrigerator manufacturer Nash-Kelvinator Corporation acquired Hudson Motor Car Company, and formed AMC.
Ford successfully orchestrated a splashy live television musical debut for its new brand Edsel in the fall of 1957. The program was a culmination of a multi-year project to establish a new division of Ford that would compete more directly with the likes of Oldsmobile, Buick, and DeSoto. Edsels promised to be notably different from the Mercury with which it shared most everything except styling.
Edsel was to be much more value-conscious than the new-for-’58 unibody Lincolns, which sought to move the brand upmarket after the almost instantaneous discontinuation of the Continental Division. After Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby ushered in the Edsel name it was time to show off the all-new models in showrooms, and introduce a supposedly excited American consumer to the lineup.
Edsel received an honorary mention a couple of weeks ago, in our current Rare Rides Icons series on the Lincoln Mark cars. Then it was mentioned again the other day in Abandoned History’s coverage of the Cruise-O-Matic transmissions. It’s a sign. We need to talk about Edsel.
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- Doc423 Well said, Jeff.
- Urlik My online research seems to indicate it’s an issue with the retaining clips failing and allowing the valve spring retainers to come out. This results in the valve dropping into the cylinder.
- EBFlex Typical Ford. For those keeping track, Ford is up to 44 recalls for the year. Number one recalled manufacturer (yet again) by a wide margin.
- Lorie Did they completely forget the damn 2.0 ecoboosts that have the class action lawsuit? Guess those of us that had to pay out of pocket for an engine replacement for a fail at 76k miles are out of luck? I will never buy a Ford again.
- Mncarguy I remember when the Golf came out and all the car magazines raved about it. I bought an early one in the mid level trim, brown with a beige vinyl interior and a stick. I must have blocked out a lot about that car, because the only thing I remember is one day with my wife and infant in the car, the brakes went out! I could use the parking brake and made it home. There must have been other issues (beside an awful dealer who felt like they were doing you a favor even letting you come in for service) because I swore I'd never buy a VW again. I did get a new Beetle and later a Passat. That's another story!