1979-1985 Cadillac Eldorado – a Very Special Cadillac

The Cadillac Eldorado by the time the 1970s rolled in, had really grown in popularity. It started off life in the 1950s as a very low production high-end luxury car but starting with the introduction of the ultra modern 1967 Cadillac Eldorado Coupe, its production skyrocketed. Its popularity further increased during the 1970s with a major redesign and the return of the convertible model in 1971. However the 1970s decade was not kind to American automakers due to skyrocketing gasoline prices and stricter emissions standards. Cadillac was left with a difficult task, in order for the Eldorado to survive during the 1980s and meet newly mandated fuel economy standards the full-size Eldorado would have to substantially shrink in size.

Cadillac was going to have to have to figure out a way to keep its traditional buyers happy with a substantially smaller vehicle. Unfortunately luxury buyers wanted a big car, and anything smaller than a full-size car was a lesser car in their eyes. Fortunately Cadillac managed to change minds with the introduction of the 1976 Cadillac Seville which was considered a compact luxury car in comparison to the rest of its new car fleet at the time. The 1979-1985 Eldorado was nearly identical to the Seville in exterior dimensions it had a 204-inch length, a 71.4-inch width, and a 114-inch wheelbase. In today’s new car market the 1979-1985 Eldorado would be a larger full-size car but back when it was new it was a mid-size car.

The 1979-1985 Eldorado was a 2-door luxury coupe that was a front-wheel drive car just like it had been since 1967, it was built on GM’s E-body platform which it shared at the time with the Buick Riviera and Oldsmobile Toronado. Cadillac carried over all the great exterior styling attributes of the previous full-size Eldorado and made them better. These included a long front hood, a large traditional vertical front grille, and the traditional streamlined tailfins with vertical Cadillac taillights. Where the new Eldorado was different from its predecessor was it had a considerably shorter decklid in proportion to its front hood length and the roofline was more formal with a near vertical rear window. Also for 1984 and 1985, Cadillac offered the Eldorado in a convertible model.

Overall the 1979-1985 Eldorado’s exterior styling was very attractive and classy. The new downsized Eldorado may have lost a little more than a foot and half in length and was considerably smaller than its predecessor, it more than ever looked the part of a high-dollar American luxury car. Buyers agreed and Eldorado sales skyrocketed. The 1979-1985 Eldorado was a massive success, 454,405 units were produced during its seven model years. This was quite an accomplish considering the Eldorado was one of the most expensive American cars at that time.

Though Cadillac left the 1979-1985 Eldorado’s exterior styling alone with only the very slightest changes occurring such as front-grille pattern changes, the last two model years 1984 and 1985 were the Eldorado’s best selling model years ever. Production was 154,207 units for these two model years combined. This was proof that Cadillac had found the perfect styling and size for the Eldorado. Unfortunately Cadillac did another major downsize of the Eldorado for 1986 and sales cratered to 22,842 units for 1986 which was a 70% drop from 1985 which was 76,401 units. Cadillac should have kept the Eldorado indefinitely at the 1979-1985 Eldorado’s proportions and gradually modernized its exterior styling and interior which would have kept it a great selling luxury car for at least a few more decades.

The weak point of the 1979-1985 Eldorado was its underpowered engines, which was the norm for luxury cars at the time. The following engines were available in the 1979-1985 Eldorado: from 1979-1980 the 160-170 horsepower fuel-injected Oldsmobile 5.7 liter V8, from 1979-1985 the 105-125 horsepower Oldsmobile 5.7 liter Diesel V8, for 1980 the 145 horsepower fuel-injected 6.0 liter Cadillac V8, for 1981 the 140 horsepower fuel-injected V8-6-4 version of the Cadillac 6.0 liter V8 which was a variable displacement V8 with cylinder deactivation for better fuel economy, from 1981-1982 the Buick 2-barrel carburetor equipped 4.1 liter V6, and from 1982-1985 the 125-135 horsepower fuel-injected 4.1 liter Cadillac V8.

For the ultimate 2-door personal luxury car, the 1979-1985 Eldorado was hard to beat during its era. It’s interior was extremely luxurious and very comfortable. It’s dash and other interior appointments were very classy. The Eldorado had plenty of standard features but Cadillac offered a laundry list of options. The Biarritz model was the ultimate Eldorado trim level providing more upscale appointments to both the exterior and interior. The most notable of these was the brushed stainless steel frontal roof panel. Due to having front-wheel drive, the Eldorado had a flat floor which offered better interior legroom. It also had a spacious trunk and could be equipped with the most sophisticated computer readouts of its era which provided occupants with realtime MPG stats, miles to destination, engine temperature, and many more readouts.

The 1979-1985 Eldorado had 4-wheel disc brakes and a 4-wheel independent suspension which were items most American luxury cars didn’t have at the time. The Eldorado had a luxury car ride, good steering feel, and good handling for a luxury car but there was no mistaking it for a performance car. However Cadillac did offer from 1983-1985 the Eldorodo Touring Coupe which had a much better handling suspension, better steering feel, performance oriented tires, and sporty cosmetic upgrades. The Eldorado Touring Coupe was more on par with sporty European touring cars at the time than the other Eldorado models. If the Touring Coupe would have had a powerful V8 engine instead of Cadillac’s 135 horsepower 4.1 liter V8, it would have been considered a world class performance oriented touring car at the time.

The 1979-1985 Eldorado was produced when Cadillac was still the king of the luxury car market. Unfortunately when the new overly downsized 1986 Eldorado appeared it signaled the end to Cadillac’s dominance. This is why the 1979-1985 Eldorado was such a special car, it was the pinnacle of Cadillac 2-door personal luxury car production.


Click on the link below, to watch the video of this article via Old Car Memories’ YouTube channel:



Written contents in this article – © 2023 Pete Dunton (Old Car Memories) – All Rights Reserved