It has been unseasonably warm here in Chicago this week, with the temperatures hovering around 70°F (21°C) from this past Monday through Wednesday, and predicted again for today (Thursday) as the high. This is November…in Chicago. This has enabled the unusual experience of the aromatic smell of dry, fall leaves coming in through open windows. The absence of insect sounds that usually accompanies warm weather is conspicuous. It has also been top-down convertible weather for what is likely the last handful of such days this year.
When the ’84 Eldorado convertibles were introduced, some folks were genuinely upset that Cadillac seemingly reneged on their announcement that the ’76 ragtops would be their last. In fact, much publicity about the “end” of the open-air Cadillac after ’76 lead to a whopping 56% production increase over the prior year (14,000 for ’76 versus 8,950 for ’75). Additionally, the final two-hundred produced during the U.S.’s bicentennial year were given their own special edition treatment, done up in triple-white (paint, top and interior), with red pinstripes outside and red piping inside. Many were bought as investments.
As an 80’s kid with none of my hard-earned money tied up in one of those ’76 models with the hope of making money on it later, I rejoiced when I first saw one of the new ones. They were part of an exciting, new wave of American convertibles introduced toward the beginning of that decade which included the Chrysler LeBaron, Dodge 400, Ford Mustang, Chevrolet Cavalier Type 10, and the related E-Body Buick Riviera. Of those, my favorite was probably the Mustang, but I was glad all of them had arrived.
The reborn Eldo droptop, a GM-authorized, aftermarket conversion by American Sunroof Corporation (ASC), lasted for only two model years before being discontinued with the dawn of the downsized ’86 models. With the ’84 starting at over $31,000 MSRP (about $72,500 in 2015), it was pricey, but a welcome halo model for Cadillac dealers who had been dealt an iffy hand of a product line by GM’s bean-counters, engineers and stylists. There were 3,300 ASC-converted Eldorados for ’84, and our subject car was one of 2,300 for ’85. (I have seen ragtop conversions of the final, tenth-generation Eldorados, but unlike the subject car, those were not “official”.)
This generation of Eldorado convertible is a car that genuinely looked good to me (then as now), even if a bit fancy compared to the sporty cars I usually liked. If I was a moneyed adult in the 70’s, I don’t know if I would have bought a ’76 as an investment if I didn’t really like the car on its own merits. I imagine it led to a case of The Emperor’s New Clothes for more than a few purchasers who had bragged about snagging one. I do like the style of both the ’76 and this ’85*, but if given the choice, I’d probably give the nod to the later model. I remember seeing them new in the fall of ’84 upon my return to the United States after living abroad for a year, and being really impressed with them.
Sometimes, part of the draw of a classic car is not just its inherent cool-factor, but a personal memory of that car. It’s true that most of the cars in my top-ten “lottery list” were produced before I was born in the mid-70’s. But there’s something special about a car that you remember seeing when it was the latest thing – the very moment your jaw dropped as you entered the dealership with your parents (to look at something else), or stood on a street corner as it passed by in moving traffic. This Eldorado may not be my ultimate dream car, but it’s one I’d certainly be proud to own. Until next summer, friend…
The subject car was photographed by the author in Edgewater, Chicago, Illinois, on Thursday, July 2, 2015.
* Model year positively identified by the custom plate up front.