Anybody who regularly visits this blog knows I dig anything with the Cadillac crest, especially when it hovers above the classic “V” as it did on 1930-’60s models. One of the most impressive Cadillacs to come from that period, and one of the most important Cadillacs from the postwar era — period — is the 1957-’58 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham.
The predecessor to these limited models is the 1956 XP-48, an open-front town car concept that predicted the styling of the subsequent limited-production Eldorado Broughams, which featured an glamorous stainless-steel roof.
The story of XP-48 is as intriguing as the car’s styling, and its tale is told below by RM Auctions, which will offer the car during its sale at the Amelia Island Ritz Carlton Hotel on March 12. The sale is held in conjunction with the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance.
RM Auctions offers the information and image of this important Cadillac in the release below:
The Eldorado Brougham is sometimes called Cadillac’s answer to Ford Motor Company’s Continental Mark II, though in reality General Motors’ product was more impressive. The Eldorado Brougham was not only more exotic and exclusive than the Mark II, it commanded a price nearly a third higher than the Mark II’s $10,000 sticker.
Finally ready for production in 1957, the Brougham had made the show circuit in 1956, including the Motorama tour and the Paris Salon. Known in GM Styling as project XP-48, the four-door hardtop Brougham had a nearly forgotten sibling, the Eldorado Brougham Town Car, which debuted at the New York Motorama at the Waldorf Astoria.
Constructed of fiberglass, the Town Car was more concept car than prototype. Just 55.5 inches high, it had a half-roof over the passenger compartment, covered in black leather. Very similar to the hardtop Brougham, it had an open chauffeur’s compartment, different roofline and more understated side trim. Inside, the passenger compartment was done in beige leather in a “biscuit and button” motif with gold trim; the chauffeur was treated to black Moroccan leather and chrome. The passenger compartment was equipped with twin compartments furnished with, among other items, a decanter and cups, a vanity case and a tissue dispenser, all in gold plate. The divider bulkhead had a sliding glass window, but for contacting the chauffeur without opening the window, a bulkhead-mounted telephone was provided, also in gold.
The 1956 Motorama tour was called the “Highway of Tomorrow,” and from New York it went to Miami, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Boston. In October, the Town Car was at the Paris Salon, where it drew much applause. At the end of the season, of course, the Brougham entered production, and the Town Car retreated to the shadows. Like many GM concepts and prototypes, it was consigned to the storied Warhoops salvage yard outside Detroit in December 1959.
The staff at Warhoops, however, could not bear to euthanize it, so the Town Car sat for years under a tarp until discovered by renowned Chicago entrepreneur, collector and restorer Joe Bortz in 1989. Bortz has made a career of rescuing and collecting concept cars and prototypes, particularly GM Motorama alums. Bortz did not restore it, however, but he sold it to J.C. Whitney owner Roy Warshawsky in the early 1990s. Warshawsky planned a total restoration but passed away before he could complete the job. A subsequent owner was Dick Baruk of Detroit.
Ultimately the car’s restoration was completed by RM Auto Restoration. One particularly complex portion of the project was fitting the car with a V-8 motor from a 1956 Cadillac sedan donor car. The engine compartment was dressed up with such items as gold-plated valve covers, dual four-barrel carburetors and unique air cleaners. Had Cadillac brought their prototype to running condition, this is what it would have looked like. It should be noted, however, that RM did not build the car to be road- and highway-worthy. The intention of the modification was to allow the fortunate new owner to run and drive the car on the show field and on and off the trailer.
Following its completion, the restored Cadillac was acquired by a prolific Texas collector and was displayed and occasionally lent out for museum exhibits.
The restoration is now several years old, but it still presents extremely well. The whitewall tires have yellowed somewhat, but the gold trim is intact and vibrant. The steering wheel is unmarked, the dashboard equipped with the original Wonderbar signal-seeking radio, and air conditioning cools the car, front and rear. The passenger compartment has deep-pile Wilton carpeting, which matches the beige leather, all in excellent condition. The engine compartment is clean and well detailed.
A star in its day, and hardly faded by time, this Motorama show car presents beautifully. In an age where bulky stretch limousines are the norm, it is sylphlike and sultry, seductive and smart, just the right car in which to amaze onlookers at a concours event.