﹒All-original California car ﹒Low mileage ﹒Creamy-smooth 8.2-litre engine ﹒Excellent runner
Its name translates as ‘the golden one’, so of course an Eldorado needs to be finished in a gleaming shade of gold. Anything else would be a compromise, right? And compromise is a concept that Cadillac’s land-yachts of yore were never really familiar with; this, essentially, was America’s interpretation of what a Rolls-Royce should be, and it really was excess all areas when it came to putting together the spec.
The original Eldorado launched way back in 1953, and its formula set the pattern for all that was to follow: a vast and muscular engine of impeccable smoothness, a cosseting ride, a sumptuous interior, an effortlessly stylish body, and all of the mod-cons that the buyer could possibly desire. Fast-forward to the 1970s and we find the Eldorado in its ninth generation, packing a frankly astonishing 500ci V8 – that’s a mighty 8.2-litres. Sure, in the era of oil crises and smog legislation its power was relatively modest at 235bhp, but Eldorados were never meant to be drag racers; these are luxury cruisers, not muscle cars, and it’s interesting to note that the power, speed and acceleration figures are near-enough identical to the contemporary Rolls-Royce Corniche. It’s appropriately luxurious inside too, with huge and deeply-stuffed seats, a broad console dash, and switches for all sorts of clever tricks – cruise control, electric windows, climate control, the works. It’s a vast, opulent, splendid creation, one of the all-time greats. And with a shade of gold like this, it’s a California summertime every day of the year.
From 1972 until 2013, this car was kept by the same family in Pacific Grove, California. We can assume that it largely lived indoors and was used sporadically, as the overall condition and originality are superb – this isn’t a restored example, neither is it riddled with rot. Indeed, the previous owner who tracked it down and imported it to Europe was keen to find the best example he could, and it shows. Making its way to the UK via the Netherlands, it arrived here and was registered by a true enthusiast who maintained it fastidiously.
The current owner bought the car around a year ago, as he was keen to scratch an itch to own one of the true American greats. It’s been a lot of fun to waft around London in, and he’s extremely fond of the Caddy, although sadly the simple fact of owning too many cars and having to park them out on the street in a permit zone means that something’s got to go…
The paper trail is very easy to track with this car. A printout from Mecum Auctions in August 2012 shows the Cadillac to be a one-family-owned car with what was believed to be an original mileage of 73,000. A copy of the State of California title is present, as are the shipping documents to get the car into the Netherlands and onward to Northampton.
It’s HPI clear, and the V5 shows the car correctly categorised and first registered in the UK on August 30th 2013 (having first been registered in the US on June 1st 1972). Perhaps most pleasingly of all for collectors is the presence of the mint-condition 1972 owner’s handbook, which is a lovely period piece. There’s also a sheaf of MOT certificates, and an invoice showing that the quad headlights were swapped for halogen units in 2013.
It only takes one look to realise that this is an interior of palatial and extravagant comfort. Designed to be extraordinarily luxurious and comfortable, the Eldorado’s cabin is like a Citroën DS turned up to eleven: the chunky seats are thickly stuffed with squishy foam, allowing you to sink right in and relax. The leather is largely pretty decent, although there is a sizeable tear to the passenger side as well as a few minor patches where the stitching is beginning to separate along the seams – everything’s in place though, so it’d be a simple retrim job for a competent professional.
The pillarless windows raise and lower on the button, and there are all manner of other buttons to play with; we didn’t test the cruise control, climate control or radio, but there’s no denying that this car came very well equipped. The seats tilt forward as they should (with the characteristic elliptical swivel to the centre) to allow rear access. The carpets are in good condition, and the headlining is all present although it could do with some attention (or perhaps replacement) to get it in-keeping with the condition of the rest of the car. The dashtop is free from cracks or sun damage, all of the correct trim pieces and switchgear are in place, and a previous owner has mounted a trio of auxiliary gauges (temperature, voltage and oil pressure) under the centre of the dash.
There really is rather a lot of exterior to consider, isn’t there? This is a large car, no doubt about it – and its presence is amplified all the more by the wonderful fact that such a huge machine still only has two doors. It’s a remarkable distillation of the American lust for excess. And it’s obvious that it’s always been very well looked after too.
The unrestored body has a couple of very minor stone chips here and there, but overall the gold paintwork truly dazzles, and is tastefully complemented by a tan vinyl roof in excellent condition. All of the window glass is in good order, as are the light lenses and correct chrome trim – including those enormous bumpers, the imposing grille, and the all-important Cadillac emblem on the nose. The original hubcaps are present, as are the correct wheel spats, the Cadillac-script mirrors and all the right badges. It all appears to be nice and solid underneath as well, testament to having been raised in a dry state.
With an engine this enormous, you can assume that it’s probably never really been over-stressed. It certainly behaves impeccably – on this near-freezing January morning, it fires into life straight away and is happy to burble through the London traffic to our shoot location; it’s equally happy to sit idling for extended periods without the needle going into the red. It’s a two-man job to open the bonnet (the cable could probably do with adjusting, one person needs to keep the lever pulled while the other lifts the hood) but what greets you when that vast steel area of real estate lifts is an original-spec brute of a V8, all in decent condition and ready to cruise. It’s very much not a project, but a complete car that can be pressed into service right away.
The transmission is all smooth, with no jerkiness or worrying noises. Interestingly, this particular model is actually front-wheel-drive for the purposes of packaging and interior space, and the owner reports no issues with the drivetrain. The power steering works well, and the suspension and brakes are all just as they should be.
Cruising through London in the Eldorado, it doesn’t actually seem excessively large – after all, big vehicles are what characterises the modern traffic, every other car is an oversized SUV. But what draws in the gazes of every passer-by is the thing this Cadillac has in spades: character. Its mighty engine broadcasts a subtle rumble rather than a muscle-car yell, so it’s not the noise that’s turning people’s heads; no, it’s something more spiritual. The simple fact that one is in the presence of greatness. That’s what’s getting every driver to slow down and drink it in, what’s causing every teenager to desperately scrabble for their phone to grab a photo. This isn’t a car for shrinking violets.
The Eldorado has always been about luxury and opulence, and this example is a truly desirable one: an all-original and low-mileage car with a fully traceable history, mechanically sound and ready to enjoy. And just look at it. It’s sensational, isn’t it?
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