Demise of the Chevrolet El Morocco
When the 1957 Chevrolet El Morocco debuted, some observers noticed the similarities between the El Morocco and a certain Cadillac. But contrary to some contemporary reports, Cadillac's Eldorado Brougham hardtop sedan was not the inspiration for the second-series Chevrolet El Morocco design.
It was still patterned on the Eldorado Biarritz convertible and Seville hardtop coupe with their "shark" fins and single headlights, versus the Brougham's stepped fins and quad lamps (one of the first U.S. cars so equipped).
Nevertheless, the 1957 Chevrolet El Morocco did look much like Caddy's new $13,000 flagship from behind, with similarly styled fins and bumper. Also similar were the L-shaped bodyside moldings (Biarritz/Seville flanks were mostly chromeless), curved down to form dummy air scoops ahead of broad appliqués on the lower rear fenders.
As you might expect, the transformation was most effective on the four-door hardtop. Still, there was never any thought of duplicating the Brougham's brushed stainless-steel roof, which would have shot the retail price sky-high and defeated Allender's whole purpose.
As was recounted in Motor Trend that July, the 1957 conversion began when the stock car "is stripped of all trim, the hood and deck are removed, and the trim mounting holes are filled in. Then the hood is completely smoothed out with extra sheet steel, welded in place . . . The fender fins are [also]
welded . . .
"The only original trim that remains when the El Morocco is finished is the chrome fin tip and the headlight bezels. All other trim is special (and expensive) cast or shaped aluminum or steel. All trim items are chromed. Front bumpers are slightly reworked and the turn signal lights are new [the originals were covered with black "tip" bumper guards that extended overall length by about five inches over stock].
"The Eldorado-like latticework grille is aluminum. The generous chrome rear-quarter side panels are dimpled sheet brass, which is chromed. Similar material is used in back at each side of the license plate recess. The two small lights in each rear chrome panel are dummies."
Though quad headlamps were rumored, all the 1957 Chevrolet El Moroccos had the stock dual lights. As a finishing touch, the Chevrolet script above the gold V's on hood and rear deck was replaced by "El Morocco" in neat block letters.
As before, there were no mechanical or structural changes. All the 1957s were apparently equipped with the four-barrel version of Chevy's new 283 V-8, plus Powerglide automatic, radio, and heater. However, buyers could choose from turbine-type or triple-spoke "spinner" wheel covers.
One final, fascinating distinction was a leather pad on the steering wheel hub. Deeply stamped into it were the words "El Morocco Custom Built For . . . ," with the owner's name added later, of course.
Remarkably, the price difference between Chevy and El Morocco was much lower in 1957 than the previous year. The hardtops retailed at $2,750-$2,800, about $500 above the stock Two-Tens, while the convertible cost $2,950, less than $500 more than the equivalent Bel Air.
But by then, it was too late. Though Allender had hoped to sell El Morocco through selected Chevy dealers, the plan fizzled, perhaps due to lack of official GM backing. Moreover, his warehouse facilities offered no hope of increasing production to a profitable level, and demand for medium-price cars was on the wane anyway.
Fortunately, a few of his cars still survive -- and still prompt double-takes. They're perhaps the rarest and most distinctive artifacts of the "Classic Chevy" years. They're also a reminder that success in the auto business -- then and now -- takes a lot more than just a great idea.