In 1953 General Motors introduced two sporty vehicles that each in their own league became legends. Alongside the Cadillac Eldorado, the ultimate luxury cruiser, the exciting Chevrolet Corvette aimed at the young of heart.
After the ending of WW2 demand for exciting cars sky rocketed in the US. Things were going up, a new era with renewed confidence meant room for new and exciting designs. The rise of the mighty V8 and the success of HotRod style urged the big three to release cars in what might before have been considered a niche of the market. When GM marketed both the Eldorado and the Corvette in one year, the message was crispy clear: Driving a GM vehicle was fun! Some forty years onwards GM’s niche models had become legends, the Chevy with its reputation as one of the all time muscle cars, the Caddy as the ultimate American luxury cruiser. Born from the same idea, these cars developed into something completely different, or did they?
We compare the Chevrolet Corvette C4, built from 1984 up to 1996 to the very last generation of the Cadillac Eldorado, built from 1992 until the end of the modelrange in 2002. It’s astounding to see how far apart definitions of driving fun can be depending on who you ask. The same applies to these two cars. One is a pure two-seater sports car, the other is best described by GM’s own definition of a Personal Luxury Vehicle. Both convey the message however, that you have more interest in cars and driving than most people driving grocery getters have. In European traffic, where these cars are a rare sight, this effect is increased even more.
The Corvette in this article is of the first generation that fully did away with the muscle car image. It is developed to compete at any given moment on any race track with the Ferrari’s and Porsches of the day. It is the first series production vehicle to reach 1G in corners. The entire car is designed around its powertrain and chassis. The seats are cramped up against the rear wheel well and are well separated by the transmission and drive tunnel. During a spirited drive the heat from the transmission, limited-slip differential and exhausts are directly transferred to the passenger compartment.
The position of the V8 almost turn in into a mid-engine design, being as low as possible in the chassis. A bare necessity to be able to look over the hood from the extremely low seating position. The stiff suspension, wide tires, rapid steering ratio and low weight make it easy to understand how this car could compete with cars well known for their performance. The V8 in this Corvette is of the last Chevy Small Block generation and is more about low end power. A few years later the C4 received a more modern V8 that geared more to high rpm power.
This 10th (!) generation Eldorado also sports a mighty V8, but one known as the Northstar. Overhead camshafts and 4 valves per cylinder make it sound more like a European design, but it sure isn’t. The grunt of the exhaust states clearly that there is a flavor of Detroit in the design. The Eldorado is front wheel driven and much more targeted at Interstate driving. It’s much closer to the original definition of a Gran Turismo albeit being a bit softer in suspension and seats.
The front wheel drive leaves plenty of space in the interior with ample room for a rear seat. By 1992 the enormous size of the Eldo is a thing from the past, but it still ain’t no small car. However, in this day and age of SUV’s, it can no longer be considered massive. The interior design highlights the luxury element with light colored upholstery and leather and wood finish. Very different to the functionality and 80’s tech of the Corvette. Add a few LED displays and the Eldorado dashboard could be applied to a modern age car.
GM’s strategy worked out brilliantly. If you were in the market for a fun to drive vehicle the two cars are far enough apart to consider buying one of each. Chasing down winding mountain roads for hours in the Corvette. Just you, the car and miles of challenging asphalt. Or cruisin’ along never-ending Interstates with your loved one in the lush atmosphere of the Eldorado. Both cars display that there is so much more to enjoying cars than just the fact that these are V8 coupes. There is something for everyone and for every mood.
Fotography Dirk Aarden