Rare Rides Icons: The Cadillac Eldorado, Distinctly Luxurious (Part X)


rare rides icons the cadillac eldorado distinctly luxurious part x

When it debuted in its second generation guise for the 1954 model year, the Cadillac Eldorado changed its approach from low-production halo car to expensive trim package. The new take and lower price resonated with consumers and sales jumped immediately. Boldened, in 1955 a refreshed Eldorado appeared with a new rear end treatment that featured large fins not found on other Cadillac models. Upon the Eldorado’s return to (partially) unique styling, sales nearly doubled. Cadillac wanted more, and so for its final second generation outing in 1956 Eldorado was expanded into a new body style and two luxurious new trim names. 

Previewed by the one-off 1955 Eldorado mentioned in our last installment, the big news in 1956 was the arrival of an Eldorado Seville. It was the first time a production Eldorado was available in hardtop format, and was the model’s first shift away from its “halo convertible” origin story. Seville was the less expensive of the two models, the convertible was top-tier with its large folding roof.

rare rides icons the cadillac eldorado distinctly luxurious part x

In order to differentiate between the two models, new nomenclature appeared in a prominent way. The Eldorado Seville hardtop was accompanied by the newly minted Eldorado Biarritz convertible. As we move on to visual changes, it’s important to note both Eldorado versions featured the same exterior and interior updates in 1956. They matched each other for detailing other than roof arrangements. 

Another visual refresh front and rear debuted in 1956, along with some interior updates. At the front the lower half of the chrome rings around the headlamps were slimmed considerably, while the upper half was made thicker to wrap around the side of the fender. Cadillac’s badge was updated that year, as the crest grew much wider (like it is today) and the supporting gold V underneath grew with it. The V itself was thicker and stuck further out from the body. Both Eldorados sported new twin hood ornaments, sticking out like shark fins at either side of the hood’s apex.

rare rides icons the cadillac eldorado distinctly luxurious part x

Below the hood line, the grille’s chrome outline was smoothed and simplified, and lost some ridging detail from 1955. The middle portion that wrapped around the fender wore less ribbed detailing, and the location of the ‘55’s driving lamps was filled in with a simplified metal bar. Driving lamps were the same rectangular lens as in 1955, but relocated to the lowest section of the bumper.

Dagmars still resided on their respective fender bars, but were more restrained than the voluptuous points of 1955. Similarly refined was the texture of the grille, which opted for a much tighter mesh that lent a more upscale look than in 1955. There was new grille decoration too, as gold Cadillac script appeared on the upper portion of the grille on the driver’s side. 

rare rides icons the cadillac eldorado distinctly luxurious part x

The body character line that started at the corner of each headlamp was made sharper for 1956, and extended further down the fender to terminate just ahead of the door shut line. Below the body line was a new badging arrangement. The Cadillac script was removed, and replaced with a light gold crest. Beneath the crest was Eldorado badging, piqued out in gold. Additional Seville branding was added here for the hardtop.

The rear fender body line was not increased in scope to match the one at the front for 1956, but it was newly emphasized with a thin strip of chrome along its length. Above, the sharp and prominent fin from 1955 remained. At the rear bumper, changes appeared that were notable enough to make the 1955 Eldorado look dated. 

rare rides icons the cadillac eldorado distinctly luxurious part x

The Eldorado script of 1955 was exchanged for block lettering in 1956, which was spread out further to fit within the newly widened V decoration. Below the trunk line, all six chrome spears disappeared as the trunk lid extended into their previous real estate. The larger trunk lid shape was possible since the license plate was relocated to the center of the bumper instead of atop it. 

The bumper itself was squared a bit in 1956; less round and tubular than the prior year. At either side there were even larger exhaust outlets in the bumper. Newly filled in, they featured quad tail pipes that extended from the outlets like small artillery guns. 

rare rides icons the cadillac eldorado distinctly luxurious part x

Both corners of the bumper sported intense ribbed detailing to add visual appeal. The rear lamp arrangement was carried over from 1955 without edits. Eldorado made the move away from wire wheels in 1956: A multi-spoke chrome design took the place of the wires used in 1954 and 1955.The Eldorado’s wheels were also available in gold tone for the first time.

A quick glance at the interior showed a nod to modern automobiles in 1956, when the previously square brake pedal was exchanged for a rectangular one. A simple change that made for a safer driving experience via a larger surface area. Elsewhere on the interior, the clock in front of the passenger was moved closer to the stereo controls to make room for a new plaque. 

rare rides icons the cadillac eldorado distinctly luxurious part x

In an interesting design choice, the dash plaque displayed the model year in script, Nineteen Fifty-Six. Just in case passengers weren’t very sure of the model year. Another nod to the times, the ashtray area in the middle of the dash was larger than before, and highlighted with a new chrome panel.

The steering wheel design was new for 1956, and moved to three spokes from two. In the center, the bullet shaped skull piercer was exchanged for an indented Cadillac crest amongst all the chrome. The previously chromed gear shift lever gained interior color trim at its end. 

rare rides icons the cadillac eldorado distinctly luxurious part x

Seating was also updated, as new patterns arrived and reflected ribbed designs sans button tufting. Additionally, the tops of the seat backs had a new V design to mimic Cadillac branding. There were also new silvery Cadillac crests in the upper middle portion of each seatback.

rare rides icons the cadillac eldorado distinctly luxurious part x

With the arrival of the redesigned Eldorados in Seville and Biarritz trim, Cadillac launched what would become two long-lived names. The results of the additional prestige added to the model were immediately evident as customers flocked to showrooms. We’ll pick up there next time and discuss the second-gen Eldorado’s pricing and sales figures. 

[Images: GM, dealer, dealer]

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