For years I joked with my friends that I didn't want
Jaguar or a Lexus or a Porsche or a Mercedes. No, sir. I
a seventies-era Cadillac Eldorado convertible. A machine of
from a time when gas costs less than $1 a gallon.
My dad had borrowed one from a friend one month in the summer of 1977
and our family had a blast
The machine commanded attention, and it was a great car to ride in.
I had reiterated my desire for one in late February 2002, and everyone
me) was sure I was joking.
Then, on March 6, 2002 someone at my workplace posted this ad:
1975 Cadillac Eldorado convertible, 502 CI engine, metallic blue
white top, power everything:top,windows,steering,6-way seats,
complete with original AM/FM 8-track deck, new battery, interior
attention. Class III towing package, extra set of hubcaps,
Fisher Body manual, and original shop manuals included.
Just passed smog no problem! Vanity plates read "ELVIS 75"
Summer is just around the corner!
The fates dropped a car into my lap which was very near to what I had
demanding. At a GREAT price. Though I did not know it at
time, the 1975 Cadillac Eldorado was the exact model we had that
summer. I had originally thought that the car we had was the
1973-74 model with the round headlights and wheel skirts. In my
opinion, the 1975 is actually a better looking car. Revisiting the photos
showed that the 1975 is indeed what
I didn't have $3500 to blow on a car. Or $600/yr more
I didn't need a gas bill that would make OPEC drool. Or any car
that 'needed attention.' I hardly have time to sleep and
sir. I could not justify owning such a car for any reason.
I'm a practical guy. So I said 'no way, no how.'
But I made the mistake of mentioning it to my friends who assured me
the fates were speaking to me and not to ignore them. I called
other friends to try to get talked out of it. I even called my
hyper-practical mom who thought it would be a good idea (!) to get
it. And it turns out it was offered on the day of the anniversary
of my dad's death. "Dad wants you to get the car" mom said.
Arguments for buying the car:
1) If my wife kicks me out, I can live in it.
2) Can decalre it a sovereign nation to avoid traffic tickets.
3) Can install phones in different area codes in the two ends of the
4) Will win with nearly anything that tangles with it in an accident.
5) Can harass my older brother to send me all of his old 8 tracks (hi,
So after an uneasy conversation with my wife, she green lights me on
car. But I'm still not sure. I look at the car. It
help. Another offer is on the table in Denver for $4000. A
decision needs to be made. The prospect of driving legendary
from a production run of only 8900 finally pushes me over the
I write the check. I take the keys. I start the process to
Well, "just passed smog" was before 9 months in bad storage. I
firsthand what a California 'Gross Polluter' was, and dropped my first
additional $1000 replacing vital fluids, wires, belts, hoses, emissions
crap and assorted administrative fees.
The car has a lot of cosmetic problems. But it runs well now and
top mostly works. Lots of rust on the surface (a fine patina),
some rechrome or replacement may be in order. My next $1000 is
at top and window related repair, and the $400 on the equivalent of CV
joints in the front (clicking noise when steering). I have a
small oil leak (surprise?). The seat leather is shot. The door
panels are a mess,
one speaker is broken, the 8-track needs to be aligned, and the carpets
to be replaced. The steering wheel is cracked, the control stalks
rusted, and the key buzzer buzzes even with the key removed unless I
The clock stops when the inside lights are on. The door light
on the driver side are fussy. The fiber optic light monitors are
dim on the driver side, and completely missing in the back. I
rear speakers (they need to be 10 ohm!?!?). Could probably stand
paint job. Need the rear trunk bezels (aftermaket ABS). Air
conditioning compressor may be shot. Air damper stuck on full
heat. One visor needs to be resewn. Needs a really good
cleaning. I need lots of twiddles and twaddles, and want to take
it out to some meet full of caddy
enthusiasts who would suggest the things that I might need, and in what
I'd need them.
The way I can see it is that I can pump about $12,000 into it and have
$8000 car. 8-)
So, it is a driver. People are living out their wishes to buy a
impractical car through my indiscretion. It is a car of
Largest engine in a passenger car. 5200 lbs. 19.5 feet long
(JUST fits in my garage!) Steers like a battleship, accelerates
like a Honda Civic. Has a horn that sounds like a real horn (3
my receding hairline very nicely at 80 mph (don't tell the CHP).
I'm enjoying it, have almost 1000 miles in it already (as of April
Kids (3 and 5) love it because it is so weird and big. Had to get
special 'lap belt only' booster seats to comply with California law
The mechanics working on this car are Ron at Almaden Chevron (Ron is an
GM guy) and Harold Upholstery in Mountain View who is recognized as the
regional expert on the notorious 'scissor top' convertible mechanism.
My two options are to do minimal work and just DRIVE it. Dump it
a year or two to someone who has the money to restore her right.
Or hold onto it and sink a fortune into it. That makes it harder
to drive. 8-)
A museum in Las Vegas once sold a 1976 Eldorado convertible with *29* original miles for $45,000. So I guess
that should be my upper spending limit.
Update 5/2002: A group of 3 Eldorado owners from the local Cadillac mailing
have got together to buy a junked 1975 Eldorado convertible
as an organ donor. The work continues!
If you are the owner of one of these magnificent machines, I invite you
peruse my survival guide
. In it, you
find my advice from all of the grunt repairs I have had to do on this
(like fixing the complaints in the preceeding essay!), and shared
from mailing lists and fellow owners. If you are thinking of
one, make sure you know the Stork Rules For
Buying A Vintage Cadillac
. Ironically, though the car is named
"ELVIS75", Elvis himself never
owned a 1975 cadillac. He did own a 1974 and a 1976.
Thanks to the factory radio, I also have become well acquainted with 8 track tape
is another story.
Update 5/2003: I am nearly $10,000 into my $3,500 car.
repalced include full front brake system, new FR721 tires
drivesharts, and soon the whole front suspension (upper and lower
arms, pittman arm, and idler arm). Interior is still a mess and
scissortop is fritzy. My A/C compressor seized and the condensor
I feel like I can write a country and western song. But I
like the car. Call me a masochist. We also stripped the
car clean and have a stash of spare parts. Write if you want to
Update 6/2004: I have crossed the 10,000 mark with $4300 in front end
A number of oil leaks had rotted out a lot of the suspension
so about $1000 was spent to plug up the leaking transmission and valve
gaskets. The leaky and flaky power steering system was fully
Upper and lower control arm bushing. Cracked (!) wheel hub.
ball joints. Torn CV boots. Maladjusted sway bar. Speedo
Shocks. Rear brakes. Steering damper. Work was
by the now defunct Reinegger Frame and Wheel
specialize in big old GM suspensions, but more typically in the
variant. Way more than the original $1600 estimate, but WOW.
car tracks dead straight and is solid as a rock even at 80.
I also replaced the rear fillers with ABS ones from the new defunct North Yale Auto Parts. Though I was slightly disappointed with the fit, I made them work. I painted them
with Duplicolor GM 253 which is a fairly close substitute for the factory
color (Gossamer Blue Firemist).
Except where my inadequate spray painting skills caused runs, it
Update 9/2008: After several abortive attempts to sell the car, I
decided I ought to replace the torn up interior to increadse my chances
of selling and to increase my enjoyment while I still had the
car. You can read that story here
I just noticed today that I have put just over 16,000 miles on the