Some years are good. Others are great. For Cadillac, 1957 was most definitely the second kind. The reason for its greatness all comes down to three little words - Cadillac Eldorado Brougham (well, actually, there was a little more to it than that, but one step at a time). Announced in 1956 and released the following year, the Eldorado Brougham was the epitome of luxurious motoring... and a massive slap in the face to Cadillac's competitors over at Lincoln. With a price point that even eclipsed Rolls Royce's most expensive offering, the $13,074 ($119,370 by today's prices) Eldorado Brougham was no bargain buy - but then again, it wasn't intended to be. Designed to prove that Cadillac was at the very top of the pecking order when it came to super-luxe vehicles, it did exactly what it said on the tin - and then some.
The Eldorado Brougham
The man tasked with the responsibility of creating the 1957 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham was GM Design boss Harley Earl. Rather than try to reinvent the wheel, Earl decided to comb the back pages of the Cadillac catalogue for inspiration. The result combined some of the best features from previous year's models (see the 1953 Orleans influenced panoramic windshield and the pillarless four-door hardtop/suicide rear-door configuration; and the 1954 El Camino coupe inspired brushed stainless-steel roof) with a few very new, very radical concepts. One of the most revolutionary of those concepts came with the use of air suspension- the first time any car had employed such a system. With each wheel equipped with an individual air spring unit supplied with air through leveling valves, the car remained level and the drive stayed smooth regardless of the load or road condition. The result was a car that offered some of the most superior handling and smooth riding of any vehicle on the road.
At just 55.5 inches high, the Eldorado Brougham was certainly lower than the most cars around, not to mention a degree narrower. But what it lacked in girth, it made up for in features. As Hemmings.com notes, some of the standard features customers could expect included programming, air conditioning, controlled trunk opening and closing, and automatic locking of the rear doors while driving. As an added benefit, each Eldorado Brougham that rolled off the production line came equipped with a full glovebox vanity set with four metal drink tumblers and magnetic tray, a tissue holder, a cigarette case, an Evans compact with a comb, mirror, cigarette case, lipstick, coin holder, and powder, and in the rear, a small compartment featuring a leather notebook, Cross pencil, beveled mirror, and a perfume atomizer (complete with an ounce of Arpège Extrait de Lanvin perfume, naturally). If that wasn't enough, buyers had the choice between 44 full-leather interior and trim combinations and could also opt for additional items like Mouton, high-pile nylon Karakul or lambskin carpeting.
Any concerns passengers had about staying toasty on the road were quickly waylaid with the introduction of a unique heating system with both front and rear compartment outlets. Passengers could decide on their own level of comfort via the individually operated under-seat heaters in the rear, while the front-mounted Cadillac air conditioner ensured hot days were no obstacle to a comfortable ride. As supercars.net writes, it took Cadillac two years of concentrated testing and ongoing development to finalize the design of the 1957 Eldorado Brougham. And as its very appreciative fans will tell you, it was time well spent.
Eldorado Brougham Specifications
The Eldorado Brougham was long, narrow, and stylish. Equipped with a powerful V-8 engine, it was a car that could out perform most other cars on the road, and look good while doing it. The full spec included:
· Engine 365-cu.in. V-8
· Compression 10:1 (1957); 10.25:1 (1958)
· Horsepower 325 (1957); 335 (1958)
· Transmission Four-speed GM Hydra-Matic
· Wheelbase 126 inches
· Length 216.3 inches
· Front track 61 inches
· Rear track 61 inches
The Legacy of the Eldorado Brougham
When a car comes with a perfume atomizer and powder puff as standard, you know you're not dealing with any ordinary, run-off-the-mill motor. And the Eldorado Brougham was certainly not that. It was a car designed to appeal to an elite group of post-war Americans who thought nothing of spending the same on a car as other people would spend on a house. Designed to evoke images of elegance and luxury, it represented the pinnacle of the Golden Age of American car design.
All these years later, and very little has changed. If you happen to run into a 1957 Eldorado Brougham (although as gmheritagecenter.com notes, given the fact only 400 models were ever built, don't hold your breath), be prepared to spend some serious currency. Even so, it'll be unlikely you'll end up losing quite so much money on one as Cadillac did - thanks to the massive figures they invested in research, development, and all those powder puffs, they managed to lose $10,000 on each $13,000 Eldorado Brougham sold... which may explain why they limited production to just 400 models.
The 1957 Cadillac Eldorado
Remember when we said 1957 was a great year for Cadillac because of the Eldorado Brougham? We lied. While the Eldorado Brougham was certainly the cherry on top of a very exquisite cake, it would have been a pretty extraordinary year for the brand either way. Part of that can be attributed to the introduction of the third generation Cadillac Eldorado. While the Cadillac Eldorado had always been near the top of the Cadillac line, 1957 was the year it won first price. Determined to prove that their cars were 'the standard of the world', Cadillac decided 1957 was the year their flagship got a revamp. And what a revamp it was. Both the Biarritz convertible and Seville hardtop body styles were treated to a very contemporary makeover, with a very new (and very exclusive) rear-end design with a low, downswept fender line topped off with the now iconic pointed in-board shark fins. The lower rear quarters, meanwhile, were jazzed up with wide, sculptured stainless steel beauty panels, while a redesigned rear suspension offered improved comfort and ride. At $12000 per piece, these weren't exactly budget friendly cars, but with features such as memory seats, power windows and door locks, vanity cases, air conditioning, and automatic locking, there was no reason for them to be. The following year, Cadillac gave the Eldorado yet another re-style, but for many, 1957 was the year the line went from special to extraordinary.
Written by Benjamin Smith
Read more posts by Benjamin Smith