cadillac eldorado brougham 1958
On the go / 26. May 2017

Text: František Vahala, Foto: Steering Media, Translation: Mariana Vahalová

Just floating: Cadillac Eldorado Brougham

“What do you want to drive today?” A clear question has a clear answer – Cadillac, of course, because that is style. And the embodiment of style is the Cadillac Eldorado Brougham, the most expensive car of its time. I am playing old songs in my head while sliding behind the steering wheel in my old leather jacket. When going for a ride, the ride better be really stylish, as I don’t like to be bored.

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In the 1950s, the United States was experiencing both a social and an economic boom, that extended into the automobile industry. Detroit factories were not only belching fumes from their chimneys, but also beautiful schooners with design and dimensions that Europe could not afford at that time. The chrome euphoria was climaxing in the late 50s and literally every part of the vehicle was overdesigned. The Cadillac Eldorado Brougham was looming over the production of all those Fords, Chevrolets, Buicks, and Dodges etc. like the Empire State Building looming over other skyscrapers of New York City.

When we say Cadillac nobody is going to think inexpensive cars for the masses. Cadillac has always been a prestige brand, since the very beginning. We could say that Cadillac Automobile Company was established on what remained of Henry Ford Company after its founder had left. Moneymen William Murphy and Lemuel Bowen came together and invited design engineer Henry M. Leland to help with the liquidation of the company but Henry persuaded them to continue the production of vehicles with his proven one cylinder engine. Cadillac Automobile Company was founded on August 22nd, 1902 and it was named after an adventurist Antoine Laumet de La Mothe, sieur de Cadillac who founded the city of Detroit in 1701. The company was purchased by General Motors in 1909 and has remained a part of General Motors to this day.

But let’s dive back into the shiny fifties, smelling like grease, rock’n’roll, hamburgers, coca-cola, chrome and a general joy of life that fat after-war America was offering at that time. The first Eldorado came to life in 1953 (with its genial name that a secretary of sales department of Cadillac Mary-Ann Marini came up with referring to the mythical city of El Dorado). Then, the first Eldorado Brougham based on the Cadillac Series 62 by design by Harley Earl was born.

The Broughams were presented in various versions of 62 series throughout the 50s, but their big comeback came in 1957 when Eldorado Brougham came out in a four door hardtop without a B pillar on a base of a full-sized Cadillac 70 series.

The production of this exclusive innovation had already been announced in December 1956 but the market entry took until March 1957. The 70 Series Eldorado Brougham was a handmade, limited production model that followed show cars from 1953 and 1954 called Park Avenue and Orleans. Proposed design by Ed Glowacki contained four round headlights which was an unusual element at that time – and illegal in several states in the United States on top of it! Apart from a huge amount of exterior chrome decorations Brougham shone with a lot of unique technical conveniences.

flashy exterior

Before I sit behind the wheel, I want to see all the interesting details with my own eyes even though I have been staring at the car for a good hour by now. Immediately I am drawn to the doors, or rather the empty space between them and the roof. Rear doors open against the driving direction and they unveil the entrance to an amazing interior. When the hardtop was invented in the USA, it was invented in a literal way – the B pillar is missing almost all the way down to the floor. I tap the roof made of unpolished stainless steel. I circle around a massive chrome surface which stretches from half of the rear doors towards the high fins which create an impressive mirror effect shining in the sun. I am excited to see the interior!

…almost surreal interior

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Proving that Brougham was the technological peak of its time is already very clear after sitting behind the wheel. Soft and comfortable electronic seats (even with some sort of “memory” function) are oversized, and as soon as I sit down I don’t ever want to get up again. I look around and I can’t wrap my mind around the interior – Cadillac has way better equipment then most of todays’ mediocre fridge-washing machines: radio with an automatic station search, a cruise control, an automatic parking break release, power door locks, power windows (all of them including the tiny triangles by the windscreen), electric trunk door and air-condition. But what is the most impressive? Certainly, a record player hidden below the arm rest. If I didn’t see the needle reading the spinning record, I would not have believed it… Then we have the Entronic Eye, basically an automatic switch between the day lights and the high beams. NS RHW air suspension that maintains constant SVETLOU (nerozumim co chce basnik rici) level helping to smooth the road bumps, so that the crew don’t stain their suits with their precious whisky.

even more special

Experts appreciate details that seem totally unreal in today’s world: TOALETKA (ladies purse mozne? Obesla bych to ale nevim jak to vypada) (with a lipstick case and a powder box, all labeled with company logo) and a set of shot glasses which stick magnetically to the table by the front passenger’s compartment. If you were lucky enough to find them, they would cost thousands of dollars. In light of these details, smoking kits for all passengers along with heated seats are somewhat expected. The buyers of the time were Hollywood stars and famous singers, and they could pick from 44 combinations of leather upholstery, while car rugs could have been custom-made from lambskin (as it is in our case). There were 15 different special polishes for the car body.

dream ride

To drive a Cadillac – that is a dream of every boy and man. When the starter twists a 6-litres engine on, a buffered purring resounds from the engine with 340 horsepower below the hood. A full-sized Cadillac is driven by graceful 8-cylinder with ROZVOD OHV (DON’T KNOW VOCABS) and two valves per cylinder, the fuel is mixed by three two-chamber Rochester carburetors.  An interesting feature is a high-pressure cooling system that ensures that no Hollywood star ever has to pull up and fill up the water in the cooling system. I can’t imagine the Brougham not being comfortable. It is swingy, and floats through the countryside; even though only half of its maximum power (my guess) travels to its rear wheels the machinery speeds up easily when the gas pedal is pushed all the way to the floor. Of course you have to wait a little for the automatic clutch to shift to the lower gear.

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You are in no rush when driving a Cadillac, especially in this particular precious type. All I need to do is just to float, navigate the driving a little and forget about the surroundings. On a side note, at its times the Brougham was considered to be a fast car but from a today’s point of view the situation is different. But you will not be slowing the traffic down either.

During the drive going about 90 km/h, there was plenty of time to spread comfortably in the car and examine the technical perfection of its time. To turn the car around I need 13.1 m, but it does not really matter because I can steer the slim wreath of the wheel with only one finger – of course it has Electronic Power Steering. There is nothing complicated about shifting gears with a handle as you only need two fingers this time. The ride is highly comfortable even by today’s standards. Even though Cadillac was then very proud of its new chassis with an X frame, I can feel the tension and crunching as it shows on the uneven road. But I don’t care.


The introduced model came to the Czech Republic in a container from the US in 2006. It came in pieces and its new owner received it in about 10 big boxes. It was a junk. But Darek Haumer works in workshop that specializes in the American cars from the fifties. That is one of the reasons why he already had some experience with this as he had already put a one-year-younger Brougham together before. During two years he was able to finish this successful “frame-off” renovation. Since then he enjoys the ride anytime he feels like it.

Ultra expensive then already

At its time the Brougham a direct response to the Continental Mark II. He had easily won that battle. The Brougham looks way more attractive and it was crushing the completion, not only with its equipment but also with its extravagant appearance. As we know, the United States loved extravagance at those times.

At the time, Eldorado Brougham cost 14,000 USD which was twice as much as the European Rolls-Royce charged for its best model (Silver Cloud). Yes, it was the Brougham that was the most expensive car in the world at its time. Just to get the idea, a regular Chevrolet which fulfilled its purpose of transporting people and things just fine was roughly 2,000 USD. Today, the most popular are models from 1957 and 1958 which are basically identical except for a few minor deviations – the tested version from 1958 has different carburetors which causes a little weaker performance. In 1958 only 400 pieces of Eldorado Brougham were made and it dropped to only 304 a year later. These numbers also contribute to the exclusivity of the model as a collectible classic (especially due to the American environment).

It is not easy at all today to get the Brougham ’58 given its low manufacture numbers. The owner estimates its price for roughly 5 million CZK which I consider adequate. Cadillac offers a unique way of driving – it will make you feel relaxed, OMAMI the joy of life and you will forget all the daily worries. Just gas up and take off towards the tempting faraway locations and everything is gonna be alright.

More detailed reading can be found in a magazine Automobil Revue where you can (also) find my articles in print. The issue 6/16 is about the Cadillac.

To test a classic Cadillac is an old dream coming true. I have driven several tens of kilometers with it and the memories are still very vivid. These beautiful cars from the fifties are very much the reason why I fell in love with American cars and for the first time in my life I can actually imagine one of those beauties parked at home. It may not be a Cadillac at first but that’s ok. The Brougham will stay in my heart forever and I will be looking forward to all our future encounters.

Technical data

Cadillac Eldorado Brougham (1958)


Liquid-cooled, OHV valve distribution, two valves per cylinder, blending with three Rochester two-chamber carburettors.

Engine Capacity: 5972 cm³
Bore x stroke: 101,6 x 92,1 mm
Compression ratio: 10,25:1
Power: 340 k at 4800/min
Torque: 542 Nm at 3200/min
Power distribution

GM Hydra-Matic four-speed automatic transmission, driving rear wheels.

Gear ratios: I.: 3,967; II.: 2,55; III.: 1,55; IV.: 1,00; Z.: 4,3, stálý převod 3,36
Caroserie and suspension

The basis of the car is the X-frame steel frame, which is fitted with a four-door hardtop body. Air resistance coefficient Cx = 0.55.

Front suspension: independent, triangular arms, air bellows
Rear suspension: solid live axle, air bellows maintaining a height
Shocks: telescopic
Brakes: braking system with drum brakes on all wheels
Steering: with hydraulic booster
Wheels and tyres: 15 inch forged discs, tyres 8,40 x 15
Dimensions and weights
L x w x h: 5494 x 1994 x 1410 mm
Wheelbase: 3200 mm
Track: 1549/1549 mm
Weight: 2490 kg
Top speed: 196 km/h
Acceleration from 0 to 100 km/h: 13 s, when you put pedal to the metal
Combined fuel consuption: 24,3 l/100 km