I’ve been writing a lot lately about mindfulness, intentionality, and being present. The catalyst for my giving more thought to these ideas might have been a social media post shared by a friend in which she talked about enjoying the small pleasures now instead of trying to stockpile them for some undefined point in the future. Merry’s post struck me like a bolt of lightning, as I thought about all the nicer things in my house that I’ve been saving for some great, unforeseen occasion, still contained in their boxes, binders, and bottles. I’ll be three years alcohol-free this Friday, but I suppose I have kept those remaining bottles in the cupboard only to present as gifts when invited somewhere. In the meantime, I’ve been burning my best candles, wearing my favorite clothes, and trying out various restaurants and international cuisines that I’ve been curious about. Tomorrow is never guaranteed.
I lost a good friend to cancer last month. Even six weeks later, my feelings still alternate between the profound sadness of loss and dull disbelief. Don was one of the first friends I had made when I had moved to Chicago almost two decades ago. In tracing the origins of my various friendships, I find it interesting to recall the point at which I became friends with someone, also remembering the person(s) through whom we might have met. When I think of those in my inner circle, there are some that I’ve known since my grade school days, but there are just as many people I’ve met through mutual friends. Don and I met through some of the same contacts, a bartending couple who used to have people over for board games and great conversation. I smile when I think about those fun nights and having been invited to someone’s home as a new Chicago transplant, and getting to know people outside the context of being at a bar.
Don became my realtor, helping me find the place I still call home today. After almost eighteen years, this is the longest tenure of any residence in which I’ve ever lived. Of course, realtors work for commission, but even as a friend, Don went back to the proverbial drawing board more than a handful of times to help find me a place that was suited to my tastes and budget, in what ended up being a terrific location by Lake Michigan. My new-to-me condo also didn’t leave me house-poor so I could actually enjoy this city as I embarked on making mortgage payments versus rent for the first time in my life. Throughout the summer of 2005, Don took me to showings all around the north Chicago neighborhoods of Uptown and Edgewater in his Lexus SUV.
As we rode from place to place, a steady stream of vintage R&B from the 1970s and ’80s played on the radio in the background, and it added to my excitement of looking for my first home. Don was Jewish, but he had an authentic love and same-level respect for Black culture. He wasn’t one of those guys who would flip into a Black-cent when talking to or with random African Americans. (For non-Blacks who don’t speak that way as your default setting, don’t do this. It’s insulting and doesn’t help the other person understand or relate to you better.)
Don also never tried to prove his “realness” with a fake stance or affectations unnatural to who he was. He just liked what he liked, and was totally casual and natural about it. He and I talked about music and old Seinfeld episodes all the time, probably to the annoyance of those around us on occasions when we would start quoting lines from the show and cracking ourselves up. Curb Your Enthusiasm was another one of our favorite programs to discuss.
I was gobsmacked when I went over to his house (I had done so only a handful of times) not too long after closing on my place and saw a big, old, red Eldorado in his backyard. My first question was why he had taken me house hunting in the Lexus RX 330 instead of the Eldorado. I was joking, of course, but what an impression the Eldo would have made. Don’s wasn’t a ’77 like our featured car (I believe his was a ’74), but the essence of both cars was the same. I just liked the idea of clean-cut, handsome, middle-class Don behind the wheel of this ostentatious, full-sized, two-and-a-half ton, eighteen-and-a-half feet long personal luxury coupe in bordello red (our featured car appears to be in factory Crimson). It was under a tarp, and there was some reason why it was parked in the backyard. I have forgotten why probably after too many beers that afternoon, but it still seemed a shame for him to have a car like this and have it hidden away.
With over 47,300 sold, 1977 represented the sales peak of the closed coupe body style of the second generation front-drive Eldorado. Overall Eldorado sales of almost 51,500 for ’73 were better, but that number included 9,300 convertibles, a body style that had bowed out after ’76. It was shockingly classified as a midsize car by the EPA based on its combined volume of 119 cubic feet between the interior and trunk, at 102 and 17 cubic feet, respectively.
With standard power coming from a 425 cubic-inch V8 with 180-horsepower, the EPA estimated its fuel economy at 11 mpg city / 18 highway, with a combined rating of 14 mpg. Projected annual fuel costs were $696 ($3,400 in 2023), though the real-world number was undoubtedly higher. It’s probably a good thing Don took me to showings in the Lexus, even if I don’t remember how much commission he earned from my eventual signature on the dotted line. The continued popularity of the Eldorado held up its own to contribute to Cadillac Division setting a new record for ’77 with almost 358,500 units produced, with the bulk of that number coming from the successfully reimagined DeVille series.
The last time Don and I hung out in person was toward the end of 2021, when I had invited him over so we could catch up for the first time in years, in the very place he had helped me find. There had been many life changes since I had moved to my place in the mid-Aughts. He had moved a couple of times, I had been in and out of a long-term relationship, job changes, etc. We hadn’t been great about keeping in touch, but that doesn’t mean the friendship had been in any way diminished.
If one has been so blessed, one has friends that no matter how much time has passed since the last time you’ve talked or spent time together, you pick right back up where you had left off the last time. Don was that friend. He had nonchalantly dropped the bomb about his cancer diagnosis, which he had kept private, and had even shown me his chemo port. I had simply thought he’d get better after treatment (he looked great) and that we’d resume quoting Seinfeld again on a semi-regular basis. He and I exchanged a few text messages after that. Then he died last month.
I look at the picture of Don and me taken within the bare walls of the living room of my condo right after purchase, and I still can’t believe I won’t be hanging out with that hilarious, life-loving, sweetheart of a dude ever again. Not in this life, anyway. I didn’t set out to write a eulogy for my friend when I sat down at my keyboard, but when searching for this week’s subject material, I came across this bull-horned Eldorado and almost immediately thought of Don. He was certainly one to grab life by the horns, and with a classy R&B soundtrack playing in the background. And with occasional Larry David ridiculousness. Merry’s philosophy shared at the beginning of the year was spot-on, and I’m sure Don would have agreed. Live a life with heart as big as this Eldorado, pick up the phone, and/or just tell people you love them. You’ll leave less room for regrets later.
The District, Nashville, Tennessee.
Saturday, April 13, 2013.
Brochure pages were as sourced from www.oldcarbrochures.org.
An impressive feet of engineering to get all of 180 HP from 8.2 Lt engine…
The 425 is around 7.0 liters displacement. It was the economy engine. :). Torque was the real star of the show.
Good points all.
Your mention of not saving the good stuff for some uncertain time in the future, and enjoying it now, resonates. As one whose three living grandparents were children of the Great Depression, I saw a lot of saving for hard times despite the fact money was not an issue. It was to the point my paternal grandmother would not wear her hearing aids, saving them in case she “needed them”. Plus, the batteries cost $1 each or some such. So her body forgot how to hear.
Picking up with an old friend is priceless. Having done similar a few weeks ago during a side trip when visiting my parents, it was a high school friend I had not seen in five years. We talked for three hours, non-stop. It was refreshing in so many ways.
Cadillacs are made for steer horns, although I did recently find a Tesla sporting a set. Both are among the very few cars in which such affectations work.
Thanks, Jason! Your mention of your grandparents having lived through the Great Depression (and how wonderful that three of them are still with you) reminded me of my own maternal grandparents who also lived through a couple of world wars and were very thrifty. They saved everything. My grandma used to talk about rations and stamps and all of those things, and within that context, it suddenly made sense why they were using things that seemed like they were like thirty years old in regular rotation.
Also agree that Cadillacs and steer horns go together like PB and J. Totally appreciated that you found a Tesla with them, though. Maybe I’ll rewatch some “Dukes of Hazzard” tonight just to see Boss Hogg’s 1970 DeVille convertible kicking up dust.
Whoa, I had a major Freudian slip (if that’s what one would call it)…but all three are gone. What prompted me to say they were living??? It’s hard to know, other than denial creeping in. Or having a preview of my own coming attractions.
Anyway…back to the program…
I once read there was all of one Cadillac used on the Dukes of Hazzard, which is why it was treated (relatively) gently. Chargers and Monacos sure didn’t get that treatment.
I don’t quite know how to react to this; cannot be judgemental about musings so heartfelt and thoughtful without seeming callous.
Once mentioned as the catalyst to the mortality of a dear friend, the red Eldorado shown from various angles begins to feel intrusive to the story, as if it’s there to satisfy a requirement of the blog.
This story keeps bringing me back to a dreamlike image of a deteriorating battleship of a vehicle revealing flashes of extroverted red under a ragged tarp in the rain. Anything more is too much.
I can relate wholeheartedly to the feeling of loss, but as someone likely a generation or two older than the average reader, I’ve seen more of it, perhaps, than some.
I feel an urge to gently tug the author back to his friend’s relationship to his Curbside Classic, whic might be found on the other side of the road from the main thrust of the story as presented.
Eloquently expressed, Barry. The truth is that I wish I had known more of Don’s story with the red Eldorado. The last time he and I hung out, I did bring up the car and he did laugh about it, but I guess I just assumed there would another chance to get more details about it later. I recall that the thought did cross my mind.
About what it sounds like your perception of the car having ended up being tangential to my essay (and I stand by what I wrote – I love this piece), that’s not totally inaccurate. With seven-plus years of product here at CC, I sense that readers have a pretty good idea of what to expect when clicking on something I’ve written. I started using “Curbside Musings” in some bylines versus “Curbside Classic” in an attempt to demarcate when I’d be talking about things other than just the car. Works for me. I have no illusions about not being the writer here for everyone. 🙂
Nothing focuses the mind like a cancer diagnosis.
Old habits, concerns, and future plans suddenly seem trivial. The word future becomes a one word joke.
On the other hand, small simple personal acts and pleasures suddenly take front stage.
And not all people undergoing chemo look like they’re undergoing chemo. Sometimes, like Don, they look great.
Thank you for Don’s eulogy. Now many more people know about him and his valued friendship with you. A cancer patient’s greatest wish is to be remembered fondly and forever by dear friends.
Thank you for this and for completely getting it. “Small, simple, personal and pleasures” have been some of the things I’ve been enjoying this year. Stopping into a local bakery while on a neighborhood walk, to get just one cookie. Taking time on the L platform after deboarding after work to look at a purple and orange sunset before walking home. Don was a great person and it felt right to put this out there. I’m just glad we got to hang out one more time just over a year ago.
I am sorry to hear about your loss. Don sounds like a great guy to have known. This is a great reminder that I should rekindle some old friendships that have gone a little stale from disuse – something that happens all to easily for me.
These Eldorados are a little more challenging for me, for a few reasons. As one who was around when they were new, they seemed awfully stale by 1977. I don’t think I was alone here, as the new Continental Mark V (at over 80k units) outsold these by a really wide margin. I appreciate them more now, but prefer the earlier versions with the fender skirts that were closer to the original 1971 concept.
Thanks, JP. In a general sense, and even outside the context of my last visit with Don, I’ve been a lot more active in catching up with people this year – moreso than in years past. And it feels great. There’s something so intentional about a phone call versus an e-mail or social media.
Granted, I’m working and will probably be working for a long time yet, and don’t always have the energy to talk on the phone during the week. But even just making plans in advance to catch up on the weekend can feel great. It’s the real stuff. That’s part of the gist of what I was trying to say.
Very sorry for your loss. This car has evoked some strong memories you have of Don, and that he lives on in your memory signifies the importance he held in your life.
Much the same as comments above, I too, have long time ago friends, very few of which I have been able to keep up with, for one reason or another. With covid mostly in the rear view mirror, it may be time for a few calls to see how they are doing.
Thanks so much, Moparlee. I feel like at some point it would be great for some of that friend group to get together and share memories of him. And I still wonder whatever happened to that car! It took up a lot of space in his backyard.
Last of the GREAT Eldorados (78) like all Cadillacs marked the end of TRADITIONAL OTT Cadillac grandeur and the beginning of what I believe is the descent of Cadillac. Those were the days 🏆. NO manufacturer currently makes a true Luxury Sedan or Coupe. Sad to see what is currently available! 🤮.And electric? DON’T get me started! 😉.😎
Part of me had really wanted the Cadillac ELR hybrid coupe from around 2014 to become something of a reborn Eldorado, even if nothing modern could replicate those proportions of the earlier cars. Just something to keep the Eldorado essence going. And then the ELR also went away. I’m not really sure how Cadillac could have put more of the personal luxury formula into it to give it more Eldo flavor. The sentimental part of me wanted the ELR to succeed, even if logically I knew it was doomed.
What I discovered is that no matter how rich your life, where you live, what brands you use, or how amazing your friends network is, the family you make with your spouse is true wealth. When folks hear of what was my single life, they usually are jealous – but I always assure them that raising a family, in the staid towns of the Midwest, is far better.
So, in summary, the thing that can make any vehicle better – even an Eldorado – is your child’s car seat.
True that, even if it’s not in a staid Midwest town.
This sounds like true contentment. How fortunate are those who have found it in meaningful things.
In the words of that popular 1970s book with the same title: “Be Here Now”.
My dog has interpreted that title to “Pee Here Now”. But it seems to work for him just as well! 🙂
A good perspective 50 years ago, and it seems more so to me with each advancing year.
(Ram Dass’s perspective that is…the dogs have always been there. As is their way.)
Joseph, I am sorry for your loss and applaud your way of honoring your friend.
“Be Here Now”… Paul, thanks to you, I may be hitting the Thriftbooks site to see if I can find a copy. And your dog is just marking that territory. LOL
A reader once asked Judith Martin, the queen of etiquette, if it was a good idea to save the best china, linens, or even the use of the dining room for special occasions. Ms. Martin replied that was fine, provided that you have plenty of special occasions.
I’m sorry to hear about your loss Joseph. I’m reminded about the best quote about life contained in a movie. In the Wizard of Oz, the Wizard tells the Tinman, “The size of a human heart is not determined by how much it loves; But by how much it is loved by others.” This is the best advice on how we should try to live. That line still chokes me up.
Jose, thank you for this. This might have been the reason I was looking for to screen “Wizard Of Oz” on a Saturday in the not too distant future.
Wow. Hard to believe you could go to the VW dealer and buy a rabbit, or drop by your friendly Cadillac dealer and buy this!
Right! I’m curious now to compare the dimensions of both cars. A ’77 Rabbit was 155.5″ long; A ’77 Eldorado was 224.1″ long. The Rabbit had a curb weight of 1,800 pounds; The Eldorado weighed literally 5,000 pounds. I wonder how the EPA stacked up the interior space of both cars…
The horns seem be mounted upside down. A ‘Cowboy Cadillac’, but that`s not a bad thing.
I notice that too. Probably safer for pedestrians that way.
Wow. I missed that detail both when I had gotten these pictures ten years ago, and again when I had put together this essay three weeks ago. The upside-down horns were probably one of those details that maybe made me go “hmmm” in my mind, but where I couldn’t quite put my finger on what might have been slightly off. I still think they look good as mounted.
The ’75-8 partial restyle photographed well from some angles and looked almost normal (for the time period) from a distance, but up close, in the Rubenesque flesh, it’s just bloat.
I think what really drives home the true size of these cars is not when parked by itself on the street (like this one), but next to other vehicles, say, in a residential complex or at a supermarket parking lot. Isolated, I think they do look modern for the times, especially from the front with the rectangular lights and basic front-end look that would continue well into the ’80s.
A good realtor is worth knowing, an Eldorado better and a good friend best of all.
And I’m sad to hear of your loss.
Thank you so much, Roger.
I have lost family members, and people I knew in a group, but nobody I would call a close friend. Not yet.
Indeed, I feel for you, Joseph. At a time like this, any reflection I might make on the car seems trivial.
Thank you, Peter. I don’t know that I, personally, would feel like your reflections on this car would seem off in any way. I suppose that part of what had compelled me to write about my friend Don and this particular red Eldorado was because I simply have never known anyone else who had owned or been associated in my mind with one of these. I could just as easily have written like 200 words or something, called it a “Curbside Outtake”, and let others add their own reflections on the car. Neither approach would have been incorrect. 🙂 I played my hand the way I was supposed to.
So sorry for your loss, Joseph. My wife and I just recently lost our dear neighbor, also named Don…
Your essay here reminded me of something she says in these situations, “Unfortunately, as we get older, we say more goodbyes than hellos.”
Your essay makes me want to call up my best friend from my younger wilder days (the guy who I helped install the Pierre Cardin interior into his Javelin). He’s such a good friend, and is way better at reaching out to his old friends than I am. We all get too busy in life, but really should take the time, as you never know how long any of us have in this life.
In another bit of irony? Our Don was also taken out by cancer, although he lived a good long life (86 or 87 I think).
I suppose I should comment about the Eldo… The horns were recently shown in a CC article or outtake on a Tesla. Bold yes, but so wrong for a car that would have its range reduced by the aerodynamic hit this ostentatious display would take. On an Eldorado, it kinda works in a Jack Ewing sorta way, but wasn’t he a Lincoln Mark V kinda guy? I seem to recall a really funny CC about how he would’ve reacted to the new (at the time) Mark VI.
Rick, thank you, and I am also sorry for your loss. What your wife said rings true. At a high school gathering last fall, there were far too many of us former alumni who were no longer with us, as we spent some time remembering them.
Jason’s Tesla with the horns was an incredible find. And now I feel like searching the CC archives for that Mark VI post you referenced. I really wanted to like the Mark VI, but I also like Fresca, so there’s that.
My Eldo story. Early 1980s moved from Houston to NYC with my 1976 Eldo conv. Not the best car to park on West Village streets. Met a cop and learned where cops parked their expensive autos in Brooklyn. That is where I parked my Eldo. Nobody would mess where cops parked their “personal” autos,