For 1957, Cadillac “upped the ante” in the luxury car field with the introduction of its Eldorado Brougham. There were two predicates for the Eldorado Brougham. First was the Orleans show car shown on the Motorama circuit in 1953.
1953 Cadillac Orleans – GM’s first 4 door hardtop
The Orleans was very similar to the 1953 Cadillac Coupe de Ville in appearance with one significant difference. It was the first pillarless four-door hardtop automobile to be shown by General Motors. This feature would go into production for the 1955 model year on Buicks and Oldsmobiles. The remaining GM car divisions – Cadillac, Pontiac and Chevrolet – got their own four door hardtops in 1956. It is interesting that while Cadillac was the first GM division to display a four door hardtop, Buick and Oldsmobile put that body style in production before Cadillac.
The Orleans also had a wraparound windshield, a feature that was displayed on many of the other dream cars for 1953 as well as the production model 1953 Eldorado.
The second predicate for the production Eldorado Brougham was another Motorama show car, the Park Avenue of 1954. The Park Avenue name was later used in series production both by Cadillac and Buick.
1954 Cadillac Park Avenue
The 1954 Cadillac Park Avenue concept was a four-door pillarless fiberglass sedan built on Cadillac’s 133-inch wheelbase chassis of the 60 Special series and was presented at the 1954 GM Motorama at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City.
The tail fins on the Park Avenue are copied directly from GM’s 1951 Le Sabre experimental roadster. The dummy air-scoop on the rear door reappeared on all 1955 Cadillacs and on the Cadillac Eldorado Brougham Town Car prototype in 1956. The overall styling of the ’54 Park Avenue show car predicted the production ’57 Cadillacs. That roof line was shared by Cadillac with Buick and Oldsmobile for 1957.
Above: 1956 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham show car.
Below: mock up the planned but unbuilt Packard Twelve.
Industrial espionage being what it always has been, no doubt James Nance and his crew at Packard were keeping tabs on what Cadillac was doing, especially given that Nance was determined to take back the Luxury Car Crown that former Packard president George Christopher had handed to Cadillac on a silver platter. In that context, Packard was likely as dialed-in as possible on the upcoming Eldorado Brougham – especially after the ’56 prototype was on the show circuit. To that end, Nance wanted to bring Packard’s prestigious V-12 engine back. It would go into a car aimed right at Cadillac’s upcoming Eldorado Brougham. The Packard V-12 would have been based on Packard’s new V-8. The 1955 Packard Clipper Deluxe and Clipper Super were fitted with a 320 cubic inch V-8. The V-12 would have shared the bore and stroke of the 320 and used the same pistons and rods. The V-12 would thus be machined on the same line as the V-8s.
Eight of the cylinders would be bored, then the block moved halfway down to do the remaining four. The block was a 90-degree type, 30 degrees off for the desired in-step-firing V-12. To compensate, each throw was to be split and staggered 30 degrees to provide in-step firing. It was similar to the principle Buick later used to make its existing 90-degree V-6 into an in-step-firing engine. The in-step firing is a desirable attribute in a luxury car engine. The pre-war Packard Twelve was noted for its smoothness.
Displacement would have worked out to 480 cubic inches, seven cubic inches above the 1939 twelve, but with much “squarer” bore/stroke dimensions.
Alas, as the roof caved in on Nance and company, the Packard Twelve never got past the drawing board. Cadillac, on the other hand, was in its glory days and in December of 1956, announced the Eldorado Brougham. Deliveries began in March, 1957.
Video of Eldorado Brougham introduction (1 min.; Click to play):
The Eldorado Brougham is among most exclusive and memorable automobiles Cadillac ever produced. Everything about the car was aimed at providing the utmost in luxury and exclusivity.
Only 704 examples were built: 400 for the 1957 model year, and 304 for the 1958 model year, an unsurprisingly low volume considering the fact that it was the most expensive production car in the world at the time – and launched in the short but steep economic recession of ’57-’58. At over $13,000 or twice as much as the next most expensive Cadillac, the Eldorado Biarritz, and $4000 more than a Rolls Royce Silver Cloud, the car was astronomically expensive, which ensured its rarity and thus its collectability.
The car was created in response to the enthusiastic reception of Cadillac’s four door Motorama Orleans and Park Avenue concepts from 1953 and 1954. In both years, a four door concept was displayed alongside a convertible, and the four door car was always better-received. With this information in mind, GM Styling boss Harley Earl set about creating the ultimate Cadillac, a hyper-luxurious and exclusive car that would represent the epitome of jet age luxury automobiles, Motorama style.
Despite its high price, Cadillac still lost an estimated $10,000 per car thanks to the uniqueness and extraordinary features of the Eldorado Brougham. Firstly, the car shared very few parts with the standard production Cadillacs. The body was completely unique, being about four inches lower and a couple inches narrower than a 60 Series. The trademark suicide rear doors and full stainless roof further differentiated the Eldorado Brougham from standard issue Cadillacs. The car also had unique quad headlamp treatment, the first time such a feature appeared, although it would be standardized on most American cars for the 1958 model year.
The specification and feature list of the car was tremendous. On the technical side, the car featured the first ever production application of air suspension, unique pillarless hardtop body with rear-hinged back doors and stainless steel roof, and standard 365 cubic inch V8 with two 4 barrel carburetors and a 10:1 compression ratio.
Dual four barrel carburetors fed the 365 cubic inch V-8 which had a 10-1 compression ratio. The planned Packard V-8 for ’57 would have displaced 440 cubic inches.
The car came with a long list of standard equipment: power steering, power brakes, air conditioning, power door locks, power seats (with a memory feature when opening the driver’s door to aid ingress/egress), power windows (including the vent windows), “Autronic Eye” (self-dimming high beams when oncoming cars were detected), electrically-opening and closing trunk lid, dual heating systems, and a fully transistorized radio with automatic antenna. Additionally, each car came with a full vanity set, including a magnetic tray in the glovebox, to which magnetic drinking cups could be affixed, tissue holder, cigarette case, and Evans compact case which included a comb, mirror, cigarette case, lipstick, coin holder, and powder. In the rear, a special compartment contained a small leather notebook with Cross pencil, beveled mirror, and Arpège atomizer with Lanvin perfume. A wide variety of exterior colors and interior trims were available in several materials.
The interior was carpeted with plush, deep mouton rugs. The trunk liner material was nicer than the carpet used on most standard cars.
As the mortally wounded Packard was unable to launch the cars that possibly would have restored the company to its former glory, Cadillac showed Packard who was boss and rubbed it in by launching the Eldorado Brougham.
Courtesy of “Chris-to-Fear” we continue with photos of old gas stations at
Curbside Classic. Today: Atomic City, Idaho
Thanks, most of this is new to me. BUT I do remember that ‘short’ recession in the ’57-58 era, I was out of a JOB! LOL Great pictures. I flipped out at the smart phone in the back seat of the ’57. ha! Turns out to be an mirror probably! LOL
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Yes, Jack, that was a mirror! I remember someone in my home town (Lubbock, TX) put a phone in their Nash Metropolitan. What a hoot! The phone was as big as the rear armrest in that Cadillac. I have no idea how it worked because cellular towers were another 40 years away. 🙂