Curbside Classic: 1973 Cadillac Eldorado Convertible – Lipstick On A Barge

Could we have a ‘70s Detroiter Week without a Cadillac? I think not. I had another one in mind when I planned this, but this recently-encountered Eldorado seemed even more appropriate. After all, it’s a transitional model, with the dreaded 5mph bumpers (in front only) and it has the biggest production V8 of the marque’s history. And it’s the very definition of a land yacht.

When the FWD Eldorado got a complete redesign for 1971, Cadillac stylist Wayne Kady certainly took the well-trodden “longer, lower, wider” route. Well, except the “wider” bit, as the 1967-70 Eldo was actually a smidge portlier around the edges, though it sure didn’t look it. It also marked the return of the convertible, making Cadillac the only luxury American car still offering open-air driving.

The ’72 was virtually unchanged from the previous year, but the infamous 5mph bumpers were about to make their sad entrance on the American automotive scene for 1973, causing a major redesign of the front end. And for some reason, on the Eldo, it looked better than what was there before. The 1971-72 front end had a far more tortured front bumper shape. For ’73, it was all straightened out, paradoxically giving the car a tidier look, especially as it was paired with the return of the classic eggcrate grille.

The profile was also tidied up thanks to the deletion of the large chrome faux vertical air-intake that used to reside between the door and the rear wheel. Kady was keen on it as a callback to the Cadillacs of the early ‘50s, but he had moved to Buick by the time the ’73 Eldos were being touched up, and it seems the Cadillac stylists were harking back to other models in the marque’s illustrious history.

Not sure if those rear lights were trying to channel the 1967 Eldorado, but that’s what immediately popped into my head when I shot this picture. After all, there are very few Cadillacs of the ’60s and ‘70s with vertical taillights not surrounded by thick lashings of chrome. Not being a very astute connoisseur of the 1971-78 Eldos, I was actually surprised – pleasantly so! – by this one’s almost delicate rear end, which I don’t think I had ever encountered in real life before.

After all, Cadillac only built 9315 Eldorados for MY 1973, and I’m not sure they exported all that many. They didn’t come cheap, and with an 8.2 litre V8 under the hood, they remained an expensive proposition even after purchase. Let’s not forget that 1973 was the time of the first Oil Shock (though that took place in October, so the ’74 models would have been impacted). Said V8 still provided 235hp (net) for 1973 – somewhat ridiculous, but not quite as abysmal as the 190hp that 500ci behemoth produced by 1976.

Going back to the car’s styling elements, what struck me about the front end was the little Cadillac emblems sitting atop the turn signals. It’s another throwback – a very precise one, too, for this was the “wings up” emblem used solely on the 1941-42 models.

Here’s what it looked like on General McCarthur’s 1942 Series 75 Fleetwood limo – a picture taken in Tokyo circa 1946. That and the eggcrate grille makes this handsome classic a clear source of inspiration for the ’73 Eldo. They could have picked worse.

The front end was carried over to the next MY, but the rear end design only lasted one year, as the ’74s had to get the dreaded impact bumpers. Cadillac designers must have felt compelled to dip the whole butt of the car in shiny stuff again. They also revised the dash quite extensively, and not in a very good way either. This earlier dash is not the best design I’ve ever seen by a long shot, but it’s better than what came after.

Eagle-eyed readers might have noted that the speedo is in kilometers. This, coupled with the turn signal repeaters tacked on to the front fenders indicates that this car was sold new in Japan. So they did export a few of these, after all. The gaudy shag carpeting, while not strictly original, is quite period-correct.

GM were proud of their new “scissor top” mechanism, used on all their convertibles of the early-to-mid ‘70s. It took less space, with all of the fabric top being stored behind the rear seat. However, given declining quality controls at Fisher, it is the source of a lot of grief for owners, if web forums are anything to go by. The woodgrain-coloured inner panel assembly also looks a tad flimsy, not to mention leaving the rather ungainly mechanism out for all to see and objects to drop in for a ride.

A friend of mine used to have a 1968 Eldorado. Both in photos and in the metal, that first FWD generation are extremely attractive cars – sharp, well-proportioned and completely bespoke. The 1971-78 Eldos, in contrast, were more derivative, looked bulkier and lasted way too long.

But from this gargantuan generation, the best of the bunch has to be this 1973 model – the only one with both a bit of power left in its huge engine and a tasteful derriere. Surely that’s something one can get behind.


Related posts:


Curbside Classic: 1973 Cadillac Eldorado – Somebody Else’s Nice Things, by Joseph Dennis

In Motion Classic: 1973 Cadillac Eldorado Convertible – Summer Fun, by Eric703

In Motion Classic / CC Jukebox: 1973 Cadillac Eldorado – Big Mac, by Joseph Dennis

Vintage PR Shot: 1973 Cadillac Eldorado With Del Cabellero Hood Crown – How To Attract Hot Young Women, by PN