1956, 1957 Cadillac Eldorado
The 1956 Cadillac line offered buyers a choice of Eldorados for the first time. The convertible returned with the name Biarritz to set it apart from a new two-door hardtop companion called Seville. Both names were taken from
historic -- and, of course, prestigious -- European cities, Seville in Spain and Biarritz in France.
The Eldorado convertible was retagged Biarritz to distinguish it from the new-for-1956 Seville hardtop coupe.
Styling changes common to both included the addition of a smart, twin-bladed hood ornament -- suitable for impaling unsuspecting pedestrians -- and a pair of ribbed chrome "saddles" on the door tops. The Seville proved to be particularly popular, outselling the Biarritz by nearly 2 to 1.
Interestingly enough, their positions would be reversed within three years. Under the hood, the Cadillac V-8 was enlarged for the first time since 1949, with a 3/16-inch increase in bore (on the same 3.63-inch stroke) bringing swept volume to 365 cid. Horsepower was rated at 305 for the two Eldorados, again 20 more than that of other models.
Cadillac's completely restyled 1957 offerings borrowed heavily from the lines of the Park Avenue, a hardtop sedan "idea" car shown at the 1954 Motorama. A new X-member chassis contributed to structural rigidity as well as to a profile nearly three inches lower than before. Of course, the lack of side rails meant that the new frame afforded virtually no lateral impact protection, but Detroit wasn't particularly safety-conscious in those days.
Once more the Eldorado Biarritz and Seville had their own rear-end configuration. The work of Ron Hill, a talented 23-year-old design newcomer, it featured a sloped deck flanked by rounded fenders sprouting sharply pointed fins.
Rear wheel openings were again skirtless, and the lower rear fenders were liberally garnished with chrome. The hood ornament was eliminated, contributing to a smoother frontal appearance.
This like-new 1957 Biarritz shows off its handsome profile and smart interior.
Overall, the '57 was more readily distinguishable from other Cadillacs than any Eldorado since the original. Oddly enough, the dual four-barrel carburetion was dropped this year, and standard horsepower backed off slightly to 300 despite an increase in compression ratio. The all-out performance buff could still get the twin pots and 325 horses, but they now cost extra.
But the Biarritz and the Seville were no more than a warm-up for 1957's main event. As it had in the 1930s, Cadillac plunged into the super-luxury market with the new Eldorado Brougham, a virtually hand-built hardtop sedan on a more compact 126-inch wheelbase. Conceived largely in response to the Continental Mark II from Ford Motor Company, it came with every extra in the Cadillac accessory book -- plus a few brand-new exclusives -- but was no more successful.
Price was a formidable $13,074, for which you could very nearly buy both a Biarritz and a Seville. Demand was predictably limited, and just 400 were built for the model year, all in Cadillac's own plant, by the way. Long a certified Milestone, the Eldorado Brougham is a story unto itself.
Find details on the 1958 and 1958 Eldorado models in the next section.
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