Continue reading and see if you’re enough of a Cadillac fan to notice what it is before I give it away.
Two or four?
For the 1986 model year, Cadillac had decided to dramatically downsize its coupe, the Eldorado, along with its sister sedan, the Seville. The Eldorado, in particular, was disparaged by critics and shunned by the buying public for its diminutive size and nondescript appearance.
Personally, I liked it but was too young at the time to probably grasp the full impact it had on fans of previous generations and those looking for the next best thing.
I wouldn’t argue it was the right move for the nameplate, only that, for at least posterity’s sake, it is interesting to look back and see a Cadillac-branded manifestation of GM’s solution to dire gas price forecasts. (Incidentally, a sustained spike in gas prices didn’t happen, as feared, and left the Eldorado looking under dressed amongst an increasingly impressive crowd of competitors.)
Jim Dunne, master spy photographer, captured two shots of two different Eldorado mules from different angles. This mule to the left appears to be an options-laden Biarritz model. Does anything look out of place on this car?
Actually, no. At least from this angle, there are no apparent differences from what went on sale roughly a year later.
On the other hand, this test mule to the right reveals something was in the works that seemed less sophisticated for the time. Can you spot the difference from the production model?
In case you cannot, here’s a cryptic hint: there are four on this mule where there would ultimately be only two on the production model.
Here’s a picture of a production 1986 Eldorado. See the headlamps? The car that went on sale had two, flush-fitting, so-called European lenses, whereas the mule is fitted with four traditional square lamps.
I don’t believe the mule is merely a case of camouflaging because it’s very well finished, which is more evident in the larger gallery image.
In addition, there is some familiarity to other Cadillac design proposals. For example, notice how close it is to this design sketch by Cadillac from 1978. Although, the sketch was for the proposed DeVille replacement. (For more on that, see my post Design Notes: 1st Generation GM C-Body).
The switch probably had multiple reasons behind it. Flush-fitting headlights were just catching on as a design trend in the US and it could have been seen as a way to impart improved sophistication for Cadillac’s newest model.
Further, Cadillac may have wanted to better visually differentiate Eldorado from its sibling brands, Oldsmobile and Buick, which were both receiving new coupes based off of the same platform.
Above are the 1986 Oldsmobile Toronado and Buick Riviera. Although fitted with four square headlamps, the Toronado made its distinction from the other two cars, in part, with mechanical coverings for the lights when they were not in use. The Riviera’s traditional, four square headlamps, however, were exposed.
So, I’m betting that a quest for distinctiveness played at least some role in Cadillac’s decision to switch to the flush-fitting type. You can see how it made relatively similar cars look less relative.
Of note is this sketch from the Trends section of the May, 1987 issue of Motor Trend magazine. It attempted to predict the styling enhancements expected for the 1988 Cadillac Eldorado (read more about that, under my post titled, Old News: Cadillac’s Revived Attitude). The car in the drawing has four, rectangular headlamps and, even back then, I thought it added a sense of sport to the car’s visage without appearing outdated.
In any event, I hope you enjoyed a look at what could have been. I personally think that the Eldorado looks as good with squared headlamps as the flush ones.
How about you?