1958 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz SOLD
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Estimate: $500,000-$700,000 US

Offered Without Reserve

$330,000 Sold

335hp, 365 cu. in. overhead valve eight-cylinder engine, three two-barrel carburetors, four-speed Hydra-Matic transmission, independent front suspension with coil springs, live axle rear suspension with coil springs and four- wheel hydraulic drum brakes. Wheelbase: 139.5"

During the 1950s, innovation, creativity and what seemed like ever-growing tailfins were driving the American automobile industry to be the most important and influential force on the globe. Long considered the “ standard of the world ” , the Cadillac division of General Motors was the brand that many consumers looked to for the latest in bold design; the Eldorado-based “ Raindrop Car ” was a prime example of this.

In 1958, Cadillac produced a total of 815 Biarritz convertibles. Five of these ultra-luxurious cars were taken straight from the assembly line to GM ’ s super-secret Styling Center where they were highly modified. At least one of these cars has survived, reportedly the prototype of the “ Raindrop ” modification, and is presented here as part of the Wiseman Collection.

At first glance, this unique convertible, finished in its original shade of red, may look like its regular Biarritz counterparts, but closer inspection suggests otherwise. The rear-end styling used on this car was a precursor to the giant tailfins later featured on most of the 1959 Cadillac line. Likewise, the dual pointed projectile shaped taillights were also a preview of things to come. However, the most distinguishing characteristic of this car was its unique “ Raindrop ” feature. Fitted to the car was a special electronic sensor programmed to snap into action the moment a drop of rain was detected. Once this occurred, it would automatically lift the three-piece special boot cover and raise the roof to its full, snug-fitting “ up ” position. To further protect the interior and ensure it remained dry, all of the windows would then electronically close.

Other, more subtle custom touches on this car include the chrome plated convertible bow and struts, which give a perfect show finish, and a monochromatic paint scheme, used for the sides of the car where the trim, usually chrome plated, was molded into the bodywork. Additionally, the production hood and deck lid trim was removed, less chrome and more paint was used in the front and rear bumper areas, and a special, one-off Art Deco- inspired Flying Goddess hood ornament was placed top-center for all to see. The exterior is completed by quad- headlights, set high in the fenders, and polished aluminum Sabre wheels, supplied to GM by Kelsey-Hayes.

As special as the exterior of the car is, the interior is even more outstanding. Hand-buffed and made of the finest glove leather, both the driver and front passenger seats are individual, special six-way power. The dashboard is fully chrome plated and features all the original instruments, plus a deluxe Wonderbar signal-seeking radio. Other special features include a concealed ice bucket, concealed electronic door locks, a power antenna for the radio, and the Autronic Eye, which automatically dims the headlights when it detects the headlights of oncoming traffic.

Tracing the history of this car is relatively simple. According to legend, the Raindrop ’ s creation was done under the direct orders and specifications of Harley Earl, the father of the modern automobile in America and man in charge of GM styling. After its completion in 1958, Mr. Earl took possession of the car and was seen driving it on several occasions near his home in Florida. Unlike many concept or show cars of the day, it is not believed that this car was toured as many similar examples were, but rather acted as a working design study. Once GM retired the car from use, it was reportedly “ cut ” into two pieces, the chassis and running gear scrapped, and body parts sent to a local Detroit wrecking yard where they were to be totally destroyed so as to keep their secrets out of the competition ’ s hands. This did not occur, however, and the parts of the car were hidden away for many years until a Cadillac dealer in Ohio learned of their existence. Long negotiations were then held and once the parts were acquired, a proper 1958 Cadillac chassis was sourced to replace the one that had been done away with. A restoration was started and completed in the mid 1990s, after which this car was ushered into the Wiseman Collection.

During the restoration process, it was discovered that the rear portion of the car, from the doorposts (or B- pillars) back, had been created by hand using laminated fiberglass to achieve the desired contours and deviations from the regular production Biarritz. Also, a number of handcrafted parts were found, some with tags indicating they were destined for project S78415, or with matching numbers of 90175. When restoring the center console, inside panels and the storage area for the ice bucket were all marked with a simple #5. Throughout the car, the number five seemed to play an important role.

The full and complete restoration has been impressively preserved, such that the car is today in concours ready condition. The engine, topped with an original tri-power set up, including a special air cleaner, runs as powerful and as smooth as it did nearly 50 years ago.

General Motors rarely let their concept vehicles escape, and it is by pure luck that this car has endured the challenge of time. What happened to the other four modified Eldorado Biarritz remains a mystery, and while rumors hint there may be another residing in the Midwest, this example is the only confirmed survivor. Its restoration was more than just that – it was a preservation of a piece of history from a marque that has been involved in more than its share of landmark events. As such, its sale presents an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and should you be the winner, and others think you have rained on their parade, at least your top will come up automatically, because that ’ s the way GM planned it.

Reference Number 15024

as of 11/4/2007

Car 1958 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz
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