When you think of the Biarritz, and if you are a Francophile, you may end up thinking of the seaside resort town where casino and surfing enthusiasts gather to sample French cuisine and get a tan. But for the automotive world and fans, General Motors' Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz was and has remained a legend.
When you see a classic car that is as long as the modern-day Cadillac Escalade ESV and its sibling, the Chevy Suburban, know that you have just spotted the Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz. At 225-inches long, this car was a veritable land barge and one that would turn heads anywhere, anytime, just by simply being.
The Biarritz was more a type, and then became a trim later in its life, and has remained a classic car of not just great size but also great repute. The Eldorado itself lasted for half a century and was quite a top car, but the Biarritz was the crème-de-la-crème of the same, so it makes for quite an automotive icon. Of course, if you want this kind of automotive classic, you better have a garage that can house a boat, because this car will not just make space in your heart, it also needs a lot of space to be housed.
Every Biarritz Is An Eldorado But Not Vice Versa
The history of the Cadillac Eldorado starts in 1952, although at the time, this Cadillac was a convertible and more a concept than an actual car. It debuted at the GM Motorama show as part of the 50th-anniversary celebrations. Mary-Ann Marini, a secretary at Cadillac, suggested the name Eldorado because by then, Cadillac had competed half a century.
The Eldorado became available to the public in 1953, first as a limited edition run with only 532 made before production was ramped up in 1954. As the Eldorado began its journey and like all cars, began to diversify its models. The hardtop models of the Cadillac Eldorado were now named the Seville and the convertible models were dubbed the Biarritz. So the Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz began its life as the convertible model, and this lasted from 1956 to 1961.
Even without the roof, this car was a lot of sheet metal with a long front and back. Despite the size of the car, this did not translate to a lot of seating space, instead, the Biarritz was more of an ornately-sized land yacht that just liked to throw its weight around.
Letting Go Of The Biarritz Name
The Biarritz, as in the Eldorado convertible, sold so phenomenally that in 1961, Caddy discontinued the Seville. From 1961 to 1964, each Eldorado was a convertible and carried the Biarritz name, even though there was no other Eldorado but the Biarritz.
In 1965, this changed as well, as Cadillac also dropped the Biarritz name from the Eldorado. Now, the name was Eldorado Fleetwood, highlighting the fact that the car’s body was made by Fleetwood, an old and prestigious auto body company, in a bid to attract even more buyers.
From Open Roof To A Luxury Connotation
In 1976, Cadillac brought the Biarritz back and this time it indicated the most luxurious trim levels of the ninth generation Eldorado (1971-1978). It was coveted simply because it had all the levels of lush, Cadillac could entail. Buyers were spoilt for choice with leather seats and/or pillow seats, as well as tufted seats plus a near opera-style interior lighting.
In 1979, buyers could also choose from a rather spectacular array of roof options. While three-fourths of all custom Biarritz Classics of 1978 had no astroroof or sunroof; 475 had an astroroof. 25 had a sunroof, and finally, only a single one had a power-sliding T-top roof.
By 1979, the Eldorado Biarritz also boasted a brushed stainless-steel roof, as a retro-themed nod to the Biarritz of 1957-58.
Finally, by 1985, the Biarritz began to scale back its features, although it was still the most luxurious trim of Eldorado. The Biarritz was laid to rest in 1991, although the Eldorado stuck around till 2002 – making it a 50-year-old nameplate ready to rest its laurels.
By far, it’s the 1959 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz that has the most iconic design because all ’59 Caddys carried the largest tail fins in the history of all tail fins. The sheer visual presence of the car, rocket tail fins or not, is undeniable. The polished chrome side stripe and the very, very long length of the car is an outright challenge. So are you daring enough to get behind the wheel of a stunning classic?
If you want one of these, the modern Eldorado Biarritz can be yours for even less than $10,000, but you may have to shell out way more for a classic, especially the ‘50s and ‘60s Biarritz. This is where all the charm lies.
Sources: Mecum, Hemmings