• This 1978 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz embodied Cadillac's unique approach to luxury in the 1970s.
• The ninth-generation Eldorado was a symbol of wealth and success when it was new, especially in full-fat Biarritz trim, but its appeal faded and many were scrapped in the 1990s.
• This low-mileage coupe is for sale right now on Bring a Trailer, and the auction ends on April 25.
You'd never guess this by walking through the traffic jam of classic European econoboxes in my garage, but I love American land yachts. My parents owned a series of bargelike General Motors cars when I was a kid—I remember my dad having to park his 1985 Oldsmobile Delta 88 diagonally to fit it in our garage—but none were as special as my step-grandfather's Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham. These massive Cadillacs have amassed a following in recent years, and there is what looks like an unusually well-kept 1978 Eldorado Biarritz currently live on Bring a Trailer – which, like Car & Driver, is part of Hearst Autos.
Finished in Ruidoso Saddle Metallic, this old-school coupe effortlessly illustrates what Cadillac stood for in the 1970s. It says "I've got it made" without trying or leaning too far towards the ostentatious side of the scale. It didn't need to: everyone knew what they were looking at. In a way, the spot that Cadillac occupied in popular culture during the 1970s was like the one that Mercedes-Benz currently enjoys. It's not a Chevrolet Chevette or a Chrysler Cordoba that Johnny Cash built in "One Piece at a Time."
The stately Eldorado was a big deal, too; it was the epitome of the personal luxury car, that nebulous segment that embarked on a nosedive in the 1980s and crashed hard during the 1990s. The one listed on Bring a Trailer cost $15,074 new, which represents about $66,700 in 2022, and it's optioned with a six-way power-adjustable front passenger seat, a tilting steering column, cruise control, and a cassette player. And, look at those Biarritz-specific pillow seats! I'd bet the inflation-adjusted cost of the optional rear window defogger that they're at least as comfortable as the seats Cadillac puts in the 2022 CT5.
Poke your head into the cavernous engine bay and you'll meet a 425-cubic-inch (that's 7.0 liters) V-8 that lazily developed 180 horsepower and a stout 320 pound-feet of torque. Front-wheel drive, which the Eldorado adopted for the 1967 model year, and a three-speed automatic transmission came standard.
Calling the ninth-generation Eldorado rare wouldn't be accurate: Cadillac produced 46,816 units during the 1978 model year, which was last call before the drastically downsized 10th-generation model landed in showrooms. But two things make this example special: first, it survived. By the 1990s, these big coupes were widely considered anachronisms, and not very exotic ones, and many were driven into the ground by a succession of increasingly careless owners. When I was growing up in Utah in the 2000s, when Cadillac was leveraging Art and Science to disassociate itself from land yachts, the Eldorado was a common sight in self-service junkyards or beached next to barns in rural parts of the state, landau roof–deep in weeds with rust holes big enough to fit a piston through. Two, it survived with astonishingly low mileage. The odometer shows just under 20,000 miles, which represents an annual average of about 450 miles.
What are the odds of finding another 20,000-mile big-body Eldorado Biarritz without traveling back to a used-car lot in 1980? Bidding currently stands at $12,500, a sign that interest in these cars is growing.
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