At the root of the 1953, 1954 and 1955 Cadillac Eldorado line was a 1952 show car based on the normal Series 62 convertible as modified under the aegis of General Motors design chief Harley Earl. Along with the 1953 Chevrolet Corvette, it was the first of GM's Motorama dream machines to be offered for public sale.
Inspired by a 1952 Motorama show car, the Eldorado arrived the following year as a Series 62 convertible sporting a cut-down wrapped windshield, a rakishly dipped beltline, and chrome wire wheels.
Among its features were the new "Panoramic" wraparound windshield -- a harbinger of things to come -- plus a stylishly notched belt-line and a flush-fitting metal cover to conceal the folded cloth top. Standing some three inches lower than its Series 62 cousin, the Eldorado had a longer, slinkier appearance, though its overall length was the same.
Its interior was upholstered in the finest leather, and a sparkling set of chromed wire wheels added a final touch of elegance. Standard equipment included radio, heater, white-sidewall tires, power steering and, of course, Hydra-Matic transmission. If there were any doubts that Cadillac reigned supreme in the prestige class, the Eldorado forever laid them to rest.
Yet only a year later, the division evidently felt it had sufficiently made that point. It was time for a new kind of Eldorado, one that could be sold in significant numbers and thus turn a substantial profit. Accordingly, the 1954 model was of a different breed -- and it sold for a different price: $5,738, more than $2,000 less than the '53.
Cadillac styling was heavier and more massive for 1954. The new models outweighed their 1953 counterparts by something like 140 pounds, due in part to three-inch longer wheelbases across the line. Whether their more slab-sided appearance made them better-looking may be open to question, but they were nevertheless well received.
Power was still supplied by the division's milestone 331-cubic-inch overhead-valve V-8 that had first appeared for 1949. Though rated horsepower now rose from 210 to 230, there were no engine changes from the previous year. In fact, the 1953 figure had been deliberately understated in order to facilitate this corporate sleight of hand.
The Eldorado still carried the basic Cadillac engine and its predecessor's impressive list of standard features, but it now used the exact same bodyshell as the Series 62 convertible, with no sheetmetal modifications as on the '53. Although the 1954 could be readily identified by ribbed bright metal on the lower rear fenders and gold Cadillac crests on the door uppers, it was much less distinctive than the original.
Still, the price was right, even if it was now "only" $1,300 higher than the 62's. Despite a somewhat abbreviated model year, the Eldorado found 2,150 buyers, a dramatic fourfold increase.
The 1954 Eldorado shared the more massive lines adopted for all Cadillacs that year but was less distinctive than the '53 thanks to the use of the unmodified Series 62 bodyshell.
Changes were more extensive for 1955. For the first time, the Eldorado got its own engine, a high-performance version of the Cadillac V-8. Fitted with dual four-barrel carburetors, it provided 270 horsepower, 20 more than available in other models that year.
Styling was more distinctive, too, with a unique rear end featuring longer, more prominent "shark" fins, plus a smartly redesigned interior. The instrument panel even carried a special gold crest on which the owner's name was engraved.
Fender skirts were eliminated, and larger wheel cutouts showed off the new chrome-plated "Sabre-Spoke" wheels, replacing the previous wires. These gorgeous wheels, exclusive to the Eldorado, would be retained through the 1958 model year.
Learn about the 1956 and 1957 Cadillac Eldorados on the next page.
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