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Car and Driver: The Spirit of ’76: Celebrate America with this Bicentennial Edition Cadillac Eldorado


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In the automotive dark days of the 1970s, convertibles were an endangered species. The concurrent rise of air pollution and air conditioning, together with the looming specter of government safety regulations, caused a plummeting supply of, and demand for, droptops, to the point that by 1975, General Motors was the lone domestic producer still in the game. With GM planning to drop its whale-like full-size convertibles—the Chevrolet Caprice, Pontiac Grand Ville, Buick LeSabre, and Oldsmobile Delta 88—the following year, the Cadillac Eldorado would be the sole surviving U.S. convertible come 1976. And 1976 would in turn be the Eldo convertible’s final year. What better way to relive those days where doom and excess stood hand in hand than with this Bicentennial Edition ’76 Eldorado convertible?


With even the mainstream media awakening to the story of The Last American Convertible, GM would have been foolish to let the occasion pass without some special edition to pad its profits—and GM was not foolish, not about that kind of stuff at least. Thus the final 200 1976 Eldorado convertibles produced were Bicentennial Edition cars—identically equipped (save for the California-emissions equipment further choking the 500-cubic-inch V-8 in the cars headed for the Golden State), they were all triple white: Cotillion White exterior, a white top, and a white leather interior with the seat piping, dash, seatbelts, and carpet in red. Blue-and-red pinstriping adorned the hood, with red pinstriping running down the sides. The wheel covers featured white centers, replacing the standard black. All came fully loaded with the raft of regular Eldo options, but the most important bit was the gold dash plaque stating: “This 1976 Fleetwood Eldorado is one of the last 200 identical U.S. production convertibles.”


Of the 199 cars that ended up in customers’ hands (GM kept the last one for itself), it’s safe to say that few, if any, lived the life of a regular Eldo convertible: shuttling among the golf course, the beauty parlor, the local steakhouse, and back home. Most, it seems, were spirited away by collectors, sure to cash in once convertibles were extinct.


1976 Cadillac Eldorado Bicentennial convertible


Some no doubt were distressed when the pugnacious Chrysler chief Lee Iacocca only six years later introduced the Chrysler LeBaron convertible, a less grandiose automobile for sure, but a convertible nonetheless. Ford brought back the Mustang droptop shortly thereafter, and the clouds hanging over open-topped cars soon parted.


Of course, the fact that one can walk into almost any dealership today and drive off in a brand-new convertible does nothing to dim the majesty of this ’76 Eldo. Check out the mile-long hood, the rectilinear harmony of its grille and headlights, the utter disregard for space utilization. It marks a place in time when American luxury cars had just about reached the end of the long path they’d been on for decades; the standard Caddies would be downsized the next year, with the Eldorado soon to follow. But the ’76 Eldo convertible betrays no hint of what was to come.


As for this example of peak-’76 motoring, its ultra-low mileage (under 1000) is hardly surprising, and its condition appears commensurate with a life spent in climate-controlled storage. Granted, the asking price is easily double or even triple that of a non-Bicentennial ’76 Eldo convertible, but celebrating America sometimes doesn’t come cheap.


“The Spirit of ’76” is C/D’s 4th-of-July holiday-weekend series highlighting some of the most awesome cars for sale from our nation’s bicentennial year.




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