Change is the one constant in life. Some of it is good, some if it not. Cadillac made a change that turned out not to be good in 1986 when they drastically downsized the Eldorado, a car that had once was the paramount of the American formula: big = good. Well, that formula had stopped working so well a while earlier, and Cadillac had no choice but to start building smaller cars starting with the 1976 Seville. Given that I gave that car a very controversial Deadly Sin Status, certainly this has earned one too. But there are always extenuating circumstances.
In this case, it’s the fact that long-time CC Contributor Tom Klockau was such a fan of anything that carried the wreath and crest, even if he acknowledged that it had some shortcomings. In another instance of change, Tom has moved on from CC for one reason or another, and is now running a Facebook page, The Brougham Society, along with former CC’er Richard Bennett. I’m sorry to see Tom go, but the reality is that in this business…well, change is a constant. We’ve had dozens of contributors come and go; it seem to be the natural ebb and flow of blogging. That of course applies to readers too.
It’s a little hard to get used to at first, but CC is a bit like an open house; some guests linger longer than others. Or maybe that’s the wrong analogy; I don’t want to make anyone feel like they’ve worn out their welcome! It’s an open-ended party, so no need to rush. But everyone needs to feel like they’re free to come and go. No hard feelings. Interests evolve, or priorities change.
And thinking about all of Tom’s enthusiastic Cadillac write-ups, I just can’t muster any serious bile tonight for this Biarritz, no matter how it undershot its market niche, and essentially destroyed a franchise that had been Cadillac’s for decades, and a very profitable one at that.
For what it’s worth, my very first GM Deadly Sin was on the failings of the 1986 GM E-Body, the Riviera in this case, which looked so much like the Buick Somerset, despite costing more than twice as much. That seems to be a recurring sin of GM’s eh?
Actually, Tom’s CC of a 1986 Eldorado was about as scathing as he was capable of being; it was titled “A Swing And A Miss“. Well, who could ignore the utter collapse of Eldorado sales in 1986; from 76k in 1985 to 19k in 1986, and a further drop to 17k in 1987. Rarely has a new version of an established model ever been so brutally punished by the market.
The 1988s received a quickie face lift which extended the overall length by three inches, rounded the front end a bit, and added vestigial finlets in the form of new rear taillights. That, and the much improved 4.5 liter version of the aluminum V8 pushed sales up to 33k. But from then on, sales bounced around between the teens and high twenties for the rest of the Eldorado’s days, until they withered along with the Eldorado, in 2002.
Both the market for luxury coupes changed, as did the Eldorado. The market became smaller, and clearly favored import brands. The Eldorado had no hope of capturing that segment, and in its latter days was very closely associated with certain demographic segments, one that gravitated to white shoes and white hair.
The Eldorado was dealt a mortal blow in 1986, but it wasn’t really just its size. I hate to sound like a broken record, but its boxy styling, poor proportions and classic Cadillac cliché design elements all conspired against it at a time when a new generation of young-ish premium car buyers (‘Yuppies’, in other words) had arrived, and were ready for something other than what Dad had always aspired to, or actually even drove. And that something other in 1986 and later years was most likely from Germany, and soon from Japan too.
But of course there were still buyers of Eldorados, and Toronados, and Rivieras, and all the other luxury models from a dying GM. And nobody was better able to describe the love they had for their cars than Tom, in his distinctive voice. It’s a demographic that has been overlooked, snubbed and even denigrated. Including by folks like me, who rag on about these cars as if nobody could possibly have loved them then, and now.
Well, my perspective has been widened, dramatically. Every car is lovable, just like every child, no matter their flaws, pimples, or lack of popularity. And of course, they’re getting easier to love as time goes on, given how distinctive they are in today’s car scenery.
I’d like to give Tom a big 1977 Eldorado-sized thanks for all of the tremendous energy and passion he put into his hundreds of posts here at CC. As well as for expanding my horizons; we all have our prejudices and preferences, but Tom was able to substantially stretch mine. I can’t see a yellow Cadillac now without thinking of how buttery its yellow interior must be, and how sharp its crisply tailored lines are.
Rightfully, I’d have picked another Cadillac than this one to commemorate Tom’s many contributions here, but the fact that I can look at this one and smile instead of gag is perhaps Tom’s greatest contribution of all. Thank you, and all the best in your Brougham travels, Tom.
The complete Tom Klockau Cadillac bibliography: