Cadillac Eldorado 1959 – a car for the Jetsons

white Cadillac Eldorado 1959

The Cadillac Eldorado was a personal luxury car manufactured and marketed by Cadillac from 1953 to 2002 over ten generations. It was at or near the top of the Cadillac line during its lifetime.

The 1959 Cadillac Eldorado was the sixth generation of the Eldorado and featured distinct styling and luxury features that made it an aspirational vehicle of its era.

display of 1959 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz with its features printed on a paper

How Many Were Made?

General Motors produced 17,000 Eldorado convertibles and coupes for the 1959 model year. This was a substantial increase from the 5,400 Eldorados made in 1958 as Cadillac ramped up production to meet rising demand for the redesigned model.

The Eldorado comprised about 11% of Cadillac’s total production of 150,000 cars in 1959.

What Makes It Special?

The 1959 Cadillac Eldorado was revolutionary in terms of styling and featured many technological innovations that cemented its status as an iconic American luxury car. Some key features that made the ’59 Eldorado special include:

  • Distinctive styling featuring shark-like fins, dual bullet tail lights, and a canted headlight design that emphasized length and gave the car a futuristic look. The styling was inspired by fighter jets and represented the jet age aesthetic of the late 1950s.
  • Introduction of the tallest tailfins yet on a Cadillac, culminating in the iconic exaggerated rear fins that became a Cadillac trademark in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
dual bullet tail lights of 1959 Cadillac Eldorado

  • Three custom interior trim options – Eldorado Biarritz, Eldorado Seville, and Eldorado Brougham – offered exclusive features and the highest luxury touches available in a Cadillac.
  • First power vent windows and 2-way power seats were introduced as standard equipment on an American production car.
  • High-tech quadrophonic surround sound speaker system was an option, an early example of premium audio in an automobile.

Who Designed It?

The 1959 Cadillac Eldorado was designed by Dave Holls, Chuck Jordan, Ed Taylor, and Bob Cadwell under the leadership of GM styling chief Harley Earl.

Earl pioneered the yearly styling update (“planned obsolescence”) strategy at GM and commanded the team that designed the Eldorado as a showcase for the extreme tailfins and sharp angles that came to define late 1950s automotive styling under his watch.

The 1959 Eldorado design represented the culmination of “high styling” trends Earl promoted throughout the 1950s before his retirement later that year.

The Specifications

The 1959 Cadillac Eldorado rode upon a 129.5-inch wheelbase and had an overall length of 220.2 inches. It had a width of 79.9 inches and a height of 55.3 inches. Curb weight was 4,743 pounds for the coupe and 4,947 pounds for the convertible.

The ’59 Eldorado was originally powered by a 390 cubic inch (6.4 L) V8 engine with 345 horsepower mated to a 4-speed Hydramatic automatic transmission. Tri-carburetors were standard.

Notable options included: air suspension, automatic headlight dimmer, Autronic Eye (automatic headlight control), cruise control, high-fidelity sound system, electric door locks, power windows, power seats, power trunk release, automatic climate control, aluminum alloy wheels, and white sidewall tires.

The Engine

The 1959 Eldorado was powered by Cadillac’s 390 cubic inch (6.4L) V8 engine, which was exclusive to Eldorado that year.

The 390 V8 was part of GM’s new generation of OHV V8s introduced in the late 1950s to replace the prior generation of flathead engines.

The Eldorado’s 390 V8 featured a bore and stroke of 4.00 x 4.06 inches. It was nicknamed the “Chipmunk” engine by engineers due to its high-revving nature compared to other Cadillac V8s.

The standard engine setup included a Rochester 4GC four-barrel carburetor, 10:1 compression ratio, and Hydra-Matic four-speed automatic transmission. It produced 345 horsepower at 4,800 rpm and 458 pound-feet of torque at 3,200 rpm.

Optional was a tri-carburetor setup with three two-barrel carburetors that increased output to 350 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque.

The engine was longitudinally mounted and mated to an innovative air suspension system that leveled the ride height automatically. The Eldorado engine represented the height of V8 power and refinement in American automobiles of the era.

The Interior

The 1959 Cadillac Eldorado featured luxurious and lavish interior appointments that cemented its status as Cadillac’s ultimate halo vehicle. Customers could choose from three distinct interior trims:

  • Eldorado Biarritz – Offered luxurious broadcloth fabric upholstery along with hand-rubbed walnut trim. Standard equipment included a center console, power windows, 6-way power seats, power steering, and a front and rear “memory seat” system.
  • Eldorado Seville – Had slimmer body side chrome trim and different rear quarter motifs. Interior featured custom leather upholstery and hand-crafted real wire wheels.
  • Eldorado Brougham – The most luxurious interior trim option. Highlights included pillarless, brushed stainless steel roof, brushed alloy trim, lambskinleather upholstery, dual center consoles, high-fidelity sound system, magnetized whiskey glasses, perfume atomizer, and passenger-side vanity case.

Other interior amenities included available automatic climate control, Autronic Eye dimming system, cruise control, and a quadrophonic speaker sound system.

The ample interior space along with the air suspension delivered a smooth, comfortable ride.

How Many Are Left?

As a collector car, the 1959 Cadillac Eldorado is quite rare today. According to a 2015 report by Hagerty Insurance, there are an estimated 1,500 remaining examples of the 1959 Eldorado. Of those, about 824 are operational and roadworthy.

Part of the reason for the low survival rate is that American luxury cars of the 1950s were prone to rust issues which claimed many Eldorados over the years.

Additionally, the intricacy of the air suspension system and trim features made repairs challenging and expensive, leading some owners to scrap cars with mechanical issues.

While thousands were originally built, the iconic styling and sophistication of the 1959 Eldorado convertible and coupe make the remaining examples highly sought-after among collectors today.

Low build numbers paired with strong enthusiast interest ensures that those still around are well-preserved.

How Much Is a 1959 Eldorado Worth Today?

Based on analysis by Hagerty Insurance, current market values for the 1959 Cadillac Eldorado in excellent restored or original condition are:

  • 1959 Eldorado Biarritz Convertible – $115,000-$145,000
  • 1959 Eldorado Seville – $95,000-$125,000
  • 1959 Eldorado Brougham – $175,000 – $225,000

These valuations apply to concours quality examples or extremely well-maintained original cars with minimal wear.

The Brougham model commands the highest prices due to its rarity and over-the-top luxury features. Values have steadily risen over the past decade as collector interest in 1950s American classics continues to grow.

Pricing will vary based on the condition, originality, documentation, and whether the car has matching numbers. The most pristine, low-mileage examples in like-new condition can sell for significantly more at auction.

Given its enduring popularity with collectors, the 1959 Cadillac Eldorado is poised to remain a blue-chip classic car investment in the years ahead.

dual bullet tail lights and shark-like fins of 1959 Cadillac Eldorado