Foar 1950s America, cars did not come much more glamorous than the 1953 Eldorado. “A car apart even from other Cadillacs,” assured the advertising copy.
The first Caddy to bear the Eldo badge, it was seen as the ultimate and most desirable American luxury car, good enough even for Marilyn Monroe and Dwight Eisenhower. Conceived as a limited edition, the ’53 brought avant-garde styling cues from Harley Earl’s Motorama Exhibitions. Earl was Cadillac’s inspired chief designer, while Motoramas were yearly futuristic car shows where his whims of steel took on form. At a hefty $7,750, nearly twice as much as the regular Cadillac Convertible and five times as much as an ordinary Chevrolet, the ’53 was special.
In 1954, Cadillac cut the price by 50 percent and soon Eldorados were leaving showrooms like heat seeking missiles. Today collectors regard the ’53 as the one that started it all—the first and most fabulous of the Eldorados.
At the time the ’53 was America’s most powerful car, with a cast-iron V8, fourbarrel carburetor, and wedge cylinder head. With the standard convertible weighing 300 lb (136 kg) less, the Eldorado was actually the slowest of the Cadillacs.
Air-conditioning boosted the car’s weight to 4,800 lb (2,177 kg), but top speed was still a brisk 116 mph (187 km/h).
Top was made of Orlon acrylic.
The top disappeared neatly below a steel tonneau panel, giving the Eldorado a much cleaner uninterrupted line than other convertibles.
The trunk-mounted spare wheel was an after-market continental touring kit.
Slick whitewall tires and chrome wire wheels were standard on the Eldorado Convertible.
The twin exhausts emerge from the rear bumper— the beginnings of “jet-age” styling themes which would culminate in the outrageous 42-in (107-cm) fins on the 1959 Cadillac Convertible.
TOP OF THE LINE
As Cadillac’s finest flagship, the Eldorado had image by the bucketful. The 331 cubic inch V8 engine was the most powerful yet, and the body line was ultrasleek.
The standard Cadillac wraparound windshield was first seen on the ’53.
The heavily chromed, hand-operated swiveling spotlight doubled up as a door mirror.
Dagmars were so-called after a lushly upholstered starlet of the day.
Colors available were Alpine White, Aztec Red, Azure Blue, and Artisan Ochre.
Antenna picked up reception for self-tuning radio.
Standard equipment on the Eldo convertible was Hydra-Matic transmission, hydraulic window lifts, leather and cloth upholstery, tinted glass, vanity and side mirrors, plus a self-tuning radio.
S P E C I F I C A T I O N S
MODEL Cadillac Eldorado Convertible (1953)
PRODUCTION 532 (1953)
BODY STYLE Five-seater convertible.
CONSTRUCTION Steel bodywork.
ENGINE 5424cc V8.
POWER OUTPUT 210 bhp at 4150 rpm.
TRANSMISSION Three-speed Hydra-Matic Dual-Range automatic.
SUSPENSION Front: independent MacPherson strut; Rear: live axle with leaf springs.
BRAKES Front and rear drums.
MAXIMUM SPEED 116 mph (187 km/h)
0–60 MPH (0–96 KM/H) 12.8 sec
0–100 MPH (0–161 KM/H) 20 sec
A.F.C. 14–20 mpg (5–7 km/l)