Sleek…rich…dripping of class and prestige. The Cadillac Eldorado is one of the few luxury coupes that has managed to stand the test of time and prove that one car actually can have it all. Since its original release in 1953, the model has demanded attention at every turn, and gets it, effortlessly.
Uniquely enough, the vehicle was given its name by Mary-Ann Marini, a Cadillac company secretary who won a contest for coming up with the best moniker for the 1952 Cadillac Golden Anniversary’s show car. The event it was shown in was appropriate enough, considering the fact that in Spanish the term ‘El Dorado’ translates to ‘The Gilded One’.
Regardless of the hoo-hah, those were humble beginnings to say the least, and after that the Eldorado would turn heads until its final production in 2002…and it still does, regardless of its year.
It is difficult to determine which years, or specific models, of the Eldorado were the most sought after or popular over the years. They had such a unique styling and attitude that changed mildly from generation to generation, yet nothing was compromised during the evolutionary process. Sure, other motor companies tried to emulate the sleek lines of its body shape and add extras that gave one the ‘feeling’ of luxury, but the Eldorado itself could not be duplicated. Many fans of the car have at least one favorite year or generation preference; others don’t care…they just love the Eldorado for being an Eldorado.
The Most Coveted Eldorado Models
So, with the best of intentions and the most exhausting of efforts, we have attempted to give you something of an idea about which Eldorados were the most loved and coveted over the years. Before we proceed, though, it is wise to let you know (if you didn’t already) that the Cadillac Eldorado line was ‘birthed’ in generations. These generations consisted of one-to-five or –six year increments, with minor changes in details with each passing year. We will list them by generation, followed by the year or years of production for that generation.
Here is the Cadillac Eldorado generational line-up in order:
- First Generation: Produced only in 1953
- Second Generation: Produced from 1954 through 1956
- Third Generation: Produced from 1957 through 1960, with the following variations by year by year:
- 1957- Eldorado*
- 1957-1958- Hand-built Series 70 Brougham
- 1958- Eldorado Seville, Biarritz, Brougham
- 1959-1960- Italian-produced Eldorado Brougham
- 1959- Eldorado*
- 1960- Eldorado*
- Fourth Generation: Produced from 1961 through1964
- Fifth Generation: Produced from 1965 through 1966
- Sixth Generation: Produced from 1967 through 1970
- Seventh Generation: Produced from 1971 through 1978
- 1978 also produced more luxurious Eldorado Biarritz
- Eighth Generation: Produced from 1979 through 1985
- Ninth Generation: Produced from 1986 through 1991
- Tenth Generation: Produced from 1992 through 2002
(Models marked with the * symbol notate the basic model as having also been produced that year apart from the model variations of the same year.).
Which ones took the cake?
Now that you have those factoids mastered, we can move on to the meat of the meal. For forty-nine years Cadillac produced the Eldorado and sub-models of it, and there have been several. So, just which ones took the very top ranks? Well, let’s go over that for a while. Here we will go by what the general population of Eldorado fans the world over have gravitated toward during the years, and what they are still attracted to today when it comes to this very cool Cadillac model.
This will give you an idea of what we think are… the 20 Best Cadillac Eldorados of All Time:
20. 1995 Cadillac Eldorado
This tenth-generation Eldorado mostly endured aesthetic changes, such as new grilles, seven-spoke alloy wheels, new up-to-date bumpers all around, and side cladding, for something of a slightly sporty look. While most Eldorado enthusiasts have good things to say about this model, the things they didn’t like were all similar, and therefore something of a cause for concern, especially if they caused an eventual decrease in sales.
For instance, both the engine and transmission seemed to cause a variety of problems for owners, as did gas mileage, and the suspension, which seemed to wear out easily. Some say the engine issue was directly related to the fact that it was a Northstar engine, which fared quite well in the beginning, but over the years began to cause overheating and engine warping issues that were very expensive to repair . Because this seemed to be a common complaint, the 1995 Cadillac Eldorado makes the list, but unfortunately, it’s at the lowest spot.
19. 1984 Cadillac Eldorado
This model was produced from ’79 – ’85, and this 8th Generation ride had a very popular body style that had a lean, mean look to accompany its luxurious brand name and extra body embellishments. Most owners of this vehicle are in love with not only the car’s appearance, but its gas mileage and handling as well. They loved the comfortable interior and all the extras that seemed to make the car all that it could be.
However, complaints seemed to come in when it came to the engine, and they were closely followed by grumbling about how difficult parts were, and are, to come by. It also had an issue with not having the power owners desired, and the transmission seemed to be sadly lacking as well. However, on a brighter note, handling and gas mileage seemed to make people happy with this production year.
18. 1982 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz Hardtop Coupe
This particular model coming in at #18 may cause some a bit of confusion. After all, the ’59 Biarritz was one of the best Eldorados ever made, right? And the hard-top coupe? Who doesn’t love that? Well, as we know, there is more to a car than its body style. We are all aware that cars need care, and the passage of time requires parts replacement and a variety of other upkeep measures.
The ’82 Biarritz seemed to have more than most, with replacement parts pretty much being constant, and all-inclusive, from entire brake lines on a consistent basis to weak alternator brackets that broke easily, and some even needed their starters replaced more than once, says Automobile Catalog. But more than one owner swears the car is worth every penny, if you are willing and able to give it the TLC it deserves. They claim it will have a long, productive life and remain as sexy as ever if you invest your time and money as needed. It’s a matter of priorities, one would guess. For the above reasons, it’s at #18.
17. 2002 Cadillac Eldorado
The final production year for the Eldorado brought mixed reviews from the public. Some thought it was the best car they ever drove, and if they did have a problem here and there, they fixed it and moved on. But many owners expressed frustration and disgust at the level of unreliability and lack of quality that this model year demonstrated in comparison to its predecessors.
In reviews reported by Edmunds.com, some even went so far as to say they wish they had never bought the vehicle at all, and missed the days of the old Eldorado, when it not only looked good, but ran good and endured as well. With it being the ‘goodbye’ year for this icon ride, I don’t think these points come as too much of a surprise.
16. 1985 Cadillac Eldorado Commemorative Edition
This eighth-generation Caddy sported special emblems on various areas of the body to let others know it was, indeed, a special edition, but other than that, it was just an eighth-gen Eldorado, and was much like those produced in the five years before it, all eighth generation models as well. The car had a sleek, long-nosed body, improved gas mileage and a diesel option. In 1983 the Eldorado offered electronic dash instruments and boasted an extremely quiet ride.
By 1984 more than one-hundred-thousand of the eighth generation models had been sold, but they definitely had their issues. While they still sported their exquisite aesthetic styling and comfort, they were said to go through too much gasoline, their motors were sadly lacking, and the higher gears offered a fraction of the power expected. This didn’t stop fans from buying them, and it still doesn’t. Unfortunately, it does effect this model’s spot on our list.
15. 1981 Cadillac Eldorado Coupe
Many of the reviews given are quite modern, but even when compared to review from the past it’s easy to spot the similarities. Beautiful car, comfortable ride…all of the desired amenities. Many who had any problems at all couldn’t have cared less, they loved their car so much. But many of this year’s models had a problem with water pump failure, which led to engine damage.
Now, this is no small thing; if not caught early, you will likely lose your engine for sure. However, the car drove exceptionally well, had good gas mileage, a modern sound system, comfortable seating, and a look that could knock them dead. Like those before it, at number fifteen the ’81 Eldorado Coupe takes a spot that isn’t all that bad after all. Maybe it’ll move up next year…
14. 1983 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz Coupe
Another 8th Generation Eldorado, the Biarritz Coupe has been praised for many things. It was said to have been one of the smoothest cars to operate on the road, with a comfort level that was nearly unparalleled. Also, it was good on gas, and that is always a plus. Even those who have bought the car in recent years have stated that they get good gas mileage, and claim that their Biarritz is one of the coolest looking cars on the road. But, like every work of machinery, it has had it setbacks.
Owners are known to complain of the car backfiring through the manifold after they have reached a specific mile range on their odometers. This and other timing problems have been reported by several owners. This is also another model year that seems to have water pump problems, so owners should keep their eyes on their cooling systems on a habitual basis to avoid engine problems. This beautiful vehicle should have come in better than #14, but we still have some amazing Eldorados ahead!
13. 1970 Cadillac Eldorado Hardtop Coupe
Also available in the Fleetwood version, this hardtop coupe was considered the top-end of luxury cars here in the States and all over. Fully-loaded it was a rolling castle; at its bare minimum it a silky-smooth, comfortable ride that was simply a joy. It had power, class, and bore the Cadillac name; what more could one ask for? Some issues with the powertrains on this model prompted Cadillac to tweak things a bit, resulting in improvement.
However, there are still models out there from this sixth generation family of cars that may have had, or do have, issues in this area. We put this 1970 Coupe at #13 for the powertrain issue alone, coupled with the fact that it took time to deal with it. Because some out there have had to do it themselves, this is something to watch for if considering the ’70 Eldorado Coupe.
12. 1968 Cadillac Eldorado Coupe
The year before this model, the Eldorado was something of a reflection of either the Olds Toronado or the Buick Riviera as far as body styling went. This was a popular look at the time, and even today it is easy to see why. This body style, with only a few minor changes to the drive system and transmission, was released again in ’68…pretty much the same car, right? Well, they did add disc brakes in 1968, making for a much safer, sounder stop, which makes everyone happy. The Eldorado Coupe of ’68 comes in at number thirteen on our list, an in our opinion, that’s a pretty good slot.
11. 1980 Cadillac Eldorado (Biarritz package available)
This particular Eldorado is one of my personal favorites, both when it comes to appearance and handling. It’s not too big and not too small, is good on gas, and looks as sharp as a tack. The Biarritz package made the thing irresistible, and improved its scale quite a bit in comparison to the competition.
But problems have been reported with this year’s model burning oil, resulting in unbearably smelly exhaust fumes; also, exhaust manifold gaskets typically need replacing. While there are, of course, a spattering of other issues, depending on the car, it seems that the benefits outweigh the tribulations, and this is one of the reasons this is another popular Eldorado model.
Now we finally reach the top ten best, most popular Cadillac Eldorado Models of all time. You are likely thinking that some of those previously listed should be in the top ten; you are probably wondering what we are going to list, since we’ve already used some of the best of the best. Well, the best is yet to come…
10. 1969 Cadillac Eldorado Fleetwood
This gorgeous beast simply had to be in the top ten, but with all the wonderful models throughout the car’s generational history, it is so difficult to figure out where each of these ten should go. Well, the ’69 Fleetwood made it here, and for good reason. Not only is it a comfortable, maneuverable city-driver, but taking this thing out on the highway is like going on a magic carpet ride.
Not only does it boast a great stereo system and many other options that were top-of-the-line in 1969, it also looked amazing and handled beautifully. It had one setback: cost. Between the price of the vehicle itself and the cost of gasoline, which is freely gulped, this was enough to lodge complaints. Otherwise, this awesome ride is sure to garner attention wherever it goes, and it will get you there in style.
9. 1967 Cadillac Eldorado - V8 Fleetwood Series
This is the car that began the Eldorado’s sixth generation and so closely resembled the Riviera by Buick and the Toronado by Oldsmobile. The shapes and lines that made up this vehicle’s sexy body were precisely what the public was yearning for, and it showed. This was also the year that the model took on the front-wheel drive steering system and underwent some pretty important transmission alterations.
Owners claimed that is was much more relaxing to handle and the ride was smoother, not to mention the fact that it gave much better performance than before. It didn’t go without complaints, however. The long-bodied, angular machine seemed to be a bit lacking in the mileage department, and many complained that the new angled design of the body made seeing the back end difficult, which resulted in difficulties going in reverse.
The cost of parts is also an issue, as they tend to run fairly high, for those of you refurbishing one of these beauties. Otherwise this is one of the best for the fact that it was the entire package at the time, and to look at it or drive it today, you wouldn’t think that fifty-two years had even passed.
8. 1976 Cadillac Eldorado Convertible, Fleetwood Series
From the seventh generation we are given the convertible Fleetwood Series Eldorado of 1976. Not only was it put out as a convertible model, but it also brand new fender skirts, which changed the appearance and made it look even more luxurious than those of the previous generation. A 1973 model was actually picked to be a pace car at the Indianapolis 500, along with many others.
1976 was the last year the convertible Eldorado was produced, so it is a very popular car for enthusiasts to get their hands on. Owners, past and present, just love this car, though there are some complaints about gas mileage, and a small bit of groaning about the performance, but overall, the convertible Fleetwood edition is a great example of the Cadillac Eldorado, both yesterday and today. To put it simply, 1967 was one of the most prosperous years for the Eldorado, and just casting your eyes over this model tells you exactly why.
7. 1957 Cadillac Eldorado Series 70 Brougham
Born into the third generation of the Eldorado family, the Series 70 Brougham was not immune to undergoing changes that improved its performance and kept its appearance up with the times. Lower rear fenders were installed and fins long, pointed fins were added, giving it a sharper, more ‘space-aged’ look.
Also, four-door models were produced, with the rear doors being hinged at the rear, which really got the attention of buyers. The price, however, went sky-high, shoot up to more than $13k in 1957…an almost unheard of price for an automobile, but it was much more luxuries and offered more extras than before. Aside from this vehicle having some pretty worrisome issues with the suspension, which Cadillac was able to eventually rectify, of course. Only 704 Series 70 Brougham models were made, so this is one desirable vehicle in the collector’s field of today.
6. 1956 Cadillac Series 62 Eldorado Seville Coupe
Once again, the Eldorado endured more aesthetic changes to differentiate this year’s model from previous ones. This included moving the rear parking lights and designing and installing a newly textured grille, which came in gold or standard satin finishes. It was also a bit longer than its predecessors, which seemed to be the rage in luxury at the time.
This one came in hardtop, but still carried the same steeper price. Powered by a huge V8 with dual-intake twin carbs, the vehicle had a starting base price of $6550, which was considered highly economical for a car that was one of the best luxury sellers of its time. Some transmission problems were reported, however, but that really seemed to be the only complaint amongst the masses, but Cadillac was always on top of its ‘repair and improve’ game, making this a very popular vehicle to purchase in its day, and it is still sought after now.
5. 1979 Cadillac Eldorado
Well, here we are, finally counting down the final five best Cadillac Eldorado models of all time. As you will see, the following models have definitely earned the spots they occupy on our list, the 1979 Eldorado being the first example at number five. This particular Eldorado sported one of the sleekest, most popular body styles of all the Eldorado models, and set the standard for the future appearance-wise.
Inside the car drivers and passengers enjoyed much more room and comfort than they did with other models, but the outside was shorter, lighter, and much easier to maneuver for the driver. This turned out to be a prime time for the Eldorado, not only for its interior space and great look, but for an engine that bragged more efficient mileage and handling as well.
On the downside, there were some engine issues, which seemed to be par for the course for Cadillac. Head gasket issues gave them the worst trouble on the diesel models, but the gasoline version appeared to be issue-free. Owners, as in the past, were encouraged to keep a close eye on motor temperature to avoid engine damage, but otherwise this was a great car, and the public loved it.
For those who still love them, and may own or are considering the purchase of one, it is good to know that mechanical parts are much easier to come by than parts for the body. Trouble aside, this is one of the best, and it proves it from its number five ranking on our list.
4. 1967 Cadillac Eldorado Coupe
Regardless of the love for the shorter version of the Eldorado that sits at number five, in 1967 longer was better. The ’67 also featured new concealed headlights, a different, egg crate-styled grille, a V-shaped backlight, and fenders with much sharper edges.
The model also sported the V-shaped rear window, which was all the rage at the time, making the car stand out from the crowd, but letting it slightly resemble the rear windows of the Buick Riviera. Buyers preferred the Eldorado over the Buick, however, and the numbers proved this fact.
Because the body was so different, Cadillac actually had to open a separate assembly line just for the production of these vehicles, showing how special they really were. With a base price of $6,277, this Eldorado was more than a grand higher in price than similar cars, but it was released with great reviews, other than being referred to as ‘a [Oldsmobile] Toronado in a Cadillac suit’ by Car and Driver magazine.
This didn’t seem to faze anyone, though. It had to be produced in high volume to keep up with public demand, and even today people flock to get their hands on them, or just to soak up their beauty. Making it into the top five for this car was an easy task.
3. 1953 Cadillac Eldorado Convertible
The first generation of Eldorados were both impressive and overwhelming. They were powerful cars that exuded luxury in nearly every aspect of its existence, and Cadillac lovers ate them up. The 1953 convertible garnered even more attention, thanks to its open-top capability, which was much-loved at the time, and still is. Featuring a fine leather interior, wraparound windshield, white-wall tires, radio, heat, and power steering, this was a state-of-the-art ride that was a high-end honey.
This is now a certified Milestone Car, which meant that it was nominated as one of the best in accordance with the Milestone Car Societies standards. Obviously, it managed to win in its category. Memorable and much loved, even today, for all the right reasons, the 1953 Eldorado Convertible slips easily into the number three spot on our list.
2. 1952 Cadillac Eldorado
As mentioned earlier, the 1952 model was the very first, and it was produced as the Golden Anniversary show car. This, of course led the company to design and produce ten generations of the Eldorado with various sub-models, but the original remains the beat of the Eldorado lover’s heart. Considered the ‘true driver’s luxury coupe’, it boasted the very best performance and ease of handling for its time.
There were even steering wheel controls for all of the extras that it came with, meaning it was way ahead of its own time. The model was eventually replaced with the CTS line after 2002, but the original continues to win the hearts of auto enthusiasts everywhere, and the reasons are obvious. As the number two slot holder, this Eldorado still holds its own today.
1. 1959 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz
And for the number one best Cadillac Eldorado of all time: The 1959 Eldorado Biarritz! Considered one of the most extravagant vehicles of the day, the Eldorado Biarritz was basically dripping in chrome, offered 345 horses, and most of its standard equipment was considered to be ‘extras’ when purchased in other models.
This equipment included a power top, power ventilation windows, cruise control, a power radio antenna, trunk, seats, and door locks, and factory air conditioning. This limited production vehicle was, and still is, considered one of the most iconic cars of the fifties, and it set the bar for luxury cars as time continued to pass.
Originally, the ’59 Eldorado Biarritz base-price was $7,401, but believe it or not, one actually sold at an auction in Palm Beach in 2011 for $99,000! This should speak for itself as to the beauty, comfort, and luxury that was so loved back then, and still is today. So, congratulations to the ’59 Eldorado Biarritz for its #1 position on our list!
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Written by Garrett Parker
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