: 1985 Cadillac Eldorado

11-04-08, 09:37 PM
PROS: Classic styling, comfortable seats, roomy, advanced technology for the time

CONS: So-so acceleration, uninspiring road manners, stock stereo lacking, 4.1L engine worries

My 1985 Cadillac Eldorado was the first car I ever owned. I bought it around 2000 with less than 60,000 miles on the odometer. My dad took me down to Bellevue Cadillac and negotiated the price down to $3,500 (a huge sum of money for me at the time). I paid for most of it out of pocket, but my parents helped me out as a graduation gift if I recall correctly.

I had long before had an affinity for the Cadillac brand. I have no idea why this is. Since I was very young, I have always seen a Cadillac as a sign of one who made it. I loved the flamboyant tailfins of the 50’s models, as well as the trademark vertical taillights that adorned the vehicles since the 60’s. The vertical taillights may well have been what I found interesting about Cadillac; they instantly identified the vehicle as “Standard of the World.”

The first thing I remember about the Eldorado was how incredibly long the hood seemed; it appeared to stretch forever from the hood ornament to where the windshield began. It was a dark shade of blue accented with a white vinyl top complete with opera lights. The interior was blue leather, and the seats were the kind of overstuffed soft upholstery that you can’t find in cars anymore. The seats were extremely comfortable, but also extremely ill-suited for any sort of competitive driving; side bolstering was non-existent. At first glance, the car seemed perfect. Not that it was without its flaws. The paint, though significantly well-preserved, had several rock chips near the trunk, at the remnants of the tail-fins from an earlier decade. The stereo had no input for cassettes or compact disks. But at the time none of that mattered, because I had a car of my own that I loved.

The Eldorado had a computer onboard which could calculate the instant and average miles per gallon and fuel used. Though this is commonplace in most of today’s cars (even entry-level stuff), it was groundbreaking in its time. It also had a digital speedometer and fuel gauge; everything else was covered by idiot lights, which I have since grown to loathe. It didn’t come with any of the luxury features we see today, such as navigation, parking aids, or heated seats.

The first thing I did to the car was replace the stereo with a CD unit from Car Toys. The stereo would serve me well for the remainder of the car’s life. Throughout its time, this was the only major modification it ever received. About a year and a half into owning, the driver’s side door wouldn’t open from the inside. Instead of fixing the problem, I opted to open the window and open the door from the outside every time I drove the car.

Once, while cruising around the Kirkland waterfront, I was rear-ended by some kid in a Volkswagen Passat. This was the first accident I was ever involved in; the sound of metal crunching was horrific. Some of his paint rubbed off on my chrome bumper, which I buffed out with a $3.25 bottle of chrome polish. That was the extent of the damage done to my ride. His bumper was completely bashed in. Since that incident, I had been rear-ended twice more, though neither incident did enough damage to report to insurance.

Honestly, I drove the car to hell and back while treating it like crap. I rarely changed the oil. I don’t think it ever received service at the 30,000 mile intervals. The master cylinder failed once while going down the steep Inglewood Hill Road, causing the brakes to nearly fail, which was extremely scary. I figured I would hit the car ahead of me, but ended up stopping just in time. While driving the car in late 2003 on the freeway, the transmission refused to downshift and I could barely hit sixty miles per hour. Then, in early 2004, the engine began to overheat frequently. On its final trip to the mechanic, it barely made it. The engine was cracked and the only repair would be to rebuild the engine, which was quoted as much more than the resale value. I decided the Eldorado’s life was over.

The rest of the Eldorado’s life was confined to the street outside my house. It was eventually replaced by the 1993 Ford Thunderbird which I own to this day. I was going to Bellevue Community College at the time and needed a vehicle to get back and forth. Our mechanic (the same one who had worked on the Eldorado since I owned it - my dad’s been a customer for years) just happened to be selling. The Thunderbird had high miles, but a recently rebuilt engine. My dad and I figured since in was mechanic owned it was probably well-maintained and wouldn’t pose too many problems.

I came extremely close to replacing the Eldorado with a 1993 Sedan Deville in impeccable condition. The white car was for sale at a small lot on Aurora Avenue, and my dad, uncle, and I went and took it for a test drive. The car was nearly perfect, however, the overdrive would not engage! Ergo, I did not buy. We told the place about it and they promised they would take care of it. The day after buying the Thunderbird, we received a call from the dealership informing us that they had fixed the transmission. But it was too late. If the call had been a day earlier, events may have unfolded much differently.

Would I buy another one? Not at this stage in my life, unless I could find an exceptionally well-kept convertible example. Some guy around my neighborhood dives one occasionally. It looks just like mine only with a soft-top. But even that would be for collector interest only; I can’t see myself purchasing a car pushing twenty-five years of age as a daily driver. But the Eldorado was a good car for that particular time of my life: it was relatively spry but underpowered enough so I didn’t get into any trouble, it was durable enough that it posed few mechanical problems during its life, and it had clean styling that I admired. Overall, however, I remember a quip I made to one of my coworkers, “I bought it for vertical taillights and the power antenna.”

11-06-08, 01:49 PM
Great review! I enjoyed reading that.