Curbside Classic: 1968 Cadillac Fleetwood Eldorado – Steak Knife

I’ve had a real taste for steak, lately.  I don’t know what it is about colder weather that brings out the carnivore in me, but it does.  Maybe it’s the thought of a juicy steak sizzling on a hot grill that makes me think warm thoughts, much like the DVD of a roaring fireplace that’s been in constant rotation in my house has tricked my brain into thinking it hasn’t been quite as cold as it’s been this winter (which is, technically, on its way out in just a couple of days).  Perhaps it’s the smell of food-smoke that evokes the hazy bliss of late-afternoon summer cookouts.  Regardless, it has been my intent for weeks now to get back down to one of the local pubs for a sirloin steak dinner.

The outdoor patio at Moody’s Pub. Saturday, February 2, 2013.


Moody’s Pub is a neighborhood institution that has been open since 1959, straight from that era of Mid-Century architecture where nature met the future.  Its website describes its interior ambiance as being reminiscent of a ski lodge, which it sort of does resemble.  To me, it much more evokes the memories of the (non-Ponderosa/Bonanza) steak houses and roadside restaurants of my youth.  There’s the exposed wood beams and paneling.  The backlit stained glass fixtures.  Two little fireplaces.  Freestanding chairs and also a banquette set into a private alcove, all upholstered in classy, shiny red vinyl.

Inside at Moody’s. Saturday, May 26, 2012.


There’s also the near inability to see for a few minutes once you enter from the outside, given how dimly lit it is.  Moody’s fits right into the mold of the old-school supper clubs that dotted the upper Midwest, particularly Wisconsin and parts of Michigan.  The only thing that’s missing to complete the total childhood throwback experience is choking on secondhand cigarette smoke, though the old air purifier (no longer needed in Chicago after 2008, when no-smoking laws went widely into effect) is still mounted in the ceiling.

It’s within this setting that I had discovered, two years ago, one of the most delicious, satisfying sirloin steak dinners I had eaten in years – which included a big salad and giant, thick-cut steak fries.  I went back to Moody’s last summer to order the same thing and, lo and behold, the steak dinner is available only on their “winter menu”.  Fail.  The clock is ticking, so I need to get back there soon to get my fix.

Long before anyone had thought or heard of Cadillac’s “Art & Science” design language, there was the very first Eldorado personal luxury coupe.  This one was parked outside of Moody’s, which I thought at the time couldn’t have been more fitting or era-appropriate.  As far as car styling is concerned, I’ve been on an angular, linear kick of late, as evidenced by my fondness for the ’68 Plymouth Fury III I had featured last week.  It’s true that trends are cyclical, and I think it’s important to have a range of tastes in rotation, regardless of how often or infrequently the cycle will repeat itself.  Life is more fun when you mix things up.

The first FWD Eldorados have been covered here at CC before, and I’ve included links to a few of those articles, below.  I think it is an appropriate metaphor to think of the Eldorado as having been sort of a fancy “steak knife” in the silverware drawer of the personal luxury offerings of the day.  I’ll start off with a few facts.  The nearly top-shelf $6,600 ($47,800 / adjusted for 2019) ’68 Eldorado sold about 24,500 copies that year, up from about 17,900 of the first-year ’67s.  This ’68 production figure is just over a third less than the 33,800 Escalades flagships that Cadillac sold in the U.S. in 2018, starting at base price of about $74,700 (albeit, with many standard features the ’68 Eldorado simply didn’t have).

All 1968 Cadillacs came standard with a 375-hp 472 cubic inch V8, which made the Eldorado good for a 0-60 time of just under 12 seconds, according to a vintage review.  Its portly 4,600-pound starting curb weight probably contributed to its not-exceptional 0-60 time, but it could clearly get out of its own way.  By comparison, a 2017 Escalade Platinum had a starting weight of about 5,600 pounds, and equipped with a 6.2L (376 cubic inch) V8 with 420 hp, the newer vehicle could hit sixty in about half that time.  The Esky is also the much safer vehicle.

However, this isn’t meant to be a comparison between old and new Cadillacs, so let’s move on and get back to the kitchen and silverware drawer.   As I had started to say, the Eldorado is definitely the steak knife of the personal luxury cars.  With a razor-edged style with just enough “serration” around its leading edge to leave a fast and deep impression, the Eldorado’s look cuts through your retinas with gravitas worthy of its marque.  Even its taillamps resemble blades.  It possesses a geometric look done correctly, with just enough curves present to provide relief and keep it from looking too scientific.  And like a good steak, its rear is also thick and juicy.  Yum.

What other “utensils” are in that drawer?  Ooooo… the Toronado.  By ’68, El Toro still sported its curvy, uninterrupted, flowing fastback roofline (for the last year).  Sporting a less-sleek but still attractive split grille up front, the Toronado’s new face gave it a bit of extra bite – which I understand is polarizing, given the purity of the 1966 and ’67 designs.  Still, I’m a sucker for a full pout, and I like the ’68 Toronado’s face.  I’m going with “soup spoon” for the Olds, given its swoopy, scoopy side-profile and the larger dimensions of this type of spoon, which requires one to open wide – like the grille on this Olds.

The Lincoln Continental Mark III is the dinner fork.  Just as the Roman numeral “III” resembles the tines on said utensil, the fork is arguably the fussiest-looking piece of metal on the table.  Versus the zen-like elegance of a butter knife or a spoon, the fork, while still a beautiful object, wants only just to stab things.  From the Mark’s Rolls Royce-aping radiator grill, to its humped trunklid, the Mark very clearly wants you to know it has few facets to its identity – all luxury, no sport, and all business.

That leaves us with the Ford Thunderbird and Buick Riviera.  I know I recently likened both the four-door configuration and color of a ’68 Thunderbird to salsa verde, but within the context of the silverware drawer, and referring to the sedan, I’m going with chopsticks.  I, for one, cannot understand how anyone could not like Chinese food.  I mean, technically, I could, since to each his or her own.  However, I do have friends who simply do not like to eat things that are anything but basic, which can make things tricky when finding a place for all of us to eat.  Some folks simply didn’t “get” the Thunderbird sedan, but for those who did, they were rewarded with a somewhat exotic, novel experience that even came equipped with coach doors.

As for the Eldorado’s platform-mate E-Body Riviera, Flint’s approach has always been understated luxury for fancy people who didn’t want others to know they thought of themselves as fancy.  With that said, the gorgeous ’68 Riv is probably the butter knife – sleek, curvy, and smooth as Land-O-Lakes.

I’ve probably taken this metaphor as far as it can go (what’s left in that silverware drawer?), and I’m starting to get hungry, but I hope I’ve successfully left you with the impression that our featured car was a feast of visual delights.  Also, just as the personal luxury car has passed into history, and with as many things that have changed in my neighborhood in the decade-plus that I’ve lived here, I am going to do my part to support local businesses and enjoy their old-school flavor while they’re still around.  Bon appetit.

Edgewater, Chicago, Illinois.
Thursday, June 30, 2011.

Click on the following links for related reading from GN, Phoenix, and myself.