1959 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham: One of 99
Yes, this is a 1959 Cadillac.
No, it is not a 1960 Cadillac. No, it is not a 1961 Cadillac. Or a ’62! Just thought I’d get that out of the way. You see, today’s subject is a lightning rod for social media/internet know-it-alls. I have some experience with this. I am, as you’d expect, in many Cadillac and vintage luxury car Facebook groups, and it never fails.
Someone will post one of these rare cars, the 1959 and 1960 Eldorado Broughams, and Monday morning quarterbacks line up with frenetic energy to declare: “That’s not a ’59! That’s not an Eldorado! That’s a ’60! There’s no dual bullet taillights!”
Or, when the equally rare but mildly facelifted 1960 Eldorado Brougham is posted: “Dagnabit that isn’t a ’60! It’s a ’61 Sedan de Ville! It has the skeg fins! No ’60 had the skeg fins! Dagnabit consarn it and gods cuss it!”
Oh, but they did. Here’s their story.
Most folks who are Cadillac fans remember the Eldorado Brougham—at least, the original 1957-58 version. A technological showcase, totally flamboyant, and ridiculously expensive, it looked like a Cadillac, boasting all the cues: egg-crate grill, fins, and chrome, chrome, chrome.
But at the same time, it looked like no other Cadillac, with its center opening doors, an uber luxurious interior (with magnetic cocktail tumblers included!), stainless steel top, and super low height. Expensive when new, expensive to restore today, but very collectible. Just 400 were made in ’57, while ’58 saw just 304 roll off the line.
And for many, with the exception of total Cadillac fanatics like your author, that is the only Eldorado Brougham. But it wasn’t. The 1959 Eldorado Brougham was completely different. And only 200 were made in 1959–60, which is the most likely reason it throws so many people: they simply have never seen one.
Even I had never seen one until 2016, when I attended a CLC West of the Lake Region show at Heritage Cadillac in Lombard. It was actually parked next to another gorgeous rarity: a 1959 Eldorado Seville. Eventually, I regained consciousness after my swoon and began taking pictures.
One distinction the 1959–60 Eldorados have that the 1957–58s do not: they were built in Italy by Pinin Farina. As my copy of 80 Years of Cadillac LaSalle relayed: “Pre-tested Cadillac chassis were crated and shipped to Italy by boat. Completed cars were shipped back to the United States and final finishing and testing in Cadillac’s Fleetwood plant in Detroit before they were released to dealers.”
The bodies were, naturally, very different from the rest of the 1959 models, though of course there was a strong family resemblance. But yes, they did not have the famous “biggest fins ever” that all other ’59s shared. And this is one of the sticking points when folks who don’t know about these cars see one online or in person: that it couldn’t possibly be a ’59. Ah, but it is!
I think another thing that throws people is that it doesn’t have that Jetsons-style wrapped windshield, another feature only the 1959–60 Eldorado Broughams had—until 1961, when all Caddys got a very similar one. With the exception of the instrument panel, pretty much everything else in the interior is unique to the Brougham vis-a-vis the other ’59 Cadillacs. The seats are similar but not identical to the 1959 Eldorado Biarritz and Eldorado Seville.
But under the skin it was about the same as its less pricey (but don’t call them cheap) siblings. It had the same 225-inch overall length, 130-inch wheelbase, and the same 390 CID V-8 under the hood—albeit with the Eldorado-spec triple carburetors.
And just like the 1957–58 Eldorado Broughams, these were VERY expensive: $13,074. This, when an Eldorado Seville went for a still princely $7401 and a new Chevy Impala Sport Coupe had a base price of $3580.
So it is no real surprise only 99 sold in 1959, and just 101 left dealer lots for the swan-song 1960 model year. That’s why you hardly ever see one. Fortunately for me, our featured car lives relatively close to me in the greater Chicago area. Since that 2016 show at Heritage Cadillac, I’ve seen it at the Ettleson Cadillac shows too. Always have to check it up close each time, too.
The ’59 Eldorado Brougham debuted at the 1959 Chicago Auto Show, which was four months after the rest of the 1959 Cadillacs appeared in showrooms. I’m not sure if this photo, found on Facebook, is of the Chicago show, but wouldn’t it be a kick if this was the same car as our featured Brougham? Could be.
As a result, I’ve taken probably around fifty pictures of this car over the years, as you can see from the different backgrounds in the pictures in this column. I just can’t help myself!
One cool feature was the rear quarter window, which retracted into the C-pillar when a rear door was opened. As you can see, many of the Eldorado Brougham’s styling features, such as the lower fins, inset taillights, and formal roofline appeared on later Cadillacs, which adds to the confusion amongst people not as immersed in Cadillac history as your author.
The hatch-style hood and rear-hinged hood never appeared on any other Cadillacs, at least to my knowledge. See how the nose panel and fenders all appear to be one piece? Those are the handmade and leaded panels, courtesy of Pinin Farina’s coachbuilders. Top tip: don’t bump your Eldorado Brougham into a fire hydrant.
While the full array of Cadillac colors was available, this one is finished in Ebony, with a matching leather interior. It looks good, but I’m partial to the brighter Cadillac hues, and if I’d been a millionaire in 1959 or maybe had just won a jackpot in Vegas, I’d have gone for a light green, dark green, burgundy, or maybe navy blue.
Interiors? Hmm. White leather would be bright and cheerful, but a dark green exterior with saddle tan leather would be pretty too. I gravitate to my resin model of the 1960 Eldorado Brougham featured further up in this column, Persian Sand with white leather, black dash, and black carpet. Because, why not?
Either way, you had a rare birdie indeed if you owned one of these back then—or even today. I still hope to see a 1960 version in person sometime! But it truly made my day the first time I saw this particular ’59.
And now you know “the rest of the story”, as someone rather famous once said. Go tell the others.