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The (new) Cadillac Database©
Being the story of the first limited-production
Cadillac Special Sport Convertible
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This section of The (New) Cadillac Database©, deals with the fabulous, limited-production Eldorado model for 1953. The production car, of which only 532 units were built, is derived from the special, custom Golden Anniversary convertible that was exhibited on the show citcuit that year [there was no Mototrama in 1952, owing to the on-going war in Korea].
In a competition run by Cadillac's advertising agency MacManus, John & Adams, Inc., that show car got the name El Dorado [in two words]; it was proposed by Mary Ann Zokosky who worked in Cadillac's merchandising department. Her reward for winning the competition was a $25 Defense Bond [circa $190 in 2006 dollars].
At the end of the year, the name El Dorado was adopted for Cadillac's new, bespoke luxury convertible of 1953.
We owe the El Dorado story principally to Matt Larson of the CLC who devoted 600 long hours to scrutinizing nearly 110,000 Cadillac build-sheets for 1953. The collector community owes him a huge debt of gratitude, not only for his painstaking efforts to advance the hobby but also for sharing with us, graciously, the fruits of his labor.
In Matt's own words:
Accessing those records was a one-time opportunity that is not given to everyone. It took years to develop. After this job and the vastly more time consuming task of researching the 205,000 LaSalle production records for the book I did with Ron Van Gelderen in 2000, I don't think I would ever contemplate doing any other research project of this magnitude !
The 53 Eldorado is a counterpoint to the Eldorado Brougham and generally outsells the latter in the current marketplace. I certainly hope that this revised Database section soon will match in substance and detail the elaborate section that you have put together for the Eldorado Brougham models, founded on the intensive and in-depth research carried out in the seventies by the late Cy Strickler of Atlanta.
I would like to see a Chapter (affinity group) formed within the Cadillac-LaSalle Club for the '53 Eldorado and a Chapter for the 1957-1960 Eldorado Brougham; to bring the Brougham Owners Association into the CLC. Any owners interested in doing that should contact the President of the CLC.
The 1953 Eldorado [the name was quickly changed from two words to a single one] was the first in a long line of luxury convertibles from Cadillac, although a new and equally luxurious Eldorado coupe model (the Seville) was added to the line three years later, in 1956. The latter, however, remained in production for just five years.
The convertible Eldorado continued to enjoy popularity for another 20 years, until 1976, when Cadillac announced the "last one" ...that is until management got wind of the relatively high number of enthusiasts who were buying closed Cadillacs and taking them to "top-chop-shops" to be converted (at considerable expense) to convertible configuration. Management suddenly realised there was still a market for the high-end, luxury convertible.
Much to the dismay of the speculators who had bought one of Cadillac's "last" Eldorado convertibles in 1976, that mythical model made a notable -- albeit short-lived -- come-back in 1984 and 1985. Indeed, eight years after its "last" convertible rolled off the production line at the Clark Avenue plant in Detroit, Cadillac built yet again a "last" Eldorado rag-top. When, in 1986, the renowned Eldorado convertible finally and definitively [???] went the way of all things, the glorious Biarritz name lived on.
Coined first in 1956 to distinguish between the sporty rag-top and the more conservative Seville coupe, the name Biarritz continued for another fourteen years to grace an Eldorado model, but this time a spruced-up version of the regular, down-sized Eldorado coupe.
So much for logic and tradition !
In this writer's humble opinion, even the addition of a new Eldorado Touring Coupe [the ETC] in 1991 and the dynamic new Northstar engine in 1993 prolonged only briefly the lifespan of the bespoke Eldorado (re-badged the Eldorado Sport Coupe, or ESC, in the New Millennium).
Is this really the end of the Eldorado ? Described already in 1976 as The Last of a Magnificent Breed, Cadillac's bespoke model nevertheless lived on -- albeit as a closed car -- for another twenty-six years, taking the final [???] curtain only in April, 2002.
History is forever repeating itself and so the final models were painted Alpine White or Aztec Red, two of the original colors of the first Eldorado of 1953.
Nicola Bulgari of jewelery fame added the second-last Eldorado to his Roman collection [Nicola once owned a Cadillac V-16 that he bought from the Vatican garage.
The last Eldorado was donated by GM to its own Cadillac Museum.
As to the fate of the convertible Eldorado, well, we know that conversion shops continued since 1977 and right through to the final 2002 models, to make very expensive conversions out of the regular Eldorado coupes. These are (and no doubt will continue to be) very popular with Cadillac enthusiasts and probably they will remain highly collectible models, well into the future.
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or select preferred chapter, above
© 2004, Yann Saunders, Matt Larson and the Cadillac-LaSalle Club, Inc.
[ Background image: 1953 Eldorado #1 ]