At first glance, this 1959 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham appears to have early-‘60s fins and a roof from a ‘61 Deville. That’s because it’s just one of the 99 existing Eldorado Brougham’s shipped as a completed chassis from the factory to Italy to receive legendary coachwork by Pininfarina. It was the first time for GM to allow Pininfarina to produce and design the Cadillac’s body in lieu of making changes to an existing shell. The result is an exceptionally rare Cadillac that exudes elegant styling ques in its handcrafted body and interior work.
The most notable change is the elimination of the flamboyant bullet fins typically seen on Cadillac models manufactured in 1959. Also note the pillarless hardtop design that allows for an airy cabin. As if more proof is needed, this car is yet another reaffirmation that Pininfarina coachwork was way ahead of its time. The sleek physique and more subtle lines of this 1959 Cadillac’s design mirrors the 1960s trends that shifted away from jet age dreams and toward simplicity. It’s safe to say that Pininfarina’s design on the ‘59 greatly influenced the Cadillac’s future.
I’ve talked about the weird things I want to do to some newer-vintage Cadillacs in the past, and I’ve also mentioned here that our family’s daily driver is a 1983 Cadillac Sedan Deville purchased new by my wife’s grandfather. It’s a really great car and I’m coming to like it a lot just as it sits. That said, I could envision giving into my tinkerer side with any number of Ford Panther or GM B-body cars from the 1980s—the Cadillac included.
Because I can’t lavish all that attention on ours (for both financial and sentimental reasons), I can at least use this 1986 Cadillac Brougham in our classifieds as a basis for outlining how I think someone really ought to build
Frame, Steering, Front Suspension and Brakes
The 1987 Cadillac Brougham isn’t technically a B-body. It’s a D-body, which is nearly the same thing but longer. Before 1985, this same platform was called C-body, but then General Motors decided it needed the C-body designation for one of its new front drivers, but couldn’t retire the actual C-body cars, so it resurrected the old D-body name for them.
It’s a great system, all designed for the 1977 model year and a well-engineered combination of handling, comfort, ease of operation, and safety. I’d be tempted to play with stiffer shocks, and perhaps a thicker roll bar (Chevrolet Caprice 9C1 pieces, perhaps) because I prefer a bit more handling at the expense of some luxury, but I could be equally happy with things simply as-intended.
The brakes, a typical front-disc/rear-drum setup with power assist, work especially well right out of the box and would have plenty of margin for more power.
Overall, the chassis needs nothing except a thorough inspection to ensure that everything is in spec and fastened securely. It’s one of the outstanding features of the car
Wheels and Tires
Typically, this ’87 wears whitewall radials and steel wheels with wheel covers—in this case wire-spoke wheel covers. That’s fine and appropriate, but I find myself called in a slightly different direction.
I’ve really gotten to enjoy the look of black-wall snow tires on our ’83 Cadillac. Those tires seem to lend a dignified, ’40s air to it. While changing out the whitewalls for snows, I also made two discoveries. First, I discovered the wheels are equipped with hubcap nubs to fit a standard 10.5-inch hubcap. Second, the brake dust also made the black steel wheels look body color, making me think that this car would look good with the wheels exposed and also sprayed Light Chestnut Metallic.
I found myself wondering how the Cadillac might look with dog dishes. Then I further discovered that some Pontiacs in the ’70s came with blank hubcaps that otherwise have a much more appropriate shape for the Cadillac body than a regular baby moon. I figure if GM itself condoned un-marked hubcaps, they’d be perfect in the absence of ‘caps bearing an actual Cadillac crest.
Engine, Transmission and Rear Axle
The factory engine from 1986 to 1990 was a 5.0L V-8, known to most enthusiasts as the “Oldsmobile 307” after the division that designed it and its displacement in cubic inches. It’s interchangeable with other low-deck Olds V-8s, including 350- and 403-cu.in. versions, but given that the ubiquitous LS swap has already reached the GM B-bodies, it seems ridiculous not to use the hardware that already exists to use the newer engine and all the hardware that has developed around it.
If this were our Cadillac, which has the 4.1-liter High Technology engine, I’d be tempted to go no further than the 4.8L LS that was installed in countless half-ton pickups and barely rates a glance from power addicts hunting for 6.0L engines. But because this was already a 5.0L car, it seems more fitting that the 5.3L used in heavier pickups and SUVs be installed here along with its associated 4L60E four-speed automatic.
The biggest challenges would be a matter of packaging: You can’t build a Cadillac and not have air conditioning, power steering, and power brakes all on board. Also, I’m unclear if the stock intake setup from a pickup truck will fit under the hood or if something from an F-body, a Corvette, or the aftermarket would be required to keep everything looking externally stock.
The rear axle is the strong GM 10-bolt. It should hold up just fine behind a mild LS and an automatic with stock-sized tires. If you really had to mess with it, you could consider adding a limited-slip differential.
Even though Cadillac’s lineup was all new for 1971, it remained distinctively Cadillac. The generous proportions, the toothy grille, the clean flanks, the subtle fins —you could never mistake it for anything else. The Calais (available as a two-door or four-door hardtop) was the entry-level ’71 Cadillac; from there you stepped up to the de Ville (Coupe or hardtop Sedan, depending on the number of doors you choose). The two-door Calais had a unique roofline but both Calais and De Ville rode a 130-inch wheelbase. The Fleetwood Sixty Special Brougham, at 133 inches between the wheel centers, was a pillared-sedan-only proposition. The Fleetwood 75, with its 151.5-inch wheelbase, was a full-on limousine, with strictly limited production. The lineup held until 1975, when the Fleetwood Sixty Special was renamed the Fleetwood Brougham, and the Fleetwood 75 limousine became, simply, Fleetwood.
Despite power and torque numbers dropping, and a fuel crisis that made single-digit thirst resolutely unfashionable, Cadillac had some record-breaking sales years in the first half of the ’70s. For 1971, sales were down 21 percent overall from ’70, and Cadillac sat in 11th place in Detroit’s annual tally of who sold what. Non-Eldorado Cadillacs accounted for 159,155 copies. But a year later, customers returned in droves: Cadillac shot up 42 percent and straight into 9th place with 225,291 rear-drivers sold that year, with hardly a change made to the cars themselves. Sales jumped again for ’73, with Cadillac topping 300,000 units, 251,103 of which were rear-drivers. Alas, it was a strong year for Detroit overall, so despite its favorable sales performance, Cadillac slipped into 10th place.
You might imagine the fuel crisis, arriving in late ’73 as it did, would pummel Cadillac for 1974, but the division still sold 199,543 Calais, De Ville, and Fleetwood models, and remained in 10th place. Cadillac sold 218,651 full-size rear-drivers in ’75 and remained 10th during a strong bounce-back year for the industry. Finally, Cadillac stormed into 9th place for 1976, with 274,801 Calais, Deville, and Fleetwood models sold (and a healthy 3.74 percent of the overall market).What all this means is that there are plenty of these big C bodies available. Consider: More than 611,000 Coupe de Villes were sold from ’71 to ’76. But how can you tell if you’re getting a good one? We spoke to Mike Steiner of Palm Springs, California; we feel that the two-dozen-plus ’71-’76 rear-drive Caddys he’s owned and restored over time, including the dozen currently with his name on the title, qualify him as an expert worth talking to.
Lower fenders, front and rear, as well as rockers, and what lies beneath the vinyl top are all places to look for rot. Front fenders can be swapped out, and quarters can be patched, but it’s what’s lurking beneath the elk-grain roof cover that’s the scariest. “Rainwater and dirt seep in under the chrome molding at the edge of the vinyl covering,” Mike says. “The dirt that gets in there stays —and stays wet. By the time you see a hint of it beneath the roof on the rear quarters, it’s a huge issue.
“”If the car spent any time in snow country, check beneath the doors, where the outer skin folds over the inner stamping; if there’s any rust, you can’t fix that. The metal is thin and if you try to take the doors apart you won’t get them back together.” Speaking of doors: “Door strikers had a plastic sleeve starting in 1973; if these break, the door won’t close properly, and you have to slam it.” The sleeves are not reproduced, but Mike has a solution: “The sleeve is the same size as a half-inch copper pipe coupling. Cut some to the appropriate length, remove the bolt from the door, wrap electrical tape four times around the bolt, then slide the copper sleeve over and you’re done.
“But the toughest part of making the body look right? “The ’74-’76 back bumper fillers are the worst! GM used a rubber that disintegrated in the atmosphere. Something about the formulation just saw them dissolve over about a dozen years. Olds and Buick had the same issue. Several aftermarket companies make replacements but none of them fit well. With originals, you could make them fit; the aftermarket ones are fiberglass or hard plastic and will shatter on impact.”
Cadillac’s 472-cubic-inch V-8 lasted through 1974. It was rated at 345 gross horsepower in 1971 and 220 net horsepower in 1972, with 8.5:1 compression both years. By 1974, the 472 was rated at 205 horsepower. Starting in 1975, Cadillac pivoted to its 8.2-liter (500-cu.in.) V-8, essentially a stroked 472, for all of its C-body models. Power dropped to 190 horsepower, while torque stayed the same as the previous few seasons, 360 lb-ft at just 2,000 rpm. Electronic fuel injection became optional in 1975, while new open-chamber heads were standard.”That Cadillac V-8 is indestructible if you don’t run it out of oil or water,” Mike reports. “I’ve pulled desert parts cars out of the yard, thrown a battery and gas in, and had them start up and drive.” Occasionally, “the diaphragm in the fuel pump can go bad.” Carburetors are GM Quadrajets and are infinitely rebuildable. Ignitions ran breaker points until GM’s popular and durable HEI ignition, with its integral coil, arrived on some models for 1974; all Cadillacs had HEI for 1975. “I’ve seen coils burn up on HEI ignitions,” Mike reports, “but it’s not a normal occurrence.”
Bob “Bones” and Carolyn’s 1949 Cadillac is a beauty, but often leaves them stranded. So we helped build them a cruiser that could go coast to coast while leaving the body alone and focusing on drivability and comfort.
•LS3 w/ 6speed 6L90E transmission
•Roadster Shop Chassis
•Custom exhaust system utilizing Magnaflow components and 4 mufflers
•Custom fuel tank from Rick’s Tanks
•Fixed top and windows
•Repainted firewall and hood
•Vintage Air system
•Custom 18″ wheels designed by Chip, machined by Mike Curtis/Curtis Speed Equipment
Plastics are a mixed bag for the classic auto enthusiast. On the one hand, they can be formed into complex shapes at low cost, they’re lightweight, and they’re pretty durable (at least when new). On the other hand, they don’t age well, especially when repeatedly heat cycled or bombarded with ultraviolet light. As newer cars age, keeping them around is going to involve repairing or replacing all that aged plastic. My 1983 Cadillac Sedan de Ville is a prime example.
If you haven’t been following the saga of the Big Brown Cadillac, the important things to know are that it was built at Detroit’s Clark Street assembly plant in late 1982 and purchased toward the end of the 1983 model year by my wife’s grandfather, Bob. Bob bought the car (a) because it was a good deal (nobody wanted a brown Cadillac, apparently) and (b) to celebrate the birth of my wife, his first grandchild. Bob kept the Cadillac in immaculate condition, drove it with great care, and put only around 20,000 miles on it before he died in 2014. We acquired the Cadillac this spring and have been daily driving it while attempting to treat it with Bob-level care.
Although it has yet to hit 30,000 miles, the Cadillac definitely shows its age. The panels are all straight, and there’s not a speck of rust anywhere, but the clearcoat has faded through and much of the paint on the hood and decklid has lost its sheen. Worse yet, most of the urethane plastic that GM used to insulate the bumpers from the bodywork has broken apart
As announced in December 1956 and available by March 1957, the Cadillac Series 70 Eldorado Brougham was designed by Ed Glowacke, who was part of Harley Earl’s design studio at General Motors. Arguably the most beautiful and most sought-after Cadillac ever built, the Eldorado Brougham was Cadillac’s response to Ford Motor Company’s Continental Mark II. The prototype Brougham was a hand-built, true pillarless four-door hardtop that first debuted as a featured show car in the GM Motorama for 1955. Derived from the ultra-luxurious Park Avenue and Orleans show cars of 1953-’54, the Brougham was stunning with its brushed-stainless-steel roof. Other exterior ornamentation included polished-stainless-steel lower rear-quarter panels with full rocker sills and rectangular-shaped side body coves cut into the front and rear doors, with horizontal wind-splits set into each cove. The pillarless four-door design had the rear doors opening toward the rear of the car (“suicide” style), allowing easy access for back-seat occupants. With all four doors open you could barely see the stub B-pillar.
The Brougham was the first to offer quad headlamps that, at the time, were still illegal in some states. The air suspension also proved unreliable, and Cadillac later released a kit to convert cars to rear coil-sprung suspension. Broughams still using the factory air suspension are rarer and thus more valuable today.
At 5,315 pounds, the Eldorado Brougham was a brute and required Cadillac’s largest and most powerful overhead-valve V-8 engine. The 365-cu.in. V-8, fed via dual Carter four-barrel carburetors and backed by Cadillac’s Hydra-Matic four-speed automatic transmission, produced 325 hp at 4,800 rpm and 400 lb-ft of torque at 3,200 rpm
This is the story of a car obsession. The family asks that the actual names not be published, but otherwise the story is true in every particular. In the late 50s, Roy was a typical “1960s father” who cared for his family, but was never really close or part of it. All of his friends and peers used to regard him as one of the smartest people they knew… and it was probably true. He ended up being self taught in electronics for years before going to school to finally get his degree. Roy’s family has always looked at the story of his decline with sadness, seeing someone so brilliant fall into such a delusional place in his later years.
Roy’s neighbor in 1958 bought a brand new Cadillac Fleetwood Sixty Special, as they did every two years. That car spoke to Roy and he was determined to have it. In 1958, it was nearly the pinnacle of luxury and, after all, Cadillac was the “Standard Of Excellence.
He pestered his neighbor, almost from the day they bought the car, to sell it to him. He always intended to get it with less than 10,000 miles on the odometer and he was determined to keep it that way. It didn’t happen. When Roy bought it, the odometer had rolled past the 10k mark, just barely, and he was quite upset. But he bought it anyway.
In those days, that was okay. Any obsession that wasn’t particularly severe could go unnoticed, and things would go on just fine. Early on, though, Roy’s obsession with the Cadillac was clear. In his wife’s words, it was like “him getting to pick out his favorite child from a group, and dote all his attention just on that child. But for him it was a car, and not a child.”After Roy bought it, he hardly ever drove it.
Over the years, he kept it in the home garage. He’d fire it up, wash and wax it, but then never went on any long drives. So, from 1961 for another decade, Roy only drove the Cadillac about 400 miles. Really. Other than a funeral once, most trips were about a mile down the road to his friend’s shop to clean and detail the car, about two times a year.
The last time the car was driven was in 1969 and the last time it was registered was in 1972. But even then it was never driven in most people’s sense of the word. In 1980, Roy bought a house “in the country,” an hour and a half outside of Chicago. The car remained in the city garage, completely untouched, until 1989 when it was brought to the country house. Over time, Roy became more and more protective of the car, allowing no one to drive it or sit in it.
Throughout swirling decades of industry change, with divisions created and dropped, bought and sold, and forgotten, remembered, then forgotten again, Cadillac has remained GM’s luxury-car pinnacle. It has done so despite front-wheel-drive platforms and the industry’s increasing tilt toward Europeanization with aero-slick bodies, minimal body adornment, and firm suspensions all standing in the face of what many of us remember Cadillac to be. Which among today’s Cadillacs has the inside track for collectibility? I choose what I see as the most traditional Cadillac still in the lineup: the Escalade.
How so? Simple: Only the Escalade has carried on Cadillac’s grand tradition of V-8 power, rear-wheel drive, body-on-frame construction, sybaritic comfort for at least five adult humans, and a proper name. If I had our own money to buy a Cadillac right now, and it couldn’t have a V-badge on its flanks, then the choice would be simple. I’d find a low-mileage Escalade and either drive the hell out of it or let it sit in an air-conditioned sarcophagus for the next decade and a half.
Forced to pinpoint one or another, the third- and fourth-generation Escalades (the 2007-’14 and 2015-’20 versions, respectively) would be where I’d look. The first-gen ones simply looked like GMC Yukons. The second-gen models suffered from tacked-on flares too closely related to GM’s too-much-body-cladding era in the first half of the 2000s, which made the wheels look like they were tucked too far in. And the new 2021+ versions are too new to judge, although their face looks like Muttley, the canine sidekick of Dick Dastardly from the Wacky Races cartoon. I’d also suggest the standard Escalade, not the longer ESV that looks like a Suburban, or the EXT that looks like a Chevy Avalanche pickup, is where it’s at.
In late 2006, I somehow ended up behind the wheel of a new-for-2007 Escalade over the Christmas holiday. Around town, in Southern California, it frankly felt hopeless. Too large for traffic, too over-assisted to be fun, too self-conscious to try and get away with anything. Parking was a nightmare. But I took it out for a road trip stretch from Los Angeles to Las Vegas and beyond, and on the open road the big ’Sclade really came into its own. Fingertip steering. Lush luxury. Smooth-riding over patches of really crappy SoCal roads. Cruise control at 90 mph, with wife and child asleep in leather-lined comfort and precious little wind noise to rattle them awake. Absolute comfort behind the wheel, yet with enough driver engagement to keep me conscious as I sped north on Interstate 15. I even got nearly 400 miles on a tankful at those super-legal speeds. Not bad for a 400-horse, 6.2-liter V-8 hauling roughly three tons of steel, people and presents. (And for those who want to play and tweak, the LS engine architecture can be massaged to produce more power still, whether in the computer or with hard parts. Or both.)
The Cadillac V-series, like Mercedes-Benz’s AMG models, M-badged BMWs, Audi’s RS models, and Lexus F models, is a high-performance riff on a luxury car. While the Vs are relatively new, arriving only in 2003, the idea goes way back to before this 1978 Cadillac Seville was a new car. AMG began modifying Mercedes products back in 1967, BMW embraced the concept in 1972, Audi joined in for 1990, and Lexus is the newcomer, starting only in 2006.
Even back in the dark days of the late 1970s, it’s easy to imagine a proposal at Cadillac to meet Mercedes and BMW on their own turf. After all, that’s where the Seville concept came from to begin with—it just didn’t go all the way into the high-performance realm. Still, because the Seville’s K platform was essentially a stretched X platform (basis of the Chevrolet Nova, Pontiac Phoenix, Oldsmobile Omega, and Buick Skylark and related to the F platform of Camaro and Firebird fame), it wouldn’t have been an insurmountable challenge to build a hot version of the Seville
When the STS-V (derived from “Seville Touring Sedan”) came out in the mid-2000s, it didn’t use the Corvette-spec LS-series V-8 like its CTS-V predecessor. Instead, it used a 440-hp version of Cadillac’s own Northstar engine.
Would it be fair, then, to replace the 180-hp 350-cu.in. Oldsmobile-designed V-8 in this Seville with its 455-cu.in. big brother? By 1978, the 455 was no longer in production for cars, but it still could be had for motorhome, industrial, and marine applications. Because it shares architecture with the 350, a 455 would be a more straightforward swap than the contemporary 195-hp, 425-cu.in. Cadillac V-8. The Holley EFI (replacing the factory’s Bendix setup) should transfer right over.
This is not my story. I read a lot of it in Peter Drucker’s book, Adventures of a Bystander. It’s the story of Nicholas Dreystadt, and I consider Dreystadt’s life interesting and inspiring enough to pass along. But I’ll do it in my own words, because I think Mr. Drucker might be upset if I plagiarized him directly.
I should explain that Peter Drucker, who passed away in 2005, studied and wrote about business management. Business Week called him “the founding father” of that discipline. Before Drucker formalized management, business managers didn’t think much about the subject. And in the course of his 95-year life, Drucker advised international leaders, including three of our presidents. He studied the workings of major industry leaders, taught at Bennington College, Sarah Lawrence, Claremont, and NYU. He wrote 81 books and received 10 honorary degrees from universities around the world.
What caught my eye in Adventures of a Bystander was the chapter in which he talked about General Motors. Mr. Drucker wanted to study GM to discover how it was organized and how it ran itself. In doing so, he contrasted the management styles of two divisional “presidents,” what we now call general managers: Marvin Coyle of Chevrolet and Nicholas Dreystadt of Cadillac. Both names were familiar to me, but I hadn’t known much about either man.
According to Drucker, Marvin Coyle ran Chevrolet with a heavy hand. His people were generally afraid of him, and he was very much the off-putting autocrat. Dreystadt represented the opposite: easygoing, friendly, good-natured, casual, with a good sense of humor. Coyle, though, had built Chevrolet into GM’s powerhouse—the corporation’s main source of income—and despite being dictatorial, Marvin Coyle earned the respect of his peers.