In our last installment of Rare Rides Icons, we noted exterior visual differences between the Eldorados of 1953 and 1954. While the first Eldorado wore bodywork unique to the model, the second generation relied on trim and some badging to justify its price increase over the lesser Series 62. Today we slide into the Eldorado’s leather-clad interior to see how things fared in the transition to a mass-produced model.
(Note: Interior pictures herein are of two 1954 Eldorados (green/green, orange/cream) and a 1954 Series 62 (red/white).
Viewed from the interior only, a non-enthusiast onlooker might’ve been hard-pressed to decide whether the Eldorado in question was a 1953 or 1954 model. Though they were completely different generations, the C-body platform underneath both Eldorados remained the same and was also shared with lesser Cadillac models like the Series 62 and Sixty Special.
The ‘53 Eldorado’s interior was special in its use of a full leather-covered dash and unique door panel styling not shared with other Cadillacs. However, much of that design was mandated by the Eldorado-exclusive wrap-around windshield in 1953. Cadillac designers were clever, and made the most of their design work the previous year: In 1954 Cadillac used the ‘53 Eldorado’s interior design for the entire lineup.
That’s right, the ‘54 Eldorado, Series 62, Sixty Special, and indeed the Fleetwood Series 75 used the same windshield and dash design as the 1953 Eldorado. Only trim differences separated the models from one another, with different badges and colors here (Eldorado) or more conservative upholstery there (Series 75). The dash was easily ported to whatever vehicle was needed, as the brand’s lineup in 1954 had a singular 79.6-inch width.
The same steering wheel design was used in the 1954 Cadillacs as the ‘53 Eldorado, finished in two-tone to coordinate with each car’s interior. All models outside Eldorado received a Cadillac crest in the middle of the wheel as the prior year. But the spokes of the Eldorado’s wheel and its center section were covered in chrome, and a chrome bullet-style cap at the wheel’s center in place of the crest.
The gauge cluster was updated for 1954 models and spread more horizontally than the prior year. Cadillac began to lean into looong horizontal speedometers at this time, a detail that would stick through the early Nineties. Warning lights took advantage of the newly available real estate and were laid out in a horizontal line beneath the speedo rather than clustered together.
Climate controls moved to a position accessible only to the driver, left of the wheel. In 1953 there were HVAC sliders in the center of the dash, incorporated into the vertical radiator vent design of the climate control. In 1954 this vacant space was filled with a sliding panel that had an Eldorado logo on it and concealed the front ashtray. Vents moved below the dash, gained chrome trim, and were placed near the front passengers’ feet.
Further left of the climate was an area reserved for a newly optional exterior spot lamp (E-Z Eye), for those drivers who liked to play cops and robbers. Its large chromed stalk stuck out almost to the wheel and used a vertical control handle. Heading further inward, the leather-covered dash wrapped around into the top of the door panel in nearly the same way it had on the ‘53 Eldorado.
To the right of the wheel was the radio (optional outside Eldorado), which looked almost exactly like it did on the old Eldorado. Without the heating apparatus hanging below, the dash had a cleaner and better-integrated look. The 1954 Eldorado used metal trim across the door panels and dash as in 1953, though the new style wore deeper strake detailing. Of note, the metal trim did not extend across the full length of the door as it had before, but terminated in line with the leather treatment at the top of the door. In front of the front passenger, an analog clock carried over in 1954.
Lower door panels were exactly the same as in the 1953 Eldorado, though there were a few modifications to the upper portion. The aforementioned lesser quantity of metal trim was accompanied by the loss of the ‘53 Eldorado’s unique interior door handle design. Previously a cabinet pull “bar” style, the 1954 design reverted to a lever handle with a single mounting point. Inset of the door handle was a smaller rotary handle for the front vent windows.
Eldorado carried on its upholstery theme with a very mild update. The 1953 car used horizontal ribbing with piping to separate the seat sections for driver and passenger(s). In 1954 Eldorado’s seats were almost identical except ribbing switched to vertical. Additionally, another piece of piping was added to the seats that ran widthways across the cabin. The resulting look was a bit more finished than the previous car.
Rear seat Eldorado passengers fared the same in the second generation car as the first, though they had less chrome trim to look at via the less bedazzled door panels. Said panels exchanged their previously vertical padded detailing for horizontal, in keeping the theme of being opposite to the direction of ribbing on the seats. Seated on such ribbed leather that was exclusive to Eldorado, passengers gazed throughout the cabin to spot other indicators they were in something special.
The aforementioned logo in the center of the dash was the most prominent, but Eldorado also received Cadillac crests on its lower door panels (hidden when the doors were closed). Legend has it there were also Cadillac crests on the seat bolsters, but with all examples seeing multiple restorations, this detail seems lost to time. No matter, as on the seat frame itself there was an additional Eldorado script and a background Cadillac crest.
With its trim, crests, and price premium the Eldorado is perhaps a bit cynical through modern-day eyes. But Cadillac’s name and branding were worth their weight in gold in the Fifties, and sales skyrocketed. Further revisions, another body style, and trim additions over the next two years ensured even greater sales and prestige. We’ll pick up next time with trim and year-to-year changes.
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