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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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 Rear: Too much chrome was
This profile first appeared in the
March 2003 issue of Collector Car & Truck Market Guide
Current Values :