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1957-58
Cadillac
Eldorado
Brougham

Standard of the World

In the early 1950s American automakers were exploring new ideas and design directions with show cars, special editions and grand auto shows. At the forefront in this endeavor was General Motors, who with their Motoramas, presented tomorrow’s designs today.
In 1953, GM brought to life four concept vehicles to “wow” the crowds. Chevrolet showed off its new Corvette sports car, while Buick, Oldsmobile and Cadillac introduced a trio of special edition convertibles with the Skylark, Fiesta and Eldorado, respectively. Building on success of these limited edition models, Cadillac returned in 1954 with a deluxe version of its Series 62 convertible and called it the new Eldorado. The nameplate was the top rung of Cadillac's line-up, and in the early days virtually oozed "over-the-top" luxury.
 

A new member to the Eldorado family was introduced for 1956 in the form of a pillarless hardtop coupe. This new model was christened the Seville, and at the same time the convertible was officially marketed at the Biarritz. Competition was strong among these “image” cars in the mid-1950s, and in the fall of 1955, Ford Motor Company introduced what it billed as the most luxurious factory-built American car ever with the Continental Mark II. It retailed at $10,000, well over the three times the cost of a well-appointed Ford Fairlane hardtop, and more than twice the price of the Seville. What is interesting is that despite its record-setting price, Ford was reported to have lost about $1,000 per Mark II it produced.

 

1958 Eldorado Brougham Dash 1959 Eldorado Brougham


Not willing to be outdone, the Cadillac Division introduced its own ultimate model a year later, the Eldorado Brougham. This stylish four-door hardtop, while featuring traditional Cadillac looks, used very few parts from other Cadillac models. Based on a 1955 GM Motorama show car, the Brougham featured a brushed stainless steel roof, “suicide” style doors that were secured with a single chrome plated stanchion, and interior appointments and materials that ranked top-of-the-line all the way. Toned down rear fins spoke of elegance, and the Brougham was the first production car to use the new quad-headlight system as standard equipment, which technically made it an illegal vehicle in a few states. It was also the pioneer in using a narrow white sidewall tire, a trend everyone would follow by 1962.
There were virtually no extra cost items available, as they were all included in the package. This included the 365 cid V8 equipped with dual-four barrel carbs, automatic transmission, air suspension, power steering and brakes, and forged aluminum wheels. Interiors were available in 44 different choices of full leather, and several varieties of carpeting.

 
Eldorado Broughams were loaded with amenities that even today are considered "extras". An automatic deck-lid opener and memory power seat were just the beginning. For the ladies a full compliment of specially crafted cosmetics were offered, including lipstick and cologne, Arpege atomizer and Lanvin perfume, plus a compact with powder puff and matching leather encased notebook. Also included was a magnetized glove box door design to accommodate the custom created drink tumbler and glasses (Somehow we don't think that would be well received today!). Also on the standard equipment list were a signal-seeking radio with power antenna and twin speakers, Autronic eye, polarized sun visors, air suspension and cruise control.


With a base price of $13,074, it was America’s most expensive car. Production was intentionally limited to just 400 units in 1957. Interestingly, just as the Brougham was coming to market, Ford announced it was pulling the plug on the Mark II.
For 1958, the Brougham returned with only one major change, the upper interior door panels were now covered with real leather, color-keyed to match the seating materials. Prices were unchanged, but tougher economic times meant that just 304 of were produced.

 
New Directions
At this time, Italy was considered to be the world’s premiere industrial design center. GM turned to the shops of Pininfarina for the 1959 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham. One hundred specially equipped chassis were sent to Pininfarina and the results were nearly as stunning as the original examples, but without the flash and chrome. Both sets of doors this year were hinged at the front, with a rear quarter window retracting into the C-pillar when the rear door was opened. While the finest interior fabrics available were continued in the production of these cars, many of the amenities, such as the drinking set and ladies’ cosmetics were dropped. As in the previous editions, the 1959 Eldorado Broughams maintained their Cadillac heritage, but none of the parts used will exchange with any of the other model from that season, not even the Biarritz convertible or Seville hardtops. Prices inched up just one-dollar for the thrill of owning the most expensive American car with exclusive “continental” coachwork.


A long-standing story is that while one of the 1959 units was being prepared for shipment from Italy, it was damaged when dropped as it was about to be loaded on the ship. This is the reason given why there were just 99 Brougham produced for 1959.
As the 1960 model year dawned, Pininfarina again built a limited number of Eldorado Broughams with a design that was virtually unchanged from the previous season. Base price remained at $13,075, which included all the usual power equipment, the dual-four-barrel V8, the air suspension and air conditioning. Making up for its loss of a unit from 1959, the 1960 Brougham production has been placed at 101 units.


Realizing that these last two years added little to the image of Cadillac, it was decided to pull the plug on the Eldorado Broughams after 1960. Almost immediately afterward they became sought-after vehicles, especially the first two years with their American coachwork and stainless steel roofs.


Current Market
In today’s market, these cars have a small but strong following. With all the advanced systems, mechanical, electrical, hydraulic and pneumatic, the Broughams are not meant for the faint-of-heart, or the "skimp on the details" type of owner. They are very expensive to own and maintain. Finding all the toys that go with the Broughams, like the cosmetics, tumblers and glasses, or notebook, can be nearly impossible. Remember, cars were owned by the wealthy of the day and these items were probably mere trinkets not worthy of saving for a number of original owners.


Prime examples of the 1957 and 1958 editions can easily fetch figures well into the $50,000 range when all the systems are working properly. If one should be lucky enough to have the extras, the value can easily be increased from between $5,000 to $10,000. However, if a Brougham has some major problems such as leaking air suspension, cooling or air-conditioning, or other electrically related areas, prices can drop faster than Martha Stewart's carefully cultivated image.


Surprisingly, the lesser-known Pininfarina models from 1959 and 1960, have a far lesser following and are valued in the low to mid-$20,000 range for prime examples. While those who admire a car’s styling may appreciate the clean and smooth contours of Italian craftsmen, most American collectors go after the “wow” value of lots of shiny chrome and stainless steel.


In the future, the Broughams should hold their value and see some steady increases in the early models. any other American luxury cars from this era are starting to gain popularity, with values going up ahead of the general market. The later Broughams will probably stay in line with this trend, and we are sure to see a number of interesting trades take place over the next year or so.


In 1905, Cadillac was crowned the “Standard of the World”, and the 1957 to 1960 Eldorado Brougham lived up to that reputation. It is worthy of the finest collections of vintage vehicles, regardless of continent.

 

  1957 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham

1957 Rear:  Too much chrome was never enough!

This profile first appeared in the March 2003 issue of Collector Car & Truck Market Guide

Current Values :  1957   1958   1959   1960  or  Main Cadillac Menu

 
 
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