Around Scottsdale, far from the indoor Glamour Tents at Barrett-Jackson, sat many mostly original, unrestored Cadillacs hoping to find loving new homes. None of these were the low-production, high-profile, magazine cover cars exchanged between the super rich, some of which I profiled in my last article. A couple of the cars reached the 30’s, but for the most part these are cars obtainable by average hobbyists. The question is: do you like them enough to buy one? Most people probably don’t, but us Curbside Classic readers are an odd bunch and many of us are quick to embrace the unloved. First up is one of my favorites, a 1964 Coupe de Ville. If I was in the market, I would have bought this car in a heartbeat at the Barrett-Jackson sale price of $16,500. This one is not completely original, as at the very least it has been repainted. Apart from that, it has the look of an un-restored, original car. The owner claims the interior is original and the flawless cloth upholstery certainly looks authentic.
The roof is painted white. From what I can research, I don’t think the second color on the roof was an option originally. A padded roof was listed as a Coupe de Ville option, though those are not seen commonly. I could be wrong about the separate color, if someone knows, please let me know.
The 1976 Eldorado convertible has certainly been an item of discussion on these pages before. You either love them or hate them and someone loved this Bicentennial Edition one enough to pay $34,100 for it at Barrett-Jackson. That’s a pretty typical price for a nice, original example. Super low mile, perfect ones can go about 25% more. They are not uncommon at all, since they made about 14,000 ’76 drop-tops and were considered an instant “collectible” when GM announced at the beginning of the model year that 1976 would be the last one. Many people sealed them away and waited for their inevitable pay day, which never came as U.S. makers started selling convertibles again in the early ’80’s.
They may not have been the “last convertibles”, but they are still the last of their kind. The full sized, uncompromising, factory-built convertible was a popular choice for decades until air-conditioning, air pollution, social changes and the threat of government regulations made them a very small niche market. The ’84-’85 Eldorado Biarritz soft-top is a nice car, but it was an aftermarket conversion and it’s only available with the *%#@! HT4100 engine. The 1976 model stickered for $500 more than the coupe, while the 1984 convertible demanded an $7,600 premium over the base coupe with the Biarritz package.
I know lots of folks can’t stand these cars, however, I am on the other side of the divide. I’d really like to own one someday. To me, they are a throwback to at least the mid-60’s. Obviously, their big, open topped nature suggests an earlier period when this type of car was popular. In other ways as well, they are out of step with their broughamy times. The seats were nicely trimmed leather, with no crazy velours or pillow tops to be found. The hubcaps are sharp, painted discs, with no fake wire caps available. Cadillac made very nice bumpers, well-integrated with the styling despite regulations that other brands interpreted as requiring a railroad tie be grafted onto the ends. The only bumper concession was the vinyl fender endcaps that don’t hold up well. The full width dash has an open feel to it that was a nice alternative to the closed in, cockpit style popular in the ’70’s. Cadillac dropped the rear fender skirts after 1974, which I think made it look less like a pimpmobile. Styling taste is personal, but I like the extreme bladed fender look and runway-length hood. Power output was at malaise levels, but with 500c.i. of displacement (and fuel injection optional), it’s hard to say you don’t have adequate torque. Let’s just not talk about gas mileage.
So you like the styling of the Eldorado convertible, but would like something with a bit more brougham flair and affordability? Barrett-Jackson had you covered this year with not one, but four very lightly used Eldorado coupes. There was a white 1978 model which went for $5,170 and a similar looking ,but even cleaner, 500 c.i.d. 1975 model which you could have had for $8,250. The 1977 model shown at the top of the article was very sharp looking and has an Astroroof, which is a big deal with Cadillac collectors. It brought a getting-close-to-real-money $14,850. Sitting in the sumptuous, pillowy interior shown above just might make one feel it’s money well spent.
The ’77 Eldorado was sold as a companion to this 1978 Fleetwood Brougham. They were owned by a husband and wife. The Fleetwood is in my favorite color for ’70’s and ’80’s Caddys: yellow inside and out. It also has an Astroroof. It’s not quite as flawless as some of the others, but it still sold for $9,900.
The true star among the Lesser Cadillacs featured here is undoubtedly this 1978 Eldorado Biarritz. It has a special sunroof and paint package and all of 131 original miles. That’s 00131.x miles. Or 3.275 miles per year. Just driving onto the field and back and forth from the auction block added significantly to the mileage! If you doubt that these late 70’s brougham-mobiles are becoming collectible, the winning bid of $38,500 might change your mind. Wow.
This car has some appeal as the last year and model of Cadillac that was pre-downsizing and truly ostentatious. The phrase “they don’t make ’em like this any more” could have been invented for this car and was true even in 1980.
Cadillac sold 46,816 Eldorados for 1978, which made it the highest production for coupes during the ’71-’78 generation. However, they sold 117,750 Coupe de Villes. The CdV cost $2,000 less, weighed 800lb. less and had the same engine. It was more modern, handled better and had more interior space (albeit with a tranny hump). It’s amazing to me that they sold as many Eldorados as they did.
I apologize that this photo didn’t focus well, but I think it’s still worth showing. Brand new 1978 Uniroyal tires, not even dry rotted. I wouldn’t trust them on a road trip, but if you’re driving this car much more than 3.275 miles a year, you’re ruining it.
Back at Silver, they offered a 1985 Eldorado Biarritz, if that’s more your style. The ’79-’85 generation were big cars, but still weighed 1,100lb less than the ’78 model. As with the other Silver cars, I don’t know if this one sold.
There should be a law against putting blackwall tires on a Cadillac with wire wheel covers. Apart from that marring its appearance, it was actually a very nice car. I don’t remember the owner touting the mileage, but the paint looked original and you can assume most everything else cosmetic is as well, since these are not generally considered restoration-worthy. The interior is pretty pristine, with very nicely preserved leather. They sure maxed out the woodgrain square footage on these, which suits me fine. If you’re going with fake wood, go all in! Cadillac de-chromed the dashboard for 1984, which I’m not a fan of.
Most observers agree that Cadillac did a good job downsizing the Eldorado for this generation. They kept the essence of the car while trimming a lot of the fat. Like all Caddys of this era, the car was a victim of Cadillac’s wayward powertrain decisions in this era. 1979-81 are the years to have, with 1980 being the best because it is the only year with the old Cadillac engine before the undercooked cylinder deactivation system. And the engine that dare not speak its name is best left that way.
Most of the Eldorados that you see from this generation have vinyl tops and wire wheel covers. You should reserve your judgement of this car until you’ve seen one in a “clean” version.
I have a copy of this ad framed in my garage (along with a bunch of other makes and eras, don’t think I’m that crazy!). It is such a nice design in its essence, one of the best iterations of Bill Mitchell’s sheer look.
If you love the Eldorado, you will not necessarily love this: a 1985 Seville. The 1980-85 design is polarizing, not too many people are on the fence about it. I’m actually one of them. I don’t hate it. Cadillac has to get points for boldness. They could have gone with a safer design and probably should, but they still felt the need to make styling statements. Even as controversial as it is, remember it was copied by both Lincoln and Chrysler. They didn’t skimp on engineering either, as it shared its fuel injection, 4-wheel disc brakes and load leveling independent rear suspension with the Eldorado. Engines were the same as the Eldorado, so one would do best to find an ’80-81. Would you want one? Though I respect this car, I would rather have any of the other vehicles in this article.
This particular Seville is brougham’d to the teeth with Full Cabriolet Roof (fake convertible top), real wire wheels and a fake continental spare grafted onto its bustleback. It just needs Vogue tires to complete the look. I didn’t get a photo of the rear because I had to avert my gaze too much to allow for taking a picture. Apparently Russo and Steele felt the same way because there is no rear shot on its the website either.
It takes a special person to want to be the caretaker for this well preserved, smoothly rolling monument to questionable taste. Unsurprisingly, that person was not a bidder at Russo and Steele, where unlike at Barrett-Jackson, they allow reserves. A similar one at Barrett-Jackson, but with a steel roof (!) and without the gingerbread, sold for $6,600.
If you like your Cadillacs small and blue, this 1988 Eldorado might interest you. It is super clean, with 58,000 mi. and no cosmetic flaws, selling for $5,170. It’s not literally clean with its nice coat of Scottsdale dust. Owners, or more often paid detailers, are constantly dusting cars off during the auction week. It’s pretty obvious after a day what sellers aren’t attending to this.
Here’s a few photos off the Barrett-Jackson’s website.
The last generation of downsized Eldorado sold very well, and even the Seville had solid sales. When GM decided in the dark days of the early ’80’s that it needed to drastically downsize its E/K bodies again, it probably seemed like a wise course. By the 1986 model year, gas was cheap, the economy was good, and Cadillac was selling 70% fewer Eldorados (52% fewer Sevilles). The hurt was on at Cadillac.
The ’86 Eldorado/Seville had a diminutive, generic front wheel drive look to it that was not well differentiated from some of the other GM lines. For 1988, Cadillac gave the Eldorado a mild facelift where it sprouted tiny front fender blades and cute little tail fins and slightly longer length. It actually seems to have helped, as sales almost doubled, though still less than half what they were moving in ’84 and ’85.
When these cars came out, I hated them. I’m sure I was not a typical teenager, but I loved the old style Caddy’s: tailfins, big engines and bold style, which these new age Cadillacs had none of. They were like nameless compact sedans with a few Cadillac cliches glued on.
Time has softened my opinion on these. As a functional car, they were vastly superior (reliability issues aside) and I kind of like the light, compact premium car vibe. I wouldn’t buy one as a collector car, but if I needed a used commuter car, I could dig it. My choice would be a Seville in two-tone.
For 1988, the V8 was enlarged to 4.5L and power increased to 155 hp. With only 3400lb to haul around, it could almost shake off the malaise. I understand Cadillac had worked out most of the issues with the engine by then.
Last but far, far from least is a 1992 Brougham. This is a particularly fine car with only 12,680 miles and looking brand new. It has the D’Elegance package, 5.7L V8/trailering package, real wire wheels and Astroroof. The $15,400 it took to buy it doesn’t seem unreasonable at all to me, as this appears to be one of the nicer examples of the last year boxy Brougham out there.
It should not be surprising at this point to hear that I really like this car. I’ve owned several B bodies, but never a C/D body. I’ve always wanted a ’90-’92 Brougham and maybe someday I will. If I had bought this car, I would replace the tacky add-on grille. I am not crazy about the vinyl lower body moldings or the composite headlights, but these are the only years after 1980, probably actually 1979, that this car had decent power at all.
One last luscious Brougham interior. This one has cloth seats, which is one thing that has certainly changed since 1992. How many luxury cars are available with cloth today? I don’t know, but it’s got to be really rare if there are any at all. It’s wild that Cadillac sold this generation for 16 model years without ever significantly changing the dash. I also like the 93-96 generation, but their interior doesn’t compare to these. The little details are cool, like the big, chrome-trimmed pedals and the trash can on the passenger kick panel. It’s time was up, though, and it would not have been very feasible to integrate airbags into this dash.
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