Hooniverse Editorial: The Standard of the World and How to Reinvent Cadillac – Part 3

This is an ongoing series in which I examine Cadillac, and try and think about how Cadillac can successfully go upmarket. We looked at one of the most opulent Cadillacs ever, the V-16. Now let’s take a look at a truly outlandish Cadillac, offered between 1957 and 1960, the Cadillac Eldorado Brougham.

Derived from a Cadillac concept vehicle exhibited during the GM Motorama of 1955, the Eldorado Brougham models of 1957 through 1960 were designed to showcase Cadillac’s abilities as a maker of ultra luxury vehicles. The Brougham was an example the company’s new styling direction. Instead of rounded fenders and curved shapes, the Eldorado Brougham was presented as a sharp tailored vehicle with crisp lines and intricate detailing. While no single Cadillac stylist may be credited with the final design, overall supervision was supervised by Charles “Chuck” Jordan. The Eldorado Brougham was the product of several years of engineering and styling development. It was preceded by a number of experimental models and concept vehicles, each one drawing closer to the final production version. The first production Eldorado Brougham made its debut at the New York Salon in January 1957, later to be used in a factory promotional film set in New York’s Central Park, where it stole the limelight from a specially-appointed Cadillac Sixty Special.

Its extravagant price tag (for the time) of more than $13,000 made it a low-production car, with 904 vehicles sold. The Eldorado Brougham had no options, but it was factory equipped with features that we take for granted today, including the Hydramatic automatic transmission, power assisted steering and brakes, air conditioning, electric windows, electrically adjustable seat with memory, and power door locks. There were several unique features included as well ranging from a brushed stainless steel roof, a vanity compartment in the instrument panel, drinking cups in the glove compartment (what would MADD say about that today?), and a rear armrest compartment that contained an atomizer filled with perfume.

The 1959 Eldorado Brougham–distinct from the 1957 and 1958 models–was a custom-designed and built vehicle, and was a radical departure for Cadillac styling. Every feature offered for comfort, convenience, luxury and performance was utilized to make the Cadillac Eldorado Brougham a state-of-the-art automobile for its time.

Cadillac offered air conditioning, cruise control and automatic headlamp control as standard equipment among its many features on this limited production vehicle. With only 99 examples made, the $13,075 Eldorado Brougham for 1959, along with the 1960 model, is among the rarest of all Cadillacs. The chassis were shipped from Detroit to Italy, where they were mated to handcrafted Pinninfarina bodies, predating the Allante experiment by decades. Interiors were exceptionally elegant and the unique coachwork–which discarded the standard model’s over-the-top fins–offered a preview of the 1960 Cadillac at the rear and of the 1961-62 cars in the windshield and roofline. Chrome was uncharacteristically absent from this model and therefore was rather understated in its elegance.
In my final part I will look at a missed opportunity that Cadillac created, as well as the upcoming replacement for the DTS and the STS that was not a part of my original article. In the meantime, why not read my entire article over at Automotive Traveler.

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    1. BGW Avatar

      Who needs cupholders when you've got shotholders?

    2. Jim Brennan Avatar
      Jim Brennan

      Just look how old world this glove box is: Cigarette or Cigar holder, Glass Liquor Decanter, 1/2 dozen shot cups. One could almost smell the scent of Cigarettes and Scotch, with a tell tale essence of Chanel No 5.

  1. tonyola Avatar

    It's not hard to see why the '57 Brougham was a commercial flop – a loaded Sixty Special was about half the price, and it was larger, roomier, mechanically similar, and not much less glitzy. The Sixty might not have had tumblers or an atomizer, but the lower price speaks loudly. Also, the Brougham's air suspension quickly developed a reputation of being leaky and trouble-prone. In all my years of car-spotting, I've only seen one of the Italian-built Broughams (it was a '60). I've heard they're a horror story to restore – parts and body panels are all but non-existent, and the Pininfarina bodies are prone to corrosion and are slathered with lead filler.

    1. AteUpWithMotor Avatar

      Also, the Brougham's air suspension quickly developed a reputation of being leaky and trouble-prone.
      A well-deserved reputation. The air domes would eventually leak, and when they did, they couldn't be repaired or vulcanized — they had to be replaced. Once GM was no longer legally obliged to produce spare parts, replacements became very hard to find, and many owners of air-suspension cars converted them to coils.
      The few survivors have been carefully preserved. One owner of an air-suspended Pontiac Bonneville had good results with adding a cooler to the system (similar to a transmission or P/S oil cooler); among the system's problems was that GM hadn't really taken into account the wide variety of temperatures to which cars tend to be exposed in America.
      A former Pontiac engineer said that the divisions were pressured to bring the air suspension to market well before it was ready. He speculated that it was a reaction to the Citroën DS19, which appeared in 1955; GM senior management was supposedly very embarrassed that Citroën had trumped them so badly on a technological level. I don't know if that's true, but it sounds reasonably plausible.

  2. engineerd Avatar

    This series has made me think about what I would if I were head of Cadillac and had the political clout within GM and the support of dealers to do whatever I wanted. Should I do something like what Daimler tried to do with the re-emergence of the Maybach nameplate and base the cars on existing GM platforms but with uberluxurious coachwork? Should I try to fashion Cadillac after BMW and Mercedes and offer competitors for each class of vehicle? Or, should I continue down the path that Cadillac is already on and work on the marketing to really try to define Cadillac as the punultimate in American luxury?
    I'm thinking that all three could play together into a new Cadillac. Have a halo model in the vein of the Maybach with custom coachwork and features that hearken back to a time when automobiles were the playthings of the rich and famous. Under that halo, cars like the CTS can continue to compete with the 5-Series and the new XTS can compete with the 7-Series. A new car could be introduced to compete with the 3-Series. All of these would be luxurious, comfortable, and competitively priced. However, they would aim to outdo their competition with luxury without giving up driving dynamics. They would all have a V variant. They would also ditch the three letter designation system and go back to the classic Cadillac names. The DeVille will replace the CTS, the Eldorado will replace the XTS, and the top-of-the-line halo car would be the Fleetwood.
    The key to all of this is marketing. If the marketing makes the cars seem like something out of reach, sales will suffer. If the marketing takes the cars too downmarket, sales may be better but the nameplate continues to suffer. If the marketing fails to put the styling in perspective then Cadillac should just rename itself Lincoln.

  3. CptSevere Avatar

    Another great article by UD Man. Nice stuff. I'd like to add that these cars had the 365 then the 390 V8, with tri power then dual four barrels, and that made these cars fast as well as stylish.

    1. AteUpWithMotor Avatar

      The Eldorados (including the Brougham) had about 25 hp more than lesser Cadillacs, but they were not particularly fast. A '57 Sixty Special could do 0-60 mph in around 11 seconds, give or take. I don't know if I have any road tests of the Brougham, but despite its extra power, it was a lot heavier than other Cadillacs — it was nearly as heavy as the big Series 75 limousines. That was perfectly adequate performance for the mid-fifties, but you definitely didn't want to drag race kids in V8 Chevys.

  4. Jim Brennan Avatar
    Jim Brennan

    And look wht I found, a great picture of a 1959 or 1960 Eldorado Brougham.
    <img src="http://carphotos.cardomain.com/ride_images/1/2211/3541/5526770002_large.jpg&quot; alt="" />

  5. Tomsk Avatar

    A '57 or '58 Eldorado Brougham is definitely on my automotive bucket list. Ditto a Continental Mark II.

  6. Buickboy92 Avatar

    Damn, I wish Cadillac still made stuff like this. I know they still can!