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Planned as early as 1954, the 1957 Caddy was, at best, a vehicle that didn't really know what it wanted to be when it grew up. It had two firsts:
- The world's first automotive air suspension
- The automaker's first quad lighting array up front
The front end looked like it was designed by a committee made up of mad scientists from Chevy, Buick, Pontiac, Oldsmobile and Cadillac, while the rear end looked like it was designed by a subcommittee of the design committee.
Quick to paper to metal
Maybe they knew something when they were putting the design on paper as it was one of the quickest paper-to-working prototypes to that time.
It took less than 11 months for the design to go from the desk of project design chief Ed Glowacke to real, functional sheet metal. Perhaps they knew that the $13,000 price would limit sales as only 707 were moved in its first two years.
Honestly, if you look at the 1958 Chevy Bel Air – quad lights included – there's a very vague similarity. Perhaps people didn't want to pay $13,000 for a Chevy and the front end with its added mid-level chrome piece just didn't work.
Sales not spectacular
Whatever the reason, sales of the Eldorado Brougham were far from spectacular even given its extensive equipment list – power doors, locks, windows, air conditioning – and a 365-cubic-inch V-8 that cranked out 325 bhp. Some Caddy experts have suggested that the lower-than-expected aspect ratio whitewall tires or perhaps the fins, no one knows, now.
What we do know is that one of the key sponsors of the 1957 redesigned Caddy was design chief Harley Earle. He wanted to make sure that he had a marketable vehicle on his hands so he chose a rather vanilla design that took some years to clean up.
It was no lightweight, either, weighing in about roughly 4,000 pounds. Available three series, the Eldorado Special, the Seville Coupe and the Biarritz convertible, it was built on a huge 126-inch wheelbase, not exactly a small vehicle. Indeed, the 1957 Cadillac was 216 inches overall, although it was nearly three inches trimmer than the Model 62, that also appeared soon after.
Vehicle of contractions
It was a vehicle full of contradictions. It had a stubby B-pillar where the front and rear doors opened outward with no real B-pillar. This was the "suicide" door design that was popularized on 60/61 Lincolns that are probably most remembered as presidential limos (rear doors open out from rear and fronts open from front, both latch in middle). Caddy also used a front-mounted hood hinge so the hood opened to the front from the rear, somewhat unusual.
Ultimately, the 1957 Cadillac was a vehicle that really didn't know what it wanted to be, using solid steel front fenders, but rear fins that were neither short nor long. The bottom line was this Caddy series was a great way to get a buyer into the Model 62, which, some people feel, was exactly why it was built.