1971, the Eldorado line had grown again to include a convertible model. An Eldorado Convertible paced the Indy 500 Race in
1973, and went out with fireworks blazing in 1976, as 200 identical "last" convertibles celebrated the Bicentennial
and commemorated the last Cadillac convertible built, which was also the last convertible built by an American manufacturer.
When 1977 came around, the public knew large cars had a limited life span. And
devoted to big cars as they always had been, people were buying them at a brisk pace. 1978 was the Eldorado's final year as
a traditionally-sized luxury car. It was the lone hold out in the Cadillac line, as all the others had down sized in 1977.
Customers bought almost as many Eldorados in 1978 as they did in 1977, which is significant because the basic styling was
now in its eighth year, ancient by personal luxury car standards.
of the Eldorados that would follow would be quite impressive automobiles, and others would not. Some would still stir something
within those who saw one, and others would inspire a stunned shock as people realized they were, indeed, looking at a Cadillac!
And an Eldorado, no less. But none would ever be able to compare based on sheer size. The impressive exterior dimensions of
the 1978 Eldorado would never again be considered, as they were too extravagant for any time period other than the one for
which they were built.
So, just as the huge tail fins
of 1959, which are adored by many, and despised by some, became an icon of the fifties, the big 1978 Eldorado has come to
represent an icon of the seventies.
Some call them wasteful,
pointing out their poor fuel economy and limited interior space and trunk room in contrast to their huge size.
Others will say they are representative of the American way of life, when bigger
was better and Americans could do anything they wanted to do, if they put their minds to it.
Perhaps that sense of pride and accomplishment is gone today. Or could it be there's just a lack of imagination?
In a world of four door sedans that all look alike, available in various shades
of grays and beiges, with a red, blue, and black thrown in for variety, it's nice to see something different for a change.
Many miss the distinctive styling traits cars used to have,
as well as the interaction that was required of those who drove them.
electronics control the choke and the accelerator, and a computer decides on the best fuel mixture for the current conditions.
All humans need to do is have minimal understanding of how
to start the vehicle, and point it where you want it to go. And all of that's great until the computer acts up (or the floor
mat makes the gas pedal get stuck, as we have seen recently.)
was a time when you could identify the new models based on the things they carried over from one year to the next, regardless
of other styling changes.
Cadillac had its fins, and when
the time came to do away with them, there was still just enough of a hint of them left to immediately identify the car as
a Cadillac. Buick had its Ventiports, and you could tell at a glance if it was a top of the line model or not, by the number
of holes (the more the better). And people had to know how to operate a car, and as such were more aware of what was going
on when they were driving.
There are some good things about
today's smaller cars. Washing and waxing one of the big Eldorados by yourself can be a real workout. Finding a parking space
big enough (or a garage for that matter) can be a challenge.
late seventies Eldorados are well built, with most mechanical parts readily available as they were used on other GM makes,
and for quite a few years.
Things to look out for when buying
one are the same as with earlier Eldo models. Check for corrosion around the vinyl roof moldings, at the bottom of the front
fenders, doors, and around the edges of the hood and deck lid. Performance is leisurely, but adequate for most, and some have
reported good results from "tweaking" the engine. These cars ride and handle very well, and are easy to drive, even
if you aren't accustomed to large cars. They are quite nimble, and are pretty responsive to driver input, given their size.
And there is something about driving or riding in one of these cars that's missing
from today's cars. We can't really put our finger on it. Is it creativity? Imagination? Inspiration? Whatever it is, these
cars have it and most new cars don't. Is it wasteful to drive such a large car given today's interest in economizing and saving
We'll answer that with another question:
Is it wasteful to go to sports events? Concerts? Drive to the golf course? All use fuel, and none are necessary activities.
Having a classic car is a hobby, and like all hobbies they take time, cost money, and may be a bit wasteful. But with a classic
car, you can bring it home, put it in your garage and admire it every time you go into the garage. Golf clubs may be great,
but really, do you enjoy looking at them?
Large personal luxury
cars like the Eldorado were a snapshot of a time in America when being creative, or extravagant, or a bit daring was OK. They
represent a time when a new automobile was truly a work of art to be admired by all.
They were individual, unique. We may never see a time like that again, but thank goodness cars like the 1978
Eldorado still exist to prove that there was once a time when owning a grand car was possible.
A time when sporty didn't mean tiny. When flashy didn't mean huge chrome rims and skinny little tires. There
was a time when we had cars that could truly inspire one's imagination. When getting there and back home again was a big part
of the fun.
The 1978 Cadillac Eldorado has always been such
a car. You park it in the driveway, and you glance back at it before you go in the house. You are proud to own it, even if
it may seem outdated and wasteful to those who don't take the time to understand.
It reflects a different time in America, when men and women created rolling works of art every year, and people
bought them and drove them without giving it much thought. Even today, some are just now beginning to see what we've lost
along the way.
The Cadillac Eldorado has always been the world's
finest personal luxury car. And it's doubtful that anything being made today will ever challenge that title.