As the undisputed icon of its time, the 1959 Cadillac epitomizes the 1950s ethos: embracing excess with the belief that more is better and too much is never enough. The well-known narrative unfolds with a glimpse of Chrysler’s radical 1957 lineup prompting a swift response from GM. Fearing their ’59 cars would be overshadowed, a rapid corporate-wide revamp ensued, giving all five car lines new bodies, with Cadillac’s featuring fins over four feet tall, the most striking of all.
Beneath the surface, changes were more restrained. Cadillac’s trendsetting overhead valve V8, introduced in 1949, matured with a displacement increase to 390 cubic inches and 10.5 to 1 compression, yielding 325 bhp. The Eldorado engine, equipped with three carburetors, produced 20 more horsepower and was available as an option in other models. Standard luxury features included Hydra-Matic transmission, power steering, power brakes, and, for convertibles, power windows and two-way power seats. Despite the declining popularity of air suspension, few cars were so equipped.
By 1959’s end, unbridled optimism gave way to realism, leading to trimmed tailfins for the 1960 model. Sales for 1959 and 1960 held steady at around 142,000 units, a significant rise from the recession year of 1958 but not reaching the levels of the late sixties. Similar to the 1957 Chevy’s later collector fame, the 1959 Cadillac is now the preferred model, especially coveted are the convertibles, with the Biarritz standing at the pinnacle of desirability.