Eldorado: Cadillac’s styling pioneer

1958 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz front 3/4

Cadillac was at the top of its styling game in the late 1950s and early ’60s. The era of chrome and fins, kicked off by the ’48 Cadillac, was a perfect fit for the American luxury brand. Anyone who was anyone had a Caddy in their garage; everyone else had their eyes on them. The brand’s ultimate style statement, the Eldorado, was often Cadillac’s flagship, with the convertible Biarritz models serving as the height of two-door luxury and bringing new design concepts to market before they would trickle down to GM’s other brands.

A perfect example of the brand’s style and opulence, the 1958 Eldorado Biarritz carried over the sloping tail and prominent fins used in the standard ’57 Eldorado but brought a new face. The ’57 Eldorado Brougham was a pioneer of quad headlights, offering them before they were adopted industry-wide (and even across the Eldorado line), and the ’58 model evolved the look. It still used split chrome bumpers, but the conical leading edge was less prominent and was now centered under the headlights. Cadillac may have been aiming for jet age, but the nacelles in the grille look more like the centers of twin propellers pulling the car forward, similar to the P-38 that inspired Frank Hershey’s post-War Cadillacs and their signature fins.

This black-on-black example is available at RM Sotheby’s Villa Erba sale, having made the trip to Europe in 1982 after spending much of the 1960s and ’70s in storage in Los Angeles. It was originally Gleaneagles Green, a wonderful ’50s-appropriate shade that borders on blue, with a green interior. It’s still powered by a 335-horsepower, 365-cubic-inch V-8 topped with a trio of two-barrel carbs and has seen fewer than 3300 miles since crossing the pond more than 35 years ago.

RM estimates the car will bring $161,000–$207,000. Those prices fall between the average #1 (concours) and #2 (excellent) values for a ’58 Biarritz, making this an affordable entry into the realm of head-turning luxury cars, even among the flashiest sports cars that the Italian countryside has to offer.