The 1990s were the last stand for the American Personal Luxury Coupe. At the beginning of the decade, there were luxo-coupes aplenty to choose from: Lincoln Mark VII (and the tasty LSC variant), Buick Riviera, Oldsmobile Toronado, Ford Thunderbird, Mercury Cougar, and, of course, the Cadillac Eldorado. True, most of them were mere shadows of their Broughamy ’70s predecessors, but they were by and large still nice cars to drive and relax in. But first SUVs, and then crossovers (Note: “Crossover” is marketing-speak for “ugly wagon”) pushed them all off the cliff. The Cadillac Eldorado had the last gasp–or the last laugh, if you prefer to be optimistic.
The 1992 Eldorado was a more traditional two-door version of the beautiful “greyhound” 1992 Seville. It replaced the Mini-Me 1986-91 Eldorado, which started off bad in 1986-87 but became a pretty nice car with the 4.9 by 1991–its last year. The Biarritz was no more, factory carriage roofs and landau tops were gone, and the resulting new coupe was rather attractive, in a modern Cadillac kind of way.
It certainly had better proportions, but folks looking for button-tufted floating-pillow leather seats and electroluminescent opera lamps walked out of Caddy showrooms disappointed. Initial 1992 models were available only in standard Eldorado or sporty Eldorado Touring Coupe models. Eldorados received a bench seat, column shifter and stand-up wreath and crest; TCs got buckets, console and a grille-mounted wreath and crest. Both sported the reliable 4.9L V8.
That changed in 1993, when the Northstar became available. While certain models could still get the 4.9 through the 1995 model year, sporting Caddys like the Touring Coupe and Seville STS got the new engine. By the time this 2000 Eldo rolled off the line, you could have any engine you wanted, as long as it was the Northstar.
In 2000, Cadillac added the “ESC” logo to the standard Eldorado and the “ETC” logo for the Touring Coupe (for Eldorado Sport Coupe and Eldorado Touring Coupe, respectively). Now I can see why that might initially seem like a good idea, as abbreviations were running rampant by that time “Like my new TL? It has DSC, ABS, ACC and even DFGTREGTV!” Okay, I made that last one up. But you get the idea!
In 1997 both Eldos got a mild refresh, with new grilles, bumpers and some interior changes as well, mostly to the sew style of the upholstery and a redesigned center console. I believe the interior color of the featured ESC is “Oatmeal.” It was similar to the Cappucino Cream used in 1995-96, which was just a bit lighter than the classic butter-yellow leather that had been available in Cadillacs from the mid-’70s through 1991.
At the time these cars were new, I was working part-time at my dad’s office, microfilming closed claim files. Horst-Zimmerman Cadillac-Pontiac-Oldsmobile-Honda was right across the street, so many times I would wander around the showroom on my lunch hour, drooling over the Cadillacs. One in particular I really remember was an ESC in Bronzemist (a really pretty color, seldom seen at the time) with this Oatmeal leather interior. It was about $50K as I recall. A beautiful car. I would always linger over it, then grab an Eldorado brochure and wander back over to the office.
Upon their debut these Eldorados were relatively common around here, but starting in about, oh, let’s say 1998, their numbers started to dwindle. Now that I think about it, it was around the time the Navigator, then the Escalade debuted. Coupes were a throwback, and the big honkin’ SUV was the personal luxury coupe of the Oughts. Philistines.
One by one, the Big Three luxo-coupes dropped off the map. The Toronado went first, in 1992, followed by the Riv in 1993. The Thunderbird and Cougar both got the axe in 1997, followed by their flossier cousin, the Mark VIII, in 1998. Against all odds, a new Riviera suddenly appeared in ’95, and was a beautiful car, but after the first year, sales dropped off and 1999 was the last year. By 2000, the Eldorado was the last Brougham standing.
But even it couldn’t last, and after a final special edition in 2002 (white with tan or red with black, recalling original 1953 Eldorado color combinations), the Eldorado finally left the scene. This very clean one was sitting on the same lot as the ’04 Mercury Monterey and the ’88 Chevy Celebrity CL, on the same day. Coupes may be a bit passé now, but they are coming back. I always thought the 2008-13 CTS Coupe should have been called Eldorado, and the new ’15 ATS coupe continues to offer two-door Cadillac Style for those who want it. But I really miss the Eldorado. They were special cars, and I’ll never forget that Bronzemist ESC sitting in the showroom of Horst-Zimmerman.