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


rare rides icons the cadillac eldorado distinctly luxurious part xiv

As we learned in our previous installment, the third generation Eldorado debuted in 1957 with a daring new X-frame chassis design. Launched across the entire Cadillac lineup that year, the X-frame would become controversial in short order due to safety concerns in side-impact crashes. Up top, Cadillac decided to make less controversial styling changes on the 1957 Eldorados. Designers advanced a styling theme that would reach its fin-happy and chrome bedazzled crescendo a couple of years later.

(Note: The teal Eldorado pictured is the 1956, while the mist green example is a 1957.)

rare rides icons the cadillac eldorado distinctly luxurious part xiv

The 1957 Cadillacs were a notable step away from the bathtub-shaped post-WWII domestic full-size designs with their towering hoods, bulbous fenders, and generally skirted wheels. The prow of the USS Eldorado was much lower than before, both in design and in ride height. GM would thank the X-frame for part of that height reduction.

rare rides icons the cadillac eldorado distinctly luxurious part xiv

A new hood design was nearly parallel to the headlamps in 1957, contrasted sharply to the prominent raised hood the prior year. Dual finned hood ornaments complete with their own chrome spears went by the wayside; an unadorned bower bulge remained. The Cadillac crest and accompanying V were slightly smaller in 1957, proportionally adjusted in light of the smaller vertical surface area at the edge of the hood. 

rare rides icons the cadillac eldorado distinctly luxurious part xiv

Dagmars were once again relocated, as the surgeon shifted them yearly to find the optimal location. Moved upward and inward, they were also smaller than ever before and capped with rubber nipples. Safety nipples you might say, as they were deformable. Rather than being inset into the grille, the Dagmars were now a part of its perimeter. Located just under the hood line, they were joined by a thick chrome bar that wrapped around the front end.

The grille itself wore a larger egg crate design in 1957, and was no longer bisected in the middle by a horizontal chrome strip. Newly finished in gold, it came to a softer point in the middle than in 1956. At either side of the lower valence were new dual driving and indicator lamps. Each of the four were perched on their own jet engine like protrusion, and looked overworked compared to the simple rectangular lamp the prior year. 

rare rides icons the cadillac eldorado distinctly luxurious part xiv

Above the bumper was a new ribbed metal trim detail that wrapped around the front end on either side. The ‘57-only single headlamp clusters were still ringed in chrome, but had a softer metal awning over them than in 1956. In contrast, the fender was still rounded but more defined in its shape, with a newly extended character line that proceeded over halfway into the door. 

Below the character line was a front wheel that was fully exposed as Cadillac ditched the skirted wheel of the past few years. The wheel arch tapered rearward lazily, and showed a side profile with no chrome detailing along its flanks. The “saddle” ribbed chrome along the window sill was no more, and the body chrome that ran from the bumper to aft of the door before ending in vent detailing was gone too.

rare rides icons the cadillac eldorado distinctly luxurious part xiv

Relocated and refined, the Cadillac crest and Eldorado script previously on the fender near the door now appeared at the front edge of the fender sans crest. The lettering now read the trim, Biarritz or Seville, rather than Eldorado. 

rare rides icons the cadillac eldorado distinctly luxurious part xiv

Hood ventilation grilles were separated from the windshield in 1957, and moved into the cowl. The vents were also lower profile and not as noticeable when the Eldorado was viewed head-on. Above the vents was a much more curvaceous windshield that was less upright. Lending to a sportier appearance, the wrap-around glass also extended further than in 1956, going several inches past the door shut line (DLO). 

Aft of the door, rear fenders were smoother but picked up more chrome trim. The skirted rear wheel was a bit less skirted than in 1956, and the tubular protrusion in the fin that previously terminated at the rear lamps was gone. Instead, a thick chrome band originated from ahead of the wheel, curved up and around the wheel arch, and headed straight rearward. Beneath this trim piece was a chromed panel that wrapped the lower portion of the wheel arch and molded into the bumper’s shape.

rare rides icons the cadillac eldorado distinctly luxurious part xiv

Above the chrome additions were Cadillac’s signature fins, which were shorter than before but also sharper. They extended from the rear fender more rapidly, and were thinner and more defined in their shape. Fins were most striking because of the revised shape of the Eldorado’s rear end.

The trunk itself was more flush to the fenders, and no longer sported a “luggage” style bulge that cars wore between the Thirties and Fifties. The trunk lid was organic in its shape, and blended nearly seamlessly into the rear end. Eldorado block lettering in gold was joined by the Cadillac V on the trunk lid, just as it did previously.

rare rides icons the cadillac eldorado distinctly luxurious part xiv

Rear lamps no longer appeared on rocket-like pods, but were integrated with simple chrome bezels just under the tail lamps. The ribbed bumper of 1956 with its exhaust protrusions was revised into a simpler arrangement, with a circular reverse lamp either side, and a dual exhaust which matched the reversing lamp in size. 

For the first time the rear bumper was two separate segments, which wrapped only a quarter of the way into the rear at either side. In the middle there was painted metal, with a chromed surround for the license plate. Compared to 1956, the 1957 Eldorado’s rear end was a celebration of lightweight simplicity. 

To close us out today, take the rear end design a step further and mentally erase the rear’s fins. What you’re left with is a nearly European looking design! In our next installment, we’ll cover the hardtop roof design changes which were exclusive to the Eldorado Seville. Then we’ll review the exterior styling of the hand-built Series 70 Eldorado Brougham.

[Images: BaT, seller]

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