Since its inception, the Eldorado has been Cadillac’s top model with the nameplate being applied to vehicles ranging from land barges to compact coupes. However, none have surpassed the original car, which brought a concept to the street.
The car debuted in 1952 as a concept to celebrate Cadillac’s 50th anniversary. Starting with a Series 62 two door convertible, the designers sculpted a new body with all the latest styling features including bumper bullets, a low belt line, doors that dipped at the rear to expose more side glass, and a state-of-the-art wrap-around windshield. The car sat an inch lower than the 62 and had a cut-down body that brought total height down 3 inches. By using new Orlon fabric, the designers were able to make a top that folded fully into the rear deck, giving it a clean look with the top down.
1953 Cadillac Eldorado – The Production Car
Cadillac decided to put the Eldorado into production as a halo car and managed to bring over the styling and features of the concept. Fisher/Fleetwood was tasked with building the body: The fenders and floor pan were the same as the 62 series, but everything else had to be coach-built. Wire wheels, tinted windows, auto-dimming headlights and air conditioning were options, but almost every new technology from power windows to a station-finding radio were standard. The interior also got the bespoke treatment with a padded dash and a unique armrest. Although Continental kits are common on these cars, this was never a factory option. With prices exceeding $6,000, it cost nearly twice as much as the Series 62 it was based on.
A fire at GM’s Hydra-Matic plant stopped transmission production mid-year, forcing Cadillac to briefly switch to a Buick-sourced transmission. The remaining stock of Hydra-Matics was reserved for the Eldorado. Paired with Cadillac’s 331 c.i. V8, the drivetrain provided very respectable performance for the era.
The Eldorado cemented its place in history when the second car off the line carried Dwight D. Eisenhower through the parade as he celebrated his presidential inauguration in 1953. However, with the craftsmanship required to build the car, it’s likely that the company lost money on each model sold. The following year, it was redesigned to use production tooling, reducing the cost and boosting sales. In the end, just 532 ’53 models left the factory, and more than 190 cars remain on the road or in collections.
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