1957-1960 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham

The 1957-1960 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham has often been compared to the 1956-1957 Continental Mark II. It has even been said that the Brougham was GM's response to Ford's second-generation Continental. Truthfully, about all the two had in common were great styling and poor sales. The Continental Mark II was planned as a reincarnation of the original 1940-1948 Continental, later known as the Mark I. Built by the entirely separate Continental Division of Ford Motor Company, the Mark II was offered only as a two-door hardtop.

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1957 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.
As of January 25, 1955, the basic shape of the 1957 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham had been decided upon, but much detail work remained to be done. The 1955 Brougham show car wore different side trim and fins than the production version. See more classic car pictures.

The Eldorado Brougham was a four-door hardtop derived from a very different school of styling thought. Ironically, it was first delivered in any numbers in April 1957, just one month before the Continental Mark II was taken out of production. The Mark II had a "Modern Formal" look, the result of many months of styling exercises by Ford and four outside styling consultants. The Eldorado Brougham, on the other hand, was "Modern Baroque," one man's dream intended to play upon the fantasies of the American car-buying public.

That man was GM's autocratic styling boss, Harley J. Earl, who paid a lot more attention to Cecil B. De Mille and Al Jolson than to the great coachbuilders of the Classics of the Thirties. To Earl, showbiz sold cars. The more chrome, the better; the more a car looked like it was ready to blast off for Mars, the more buyer appeal. This isn't to say that Earl encouraged bad design. Many of his Fifties efforts -- including the Eldorado Brougham -- were quite good. But the thinking behind these designs had a lot more to do with playing to an audience than to blending the best elements of the past with the present.

1957 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.
The 1957 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham was a four-door hardtop designed under GM's Harley Earl.

The General Motors Motoramas were extravaganzas conceived by Earl to test public reaction to GM's wildest styling dreams. The Eldorado Brougham slowly evolved through three years of Motoramas, leading Earl to the inevitable conclusion that while the well-heeled public might applaud a dashing open two-seater, it was far more likely to shell out the big bucks for an equally glamorous chariot with four doors and a permanent top.

The origins of the 1957 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham can be traced back to the Orleans show car seen at the 1953 Motorama. This was a standard Series Sixty-Two Cadillac made into the decade's first true pillarless four-door hardtop. Also featured on this car was the 1953 Eldorado convertible's wraparound windshield.

While the concept of a four-door hardtop intrigued buyers far more than the racy Le Mans roadster at the same show, the Orleans' stock 1953 lines didn't lend themselves very well to four-door hardtop styling. Still, Earl carefully noted the buyer preference for four seats, four doors, and a metal roof in a GM dreamboat. He particularly observed that this preference came from those who could "back up their approval with a check."

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1957 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham and Other High-End GM Cars

GM's auto designer Harley Earl went to the 1954 Motorama with the El Camino coupe, La Espada roadster, and four-door Park Avenue. The last not only very accurately predicted the 1957 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham, but the rest of the 1957 Cadillac line, and, to a lesser degree, the 1957 Buick and Oldsmobile.

Though the Park Avenue wasn't a true four-door hardtop, the attractive stainless window frame treatment made it look deceptively like one. The top was brushed aluminum. Again, Earl noted the reaction from those who could really afford such cars, and the overwhelming choice was the Park Avenue sedan.

1957 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.
The grille on the 1957 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham was more extreme than that on the standard Cadillac and was complemented by dual headlights. The aggressive-looking tailfins housed neatly integrated vertical taillights.

This was followed up at the 1955 Motorama with a fully operational prototype Cadillac Eldorado Brougham that was close -- but not identical to -- the Park Avenue. The Cadillac Eldorado Brougham was a true four-door hardtop, not a four-door sedan. It was lower than the Park Avenue (and seven inches lower than production Cadillacs) and considerably shorter in the rear. Its roof was brushed stainless steel rather than aluminum, and the wraparound windshield was vertical at the A-pillars rather than swept back into the doors.

By this time, it was crystal clear in Earl's mind what the public wanted in a very high-end GM car -- and it had very little to do with the Continental Mark II, which was officially introduced in late September 1955.

The Brougham wasn't committed to production until about the time of the 1955 Motorama. It was built by the Cadillac Division at the Cadillac plant in Detroit, Michigan, with not nearly the same degree of commitment or necessity to turn a profit as had been the case with the Mark II.

1957 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham interior
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.
The instrument panel of the 1957 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham also sported fins! Chrome was in great abundance, and the glovebox housed silver magnetized drink tumblers.

Earl told Motor Trend magazine in 1955: "From the outset it was apparent that we must incorporate certain features known to be acceptable to our customers by virtue of Motorama experience and reception of our regular production cars, such as pillarless body construction, Panoramic windshield, pivoting front seats, and such landmarks as gull-type front bumper, 'egg-crate' grille, rear fender fins, and the projectile shapes on the rear fenders similar to the 1955 Eldorado convertible."

The Cadillac Eldorado Brougham boasted the first four-headlight lighting system in the industry, along with the soon-to-be-extinct Nash. Unlike air suspension, this feature quickly spread to practically every production car in the U.S. It was the norm for nearly three decades (toward the end with rectangular lamps), until new legislation allowed the now-universal aero-headlights to take over.

But in the late Fifties, when the U. S. Interstate Highway system was just beginning to take shape, the dual-beam single headlights of the late Thirties were still the standard. One reason for this was outmoded laws, which in many states didn't permit a true quad-lamp setup. However, the new system, introduced by Cadillac on the 1957 Brougham, was quickly approved by all states and became the industry standard in 1958. It utilized outer lamps with both high and low beams and inner lamps with high beam only.

The outer lamps on low beam were used for city driving and when there was oncoming traffic. Inner lamps and outer lamps on high beam were used for highway/freeway driving. Combined wattage of the four lamps was much greater than two-lamp systems, thus furnishing better illumination. In addition, the light was directed so that a driver got maximum visibility while creating minimal glare for drivers of oncoming cars -- as long as the headlights were in proper alignment.

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Prototype of the 1957 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham

The first minutes of meetings concerning the Cadillac Eldorado Brougham were recorded on May 4, 1954, shortly after the last stop of the 1954 Motorama. At this first meeting, preliminary specifications and dimensions were laid down. Styling responsibility was turned over to Ed Glowacke, who headed the Cadillac studio. Engineering was handled by Fred Arnold, Cadillac's Chief Engineer.

Unlike so many of the industry's immobile show cars of the period, the first Eldorado Brougham was a fully operational model with an all-steel body, conventional Cadillac engine, and a full complement of working accessories.

1957 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.
The 1957 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham that was produced had some design differences from the prototype.

While the prototype, first displayed in early 1955, was essentially a 1955 Cadillac from an engineering standpoint (the chassis notwithstanding), the production model had all of the engineering advances of the 1957 models, including a 365-cubic-inch V-8. In the Eldorado Brougham it developed 325 horsepower at 4800 rpm, and featured a 10.0:1 compression ratio and two Carter four-barrel carburetors.

This engine was optional on the Series Sixty-Two Eldorado Specials, the Seville coupe and Biarritz convertible. It was combined with a conventional GM Hydra-Matic four-speed automatic transmission. Power steering, power brakes, and air conditioning were all standard. While fuel injection was seriously considered for the production models, at no time was it ever incorporated.

The Motorama Eldorado Brougham was rushed from preliminary sketches to completion in less than 10 months. Assembly got underway on November 6, 1954. Amazingly, the finished car was previewed by the industry in New York's Waldorf-Astoria hotel on January 19, 1955, literally with the paint still drying. Somehow, when the car was being unloaded at 2 a.m. it fell off its jacks, tearing the front fender and gouging the rear bumper. Some pretty frantic scurrying must have followed because the Cadillac Eldorado Brougham was revolving sedately on its turntable at 4 p.m. when the cocktail crowd of over 5000 arrived.

GM designer Harley Earl had made an appearance on Arthur Godfrey's TV show the previous morning, where he strongly hinted that the flashy Brougham would be put into limited production. By the time the first of six Motorama stops was over, a week later, it was almost a foregone conclusion that this unique Cadillac creation would in fact be put into limited production.

The prototype stood on a 124-inch wheelbase; the production wheelbase was pegged at 126 inches. The length of both the prototype and production models was 216.3 inches, about the same as the 1957 Series Sixty-Two sedan. But whereas the Sixty-Two stood 59 inches high, the production Brougham was down to 55.5 inches and its 77.5-inch width was 2.5 inches less than the standard production car. Despite the trimmer exterior dimensions, front and rear headroom was actually greater than in the Sixty-Two sedan. Front leg room was about the same, but rear leg room was uncomfortably less.

The prototype's front fenders were one continuous piece, and there was a forward-hinged hood. The centerpost between the doors was cut down to a mere stub with the doors locking against each other. This dictated that the rear doors be hinged at the rear "suicide" style, a feature that never took hold at GM, but was popularized a few years later by the Lincoln Continental. The windshield had the same wraparound treatment as the prototype. Since the car was to offer air conditioning as standard equipment, wind wings were eliminated. Instead, aircraft type air scoops were incorporated in the cowl area, and functional vertical exhaust slots were found on the rear doors.

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Design Elements of the 1957 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham

While the differences between the prototype of the 1957 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham and the production model were subtle, the trained eye could easily pick them up.

Side trim on the production model had slightly more chrome and glitz, and small vent windows appeared. The prototype had very restrained fins containing conservative taillights at the top, and the rear deck was sloped. The production Brougham openly conceded to the Cadillac mentality with a tail treatment vacillating between that of the Eldorado Seville/Biarritz and the standard Caddys.

The fins were larger, the taillights were moved down, exhaust pods were tamed, and the deck was less sloped than on the Seville/Biarritz. Even the front-end treatment on the production model moved more closely to the mass-produced 1957 models. Obviously, GM designer Harley Earl was hedging his bets.

1958 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.
By 1958 the regular Cadillacs had adopted the Brougham-style fins and dual headlights. Still, the more compact size of the Brougham plus other exclusive styling features kept it exclusive, as this 1958 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham demonstrates.

Although the prototype's dashboard predicted the panel of the 1957 Cadillac, there were no interchangeable parts. Controls included three knobs in the driver's door to operate the "memory seat," buttons for the electric door locks and power-actuated trunklid, plus a warning light for low air pressure in the suspension system. The car could not be started with either rear door open, and all doors locked automatically when the car was put into gear. Standard equipment included an Autronic-Eye headlight dimmer and virtually every other accessory offered as an option, even on the Fleetwood series.

A fully transistorized radio boasted front and rear speakers and an antenna that popped up and down automatically when the radio was turned on and off. Seats, both front and rear, were contoured to accommodate two passengers. The front seats were separate and independently adjustable -- and they swung out. This resulted in extremely wide and comfortable seating for two across, but made it quite uncomfortable for an uninvited third party.

Upholstery materials ranging from all-leather to sedate and tailored broadcloth could be had in 44 variations. Mouton carpeting was standard, or the buyer could opt for wooly Karakul or lambskin at no additional cost. As Motor Trend noted in January 1957: "Completely equipped vanity cases, front and rear, even contained a complimentary ounce of Arpège Extrait de Lanvin, a perfume in the Brougham price class."

It should be noted that the Continental Mark II suffered to a degree because it didn't embrace any major innovations that the potential buyer could see or experience. While the Cadillac Eldorado Brougham never did receive fuel injection, it did have two other features with buyer appeal. These were the first air-suspension system on any production car in the world and the industry's first quad headlight setup (along with the 1957 Nash). Less appealing at the time, but new nonetheless, were the industry's first low-profile tires with thin whitewalls.

The Cadillac Eldorado Brougham's air suspension was designed by Lester D. Milliken and Fred H. Cowin, both engineers with the Cadillac Division. Cowin further developed a tubular X-frame to complement this new suspension setup. This type of frame was quickly adopted for all 1957 Cadillacs, which were coil sprung at all four corners. The 126-inch-wheelbase Brougham version was 3.5 inches shorter than the Series Sixty-Two, but the tread front and rear remained the same at 61 inches, making it a very stable compact design.

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Sales of the 1957 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham

The feature-laden, super-luxurious Cadillac Eldorado Brougham made its public debut at the National Automobile Show in New York in late January 1957. Public introduction at dealerships was held in key U.S. cities in February. At that time, orders were taken, although very few cars were actually delivered before March.

Surprisingly, the Cadillac Eldorado Brougham received only passing attention in the motoring press, and was given pathetically few drive reports. For reasons never fully explained, the factory public relations effort was practically non-existent compared to the monumental press buildup that had preceded the introduction of the Continental Mark II.

1958 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.
After running off just 400 1957 Cadillac Eldorado Broughams, Cadillac fielded an almost identical model for 1958.

One publication that did road test the Brougham was Motor Trend. But the magazine only checked out the car's new suspension system, not the total performance and personality of this new breed of Cadillac. Reporter Joe Wherry wrote, not altogether enthusiastically, that "A rough, busted-up three miles of ancient concrete road provided a good place to drive both a conventionally suspended Cad 60 Special and the new airborne Brougham.

There is no doubt that the ride is amazingly improved, but riders and driver too (through the entire structure) felt shocks; the edge or sharpness of the bump and rebound is taken away. Cornering under power produces as much heeling over as in a regular line Cadillac and more than in some current domestic cars with suspensions engineered specifically to maintain a level cornering attitude, regardless of the stresses imposed by the centrifugal action of a fast turn. Nose dipping on fast stops is still present."

Without coming right out and saying it, Motor Trend must have concluded that the Cadillac Fleetwood Sixty Special, reported on separately in another issue, was by far the better value at a base price of $5,614. Praising the Fleetwood for quality, fuel economy, and overall economy, MT said that the riding qualities were "just about the best found on any present day automobile."

It has been contended that one reason the Mark II failed in the marketplace was because it was not offered in a four-door version. If this was the case, then the Cadillac Eldorado Brougham should have fared better. Truthfully, it met a more resistant market than the Mark II. At $10,000, the Mark found only about 1200 buyers.

Discounted to around $8,000, another 1,800 customers were found. The Cadillac Eldorado Brougham was pegged at $13,074! There were no additional accessories needed, and no discount was offered. At this price, only 400 buyers were found in 1957 and 304 in 1958. With the Mark II, price was the entire story. With the Eldorado, price was only a part of it.

When Cadillac had introduced the Eldorado convertible in 1953, the division was satisfied to sell only 533 examples. Even at this level, there were a lot of quality complaints coming back from the dealers, particularly with regard to the air suspension. While Cadillac has never offered any explanation for the low production numbers, it seems that the Eldorado Brougham was more of a token promotion effort than anything else -- a token to Harley Earl's ego and to the intensive Mark II exercise over in Dearborn. And the bottom line was that the Brougham effort seemed to do a good job of selling the upmarket Sixty Specials, which hit a production record of 24,000 in 1957 -- 7000 units more than in 1956.

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1958, 1959, 1960 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham

The 1958 Cadillac Eldorado Broughams didn't have nearly the sales impact on Fleetwoods as did the 1957s -- 1958 Fleetwood Sixty Special production tumbled to 12,900 units. Perhaps the sudden, unexpected "Eisenhower recession" that took hold late in 1957 was the major reason.

About the only ways to tell a 1958 Brougham from a 1957 from the outside were the changed wheel covers and some new exterior colors. Inside, there were quite a few minor differences, such as upper door panels that went from a metal finish to leather. Under the hood, the compression ratio was upped to 10.25:1, and Rochester triple two-barrel carburetors replaced the Carter dual quads. The net result was a rousing 335 horsepower.

1958 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.
The 1958 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham rode a short (for Cadillac) 126-inch wheelbase and measured 216.3 inches overall. And at 5315 pounds, it could hardly be considered a lightweight.

The year 1959 heralded a changing of the guard at GM design, and the Cadillac Eldorado Brougham took the styling lead, though few realized it at the time. After an illustrious three-decade career, Harley Earl retired at the end of 1958. He was succeeded by William L. "Bill" Mitchell, and all 1959 Cadillacs showed his influence. Ed Glowacke moved up to become Mitchell's assistant, while Charles M. "Chuck" Jordan became Cadillac's chief designer.

Jordan, assisted by Dave Holls, was primarily responsible for the 1959-1960 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham, first seen at the Chicago Auto Show in January 1959. The styling engineer was George Ryder, who followed the project abroad into production.

While the 1957-1958 Broughams were built with a "hang the expense" attitude, the 1959-1960 models were much closer to production Cadillacs. Dollars and sense finally prevailed over nonsense, although the price to the buyer remained at a sobering $13,074.

The Brougham was now made a Fleetwood sub-series, carrying a Fleetwood chassis with a 130-inch wheel-base, same as all other 1959 Cadillacs save for limos. Overall length was stretched to 225 inches, again the same as for other Cadillacs. Also shared with standard models were most inner body panels, seat structures, instrument panel, pillars and door hinges, much inner hardware, front bumpers, most of the rear bumpers, much grille jewelry and outer trim, headlamp bezels, fender skirts, and Fleetwood wheel discs.

What made the Cadillac Eldorado Brougham appear different? Outer body panels were completely changed, although one could argue they hardly looked it. The lowered fins were more like those soon to be seen on the mainstream 1960 Cadillacs, the rear deck was more sloped, the grille was revised, and the front-hinged hood was much smaller. Most noticeably, the greenhouse was completely different. First off, it no longer had a Panoramic-style windshield, which not only eliminated the annoying "dogleg" but made Cadillac the first GM division to begin to back away from wraparound glass.

The new windshield also swept up three feet into a roof that was flatter and squarer than on other 1959 Cadillacs, and completely restyled at the rear. Designed by Dave Holls, the new upper structure appealed so much to top management that it was adopted for the 1961-1964 C-bodied Cadillacs, Buicks, and Oldsmobiles.

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1959, 1960 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham

The 1959 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham 365 V-8, which retained Tri-Power carburetion, was stroked to 390 cid, and with its higher 10.5:1 compression ratio developed 345 horsepower at 4,800 rpm. This same powerplant was carried over for the 1960 models. Air suspension was likewise continued, but wasn't exactly the same as in 1957-1958 due to revised air-spring bellows and domes and a constant-supply air pump rather than an on-demand unit.

Interiors, by comparison with the 1957-1958 Broughams, appeared more conventionally Cadillac. Gone were the silver cups in the glove compartment, the perfume bottles, the many vanities, and the digital clock. Still, these second-generation Eldorado Broughams carried a magazine rack in back and lockable compartments on the rear package shelf. There were dozens of Brougham trim touches, including veneer panels and a rear dock shared with limos. Interior upholstery choices were down from 44 to 15. As in 1957-1958, carpeting was either Mouton or Karakul. Lambskin was out.

1959 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.
An early rendering of the Pinin Farina-built 1959 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham.

In a further effort to cut production costs, the project was turned over to the Pinin Farina factory in Turin, Italy, which produced 99 cars in 1959 and 101 in 1960. All were virtually hand built, one reason the bodies had so much leading (much to the bane of restorers later). Surprisingly, the cars didn't wear Pinin Farina badges.

That's apparently because Cadillac did the design work; cars wearing the Pinin Farina tag were generally designed as well as built by that world-famous Italian firm. In contrast, the 1987-1993 Cadillac Allanté did carry Pininfarina badging (one word beginning in 1961) because that's who helped design it. In any case, the 1959-1960 Eldorado Broughams carried only the Fleetwood name on the doorsill moldings.

There were some styling changes for 1960. These included the 1960 Cadillac front bumper (minus the turn signal pods), taillights taken out of the fins, and rear bumper ends elongated vertically with two round lights floating inside a concave brushed aluminum panel. From the sides, the 1960 appeared much changed, looking close to what would become the regular 1961 Caddys.

In fact, the 1961s borrowed so much from Brougham styling that there really was no longer any reason to produce these once-distinctive automobiles. As a result, the Brougham made a quiet, regal exit to become one of the most obscure Cadillac collectibles of the post-World War II era. Now, all of the 904 Cadillac Eldorado Broughams produced from 1957 to 1960 are quite collectible.

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1957, 1958, 1959, 1960 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham Specifications

Although never a top seller, the Cadillac Eldorado Brougham always stood out. Find specifications for the 1957-1958 and 1959-1960 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham in the following chart.

1957-1960 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham Specifications


1957-1958 1959-1960
Price
$13,074 $13,074
Wheelbase (in.) 126.0 130.0
Overall length (in.) 216.3 225.0
Overall width (in.) 77.5 80.2
Overall height (in.) 55.5 56.2
Tread, front (in.) 61.0 61.0
Tread, rear (in.) 61.0 61.0
Weight (lbs) 5,315 5,200 est
Tire size 8.40 × 15 8.20 × 15
Fuel capacity (gal) 20.0 21.0

1957-1960 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham Production

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1957 400
1958 304
1959 99
1960 101

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