COAL: 1978 Cadillac Eldorado – Reason #425 On Why Cadillacs Are Underappreciated


In 1978, the Niederhelm family bought this Cadillac Eldorado from Stigler GMC-Cadillac in Eldon, Missouri.  In early January 2015, this Cadillac had a new title issued for the first time since it was purchased new.  Not only is this Eldorado quite a ride, having it has been quite the ride.

While it has certainly been a Car Of A Lifetime, I do not own this Cadillac; the local home school association does.

My wife and I homeschool our daughter and we have been actively involved in our home school association (HSA).  There are several cooperative classes being given to the older ones, one of which is a course on automobile maintenance that I have been teaching.  Last year, that class branched out to my being an instructor for our fledgling driver’s education program.  That’s where the Cadillac comes into play.

wet elephant

The board for the HSA is surprisingly flush with cash.  While I attribute their having enough cash to burn a wet elephant to the rampant graft and corruption here in the state capital, my wife maintains this is simply due to the HSA being run by the frugal folks who live in this area.  She does have a valid point.

To effectively equip my driver’s education course, the HSA wanted me to acquire a comfortable, front wheel drive car that would be good for teaching our youngsters how to drive.  I had a budget of $5,500.

2006 corolla

Felicity Burkemper, president of the HSA, advocated an older Corolla; given the automotive demographics in Jefferson City, a 2006 or older Corolla is as common as limburger cheese being served as an hors d’oeuvre at a bridal shower.

Besides, the few who do own a Corolla are wanting an obscene amount of money when selling.  That doesn’t mold well with the frugal mindset in this area, which helps explain the preponderance of Impalas I see daily.

impala shot

Just for giggles, and to appeal to the skinflint portion of our HSA board, I suggested an Impala from the state government fleet – like Dodge’s in Mt. Prospect, Illinois, they are practically giving them away.  Sadly, I failed to remember the local taxi companies have a monopoly on them.

These discussions transpired in mid-December of 2014.

For  New Year’s Day of 2015, I participated in the annual celebration by the Mid-Missouri Old Car Club.  We members convoy all over the county, visiting the garages of various club members.  At every stop, we have a drink snack while shooting the bull then parade to someone’s else’s place.  It’s great fun.


Our third stop was at Alfred Klosterman’s house.  Sitting for sale in his front yard was this Cadillac.  Alfred and I talked long enough for me to learn his wife, the former Miss Niederhelm, had just inherited the Eldorado.  We talked further and one thing lead to another.

That’s right – this Cadillac Eldorado is the new driver’s education car.

mo drivers license

For those who don’t live in the United States some explanation is needed.  There is no national driver’s license here; rather, each state regulates such things for residents of that particular state.  The age at which a person can obtain a drivers license ranges from 14 years, 3 months in South Dakota to 17 in New Jersey.  The legal age in Missouri is 16 although a learner’s permit can be obtained at 15 years of age.  All my students are fifteen years old and have their learner’s permit.

Yes, it can be confusing but we Americans do have a history of blazing down our own path.  It all boils back to the East India Company, a tea tax, and the first documented pollution of Boston Harbor in 1773.


While the Eldorado fit the loose parameters I had been given – and came in under budget – it was viewed by Mrs. Burkemper with a ridiculously comical amount of skepticism.  She of limited automotive experience simply didn’t comprehend the virtues that belong to a Malaise Era Cadillac.

My rebuttal to the bewildered board was their new Cadillac presented a win-win opportunity.  It gives students first hand experience in how to change all the fluids, filters, and hoses.  In turn, if a fifteen year-old can learn to proficiently drive this old girl, they can certainly maneuver a Corolla or Impala better than their public school peers.  After a delightfully spirited conversation, the board saw the wisdom of my actions.

Except Mrs. Burkemper.  She’s such a wet blanket.


All of the students were excited about the Cadillac as they had been dreading the drudgery of a Corolla.  Thankfully this Cadillac has been endowed with that most unique of Cadillac traits.  It has presence.  It has a lot of presence.  It was intimidating to them.  It’s sad that society has brainwashed these kids into thinking a two-door car with a mere 126.3″ wheelbase is a hairs-breadth away from being the same size as the QE2.

Heck, at 4,955 pounds, this Cadillac only weighs about two or three kegs of Löwenbräu more than a loaded 2016 Ford Taurus.  When the boys started eye-balling that 7.0 liter V8 under the hood, I told them to not get too juiced up as the Taurus makes more horsepower.  Talk about confusion.  The Kleinschmitt boy wants to be an engineer and started figuring the power to weight ratio of each.  Sadly, the Baumhoer boy argued that his calculations were incorrect; naturally, he wants to become a lawyer.


The kids did a great job changing all the fluids and rubber bits in the Cadillac.  I even went a step further and taught them how to replace those brittle body extension panels.  The old girl was looking great and was ready for the big time.

The oldest Bernskoetter boy was the first student I took out.  A little on the squeamish side, he was uncertain on piloting the Eldorado.  Now, for those who have taught youngsters how to drive, it is an experience that is hard to explain.  It requires patience, it takes a lot of coaching, one must use a lot of encouragement, and it requires a lot of patience.  Yes, I repeated myself but, again, if you’ve done this you know it to be true.


Upon telling this young man the virtues of the Cadillac – easy steering, a hood that can be seen by the driver unlike contemporary cars, and that fabulous hood ornament to help verify your position in your lane – he took the wheel with great trepidation.  Upon his dropping the car into “Drive”, he nailed the throttle and took off as smartly as any 1978 Eldorado could ever muster.  Never having experienced such copious amounts of torque, the young Mr. Bernskoetter was smiling like a hog knee deep in slop.

Not every student was so calm.


The youngest Kliethermes girl puked in the glove compartment from being nervous.  That was a bummer as it took a soup ladle and a bunch of Lysol wipes to get the mess cleaned.  She has vowed to quit eating spinach.  However, she was soon driving as well as race driver Danica Patrick.  This girl is a natural.

The Kaiser girl blew through a four-way stop.  Thankfully, everyone approaching saw the grace, elegance, and presence of the Cadillac and waited for her to sail by – proving my point about this Cadillac being a safe car.


The middle Imhoff boy, a rather impatient young man, honked the horn at an older couple that was lolly-gagging down the road…this car is similar to the QE2 only in the fact its horn sounds like the horn of that cruise ship.

The eldest Gerhardt kid screamed liked his three year-old sister while merging onto US 54.  I told him if he continued screaming that way his leg hair would fall out.  That was encouragement as he has ceased that habit.

The Kampeter girl treated the throttle as she would a light switch.  She either had her foot on the floor or the car was coasting.  That was tiresome.


However, despite it all, each of my twenty-three students has done a remarkable job of learning how to drive the Eldorado.  Not only have they all learned to parallel park with unparalleled smoothness, they have also demonstrated an ability to drive in reverse through an obstacle course I created for them.  Those kids were so thrilled with how well they could navigate this Cadillac, I even sponsored an event this past Saturday to show parents how well their kids could drive.


With this huge degree of success, Mrs. Burkemper has finally seen the light I was shining on her.  For this upcoming session, I have another twenty-nine students who are eager to drive this Cadillac.  Not only has this Eldorado won over the outgoing class, it has inspired the upcoming students who have been delightfully wooed by the unsubtle allure of this Eldorado.  Plus they know driving a Cadillac such as this provides a degree of cool that can only be exceeded in cars costing twice as much.

Despite the raw terror these kids can induce while driving, I’m looking forward to their taking that huge step in life by learning to drive.

If only everyone were so lucky as to learn how to drive in a two-tone blue Cadillac Eldorado.