Double Take: 1972 Cadillac EldoradoBIG and beautiful

I think some people wear extra girth well and that the same holds true for many old cars. Take, for instance, this full-figured 1972 Fleetwood Eldorado I saw recently.

This isn’t necessarily my favorite year of Eldorado but I really like big cars. And “big” is the word that kept going through my head as I surveyed its acreage.

1968 Cadillac Eldorado

I think the previous-generation Eldorado set a high water mark for sporty design at Cadillac that went unrivaled for many moons (1968 shown left). It looks fleet-footed and practically capable of flight.

But the car I saw is from the following generation, introduced for 1971 (directly below). Along with its new looks came a new disposition. Unmistakable styling features had carried over but any semblance of athleticism had been eliminated.

1971 Cadillac Fleetwood Eldorado front left

Interestingly, for 1971 body length increased by just half an inch and heft was up by less than 100 pounds. And, despite a wheelbase increase of 6.3 inches, Eldorado’s formerly taut body suddenly appeared to loaf outside its personal space boundaries.

Ginsu-sharp fin creases were out and broad, chandelier-capped fenders were in. And, like a pair of well-tailored bell bottoms, fender skirts had been fashioned at the rear. Overnight, Eldorado went from clean-cut jock to 1970s cocktail lounger.

Considering the marginal dimension changes, it goes to show the affect design can have on a vehicle’s apparent size and weight. But, to that point, it wasn’t appearances alone that had changed. Many reports from the period bemoaned the new car’s handling with descriptions that betrayed its plumper figure.

1976 Cadillac Eldorado convertible front leftBut don’t misunderstand my jest for distaste. One of my favorite Eldorados is the 1975 through 1978 range. In fact, in searching for my first car, one of the first I settled on was a 1975 Eldorado convertible (very similar to the 1976 shown right). To the ridicule of friends and bewilderment of my parents, I really wanted it. Not as a joke car, I seriously thought it was awesome. Plus, it was in great shape. Unfortunately, probably too good of shape. Even in the mid ’80s, I remember it costing around $7,500 which far exceeded my limit. (In the end, I inherited my brother’s slightly wrecked-then-repaired 1970 Nova.)

A car like this coddles in La-Z-Boy terms. And, despite a passenger compartment that, from the outside, looks like it occupies less than a third of the car’s footprint, the interiors never seemed less than commodious. Like mobile living rooms.

1972 Cadillac Eldorado profile left

I remember as a kid watching in amazement as luxury barges like this would float unfazed over BBQ pit-sized pot holes. Railroad tracks could send the whitewalled tires flailing in all directions while the fuselage remained steady as a super tanker.

1972 Cadillac Eldorado left rearThis ’72 is unashamed of its girth and wears its flamboyant accoutrements proudly. It’s what many customers wanted at the time. Supporting that assertion was the demand for the updated car. Boosted by a new convertible model, sales rose by over 15 percent in ’71. In ’72 sales really took off, almost doubling to 40,074 (7,975 convertibles and 32,099 hardtop coupes, like this).

Starting cost for an Eldorado in 1972 was $7,230 for a hardtop and $7,546 for a convertible. These prices put the Eldorado near the top of the brand’s range that year; only out-priced by the Sixty Special sedan (at $7,763), and Seventy-Five sedan and limo models ($11,869 and $12,008, respectively).

Everything about this car is big: the body, the interior and its original price. Yet, there’s another thing about it that deserves the title “big,” if not huge…


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