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Series 70 Eldorado Brougham
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  Cadillac Series 70 Eldorado Brougham

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Country of origin:United States
Produced from:1957 - 1958
Numbers built:1957: 400
1958: 304
Introduced at:1957 New York Auto Show
Designed by:Ed Glowacke
Author:Wouter Melissen
Last updated:April 11, 2007
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Click here to download printer friendly versionAmerica's motoring culture reached a peak in the 1950s when models like the Corvette, Thunderbird and Bel Air were launched. Many of these production cars were inspired by the 'dream cars' shown at events like GM's Motorama. Some of these concept cars evolved into road going vehicles, but others like the three Superbirds remained as startling one-offs. Of all the American manufacturers, Cadillac had gradually obtained a position of technological and aesthetic leadership. The culmination of this position came in 1957 when the company launched the Series 70 Eldorado Brougham. It was designed to compete directly with the Lincoln Continental II, which was axed within a few months fater the Brougham's introduction.

A first sign of the things to come was the Le Mans 'dream car' shown during the 1953 Motorama. The elegant two-door convertible already sported the twin-headlight units that would become the Brougham's trademark. These were combined with the overall shape of the Park Avenue show car launched at the next Motorama. A year later the first Eldorado Brougham saw the light of day and it was announced that it would hit the salesrooms around the country within a year. There were some delays and the introduction was postponed with almost a year, but early in 1957 it was available to the fortunate few; at $13,074 it was one of the most expensive cars available and three times more expensive than a 'regular' Series 62 Cadillac.

There is an explanation for somewhat ridiculous price as the Brougham came equipped with every thinkable option and then some. It was by no means all show and no go either as the four-door saloon was powered by a 325 bhp V8. Mated to a four speed Hydramatic gearbox, the six litre provided for a smooth ride. That smoothness was further increased by the first ever use of air suspension instead of the more familiar coil and leaf spring setup. The system was made up of one 'air-dome' on every corner that took over the role of the springs and dampers, and also kept the car level at all times. Also contributing to the good ride was the adoption of Cadillac's new 'X-frame' chassis that was much stiffer than the conventional chassis and also allowed the body to be installed a full three inches lower.

More visible and equally impressive was the Brougham's lavish interior, which was accessed through two normal doors and two slightly shorter 'suicide' doors. To make the access to the rear seats easier, the front seats electrically moved forward when the doors were opened. The power seats also had a memory function controlled by buttons on the door and allowed for a total of 175 different positions. The Brougham did not just come with cup holders, but with a full set of magnetic cups hidden away in the dashboard together with a tissue and cigarette holder. Other advanced features included central locking, a signal seeking radio and Cadillac's headlamp dipping system. It would take decades before any of these features would be common on other production cars, underlining what a 'tour de force' the Brougham was and still is.

Compared to its contemporaries and the exuberant 'dream cars', the Brougham's styling was actually quite subtle and the beauty was in the many details. As mentioned earlier the exotic Cadillac will forever be remembered for debuting the twin-headlight layout, which was immediately considered the ultimate expression of luxury. It did not take long before many other manufactures copied Cadillac. Other attention grabbers were the cones on the nose with rubber tips, which were nicknamed 'Dagmars' after a famous and well equipped blond actress of the day. Not quite as obvious was the still very prominent brushed, stainless-steel roof. The tail of course sported fins, but again more subtle than on many other cars of the day. Where the fins ended, the rear bumper started with two slightly smaller cones than on the nose. Examplary for the subdued style of the Eldorado Brougham are the exhaust pipes that exit through slats in the bottom corners of the chrome bumpers.

With its high price, it is not surprising that the Brougham was not a big seller, but still 400 examples were constructed in the first year. With the exception of a slight performance increase little changed for 1958 and another 300 cars found a new owner. There was one slight problem though; it's estimated that Cadillac lost around $10,000 on every one of the hand built Broughams sold. To cut the costs it was decided that the production of the bodies should be outsourced to Pininfarina in Italy for the highly revised 1959 model. Production continued into 1960, but only 200 bodies left the Pininfarina factory and they lacked the subtle beauty of the original Brougham. Cadillac went on to use the Brougham badge for many years, usually signifying some additional trim and not the highly advanced package that made the name famous. After the V16 model of the 1930s, the Brougham was Cadillac's second attempt to market a super luxury vehicle and they have yet to try again.

It is estimated that well over half the original Broughams have survived, usually in the hands of Cadillac enthusiasts and pristine examples now sell for six figure prices. Some did have the complex air suspension system replaced by regular coil springs for ease of maintenance. Pictured is one of those survivors; a 1957 model in excellent condition. It is still owned by Cadillac and is currently on permanent display in the General Motors Heritage Center.

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  Article Image gallery (12) Specifications User Comments (1)