[  last update: 02.13.2015 ] 

The (new) Cadillac Database©

The Cadillac Eldorado
with rear-wheel drive

Part 1
1953 - 1955


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or select another Eldorado topic from the table below


Eldorado Specifications Eldorado 1956 - 1966 Eldorado 1967 and up Eldorado production Statistics



[ 1952 ]
...in name only !

El52clr.jpg (11406 bytes)    1ST_ELDO.JPG (5719 bytes)
The 1952 "Golden Anniversary" Eldorado prototype
[ Photos: © 1952, GM/Cadillac ]


First, a little history

The name Eldorado comes from the Spanish words el dorado, meaning "the gilded one" [or the golden man]. "El" is the Spanish equivalent for "the". Threfore, while it is accepable to speak of the Eldorado [one word], it is tautologous to refer to the El Dorado [two words].  You would not say "the the Dorado",  would you?

A legend spun by the Spanish conquistadores, led by Francisco Pizzaro [1475-1541] who, in 1530 AD, conquered Peru, has it that the name "el dorado" was applied to the cacique or chief of a South American Indian tribe [probably Inca] whose followers would ceremonially sprinkle his body with gold dust and then he would wash it off again by plunging into a lake.

The name is used also to describe a fabled land of untold riches, somewhere on the South American continent, which inspired many European expeditions, including one to the Orinoco river by Sir Walter Raleigh [1552-1618], the man who fought with Sir Francis Drake and defeated the Spanish Armada [the fleet sent against England by Philip II of Spain in 1588 AD].

Considering the amount of gold booty stolen from the Indians by Pizzarro’s troops it is highly possible that, on their pillaging conquests, he and his band of 180 followers found and plundered more than one so-called "el dorado".

Cadillac selected the name for a special convertible show car built in 1952 to celebrate the company's Golden Anniversary. It was suggested in an in-house competition by Mary-Ann Marini, nee Zukowsky, of Cadillac's merchandising staff [now retired].

The company adopted the name for the limited-edition, top-of-the-line Cadillac convertible of 1953.  It was quickly changed from "El Dorado" (two words) to "Eldorado" (one word)

The first Cadillac El Dorado (the 1952 prototype) was shown on the American Salon circuit in 1952, together with another "custom" Cadillac, the special Sixty-Special Townsman. With these  "Golden Anniversary" models, Cadillac celebrated its first fifty years of production.

The press release had this to say about the El Dorado "prototype":


January 22, 1953

Cadillac has created two special automobiles1 designed and appointed to symbolize its Golden Anniversary. The motorist who shares the craftsman's pleasure in exquisite handiwork will instantly find kinship with Cadillac's fabulous Eldorado. This exotic convertible dramatically blends two great fields of human endeavour. In an expression of the ageless arts, Eldorado reveals a treatment of gold on a gleaming ivory-like surface. For appointments of the future, Eldorado presents an aircraft-type crash pad and jet-like rear fender air scoops and dual exhaust openings in the rear bumper. A sports car in character, the long, low body of the Eldorado is finished in a dazzling, white lacquer. Specially designed, the vertical pillar windshield houses extremely curved, tinted, heat-resisting glass. Rectangular wings of the same material are installed on the upper leading edge of each door. Radio antennae are mounted just forward of the tail-lights on Cadillac's now traditional rear fender fins. The antennae raise and lower automatically, depending on the "On-Off" position of the car's radio. Bright, East Indian red pepper leather heightens the enchanting effect of the artistic interior. Seat cushions are stitched in parallel three-quarter inch rows with a heavy, white waxed cord. The seat backs are piped in modern horseshoe pattern with door inserts of the same theme. Crash pad and instrument board top are of an expanded Royalite base covered with Royalite skin, perfectly matching the leather. The steering wheel carries on the theme with its covering of hand sewn, East Indian, pepper-red leather, which is baseball stitched on the back. Floor coverings are a modern texture weave backed with deep, foam rubber. The Eldorado's instrument board inserts, door moldings and kick strips are of 14-Karat, gold-plated, ripple-patterned metal.

[The Eldorado story was told also in CLC for 1/95 and the preceding press release appeared in addition on the inside cover of CLCA for 1978. Photo McC p.297.

1 The second car was the Cadillac Townsman, a specially appointed Series 60 Special sedan



    53eL_mrma.JPG (31496 bytes)    53EldMrma3.JPG (32039 bytes)
Left: Press photo from 1953 itinerant GM Motortama
Right: Factory publicity shot

This one was displayed at the Chicago Auto Show;
it is car #4 (white with black leather)

    El53clr2.jpg (10673 bytes)     El53clr1.jpg (10795 bytes)
Left: The first production Eldorado (car  #1) - 1953 [Photo: © 1953, GM/Cadillac]
Right: early factory publicity shot in color; this could be car #2, used in Eisenhower's inaugural parade

[ Photo: © 1953, GM/Cadillac ]

Cropped image from 1953 Motorama photo

Two excellent survivors found on Internet


The new 1953 Eldorado was described thus on the reverse of the factory photo released for the 1953 Motorama show:

Cadillac Eldorado convertible - The luxurious El Dorado [in two words, as in Spanish for The Gilded One], a completely new car in the Cadillac line for 1953 dramatically presents a new trend in design for American motor cars. Its long low lines (58½" height) is accented by the new deep angle wrap-around windshield. The white or black Orlon top when down is completely concealed under a metal cover at the top of the rear deck. In body lines a bold downward sweep curve over the door sets a new characteristic. New chrome wire wheels add a special touch of distinction. Interiors of the El Dorado are completely trimmed in leather with horseshoe patterns on the seats and horizontal cord stitching. The El Dorado is powered by Cadillac's new 210 horse-power engine.

Only four colors were available: Aztec Red, Alpine White, Azure Blue and Artisan Ochre [yellow - shown erroneously as black in the color folder issued on this rare model]. As mentioned in the advertising copy, convertible tops were available in either black or white Orlon.

The price was an "astronomical" $7750 [for 1953] and only 532 units found buyers.

Trivia: Dwight D. ["Ike"] Eisenhower rode to his inaugural ceremony in one of the first production Eldorados colored Alpine White. The car in which he rode was NOT body #1 but #2 (engine #5362-08900 -- the build sheet reads: Condition for inaugural parade). The latter car was reported sold at auction in 1987 as the "Eisenhower car" for $104,000.





54ELDFRT.JPG (5759 bytes)    54ELfac.JPG (37845 bytes)

ELD54X.JPG (6444 bytes)    El54clr1.jpg (7448 bytes)

54ELDAD.JPG (7890 bytes)

prgmisca.jpg (2887 bytes)
Visitors and VIP's mill around the new car
Photo is from an original factory album found in a
dumpster in MI and subsequently sold on e-Bay

El54clr2.jpg (12982 bytes)
Top three rows:  Factory publicity shots of the new 1954 Eldorado model [Photos: © 1954, GM/Cadillac]
Immediately above: Beautiful, restored car at Scottsdale auction [Photo: © 1998 Yann Saunders]

Superbly restored 1954 Cadillac Eldorado
Source:  Clive Cussler Museum, Arvada, CO

54eldd.jpg (23418 bytes)

54eldc.jpg (21126 bytes)    54eldb.jpg (13958 bytes)

54redeld.jpg (9342 bytes)    54elwhit2a.jpg (8526 bytes)    54eldint.jpg (7026 bytes)

54ElAuction.jpg (38502 bytes)
Here's one that was sold at auction in Scottsdale, AZ


The production Eldorado for 1954 sold for $2,000 less than the 1953 model. Sales were multiplied by four as a result. Cadillac saved on retooling costs by using the same basic body shell as other models in the standard line. It was distinguishable from them principally on account of the broad expanse of ribbed chrome on the lower rear fenders [a feature used again in 1957 and 1958 on the Sixty Special model].

Other trim differences included gold Cadillac crests on the door saddles and half-way down the rear fenders, just behind the doors.

A heavy, metal cover was used to cover the convertible top well when the top was down. The 1954 Eldorado sported wire wheels just like its older sister. Priced at $5,738, it sold over 2,000 units [2,150 to be precise].

Trivia: George Barris, well-known custom car designer and builder modelled his 1954 Cadillac Parisienne Town car [featuring a "half-top" landau] on the 1954 Eldorado. That car is featured in MT, August 1958, p.41. The photo captions read as follows:

One of the most beautiful, chauffeur-driven customs to come out of the Barris shop is this Parisienne Cadillac, originally a '54 Eldorado. Bulky mass of the body has been decreased by taking metal out of the side all around ('sectioning'). Length has been increased by extended rear fenders, and the car has been neatly continentalized [sic] with the rear tire molded into the rear deck. Top is de ville type, half removable. Barris started out by building customs for himself without any body or fender experience. Luckily, he was taught many tricks of the trade by the late Harry Westergard, an early customizer with considerable talent in his own right. Today George first sketches his ideas on paper, sometimes making detailed drawings to be sure the end result is what he is after. See also special issue CCON, p.23, and SIA 8/96.

Cadillac built in 1954 a special Eldorado hardtop coupe for the President of Reynolds aluminum. A photo of both custom cars described here car may be admired in the Dream Cars section of the Database for 1954. There you will see also a factory photo of the 1954 Eldorado prototype as it looked in 1953.

The singer and comedian Liberace commissioned for himself a specially appointed 1954 Eldorado which carried licence tag #JJ5927; the upholstery was designed to represent a piano keyboard [that car too may be seen in the Dream Cars section of the Database.

There is an excellent history and description of the 1954 Eldorado in SIA #151, cover and pp34-39 as well as 58-59.

Harley Earl, who created Cadillac's Art & Color Section in the late twenties, was fond of posing with his new creations. Fondly dubbed the DaVinci of Detroit, here is Earl [in company with a digitally cloned twin], with two creations of which he was particularly fond : the Buick Skylark (left) and Cadillac Eldorado (right):

DAVINCI3.JPG (7824 bytes)


Trivia 2: This lovely lady is off on her honeymoon in her new husband's (almost) new 1954 Cadillac Eldorado. Now there is soemthing I would have enjoyed doing !





55ELDFAC.JPG (26933 bytes)
Factory B&W photo of 1955 Eldorado prototype

Internet find, 2013

55EL_AC.JPG (6911 bytes)
Artist's view of the year's model

El55clr1.jpg (12364 bytes)    El55clr2.jpg (12902 bytes)
Left: Factory photo of the new 1955 Eldorado model [Photo: © 1955, GM/Cadillac]
Right: A well-restored car found on  the Internet in 1999

55elsrv.jpg (20815 bytes)    55elsrv2.jpg (6431 bytes)    
Another survivor found on the Internet in 2008

This one is painted Pacific Coral

Factory photo ... or Hollywood movie still?

Old photo ... or new photo with "old" fashions

55eldDrg.jpg (9982 bytes)
[ Line drawing by Bob Eng - Self Starter annual, 1998 ]


There was a radical change in tail-fin styling on this year's Eldorado. Gone were rear wheel skirts as were the short, stubby fins.

Enter the "scimitar" or "shark fin", a slim, rear-pointing blade. Also in were the new, alloy, so-called "sabre-spoke" wheels, reminiscent of the special wheels Cadillac used on a number of its "dream cars" and "show cars" up to 1956.

Among the latter was a specially appointed Eldorado model, the Eldorado St. Moritz, shown around the 1955 Motorama circuit. The press release described it thus:

Establishing a new trend in luxury passenger car styling, Cadillac's 270 horsepower, 1955 Eldorado, ST. MORITZ, combines a White Pearlescent body with a smartly styled interior upholstery of White Ermine fur and Pearlescent finished, White English grain leather. White Mouton fur carpeting with brushed aluminum floor mat grids and aluminum treads bordered with White Mouton complete the interior styling. For the convenience of lady passengers a combination vanity2 is built into the Eldorado armrest.

A photo of the St. Moritz may be found in SSA 1977, p.31, as also in SSA 1979, inside the front cover. A number of color views of this graceful, air-conditioned, one-of-a-kind car may be admired in a Cadillac advertising catalog published in line with the 1955 Motorama and entitled A Trip to the Motorama [pp. 5-6, and pp. 8 and 11]. These are included also in the Cadillac Database in the Dream Cars section for 1955

The breaking news in 1955 was the new 270 horsepower engine used in the Eldorado, delivering the power of 20 more horses than the motor used in the models in the standard line. A photograph of the 1955 Eldorado engine included in the press kit that year read as follows:

Dual 4-barrel carburetors supply the fuel and air mixture to this 270 horsepower V-type high compression Cadillac Eldorado engine. Designed especially for the Eldorado, the engine is available on a limited basis as optional equipment on other models.

2 There was no indication if the vanity kit was in the front or rear armrest. Who can tell me???

55elcp2.jpg (24078 bytes)    55elcp3.jpg (7631 bytes)

55elcp4.jpg (6635 bytes)    55elcp1.jpg (6625 bytes)
Where did this mysterious 1955 Eldorado coupe come from?
The Eldorado Seville was not made until 1956...



[including sources of other interesting reading]

Eldorado 1952: Golden Anniversary model, SSA 1978, inside rr cover; color photo CG, p.>>>>>;

Eldorado 1953: SSA 1982, cover + pp.14-21; NIT special M1602-2, cover, pp.6-11; Eisenhower in inaugural parade [montage], SSA 1982, rr cover; color photo CC&CC 2/1985, p.12; art. CC&CC, 2/1982{***}; art. CC&CC, 2/1989{***}; SIA118, pp.52-59 (exc.); drawing. Bond #47 [cover];

Eldorado 1953 (supercharged): art. in CA, 11/1985, cover + 34-35; also CA 2/91, p.5;

Eldorado 1953-1959: story and photos, SSA 1977, p.28-35;

Eldorado 1953-1966: art. in CA, 11/1985, cover + pp.2, 7, 30-50, incl. excellent photos '58 Eldo. conv. frt. & rr, '53 Eldo, frt., rr, top up & down, '54 Eldo. + inst. panel, '55 Eldo. frt., rr & eng., '56 Eldo. conv. frt., rr + emblem, fact. photo of '57 Eldo. Cpe., '57 Eldo. conv. + bird's eye view of int., top up & down,'59 Eldo. conv., top up & down, '60 Eldo. conv., frt. & rr, '60 Eldo. Cpe. frt. & rr, '61 Cpe rr, fact. photo of '62 Eldo, '63 Eldo. frt. & rr, '64 Eldo. bird's eye view frt. & rr, '66 Eldo. side, frt. & rr, '65 Eldo. side, prices & prodn.; Spotters' Guide, SIA 26, pp.19-23; Car Collector, 11/85, p.30-50; SIA 1-2/75 pp.12-23;

Eldorado 1953-1973: art. in MT, 3/1994, From Fins to the 500-Cubic-InchV-8, pp.104-107, LH rr. view '64 Eldo., RH rr of '66 Eldo., factory photo LH frt. view of '53, LH rr view of '57 conv., RH frt of '56 Brougham Town Car, LH side view of '64, instr. panel of '63, RH rr view of '61, '67 [misc.], '70, '73, '76.

Eldorado 1954: NIT special M1602, p.36-37; Presley Eldo, NIT 33, cover and NIT special M1602-2 pp.92, 95 [cartoon];

Eldorado 1954 Parisienne: 2-dr town car by G. Barris & M. Schwartz, SIA 11, p.29; 

Eldorado 1955: SSA 1985, cover + pp.14-19; St. Moritz "mood" car for 1955 Motorama photos SSA 1977, p.31;

Eldorado 1955 (in French): V8 Magazine, #42, pp. 12-15

Eldorado 1955-1956 (facts): Eldorado Biarritz had only the word Eldorado in script on the front fenders, whereas the Eldorado Seville had the full name, Eldorado Seville;

Eldorado Spotters' Guide, 1953-1966:  article in SIA 26, pp.19-23;

Eldorado (Special models): article in CA 12/91, pp.22-27



Return to The (New) Cadillac Database© Index Page
or go to one of the other Eldorado sections below:


Eldorado Specifications Eldorado 1956 - 1966 Eldorado 1967 and up Eldorado production Statistics

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click here to visit that site

© 1998, Yann Saunders and the Cadillac-LaSalle Club. Inc.
[ Background image:  Front clip of 1953 Cadillac Eldorado ]