19-20 January 2012
1956 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham Town Car Concept
- Chassis no. S02491
Sold for $258,500
• Offered from the Estate of John O’Quinn
• One-off Motorama and Paris Salon show car, unveiled at Waldorf=Astoria
• Completely restored and operational with V-8 powertrain for show use
• Saved from destruction and hidden until the 1980s
• A wonderful example of Cadillac and GM design and engineering leadership
The Eldorado Brougham was sometimes called Cadillac’s answer to the Ford Motor Company’s Continental Mark II, but in many ways 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 more than the Mark II’s $10,000 sticker.
Finally readied for production in 1957, the Brougham made the show circuit in 1956, including the travelling GM 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 held 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, an open chauffeur’s compartment, a different roofline and more understated body-side trim. Inside, the passenger compartment was trimmed in beige leather in a “biscuit and button” motif with gold trim; the chauffeur was surrounded by black Moroccan leather and chrome. The passenger compartment was lavishly 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 following New York it went to Miami, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Boston. In October 1956 the Town Car was shown at the Paris Salon, where it drew much acclaim. At the end of the show season, of course, the Brougham entered production, and the Town Car retreated to the shadows. Eventually, like many other GM concepts and prototypes of the era, the Town Car concept was consigned to the storied Warhoops salvage yard outside Detroit in December 1959.
The staff at Warhoops, however, most of whom had endured the hardships of the Great Depression and the rationing of World War II, could not bear to destroy it, so the Town Car sat for years under a tarpaulin until discovered by renowned Chicago entrepreneur, collector and restorer Joe Bortz in 1989. Mr. Bortz has made a career of rescuing and collecting concept cars and prototypes, particularly those of GM’s Motorama era. However, Mr. Bortz did not restore it, and instead he sold it to J.C. Whitney owner Roy Warshawsky during the early 1990s. Mr. Warshawsky planned a total restoration but sadly passed away before he could complete the job. A subsequent owner was Dick Baruk of Detroit.
Ultimately, RM Auto Restoration completed the car’s restoration and rebirth to its former glory. One particularly complex aspect of the project was the installation of a proper 365-cubic inch V-8 engine 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 in period, 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, as well as on and off the trailer. Naturally, no road or safety testing was ever done, by either GM or RM Auto Restoration, and consequently the car is not suitable for road use of any kind.
The restoration is now several years old, but it still presents extremely well. 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 to match the beige leather upholstery, all in excellent condition. The engine compartment is clean and well detailed.
A star in its day and hardly faded by time, this historic GM Motorama show car presents beautifully and carries a fascinating history. In an age where bulky stretch limousines are the norm, it is seductive, smart and sultry, just the right car in which to amaze onlookers at a concours event. Thankfully saved from destruction for future generations to appreciate, it remains an important part of Cadillac’s design and engineering leadership.
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