The Eldorado is one of the most fabled names in American automobiles. Elvis loved them, they show up in Martin Scorsese films with regularity and they’re often drop-dead gorgeous. Here are five little-known facts about the Eldo:
- It was once the most famous production vehicle in the world. The 1957 Eldorado Brougham was a hand-built car with every luxury conceivable in the late-1950s, including air-conditioning, self-leveling suspension, a stainless steel roof and lamb’s wool carpeting. It cost more than $13,000 (over $110,000 in today’s money), which was more than a Rolls-Royce of the day.
- It was the first American car with quad headlamps. Two sealed-beam headlamps about 7 inches in diameter were all you could legally get for lighting on an American car until the late 1950s. By the 1958 model year, 5.5-inch quad headlights were all the rage with even the Corvette giving them a try, but the 1957 Eldorado Brougham had them first.
- It came with the largest-ever American production V-8. It’s hard to imagine a V-8 this size, but the 1970 Eldorado came with a 500-cubic-inch engine (that’s about 8.2 liters) that put out a massive 400 hp driving, believe it or not, the front wheels. As an aside, the 1967-70 Eldorado might also have been the most influential Cadillac of all time. Its elegant style continues to show up in Cadillacs today — just compare the rear ¾ view and you’ll see it, from the vertical taillight design to the knife-edged rear fenders.
- It was the last American convertible for eight years. The 1976 Eldorado was the last American convertible until the 1984 model year. In the mid-1970s, the feds came perilously close to enacting rollover safety legislation that would have outlawed the convertible, resulting in convertibles being discontinued left and right. The last ones from GM went away in 1975-76. The Eldo was billed by GM as “the last convertible” and collectors grabbed them in droves, often putting them away with no miles on them in search of an eventual buck (see below).
- It spawned a class-action lawsuit. When GM started offering a convertible option again with the new, smaller Eldorado and Buick Riviera, customers who had bought the 1976 models were incensed. They filed a class-action lawsuit against GM. It was quickly dismissed as groundless and 1976 Eldorado convertibles with low miles still show up at auctions, often not bringing any more than $30,000. Adjusted for inflation, that’s less than the car sold for new.