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Image: 1971 Cadillac Fleetwood Eldorado Convertible

Admired for its beauty, respected for its ability

1971 Cadillac
Fleetwood Eldorado

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1971 Calais/DeVille/Fleetwood



Image: 1971 Cadillac Fleetwood Eldorado Convertible

OK, stick with us here. The tally for Cadillac for 1971 is as follows: DeVille series, minus two. Fleetwood series, minus one and plus one for a net change of zero. Got that? To Cadillac experts out there, you'll know exactly what we mean. Several models were dropped after 1970, including the DeVille Convertible and pillared Sedan deVille. Fleetwood lost the Sixty Special Sedan and gained an elegant new Eldorado Convertible. Hey, what do you know? There's one there on the left for you to peruse. Pretty slick, don't you think?

After setting a new production record in 1970, Cadillac Division was looking forward to another good year in 1971, especially since every model in the line was completely restyled. But that was not to be. Just about the time the 1971 models were announced in late September 1970, the United Auto Workers Union went on strike. The nationwide strike hit General Motors hard, and lasted three months. In mid-December, the strike was settled and the assembly lines began moving again. The strike resulted in Cadillac's lowest production in six years. Just 188,537 cars were built, and of those 20,568 were Eldorado Coupes, and 6,800 were Eldorado Convertibles. Not a great start, but things would improve.

The 1971 restyling of the Eldorado represented the first complete new look for the car since it was introduced in 1967 as a personal luxury car. While the styling was completely different, Eldorado retained its long hood, short deck profile which dated back to the 1967 models. Wheelbase was increased 6.3 inches, but overall length was only slightly longer. Perhaps the most stand out feature of the new Eldorado Coupe was its rear roof quarter coach window. This narrow window was stationary, and gave the car a formal, town car look.

Body lines of the new Eldorados were massive, with sculptured sides, rear fender skirts, a beveled rear deck, and a rear bumper with vertical ends that housed the tail lamps. The rectangular grille had a vertical texture with four horizontal bars in the background. Chrome moldings framed the grille, the top edge of which aligned with the top edge of the chrome dual headlamp bezels. Massive bumper guards extended upward into the center section of the grille, and framed the front license plate area. Beveled vertical parking and turn signal lights were housed in the leading edges of the front fenders, and gave the area a squared-off appearance when viewed from the side. At the front edge of the hood, a spring-mounted stand-up wreath and crest hood ornament was a distinctive touch.

The center section of the rear deck projected slightly, and had a distinctive, beveled detail that was repeated in the rear bumper, forming a squared off faux rear tire hump. The top of the deck lid housed louvers for GM's new flow-through ventilation system, which lasted just one year in this form. For 1972, the deck lid exhaust louvers would be removed, relocated to the face of the door lock pillar, which was concealed by the door when it was closed. A one way exhaust valve was incorporated that allowed air to flow out of the car.

The forward edge of the rear fenders featured simulated vertical air intake moldings, and a heavy polished rocker panel molding ran from the front wheel opening to the rear fender skirt.

The beautiful new Eldorado Convertible was the first Cadillac to bear this name since 1966. The Eldorado's new styling lent itself very well to the convertible body style. The car introduced a new inward-folding Hideaway Top, which was engineered to fold down behind the rear seat when lowered, without restricting rear seat width nor luggage space in the trunk. Other GM convertibles came out with this new design as well. With the top down, the boot was almost flush with the rear deck surface, with barely a bulge to indicate what was being concealed beneath.

The standard equipment was almost identical to previous models, now two standard upholstery fabrics were offered on the Coupe, Dorado Cloth and Dalton Cloth. Leather upholstery was standard on the Convertible model. The instrument panel was similar in layout to earlier models, but was more gracefully curved, giving the driver and front passengers additional room. The clock was now slightly canted and located in front of the passenger, making it easier to see by all.

New options for 1971 included an AM/FM pushbutton stereo radio with integral eight-track tape player and four speakers. Lamp Monitors were mounted on the front fenders and indicated the proper operation of low- and high-beam headlights, parking lights and front turn signals. A rear unit indicates operation of the taillight and stop light/turn signals. Additionally, a low washer fluid warning light on the instrument panel was part of this option.

The powerful 500 cubic inch V-8 engine continued to power the Eldorado, however the compression ratio for 1971 was reduced to 8.5-to-1 to operate more efficiently on the low-lead and no-lead gasolines that were becoming common. A new rear coil spring suspension provided a smoother ride as well.

As the all-new 1971 Eldorados were just beginning to appear on the streets and in the driveways of the nation's finest homes, changes were beginning to rumble that would completely change the American luxury car market by the end of the decade. In just four years, a new smaller Cadillac would be announced. Most Cadillac models would be down sized in six years, and the 1979 Eldorado that would close the chapter on the 1970s would be very different from the 1971 models that welcomed luxury car buyers in 1971.


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