What’s the best kind of friend to have on a bright summer day? Maybe someone who can fit seven people into her Eldorado convertible. Meandering through Newport, Rhode Island’s tourist district, this Diplomat Blue Cadillac made quite a statement. In some ways, the car seemed very much in its element, since Newport resembles a background scene from a Cadillac brochure – an upscale, decorous tourist haven where life moves at a leisurely stride.
On the other hand, this scene conflicts with decades of genteel Cadillac promotional materials: Friends crammed into a car and smiling? That’s more typical of an MG ad, though with five additional friends. And of course these folks are probably half the age of a typical Eldorado buyer when the car was new. Regardless, this car was a nearly 5,000-lb. dose of summer fun… so let’s take a closer look.
Cadillac billed this generation of Eldorado, introduced for 1971, as a personal luxury car, but there was nothing “personal” about its gargantuan size. Wrapping this heft in an elegant package, though, gave Eldorado a presence worthy of the Cadillac crest, even if it wasn’t quite as graceful as, say, an early-60s DeVille.
1971 also saw the re-introduction of Eldorado’s convertible, which Cadillac correctly proclaimed was “the only luxury convertible now built in America.” Cadillac had this niche all to itself through the Convertible’s 1976 demise. Amusingly, brochures described Eldorado convertibles as combining “tasteful individuality and youthful sportiness.” Youthful? It’s doubtful many original purchasers were under 50, so maybe “youth” implied older, wealthy people trying to appear young(er).
All of which brings us back to our featured car. The youthful lady piloting this Eldorado drove cautiously, as if unaccustomed to diving a car of this size. That may be true, though dimensionally, this car doesn’t quite stick out the way it once would have: in terms of both length and width, it’s narrower than a modern Suburban, for instance. But of course its low height, visually intensified by the retracted top, makes this Cadillac look like the automotive equivalent of a foot-long hot dog.
When I first saw this car, I found the dark blue color to be striking. And unusual. Fortunately, the GM Heritage Center provides some information on color preferences, and we can gauge popularity for 16 of the 21 colors available on ’73 Eldorado Convertibles. If you seemingly recall mostly white or red examples of this car, your memory is not deceiving you, as roughly half of 1973’s production was painted in one of those two colors. Our featured car’s shade of Diplomat Blue was chosen by only 3.7% of buyers – a pity too, as it complements the car’s lines very well, particularly as contrasted with the white leather interior.
White was usually the most popular exterior color for Eldorado convertibles, and its favorite status for 1973 was further boosted by the Indianapolis 500 Pace Car, 566 examples of which were produced (53 for race/festival duty and 513 replica pace cars sold through dealers). This special edition alone accounted for about 6% of the 9,315 Eldorado convertibles built that year.
Although it wasn’t circling a track in front of the grandstands, this car received considerable attention from passersby. I had to wonder who was enjoying it more – the folks riding inside, or the bystanders smiling and waving as the big Caddy rolled by.
In crowded Newport, it wasn’t hard to follow the 4,700-lb. Cadillac’s trail, which led to a cafe’s parking lot. This angle shows some of the 1973 updates, including smoother-looking flanks (Cadillac eliminated the vertical crease line forward of the rear wheels), the only-for-’73 round side marker lamps, and redesigned tail lights. These changes created a more flowing appearance and a subtly sloping rear end; the ’73 version was arguably the most attractive of this generation’s eight model years.
Up front, new bumpers and a prominent eggcrate grille highlighted the ’73 model year changes. These 5-mph energy-absorbing bumpers were well integrated into the overall design – albeit easier to do on a car of this size, but still a pleasantly unobtrusive bumper design for the mid-1970s.
The plush interior is classically Cadillac, with loads of space and creature comforts, such as automatic climate control, a signal-seeking stereo, and power everything. Perhaps the most captivating interior feature is the gas pedal, connected to Cadillac’s massive 500-cu. in. V-8 powering the front wheels. An enthusiastic tap of that pedal is likely to use up a sizable portion of the world’s fossil fuel reserves.
GM was rightly proud of its “scissor top” convertible top mechanism (power-operated by electric motors, gears and cables – no hydraulics) that folded the roof and the glass rear window into a well behind the rear seat. It folded intricately enough to preserve both trunk space and a full-width rear seat.
Of course, that rear seat was intended to seat 3, not 4… and the (formerly) self-levelling rear suspension is sagging… but those minor quips aside, this convertible is delivering a great deal of enjoyment to its passengers. Incidentally, the Renaissance Revival building in the background contains the Audrain Automobile Museum, a worthy attraction for car enthusiasts visiting the Ocean State. At the time this picture was taken, Audrain’s main exhibit was called Sweet Rides-Summer Fun, highlighting vehicles ranging from roadsters to off-roaders that epitomized summer motoring. It was an excellent exhibit. But just outside of the museum, these seven friends are showing us how summer fun is really done.
Photographed in Newport, Rhode Island in August 2018.