Ah, the “personal luxury car.” It’s a market segment that’s all but extinct these days, but in the 1960s these slightly sporty, mostly comfortable two-doors were all the rage.
The 1958 Thunderbird got the ball rolling when Ford grew the T-Bird, added rear seats, softened it up, then saw sales explode. As demand faltered for the ultra-exclusive, ultra-expensive flagship cars seen in the 1950s, manufacturers turned to higher-volume models for the swinging ’60s. The Studebaker Avanti arrived in 1962, but it took GM until 1963 to come out with its own personal luxury car competitor, which arrived with the Buick Riviera. Then came the breakthrough front-wheel drive Oldsmobile Toronado in 1966.
Finally, Cadillac got in on the action in 1967 with the eighth-generation Eldorado. Built on the same platform on the Oldsmobile, Cadillac’s late entry to the personal luxury party was also the company’s first front-drive model. Today, like most classic personal luxury cars, the 1967–70 Eldorado offers a ton (4700 pounds, to be precise) of style and power for the dollar.
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The first car my 16 year old son had was a 67 Eldorado, courtesy of my father-in-law. This would have been circa 1993. The car was legendary - everything on it, from the radiator to the starter motor was "the biggest ever made!" The power brake system was actually off a GMC school bus, referred to as "vacuum over hydraulic." Meaning that the power was supplied by the power steering pump - also "the biggest ever made!" If the belt broke you had no power steering AND no power brakes. The pre-computer Climate Control was an amazing and bewildering series of relays, solenoids, sensors, banging doors and enough wiring to weave a hammock; it worked by blending the air from the air conditioner and heater, both of which were always on. So, if the A/C broke (and it did) you were suffocated by blazing hot air coming out of the still functioning heater. And remember, the rear windows didn't open - I think the conditions in the rear seat may have violated the Geneva Conventions. But the most memorable thing about the car was that despite the hood being large enough to use for a helipad and the quarter panels being "the biggest ever made!" the interior was surprisingly cramped - four passengers were the absolute limit. And don't get me started on the water gushing sunroof.
Great article, Andrew!
However, you didn't mention the thing that was most obvious to anyone entering the car(s) for the first time — a totally flat floor; no hump/tunnel.
It's always been my understanding that in the GM hierarchy, you don't try something brand-new in a Cadillac, (except a starter motor, way back then—another story.) Buick, being too high up as well, didn't get "messed with". So Oldsmobile was the recipient of new technologies, in order to see how reliable they'd be.
I remember initial reviews of the Toronado mentioning that, because of the very long hood, cresting a hill was an exercise in trust, since you "couldn't see until you got there".
I worked for Dixon Cadillac in Hollywood when the first Eldo arrived to us with part of the exhaust system of the car trailered above it hanging down on its hood... scratching the heck out of it.
Our in-house body men made short work of the repair in a beautiful deep metallic blue and it was sold to none other than Sgt. Friday, aka Jack Webb.
Before it left the dealership the car was scrutinized by all the workers there to understand what specifically changed and what they would need to be prepared to do for maintenance and repairs. The split-case Turbo-Hydromatic was one biggie!
Alas, we also learned that it 's torque converter had a "variable-pitch" stator that was electrically controlled by a rheostat affixed to the carburetor like a throttle position sensor (TPS) we see today.
It could be adjusted to factory specs or played with as well. We set it up for max torque at low rpm's and had a ball smoking the FRONT tires to the amazement of all that witnessed it. FWD cars were a rarity back then, with the only other example being the Olds Toronado.
What happened next was the car disappeared from our hands and was sold to Jack before we could reset the stator. HA!
It was back in a week to see what we could do to FIX it...
I bought a 1969 Eldorado as my first car (I'm 16) in November of 2019. It hasn't ran since 1978, but everything but the windshield is there. It has a lot of space in the engine bay and is a behemoth in the driveway. Does anyone know what other cars and years share the same windshield because I'm trying to find a replacement for mine and shipping doubles the price!
This car is still on my bucket list to find another. This was my first car. 1967 (Elradodo- just move the letters on the front fender around a bit) White with white leather, no vinyl roof. It was my grand mothers car with 17,000 miles on it when I got it. 8 mpg on a good day, but at $.25 per gallon it was workable. Lots of fond memories it that car. Took it to the Detroit Dragway (15.4 et), first date, drive in movies, cops pulling me over thinking I stole the car or was a drug dealer..... The oil embargo killed the old girl for me. I was only making $1.25 an hour at the grocery store and when gas went to that much a gallon, I could not afford to drive her anymore. Today in 1973 dollars we are back to about that price a gallon again. Fond Memories for sure.
Although it did not share the front wheel drive drive-train of the Toronado and Eldorado, the concurrent Buick Riviera from 1966 on was also a luxury sport coupe and also shared some of the basic body structure (windshield, cowl, etc. It would have been in the same category, was equally handsome but probably not as valuable today due to its more common (and perhaps more dependable) rear wheel drive.
I am confused... Cadillac was not a luxury automobile before 1967? And no mention of Imperial or Chrysler 300 as competitors? (although, admittedly, Imperial and Chrysler sold fewer cars and has fewer followers)