Curbside Classic: 1983 Cadillac Eldorado – Mmm, Buttery!

(first posted 9/21/2012)    This, friends, is the last of the classic Eldorados. The less said about the ’86 successor, the better, and while the redesigned 1992-02 model was a nice car, it was more in the international style. With styling cues taken from the first, front-wheel drive ’67 Eldo (CC here), the 1979-85 Eldorado was a classy ride with razor-edge lines, long-hood, short-deck proportions, sumptuous interiors and, in the 1979-81 models, proven big-block Caddy power. That it was of a much more manageable size than the gunboat 1971-78 models was just icing on the cake.

The ’79 Eldorado was quite a departure from the plus-sized 1978 model it replaced. It was still clearly a Cadillac, but one with a much more manageable 204″ length and 114″ wheelbase (the ’78 had a 126.3″ wheelbase and 224″ stretch). The Eldo shared its new chassis and overall dimensions with the 1979 Oldsmobile Toronado and Buick Riviera.

By 1983, only detail changes had been made to the body and trim, including the expected revised grille and tail lamps and new red crests in the wheel covers. But starting in 1982, the torquey, solid-as-a-rock 368 engine was replaced with the “High Technology” 4.1-liter V8, better known as the HT-4100. It was a standard feature on all 1982 Cadillacs, save the 75 limousine.

It was designed to be a better, more efficient engine, anticipating fuel shortages that ultimately didn’t occur. With 135 hp @4100 rpm and 190 lb-ft of torque, it was certainly less powerful than the 368 (145 hp and 270 lb-ft), but the goal was better miles per gallon with the help of high-tech features such as digital fuel injection. Unfortunately, the 4.1 did not live up to its hype. As Wikipedia relates:

The HT4100 was prone to failure of the intake manifold gasket due to scrubbing of the bi-metal interface, aluminum oil pump failure, cam bearing displacement, weak aluminum block castings and bolts pulling the aluminum threads from the block…reliability issues soiled the reputation of the HT4100. As a result, the V8 Oldsmobile gas engines were a popular and straightforward conversion.

I believe there were recalls, so perhaps this survivor is okay. It certainly looked great to my Broughamified eyes.

And what an interior! Not only do I like the color, but the light hue probably stays nice and cool, even in summer. The elaborateness of the seats, door panels and dashboard reflect the high MSRP of these cars when they were new. And the Eldorado was a much nicer-looking car than the bustle-back Seville across the showroom.

1983 was also the last year for the traditional chrome-and-woodgrain radio knobs, surrounds, and A/C vents. In 1984 both the Eldo and the Seville got black trim instead, and the radios would have much more in common with other GM cars. Brochures touted that the black trim was elegant, but I’m sure it was quite less expensive, too.

The back seat is equally sumptuous and, unlike in the Continental Mark IV we reviewed a while ago, appears to have a great deal more room. More glass area, too.

Look at all that soft leather. There was no mistaking this for anything but an American luxury coupe. Cadillac really knew how to do an interior back then.

This car tripped all my triggers: classic Cadillac, cool and rare color combo (I, for one, really like the pale yellow Cadillac offered in the ’70s through the early ’90s, especially with the matching interior), fine condition, low mileage (83,000) and apparently needing nothing.

If I was in a position to get my own Curbside Classic, this would be a strong contender. I mean, despite the issues the 4.1 had, this one has beaten the odds. It’s still here and fully functional. It must be one of the good ones, right?

As I was photographing this beauty, a salesman came up and filled me in on the car. Apparently, a guy traded in this car and a couple of others on a new Suburban. Other than new (and easily acquired) filler panels, this car is good to go. The A/C even blows cold.

The only question in my mind is that HT-4100. Had this been an ’80 model with the 368, it would have been a powerful, reliable modern classic. But, alas, that is not the engine this one has. However, for those so intrigued, this clean yellow Caddy is sitting in Milan, Illinois. Just ask for Al, and you’ll be well on your way to traveling in Cadillac style.