Sanity in the design of the Eldorado returned. Soon after the ’71 Eldorado appeared, GM — to its everlasting credit — decided that its cars had become too big and thirsty, and embarked on a corporate-wide downsizing program beginning with the 1977 standard-sized models. The Eldo’s turn came for 1979, and none too soon: virtually on the eve of a second fuel crunch.
1979 Cadillac Eldorado
But this “New Breed of Eldorado” was well worth the wait. Trim and tailored on a new 114-inch wheelbase, it was smaller than even the ’67; against the ’78 it was 20 inches shorter, eight inches narrower, and a whopping 1150 pounds lighter, yet roomier inside. And it was the most sophisticated Eldorado yet, boasting a new independent semi-trailing-arm rear suspension with coil springs and standard electronic leveling, plus the Seville’s fuel-efficient 170-bhp 350 V-8. Standard and ritzier Biarritz models were offered at starting prices above $14,000, yet sales set an Eldorado record at better than 67,000 units — nearly 18 percent of total division volume. Cadillac was obviously on to something.
Buyers sure thought so, for sales remained strong over the next six years despite only evolutionary changes, a deep early Eighties recession, and some difficulties of Cadillac’s own making. Notable among the last was 1980’s new 6.0-liter/368-cid V-8 with advanced digital electronic fuel injection (DEFI). For 1981, this became a “V-8-6-4” through the magic of an electronic control system that shut down two or four cylinders to conserve fuel in low-effort driving. Though a grand idea, this “modular-displacement” engine was plagued by as many problems as the Olds-built 350 diesel V-8 offered optionally for Eldo since ’79. Both caused Cadillac no little embarrassment.
That was short-lived, however, for 1982 brought a new HT4100 V-8-“HT” for “High Technology.” A 4.1-liter/250-cid gasoline unit, it was unusual for having a cast-iron head atop a cast-aluminum block. Though a bit short on horsepower — 125 versus the 6.0-liter’s 140/145 — it proved utterly reliable, which was what counted. Just as nice, it mated to a new four-speed automatic transaxle with a gas-saving overdrive top gear.
That same year brought a somewhat surprising new model to increase Eldorado’s enthusiast appeal. Called Touring Coupe it started with the firmed-up “Touring Suspension” option (also offered since ’79), but tilted more strongly toward the tweed-cap-and-driving-gloves set with a sporty buckets-and-console interior and a more subdued exterior in Teutonic Silver (telling, that name); it even lacked a vinyl roof and stand-up hood ornament. Color choices expanded for 83 to include metallic Sonora Saddle Firemist and Sable Black, and an extra 10 horsepower made for more sporting performance.
More glamorous still was the 1984 return of the Eldorado Biarritz convertible. A conversion engineered and carried out by ASC, Incorporated, it wasn’t strictly “factory-built.” But it had Cadillac’s blessing — and most every convenience imaginable, including a full power top with glass rear window, full headliner, and rear side windows that raised and lowered in concert. It wasn’t cheap — over $31,000, versus $20,000 for that year’s base coupe — one reason only 5600 were built through 1985.
Two years after other full-size Caddies were downsized, the personal-luxury coupe received similar treatment. Eldorado shrunk drastically in its new front-wheel drive form, down some 1,150 pounds in weight and 20 inches in overall length. Wheelbase was over a foot shorter at 114 inches, width narrower by more than 8 inches. Head and leg room managed to grow, though, in both front and rear seats. As before, Eldos included standard four-wheel disc brakes. But independent rear suspension was something new. The new space-efficient design also featured electronic level control. Eldo’s upright rectangular rear side windows also brought back the look of the recently-abandoned pillarless hardtop. Wide, squarish, closed-in rear quarters also helped give Eldo a distinctive appearance. Standard luxury touches included Twilight Sentinel headlamp control, automatic climate control, illuminated entry, and side window defoggers. New 50/45 Dual Comfort front seats came in eleven shades of leather, or pillow-style seating in new Dante knit cloth (six colors). The new instrument panel with driver-only controls on the left was simulated burl walnut. Steel-belted whitewall radial tires rode match-mounted wheels. A new flush-mounted windshield reduced wind noise. Standard dual outside mirrors were remote controlled (right mirror convex). New permanently-sealed wheel bearings never needed lubrication. Eldorado’s boxy-looking crosshatch grille had rectangular openings and extended down into a cutaway portion of the bumper (not in two separate sections as on other full-size Cadillacs). Quad rectangular headlamps sat above horizontal park/signal lamps, with wide cornering lamps on the forward portion of the front fenders. An Eldorado script was on the trailing segment of the front fenders, as well as on the decklid. Narrow three-sided vertical taillamps were an Eldorado exclusive. Eldo still sported a familiar long hood and rather stubby trunk, and fender lines were similar to before. Lamp monitors and the instrument panel were restyled. Inside was a new Dual Comfort front seat with fold-down armrest and new seatback pockets, a new dome light with dual spot map lamps, plus a two-spoke steering wheel. New cast aluminum wheels were optional. So were wire wheel covers with locking device and electrically-controlled outside mirrors with lighted thermometer on driver’s side. The optional Cabriolet roof was offered with or without padding. Base powerplant was now Seville’s fuel-injected 350 cu. in. (5.7-liter) gasoline V-8. For the first time, the Olds-built 5.7-liter diesel V-8 was an Eldorado option. Eldorado Biarritz had a number of exclusive accents, including a Cabriolet roof treatment with new brushed stainless steel front roof cap and padded vinyl at the rear. The wide chrome crossover roof molding continued forward to the front fenders. Also in the package were new cast aluminum wheels, accent stripes, opera lamps, “Biarritz” script, a tufted pillow-style interior in five shades of leather or in light blue Dante cloth, fur-like Tangier carpeting, individual rear seat reading lamps, and leather-trimmed steering wheel.
90-degree, overhead valve V-8. Cast iron block and head.
350 cu. in. (5.7 liters)
Bore & stroke
4.057 x 3.385 in.
170 at 4200 rpm
125 @ 3600 rpm
270 lbs.-ft. @ 2000 rpm
225 lbs.-ft. @ 1600 rpm
Electronic fuel injection
P205/75RI5 SBR wide WSW
Three-speed Turbo Hydra-matic transmission with column shift.