V.I.S.I.T: V8/6/4 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz

I still possess a swipe card for the JR metro system in Tokyo, a worthless artefact I keep only because I’m unlikely to ever own another one. People hang on to all kinds of weird old shit, with sentimentality being the main reason. Car preservation is a whole ‘nother topic for discussion, it’s thanks to the eccentricities of mankind that many of the most interesting automobiles are found outside museums and collections; I’m talking about the kind of subject matter that was seen as so plentiful and disposable that nobody considered that one day they might all be gone, and that a few folk might miss them.
It’s just a hunch, but I’m guessing that not a huge number of eighth generation Eldorado Biarritzes have survived to be pampered and mollycoddled, which made my encounter with this cherry example of the breed all the more surprising, not least because I was patrolling Reykjavik’s poetically named “Fishpacking district” at the time.

A little while ago I indulged myself by attempting to concisely evaluate the ups and downs of American car styling from 1970 to now as seen in comparison with the rest of the world. The car we’re looking at now is actually one of those that inspired me to embark on the project.
You see, I own a 1982 issue of Car and Driver which contained, among things, a review of the Eldorado as fitted with the then-new 4.1 litre V8 engine (the verdict was not totally favourable), and then a few pages later a first drive of the Mercedes 380 SEC. These were both expensive cars being produced at the same time, and designed to appeal to the aspirations of their respective nations. I find this absolutely fascinating.
The Cadillac Eldorado buyer of 1981 was always destined to buy a Cadillac Eldorado. He wouldn’t be cross-shopping it against a Ford Thunderbird or a BMW 6 Series, it had to be the Caddy, or (if his funds dried up a bit) one of the other E-Body GM offerings, which were aesthetically marching to the same beat. By and large the Eldorado of the era sold only to well-to-do Americans who didn’t want to let go of what Cadillac had stood for in the past. They didn’t care for the march of progress, they wanted a Cadillac because they had always wanted a Cadillac. There’s also a high chance that they weren’t really all that interested in the minutiae of car design and couldn’t really give a fuck what the magazines said, anyway.
Proudly wearing, as it does, the famous V8/6/4 cylinder deactivation emblem, do I surmise that we’re looking at an ’81 Model Year car here? I’m lead to believe that the L62 (which I think this is) only appeared in the Eldorado for one year before the 4.1 arrived.
This machine, parked outside the headquarters of the managers of Icelands biggest fleet of fishing trawlers, was utterly immaculate from the ground up. It’s hard to imagine how much effort would need to be expended in order to achieve this miracle, unless the car was a recent import and hadn’t even been given time to get dirty yet.
I feature this Cadillac tonight by way of a salutation to anybody who strives to keep an offbeat car in first-class order, not necessarily for the benefit of other people, nor even to win awards at local car shows, but purely out of a deep, misinformed love for the car itself.
There appear to be quite a few people like this in Iceland. You’d like it there.
(All images copyright Chris Haining / Hooniverse 2016)

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24 responses to “V.I.S.I.T: V8/6/4 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz”

  1. 0A5599 Avatar

    They were good platforms for further customizing. Over the past couple of years, I’ve spotted during my daily travels, probably 10 convertibles of this generation Eldo, an extended wheelbase one with fake spare tires added to the extended front fenders, and a six wheel (tandem in the rear) ‘camino-modded one. I’ve also seen a shorty Seville (a better choice for a reduced wheelbase because the doors are not as long).

  2. dukeisduke Avatar

    I knew a guy back then that owned a Fleetwood with V-8-6-4, and he actually liked it. One of the rare trouble-free ones, I guess.

    1. Inliner Avatar

      You *could just unplug the electrics responsible for activating the cylinder deactivation and have an average 368ci V8.

      1. Guest Avatar

        I’ve also heard of people that hook up switches for each setting individually, removing most of the primitive computer troubles.

  3. Van_Sarockin Avatar

    Dear god, what a terrible car. But, yes, a slow golf clap to the chap who is standing by his pride and joy, no matter what.
    I’d entirely forgotten about the awful continental spare. And the design is horrid, and the interior is to make brothel blush. But the engine and its management (such as to speak) is the actual nadir. I’ve hard that the engine is alright, once the management has been ripped out by the roots.

    1. salguod Avatar

      The continental kit isn’t factory.

    2. 0A5599 Avatar

      The engine is the final iteration of the 500/472/425/368 family, and fairly bulletproof.

      1. dukeisduke Avatar

        Here’s an article from HMN, from 2008. From that article, it sounds like there weren’t real mechanical problems with the system, just that the software and the computer were kinda slow at making the transitions from 8-to-6-to-4 and back (hesitation) which didn’t impress the drivers. What do you want for an idea 20 years ahead of its time (I’m looking at you, 5.7l Hemi)?

        1. 0A5599 Avatar

          I’ve heard that for less than $50 in toggle switches and relays, you can make the system reliable and functional, but no longer automatic.

          1. Van_Sarockin Avatar

            I hear that BMW once built a V-12 that could become an I-6, without any additional switches or relays….

          2. cap'n fast Avatar
            cap’n fast

            not on purpose! failed bank ignition modules all the time. then the PR folks came up with the 12/6 idea to CYA. who would have known it would catch on?

    3. hwyengr Avatar

      But, stainless steel roof panel!

      1. Van_Sarockin Avatar

        Similar era Toronado had a big ass targa/toneau trim strap of stainless over the roof. I think it was also combined with their amazing three-sided rear window.

  4. Tiberiuswise Avatar

    The owner of the restaurant I washed dishes at as a kid had one of these. He’d trade every two or three years for a new one. The depreciation was staggering. As the restaurant became unable to support his habit, he downgraded to a Seville and then sold the restaurant.

    1. Sjalabais Avatar

      Not an Italian restaurant, I figure.

    2. Van_Sarockin Avatar

      No car depreciates faster than a Caddy.

      1. Cool_Cadillac_Cat Avatar

        Cadillacs aren’t even close on bad depreciation.
        They’re likely about average. My 2005 STS, RWD, V8, mostly goodies (1SF trim), which cost close to $60K, new…in ’05…when the insurance company totaled it last week (still ran/drove just fine).
        I got about $8,250 for it, which isn’t horrible for an 11 year old car.

  5. Borkwagen Avatar

    Good lord. Reminds me of the rather clean Cimarron I saw on the street a few years ago around here whose owner was quite in on the joke.

  6. salguod Avatar

    When I was in high school we had a 1980 Toronado. It was a tasteful primer gray with a navy crushed velour interior. It was the first car we had with power goodies, aside from the power locks on the 80 Citation. It seemed a bit indulgent.
    It also had the 350 4bbl V8 (Olds version, I think) so it moved pretty well, at least in a straight line.

    1. outback_ute Avatar

      Must be Clarkson driving?

  7. ConstantReader Avatar

    And at some point in the 80s these could be had with the horrible Olds 350 converted to diesel.

    1. Guest Avatar

      And if you’re really sadistic, you could combine the Olds 350 diesel with the V8-6-4 computer!

      1. cap'n fast Avatar
        cap’n fast

        olds 350 diesel with garret to4b turbocharger for more airflow actually put out a useful amount of torque. had a hell of a time with head gaskets and ended up with copper o-rings and fel-pro gaskets. exhaust opacity went way down. toro was fun while it lasted.
        pulled it all and put in a 403 olds…diesel engine starter motor bolted right up. awe inspiring rpm on startup. ignition power came from fuel shutoff solenoid power. worked well.