In the Year Of Our Lord 1961, the Cadillac Eldorado, the most expensive Cadillac short of the factory limousines, got an all-new look. As did the rest of the line. It was somewhat scandalous at the time, but the new Cadillacs greeting showroom browsers in Autumn of 1960 were, believe it or not, somewhat smaller. Ye gods! What is the world coming to?
Cadillac retained its enviable reputation in 1961. Despite credible competition from Lincoln and Imperial, Cadillac still handily outsold both combined. No one could match Cadillac model for model. Sedan, hardtop coupe, hardtop sedan, convertible, factory limousine…they had it all.
Cadillacs were all new for 1961. As previously noted, they were a little but smaller. But the look was fresh, modern, and still very appealing.
This year, all Cadillacs, regardless or trim level or model, were powered by the same 390 CID V8 engine. Dual exhaust was no longer available, but all Cadillacs breathed through a four barrel carburetor. Power was quite satisfactory for the time, 325 hp at 4800 revolutions per minute.
Naturally, the Eldorado carried on in Bristol fashion. It first appeared in 1953 as a very limited edition; only 532 were made in its inaugural year.
Starting in 1956, a hardtop coupe was added as a companion model. Due to there now being two Eldorado models, the convertible became the Eldorado Biarritz, while the hardtop coupe was known as the Eldorado Seville. Sevilles received a vinyl roof covering.
Somewhat novel for 1956, but it would be de rigueur by the late ’60s on virtually everything, from Eldorados to Plymouth Valiants.
The Biarritz/Seville model selection carried on through the 1960 model year, but with the introduction of the 1961 Cadillacs, the Eldorado was back to a single model, the convertible. It retained its Biarritz designation, however.
What price exclusivity? In 1961, at your local Cadillac dealer, it came to $6,477. Curb weight was 4,805 pounds. For comparison’s sake, the two least-expensive Cadillacs in 1961 were the Series 62 4-window sedan and the Series 62 six-window sedan. Both retailed for $5,080. The priciest? The Series 75 Imperial sedan, at $9,748.
To compare the princely amount the Eldorado Biarritz demanded, consider the fact that a 1961 Impala convertible, not exactly a cheapskate special, sold for a suggested retail price of $2,954 with a V8 and $2,847 with a six. A plain-Jane 1961 Corvair 500 club coupe was $1,984.
So perhaps it was not a surprise that production was limited. Only 1,450 Eldorado Biarritz convertibles were produced for the model year.
But you can rest assured that each and every one of them was plush, luxurious and most certainly exclusive! One thing the 1961 Eldorado Biarritz owner could count on, he wasn’t going to see another car like his in traffic very often.
The 1961 Cadillac showroom brochure didn’t pull any punches either: “Rarely, and only to a supremely fortunate few, there comes an automobile the very sight of which summons forth visions of distant mountains, pounding surf and soft Southern skies.”
“Such a car is the 1961 Eldorado Biarritz, beyond question the most beautiful convertible ever created.” Golly GM, tell us what you REALLY think! Ha ha.
Of course, with its exclusive trim and seriously plush interior, the Eldorado Biarritz was definitely a classy, luxurious car. Certainly the most luxurious topless Cadillac available. The thing was, the Series 62 convertible was pretty darn nice too.
And other than a slightly less ostentatious interior and model designation, it was mighty similar to the Eldorado Biarritz.
Perhaps that is why the Series 62 convertible, at $5,455 about a grand cheaper than the Biarritz (and this was back when a thousand dollars really meant something), sold 15,500 copies, compared to the 1,450 Biarritzes. Of course, there were the super-rich or super-flashy types who wouldn’t have settled for less than an Eldorado nameplate on their new Cadillac, but there simply wasn’t enough differentiation between the two.
Both were certainly beautiful cars, and every inch a Cadillac. With a V8, power, luxury and of course the trademark fins. But there simply wasn’t enough specialness exclusive to the Eldorado in 1961 and 1962 for it to really be a strong seller. 1962 Biarritz sales were equally small, with an identical production run of 1,450 units.
Of course, that makes the 1961-62 Eldorado Biarritz highly collectible today. This example was at the San Marcos, Texas meet, held recently by the Cadillac-LaSalle club and spotted by Jayson Coombes and Jim Jordan. It is a multiple award winner, and I’m sure it was stunning in person, judging from the pictures! And no matter what 1961 Cadillac new car buyers chose, they could be certain that they had indeed arrived!