The Cadillac Eldorado lost a foot of wheelbase and 1,200 pounds when GM's luxury front-drive platform got downsized for 1979, which turned out to be prescient timing considering the massive spike in oil prices in the wake of the 1979 Iranian Revolution. The General kept the pricey Biarritz option package from the previous generation, adding a stainless-steel roof in the process. Here's one of those cars, found in a chilly Denver boneyard last month.
This generation of Eldorado Biarritz achieved its greatest renown as the car bomb that detonates when pink-suited Ace Rothstein (Robert De Niro) cranks the starter in the 1995 film Casino. Naturally, a 24 Hours of Lemons team obtained one of these cars and raced it while the pit crew wore pastel suits and sipped from Tangiers Casino highball glasses.
The MSRP on the base '79 Eldorado was $14,240 and the Biarritz package with leather seats tacked on an additional $2,600. That's $64,495 in 2021 dollars, at a time when plenty of car loans had interest rates approaching 20%. The '79 Seville's base price was higher ($15,646), despite being based on the lowly Chevy Nova, but that difference was erased by the cost of the Biarritz package. The Fleetwood limos were the only pricier Cadillacs that year.
Yes, you had to be a true high-roller to purchase a '79 Biarritz. Of course, a new Mercedes-Benz 450SLC cost a terrifying $32,858 (about $125,850 today) that year, but the $13,067 Lincoln Mark V (the price went up substantially if you got one of the editions designed by Bill Blass, Givenchy, or Emilio Pucci) was close competition for the Biarritz.
The 1979 Eldorado had something the Lincoln didn't, however: electronic fuel injection. Yes, a 350-cubic-inch (5.7-liter) Oldsmobile V8 engine with a pretty-modern-for-1979 throttle-body fuel-injection system sent 170 horses to the front wheels via GM's impressive Unitized Power Package longitudinal-engine front-wheel-drive system.
Look at all those futuristic devices in that faux-wood dash! That stereo cassette deck added $225 ($860 today) to the price. Cruise control cost $137, the rear defogger added $101, and… well, you get the idea.
This Cad is a bit tattered and has some rust spots here and there, but wouldn't have been an overwhelmingly difficult restoration. Unfortunately for the downsized Eldo, Cadillac restorers seek the earlier, bigger cars.
So, yet another example of "very rare but not so valuable" found in the junkyard.