Cohort Classic: 1975 Cadillac Eldorado – Frozen In Time

The gift of life is to participate in change; the world’s and one’s own. Time stands still for no one, but it can certainly appear to do some things; this Eldorado shot by Mike Hayes looks as if it just rolled out the factory in 1975 or so. It’s as if it were frozen in time. Yet it was not of its time either, at the time.

The new 1971 Eldorado was already out of step with the times when it first appeared;  by 1975, and even more so by 1978—the last year of this generation—it was grossly so. This generation of Eldorado was the last of a direct lineage of Eldorados that started in 1953, and it showed, all to obviously. Although it looks frozen in 1975, it was also frozen in 1953-think, at its maker’s peril. GM brain freeze; a dangerous and even deadly malady.

This generation of Eldorado had the misfortune to be born at the cusp of the decade of greatest societal, political, economic, environmental and stylistic change since at least the 1920s. Yes, everyone thinks of the sixties as the decade of greatest change, but it was more of a harbinger of things to come; the actual changes came mostly in the seventies, and the US was profoundly different in 1970—when the new ’71 Eldorado appeared already rather out of date—from 1979, when it was finally replaced.

All of the Big Three’s big cars suffered a somewhat similar fate in the seventies, but at least GM took care of that with its downsized ’77s. And of course there was the Seville, a preview of things to come that arrived in the middle of the decade. But the overstuffed Eldorado had to keep lumbering along, trying to appear less weighty at the rear by having its rear wheels exposed, something that had connoted sportiness back in the 1950s. In this case, it was more like granny putting on a miniskirt.

Might Cadillac have been able to pull off a Seville-based Eldorado coupe?

The simple reality was that the concept of a giant personal coupe was always a stretch. And suddenly in about 1973-1974, it was a stretch too far. The concept had burst. Times, and gas prices, change, inevitably. But it was more than that; even GM knew it had gone too far in 1971, and started work on the downsized ’77s before the energy crisis happened.

Cadillac was utterly stuck in the 1953 mindset that had created the original Eldorado; the 1971 even aped a number of its styling elements, most blatantly the vertical trim piece ahead of the swollen hips and the fender skirts.  That of course sums up the essence of GM’s demise: change was not their friend.

By the late 60s, when this generation of Eldorado was being conceived, change was very much in the air, and Mercedes and BMWs were popping up everywhere like dandelions on the Big Three’s well-manicured lawn.

It would have taken real guts and vision, but a radically different Eldorado, perhaps Opel-based like this coupe version of our Alter-Reality 1965 Seville might have changed the trajectory of the Eldorado forever. But that’s just indulging in fantasy.

The reality was quite different. But 1950s thinking was not going to lead GM towards a long and prosperous future, even if they did forestall the inevitable for some time yet.

OK; I’m critiquing, which is not the same as mocking, which I did plenty of in my last CC of one of these. At the time (2010) that one presented itself as a big, fat, bloated blue whale with missing body parts. I didn’t flat out call it a Deadly Sin, but certainly (wink-wink) implied it.

And now? I look at these shots and I see something quite different: a venerable and increasingly rare survivor of another era. No, I don’t want one, and I can still see its faults, but I appreciate it for what it is and the fact that someone has lovingly maintained it in practically showroom condition.

I must be getting old.

And who can fail to be impressed with this ultimate of an automotive proboscis? It’s largely irrelevant as to what it’s hiding under there, even if it did have 500 cubic inches; no one bought an Eldorado of this vintage and drove it with any sporting or performance expectations. The speed limit to the golf course was 45.

Seeing this Eldorado still in the prime of its life makes me feel…older. The first Eldorado and I share the same year of birth. So yes, I respect this one’s ability to seemingly defy entropy. Which is of course explains a key motivation in restoring and maintaining cars: we’re trying to make them immortal; we can’t do that for ourselves, no matter how hard we try. Just as well; I’d hate to be stuck in 1953-think forever.


Related reading:
Curbside Classic: 1978 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz Classic Coupe – A Deadly Sin or Just Deadly?

Curbside Classic: 1972 Cadillac Fleetwood Eldorado Convertible – The End Of An Exceptional Era

Curbside Classic: 1978 Cadillac Fleetwood Eldorado – The Biggest, Baddest Brougham Of Them All