May 1987

Old News 8I always looked forward to the “Trends” section of Motor Trend magazine. Located up front, it provided usually three to five pages of sneak peaks, illustrations, spy shots and conjecture.

When it came to their illustrations, spy shots and conjecture, they weren’t always on the mark.

In the issue from May of 1988, one of Duane Kuchar’s tantalizing illustrations attempted to predict what an upcoming 1988 model would look like. It’s obviously a Cadillac but from his chrome-finned expectations, can you figure out which nearly quarter of a century-old model he was referring to?

Continue reading to find out and also to see how close Mr. Kuchar’s vision was to the production model–or how far off.

Regaining girth
The artist was envisioning the 1988 Cadillac Eldorado which was to receive updated styling after having just been entirely reworked for the 1986 model year.

1988 Cadillac Eldorado

After the dramatically downsized 1986 Eldorado and Seville hit the market, they were received with mixed reviews. In some ways, it seems a zeal for downsizing went unchecked and the luxury division found themselves with very nontraditional vehicles.

1985 Eldorado tail lightAdd to that, GM’s then-recent brand homogenization employing little respect for the luxury division’s image and the result was hard-to-spot Cadillacs.

To the right is an image of the 1986 Eldorado’s flush tail light lens. Below are two photos of the 1986 Eldorado with absolutely no trace of fins and little apart from badges to tell non-auto enthusiasts it was a Cadillac with a $25,000 starting price.

1985 Eldorado side

1985 Eldorado rear
Not anywhere near the misstep that Cimmaron was, Cadillac engineers and designers nevertheless responded in a similar manner by recognizing errors were made and setting out to improve on the product. They quickly got to work and tried to make the new Cadillacs, into Cadillacs.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t the first (or last) time product that wasn’t ready for prime-time was released to the market wearing the once-vaunted crest and wreath. However, fortunately, these are arguably the years during which Cadillac started to remember their heritage and channel that future potential.

The short write-up associated with Motor Trend’s illustration leads with the following, “Now that [the] Cadillac division has been re-re-organized–again acquiring responsibility for its own products and manufacturing–GM’s faltering prestige division is looking for future success with cars inspired by the past.”

The text went on to describe the ’88 Eldorado as the first product in Cadillac’s “crash program” to achieve two goals: appeal to a historically Cadillac customer body, and sell cars.

The effort and results
1967 Cadillac Eldorado rearThe 1988 Eldorado was anticipated to harken back to the 1967 Eldorado, an epic design. (Anecdotally, this was the same year the Deville was supposed to be updated from its plebeian design but it would end up waiting for 1989. Both cars were said to have been heavily influenced by the 1967 Eldorado and, surprisingly, more so the Deville than the Eldorado.)

Cadillac’s process was described as a crash course since Cadillac reported that a normal new-model gestation period at the time was 176 weeks, but the refreshed 1988 Eldorado took only 55 weeks

1988 Cadillac Eldorado adHere is a portion of an ad from 1988 announcing the new look and Cadillac style.

Consumer Guide remarked of the 1988 Eldorado, seeing “that Cadillac is responding to customer demands and that it has the ability to respond very quickly.”

1988 Cadillac Eldorado tail lightFor 1988, major exterior sheet metal panels including the front fenders, hood, C-pillar, rear quarters and rear deck were all new, netting a roughly 2.5-inch increase in overall length. (Even though Cadillac had originally told the automotive press that the refreshed car would add seven inches.)

All four fenders protrude slightly upward and outward, very subtly imparting fins. With a host of other changes, the 1988 Eldorado nearly doubled in sales from 1987 to 33,210 (up from 17,775).

1988 Cadillac Eldorado

So, even though we didn’t get the slightly more exotic-looking car in Mr. Kuchar’s illustration, we did gain a substantially refined Eldorado and a Cadillac division with a new attitude.

(Click the thumbnails below to see the images in higher detail. File sizes vary.)

1987 illustration of 1988 Cadillac Eldorado

1987 illustration of 1988 Cadillac Eldorado (1200x511)

1988 Cadillac Eldorado

1988 production Cadillac Eldorado (1024x410)

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