(First Posted September 17, 2013) El Dorado – “The Gilded One.” A tale about the New World circulated starting in 1638, about a king who for his coronation would be ritually covered with gold dust and given piles of gold, all to be sunk in a lake. The story inspired numerous conquistadors to search for the lost gold of El Dorado, whose name came to signify a lost city of gold. In 1953, a year after displaying a show car named Eldorado for its golden anniversary, the Cadillac Division of General Motors started to use Eldorado as the name of its top of the line model.
Cadillac made several types of Eldorados through 1966, all of them expensive aspirational cars made in small numbers, the ultimate being the 1956-57 Eldorado Brougham. Production peaked at 3,950 in 1954 and never exceeded 2,500 after 1956, until the Eldorado became a mass produced front wheel drive personal luxury car that sold 17,930 in its first year in 1967.
Ten years after the introduction of the Eldorado, this example in Frost Gold (an Eldorado-only color) rolled off the assembly line, one of only 1,825 made in 1963, all of them convertibles. Fifty years later, it survives as a daily driver parked on the street, far from its birthplace in Detroit – in Stockholm, Sweden. A gold Eldorado on its golden anniversary is as golden as a car can get, and when it is one of a few hundred survivors left in the world and continues to be driven on a regular basis in Europe, it is truly exceptional.
That this car is a daily driver parked on the street is beyond question, because the author saw it parked on the street for months, and it had moved between every spotting. The car must be garaged and stored away during Sweden’s long and harsh winters, like most of Sweden’s classic American cars, because the body and chrome appear to be completely rust free. Its bumpers and grille have survived free of dents despite the tightness of street parking and the nearly universal fitment of trailer hitches to cars in Sweden, indicating that other drivers treat it with a great deal of respect.
Some argue that the 1963-64 model years were the high point for Cadillac during the 1960s. From the point of view of styling, this argument has a lot of merit. The styling of these cars succeeds at being both distinctive, with real fins, and clean, with smooth flanks that eliminated the lower skeg fins of 1961-62.
This Eldorado’s interior has bucket seats and a center console, lots of wood trim, and the Autronic Eye automatic high beam dimmer. The white band across the speedometer is a kilometers per hour scale added to the speedometer using adhesive tape.
Vintage California license plates front and rear are a nice touch, and the owner of this car appears to be able to operate the vehicle with only these plates, and without current Swedish plates.
California, Montana, Sweden. Where else has this well-traveled Eldorado been during its first half century?
A gold Cadillac was a recognized symbol of success and affluence in America for many years. In the 1950s, a hit Broadway play and motion picture named “The Solid Gold Cadillac” parodied big business and corporate corruption. In the 1970s, the great Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Eugene Ormandy was “the solid gold Cadillac of orchestras” in the words of one music critic. An especially golden Cadillac driven daily on the streets of Stockholm, this 1963 Eldorado is a symbol of America and its automobile industry at their peaks that continues to provide transportation to a very fortunate Swede, who no doubt knows exactly what he has. May it continue to roam the streets overseas for many more decades to come.