June 1984

Old News: EldonadoNo, this is not a picture of an X-body mule. Even though the tail lights say 1980 Omega, they are actually cleverly attached to a different body from GM’s robust platform-naming alphabet soup.

The date of the original report and title of this post are strong hints of where this is going.

Certain uncertainty
GM E-body mule from 1984I found myself thumbing through the Detroit Report section of Motor Trend’s June, 1984 issue. I remember reading this very article–in that very magazine–when it came out. How time flies.

So what is it? Well, the magazine’s often-wrong but always-interesting Detroit Report gurus identified this mule as the totally redesigned and dramatically downsized 1986 Cadillac Eldorado. Close, but no cigar.

GM E-body mule from 1984The Omega-scavenged tail lights, rear panel and possibly trunk lid help to conceal the model but actually reveal the culprit brand: Oldsmobile.

While I cannot be certain what’s lurking under the hood or even inside the cabin, most of the exterior panels are pure Toronado. But not all.

1986 Eldorado, Riviera and ToronadoWhereas many of today’s test mules are fairly complete vehicles, buried underneath visually confusing cloaks of camouflage, test vehicles of the 1970s and ’80s seem to have relied more on false body parts than coverings to thwart would-be onlookers and camera-happy paparazzi.

While I initially thought the mule in the gray-scale pictures had exterior components shared amongst GM’s three similarly-designed E-body coupes (Eldorado, Riviera and Toronado, shown in descending order, to the right), a closer look changed my mind.

(I am always open to differing points of view so, if you see things otherwise, by all means share your ideas below in the comments.)

Below, I use some illustrations to explain my reasoning and point out curiosities. First, the obvious diversionary tail lights. At the top left of the image below, you can see the rear of a 1980 Oldsmobile Omega. Not that the tail lights fooled anyone but I thought it would be interesting to see them on the downer model.

1986 GM E-body mule rear right

The arrow on the left is there to draw your attention to the curvature of the rear fenders, at the back end of the car. Yet, notice the sharp, upright angle at which the vertical and horizontal surfaces meet, indicated with the red lines.

Both were Toronado design features, although, somewhat the same could be said of the Eldorado and Riviera, as well. The arrow on the right is pointing at a very rounded fender well opening. That was a design trait shared by Riviera and Toronado, only (the production version appears to have protruded less though); Eldorado’s fender well openings appear ever-so-slightly angular.

Continue to page 2, below.

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