General Motors styling chief Harley Earl was the man who gave America fins, and the height – literally – of the craze came in 1959 with one of Earl’s last cars, the Cadillac Eldorado.
The 59 Eldorado epitomises classic American automobiles: it’s a vast, V8-powered, chrome –laden cruiser with the accent firmly on style and luxury. Even today elements of the specification wouldn’t sound out of place on a luxury car: air suspension, an automatic transmission, and power operation for the brakes, steering, seats, windows, door locks and the huge folding top. But delve deeper into the data and it’s obvious that this is a car of the 1950s.
Cadillac Eldorado Car Review
Power, for instance, comes from a huge, 6390cc V8 engine which may deliver a gross output of 345 bhp, but still relies on push rods to operate the valves and has given its all well before 5000 rpm. Despite all that power acceleration is adequate rather than astonishing and the top speed is only 110 mph (177km/h), thanks to an all-up weight in excess of two tonnes and laughable aerodynamic performance. The brakes given the task of hauling this heavyweight down from 100 mbh (161 km/h) or more may be feather-light to use, but they are fade-prone drums. Fuel consumption can easily dip below 14 mpg.
None of that really matters, because the Eldorado is an icon of 50s America. Few cars are more recognizable, or more accurately reflect the dreams and aspirations of their era. The Eldorado, too, represents the beginning of the end of Detroit’s love of ostentation and excess: within five years, fins would be dead.
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