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The 1967 Cadillac Eldorado Changed Everything in American Automotive Design
In the early fall of 1967, Cadillac debuted a car of startling originality that was also a sort of heresy when it came to the offerings from the American luxury brand.

The 1967 Cadillac Eldorado Changed Everything in American Automotive Design

1958 Cadillac Eldorado1967 Cadillac Eldorado1967 Cadillac Eldorado1967 Cadillac Eldorado1967 Cadillac Eldorado1967 Cadillac Eldorado1967 Cadillac Eldorado1967 Cadillac Eldorado1967 Cadillac Eldorado
The phrase ‘El Dorado’ - a metaphor used to represent an ultimate state of being or achievement - once represented a place akin to heaven, a place of happiness or success itself. It was used as a figure of speech to represent something sought after which may not exist at all. Edgar Allan Poe penned a poem "Eldorado," about such a place or state. Think of it as a reference to a mythic place such as the Fountain of Youth, or Shangri-la.

Though it shared a name with a previous model from Cadillac, nothing about the Eldorado would be the same again. Meant to be the brand’s opening salvo in an attempt to enter the luxury coupe market, the E-body Cadillac Eldorado was called "the first motor car in the world to combine the precision of front-wheel drive with the maneuverability of variable-ratio power steering and the balance of Automatic Level Control."

That was more than 50 years ago and the Eldorado for 1967 proved to be revolutionary indeed. In their search for a successor to the Eldorado Brougham, GM engineers had some next level ideas they could examine, and one of those ideas was a new front and rear-wheel-drive platform. As 1959 came to a close the testing process for the experimental front-drive chassis was showing promise. It seemed that a front-wheel-drive configuration helped the cars gain traction in poor road conditions such as ice and snow.

But the project withstood a series of fits and starts and ultimately, the decision to actually build a new Cadillac that offered front-wheel drive didn’t become final until the spring of 1963. And the story dragged on yet again as it wasn’t until May of the following year that GM approved the exterior styling of the car that would become the 1967 Eldorado.

Buick and Oldsmobile had already finalized designs for stunning new E-body coupes in the form of the Buick Riviera and the front-drive Oldsmobile Toronado, and both were set to debut in 1966. Cadillac was faced with a dilemma in that they knew they had no chance of reaching the market by then, so they backed up the debut for a year hoping to refine the ride quality and the interior quality of the Eldorado. Enter Automatic Level Control, a self-leveling pneumatic rear suspension that added a cachet to the Eldorado.

The Cadillac FWD vision began by mounting the engine and transmission longitudinally and side-by-side to accommodate the power from the 429ci (7.0-liter), 340 hp V8 they chose for the latest offering. As if that wasn’t novel enough, engineers delivered the power via their Turbo Hydra-Matic transmission using a rough and ready enclosed chain drive.

And one key was that chain drive system developed by Hydra-Matic and Borg-Warner. It proved to be nearly unbreakable, design flexible, light, relatively inexpensive to produce and compact.

The front-wheel drive setup also provided the Eldorado nearly almost neutral driver handling, and that was big news for Cadillac buyers used to a spongy and vague steering feel.

But building the new Eldorado would require a whole new level of redesign which included a new oil pan to accommodate transmission and axle shaft clearances, a fresh set of exhaust manifolds and brand new engine mounts.

The car was aimed at attracting younger buyers for this Eldorado. Cadillac hoped sales might perform 10 percent better. But during the first year, the front-drive Eldorado moved nearly 18,000 units - that’s in comparison to the 2,250 units of the 1966 Eldorado.

The 1967 Cadillac Eldorados were a major hit with buyers and popular enough that the E-body Cadillac Eldorados stayed in production until 2002. The Eldorado also outlived its inspirations - the Oldsmobile Toronado and the Buick Riviera.

It proved to be a harbinger for the future of the American automotive industry and for Cadillac as well as the majority of domestically produced automobiles now use front-wheel or all-wheel drive.

It’s amazing that you can still find a 1967 Eldorado in excellent condition for around $30,000.

Editor's note: This article was not sponsored or supported by a third-party.


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