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The (new) Cadillac Database©

The Cadillac Eldorado Brougham
1957 - 1960

Part 5
Breaking-in the Brougham

Being a short account of pre-production testing of the
Cadillac Eldorado Brougham models of 1957-58


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Although obviously it was going to be cost-prohibitive to manufacture a car like the Brougham, when news of Ford’s intended Continental Mark II leaked out, it swung GM into forging ahead with the project.

According to a magazine article (Fortune, February 1955), Cadillac had been quoted as saying that there was no market in the U.S. for any car over $7,000 [at that time the Eldorado model sold for a tad under $6,300]. Yet six months earlier Ed Glowacke had already been given the green light for the Brougham project. The $7,000 upper limit determined by Cadillac themselves soon rose to $8,500 and, as we know, the final product reached a staggering sticker price of $13,074.

Before introducing the super car to the public in January 1957 it had to undergo grueling tests at GM’s own proving grounds in Arizona.

Between February and June 1956 a handful of thinly disguised test models were driven out there. Cy Strickler, former President of the Brougham Owner’s Association, related in The Milestone Car (Autumn 1974) how, on one trip out to Arizona, the new Brougham was spotted by a local TV crew, somewhere in rural Oklahoma. It had stood out from the accompanying stock 1956 model. Only frantic pleading by Cadillac test driver, Clarence Morpheu, prevented pictures of the new Brougham being leaked to the press at that time.


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The test car at the GM proving grounds (or were there two ?)
The thinly disguised car had regular 15" wheels and 1954-55 wheel discs;
(the purpose of the two trunk-mounted, rear-facing a/c vents is not clear)



Time was of the essence and time was running out. The Cadillac engineers had banked on installing disc brakes on the Brougham, as well as the Hydra-Matic transaxle, independent rear suspension and fuel injection. These were unfortunately not to be. Disc brakes as standard equipment, for example, were still more than ten years away for Cadillac.

All too often also, tests were delayed by a problem that would subsequently continue to plague the Brougham: deflated air suspension.

The search for lower, sleeker lines was the goal of most auto manufacturers in the fifties. The Brougham engineers achieved a 6 ½" drop in standing height, lower than standard Cadillac models, owing to frame and suspension modifications as well as the design of the tires.

Cadillac frames were built by the A.O. Smith corporation who developed the new X-Frame. At the same time Cadillac had gained much experience of air suspension from GM's coach division and so decided to adapt it to the Brougham. One of the advantages of air springing is the possibility of maintaining constant ride height, irrespective of load, using special leveling valves. In addition, air springs allow the ride to be lowered by about 10% compared to conventional springing.

Database users who want a more detailed and full technical description of Cadillac’s air suspension system would do well to acquire a copies of an article by Cy Strickler that was published in The Milestone Car (Autumn 1975). Another interesting article on the performance features of the Brougham’s air suspension appeared in Motor Trend, July 1957.


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© 1996, Yann Saunders and the Cadillac-LaSalle Club, Inc.
[Background image: one of the Brougham test cars on the speed oval at Detroit]