Hooniverse Malaise-O-Rama Weekend – A 1979 Cadillac Eldorado with 28,000 Miles

Continuing on with our Malaise-O-Rama Weekend, here is a very clean Eldorado, with most of the added gingerbread of the Malaise Era actually left off. No vinyl roof, no wire wheel covers, no opera windows, no velour seats, no etched glass, nothing that shouts “cheesy”. So, what about this car still proclaims Malaise?

This is the first year for the newly down-sized Eldorado. Compared with the 1978 model, the 79 lost 20 inches in overall length, 8.4 inches in width, and nearly a 12 in reduction in wheelbase. The reduction didn’t just come in the overall measurements either, as the engine offered for 1979 was the Oldsmobile 350 CID Gasoline V-8, and the problematic Oldsmobile 350 CID Diesel V-8. This car has the 350 CID Gasoline version.

While most of the 70s styling additions were left off this particular Eldorado, it hasn’t escaped unscathed. There is still the hallmark Cadillac Grill, with the Cadillac Wreath Hood Ornament proudly perched on top. The newly styled roof took the cues from the popular Seville Sedan and the rear window is nearly vertical. With most of the flowing line gone from the previous version, this Eldorado actually retained most of the interior room of its predecessor.

Inside is as tasteful as you would find in 1979. This car has a tobacco brown leather interior, and has a split front bench seat. The dash still has that 70s jukebox feel, with acres of plastiwood, and a great deal of plasti-chrome. At least this Eldorado comes with an AM FM CB radio, very Malaise-tastic.

This car has a $9,200 Buy-It-Now price. See the listing here. With this Eldorado, this marks the end of our Malaise-O Rama weekend, and it is appropriate we end with this car because it does mark the end of a rather craptastic time in America. I feel that the Malaise Era cars are worth a second look, but some of the cars that were produced during the Regan Era were just as bad (and even a lot worse) than the Malaise era. What do you think?

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  1. Joe Dunlap Avatar
    Joe Dunlap

    What still screams "MALAISE"? How about the chrome plated railroad ties on each end of it? Case closed.
    /Now, get off my lawn/

    1. Black Steelies Avatar

      Hardly the worst offender of this most common of malaise grievances.

      1. tonyola Avatar

        Yeah, compare the bumpers to the '77-'78 Lincolns also featured today. The Eldo's bumpers are downright modest.

  2. Van Sarockin Avatar
    Van Sarockin

    I think the Malaise Era lasted clear to the mid-Eighties, with a cutoff date somewhere around '84-'86. Brought on by Nixon's Vietnam spending, and ending, perhaps, with Morning In America. You just want to get outside and play. I can respect that.
    As for this car, it was about the best of a bad bunch, largely being a pre-malaise continuation, with ultraluxe. This color does it no favors, however, and the dash looks amazingly tacky now. No cupholders, no nav system ; Grandpa really a giant among the dinosaurs.

    1. BlackIce_GTS Avatar

      "as the originator of the term “Malaise Era,” I have the right to define it: the 1973 through 1983 model years"
      Murilee Martin

  3. tonyola Avatar

    I'm not a fan of the color and the price is a little too much despite the low miles, but these Eldorados weren't that bad with the gas 350 V8s. The fact that the '79 Eldo was an impressive 1,100 pounds lighter than the '78 more than made up for the smaller engine and the handling was less parade-float than before. There were also four wheel disk brakes and IRS. As for styling, the greenhouse looks a little large for the rest of the car, but it looks far better than the styled-with-a-meat-cleaver Lincolns and T-birds of the era. I like the painted roof on this example. You could also get one of the first trip computers which could even display stuff the base no-info dash couldn't, like RPM, engine temp, and voltage.
    <img src="http://i55.tinypic.com/fka7n9.jpg"&gt;

  4. scoutdude Avatar

    These cars are junk, nothing spells luxury like using a 4wd truck front suspension.

    1. tonyola Avatar

      Uh, what? GM 4WD trucks of the time used a live front axle with leaf springs. The Eldo had wishbone arms and transverse torsion bars.

      1. scoutdude Avatar

        Not the full size the S10 4×4 shares most of the front suspension.

        1. tonyola Avatar

          The S-10 was introduced three years after the Eldorado. So it's the 4WD truck that uses the luxury car front suspension, isn't it?

          1. ptschett Avatar

            And now I'm wondering whether it says good things about the S10 that its suspension was derived from a luxury car, or bad things about the Eldo in having a suspension that was suitable for a compact 4×4 truck.

  5. Manic_King Avatar

    So, plastiwood and plasti-chrome were right choices for US market, thats what customers were expecting? Is there approx. end date for this style of dashboard? Not knowing much about American cars, it is just a bit strange to think that say 1984 one could buy car with this interior or what probably seemed like UFO in the form of Audi 5000 with the completely different style.

    1. From_a_Buick_6 Avatar

      The Buick LeSabre featured a near-identical dashboard right up until 1999. And many of the design elements and switchgear seen here were GM staples well into the '90s.

      1. facelvega Avatar

        I drive a 90s LeSabre (like Tonyola's below), and the styling, ergonomics, and construction quality are a far cry better than in these old Caddies. It does lack a center console, though, if that's what you mean.

    2. tonyola Avatar

      1985 was the last year for this generation of Eldorado. Considering how well these cars sold (76,000 in 1985 alone, similar volume in '84), I guess plenty of Americans wanted their plastiwood and plastichrome.

      1. From_a_Buick_6 Avatar

        The plastiwood and plastichrome helped disguise how cheap and poorly assembled these interiors were. Look at a W-body from the '90s, with no brightwork or interior trim to speak of, just acres of nasty plastic and low-grade cloth.
        Moreover, look what happened when Oldsmobile tried to lose its early bird special image: sales fell even more and the brand was axed. Lutz's ballyhooed edict about removing the plastic cladding from Pontiacs had similar results.
        The taste of the general public is greatly overrated. There are large segments of the population that considered those gaudy Pontiacs "sporty" and chintzy Olds and Cadillac interiors "luxurious." The "sophisticated" buyer the General was trying to court with these rebrandings had already defected to Japan and Europe and no way were they coming back. Certainly not overnight, anyway. All they succeeded in doing was chasing off the only demographics that were still loyal.
        Lincoln Town Car sales skyrocketed after GM downsized its prestige cars in '85-'86. The Caprice Classic and even the Chrysler Fifth Avenue benefitted as well. And I'm sure Pep Boys saw a huge uptick in fake hood scoop and porthole sales after the Grand Am was dropped.

        1. tonyola Avatar

          Yeah, I know. I sit behind a dashboard like this every day (mine is blue, though). Lots of hard black plastic and plastiwood. While nothing has broken or fallen off, we're not talking Honda or Toyota assembly quality here. However, it fits the style of the car and it's not all that unattractive in a slightly cheesy, all-American way. And unlike a lot of Amero-luxe dashboards, at least I get some gauges to look at.
          <img src="http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/7/71/LeSabre_Dash.JPG/800px-LeSabre_Dash.JPG&quot; width=500>

        2. facelvega Avatar

          As I mentioned above, I drive a LeSabre like Tonyola's. Can't remember which Buick 6 you're driving. Thinking of 80s and 80s luxury cars, I have owned several Volvos '75-89 and an Audi 5000, and spent a good deal of time with some 90s Lexuses. It's easy to see how when it was new the Buick seemed the most old-fashioned and stodgy of them all. However by the time they were ten or fifteen years old, there were parts coming off in the interiors of all those cars (okay, not the Audi), but my Buick at 19 is still completely intact without even a single dead switch or motor. Moreover, I wouldn't hesitate to simulate hard wear by smacking everything on the dash and doors with a construction boot, something I would never have dared to try with any of the other cars as I'm certain they would have failed that test. I know from experience that this wasn't true of every American car of the 90s, but at least for the big Buicks and Oldses, I'll grant a pass on construction quality questions.

  6. Black Steelies Avatar

    Some wins: frameless windows, cornering lights, clean lines, CB radio, 'hiding' wipers and no diesel.
    Some losses: 'banana cream' yellow, no wire hubcaps and no diesel.
    I wouldn't say malaise was all bad. Of the features I mentioned, many were typical of the era. This car is as malaise as the worst of em, and yet managed to come out a winner in some ways.

  7. From_a_Buick_6 Avatar

    That color scheme is awful, but this wasn't a bad car with the gas 350 or 368. The rest of the engines were garbage, but Cadillac still sold a ton of these with the HT4100 through '85.
    This was last good car Cadillac made until the '92 STS. It's mind-boggling to think about how many bad moves the company made during the '80s. There was probably nothing GM could have done to retain its market share and bloated product lines, but it's stunning how quickly the General imploded in the luxury field.

  8. TurboBrick Avatar

    Yuck. This and it's Buick & Olds sisters are the ugliest cars GM ever made. The proportions are just too weird and I really hate that C-pillar. Out of all the barges we've seen this weekend that Oldsmobile 98 is still the winner for me.

  9. west_coaster Avatar

    Remember also that Cadillac at least made a partial effort toward the end of this car's run — 1984 I believe — at giving it a little bit of credibility with the enthusiast crowd.
    Forget what they called it (might have been "Touring Editon") but it had honest-to-God bucket seats with a center console, albeit retaining the column shifter for the automatic. The suspension was firmed up a bit, and it wore rather handsome aluminum wheels with, gasp, blackwall tires from the factory.
    The anemic aluminum V8 was still the sole power choice, but I think it might have been enlarged to 4.5 liters at that point, or perhaps by '85. As this generation of Cadillacs went, it was both handsome and not quite so floaty around corners. You'd usually see them in silver or a muted shade of gold.

    1. tonyola Avatar

      The sporty Eldorado was called the Touring Coupe, and it was introduced for 1982. The car was dechromed a bit and given a sports suspension along with a better interior. By all accounts, it handled very well but it was still let down by the HT4100. The 4.5 didn't come along until 1988, by which time the Eldo had been made much smaller and less distinctive.
      <img src="http://static.howstuffworks.com/gif/1980-1989-cadillac-5.jpg&quot; width="400/">

      1. CJinSD Avatar

        Was 1980 the best year for this Eldo? It had an engine that wasn't synonymous with GM engineering, unlike the V6-8-4 and HTs that followed.

        1. tonyola Avatar

          In terms of powertrains, I'd say '79 was the best year. The gas 350 shared with the Seville put out 170 hp. It's a sturdy engine manufactured by Olds but specially built to Cadillac specs. That was cut to 160 hp for 1980, and the optional Cadillac 368 only had 145 hp. 1981 brought the dreaded V8-6-4.

  10. Jim-Bob Avatar

    This is a base model car and I'm sorry but for me it needs wire wheel covers and a vinyl landau roof. Preferably it would also be a Biarritz edition with the fancy stainless steel roof and even more baroque elegance. This one just feels cheap and low rent because it lacks the details and thus does not rate high enough on my "Broughamaliciocity index" for me to want it.

  11. facelvega Avatar

    For me, this Eldo is the least desirable car of the whole Malaise-o-rama, and that's saying something. It doesn't even have the charm of decadence.

  12. ptschett Avatar

    This has been "ptschett's elementary school teachers' cars weekend". My 1st/2nd grade teacher had a blue one of these Eldo's, and my kindergarten (and later 3rd/4th grade) teacher had a brown '77 Cutlass Supreme. I can't remember what my 5th/6th grade teacher drove but I'm sure it was some kind of Oldsmobuick. (And now you know that I went to a very small school.)