Joe Montana or Tom Brady? Madonna or Lady Gaga? The first love or the new flame? It’s in our nature to look in the rearview mirror, to measure the brightness of the present against the best of the past. It’s no different with car enthusiasts. For all the areas in which automobiles have improved—safety, performance, efficiency, reliability—they still live in the shadow of the past. The great thing about cars, though, is that we don’t have to rely solely on our memories. We’ll never know how twenty-eight-year-old Michael Jordan would have fared against twenty-eight-year-old LeBron James, but we can find well-kept classic cars—the icons that enthusiasts worship—and pit them against their modern equivalents. That’s just what we did with these matchups. It’s throttle cables versus direct injection. AM radios versus infotainment screens. Old-car patina versus new-car smell. So, was it really better then? Come back next Thursday for the next entry in this series.
Of the cars featured here, no two are so alike as the 1967 Cadillac Eldorado and the 2014 Cadillac ELR. Each is a personal luxury car, a highly expressive automobile that combines style, comfort, and a spirit of playful travel. You’ll just have to get past the fact that one is a front-wheel-drive coupe that measures 221 inches in overall length and carries a 7.0-liter V-8 while the other is a front-wheel-drive coupe that measures 186 inches long and carries an electric powertrain.
Both the Eldorado and the ELR incorporate the leading-edge technology of their times. The Eldorado adapted the all-new, front-wheel-drive configuration of the 1966 Oldsmobile Toronado with its longitudinally mounted V-8 that drove the wheels through a silent-type chain from a three-speed automatic transmission. The Eldorado’s 7.0-liter engine developed 340 hp and 480 lb-ft of torque (SAE gross). Meanwhile, the ELR plug-in hybrid is the tip of General Motors’ modern engineering expertise, a version of the Chevy Volt that has a battery-powered electric motor plus a 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine to sustain the charging process. The powertrain makes 217 hp and 295 lb-ft.
For all our modern fascination with performance, these two cars emphasize convenience, which is what American luxury is all about. The 4950-pound Cadillac Fleetwood Eldorado takes you down the road with effortless, seamless authority thanks to a low-revving engine with a wide powerband, while the 4050-pound ELR offers a similar style of power that also lets you conveniently sail past the gas station. The Eldo gets you to 60 mph in 9.5 seconds on the way to about 120 mph, and the ELR reaches 60 mph in 8.8 seconds on the way to 106 mph.
What really makes the Eldorado and the ELR so similar is the simple matter of GM’s dedication to innovative style. The Eldorado from Chuck Jordan’s design studio affirmed that form had replaced decoration as the guiding principle in car design during the 1960s and also anticipated the rectilinear shapes of the 1970s. Meanwhile, the ELR brings to life the 2009 Converj concept car from Simon Cox’s GM studio in England, and it expresses the stronger sense of elegance and luxury that will come from Cadillac in the next decade.
The 1967 Eldorado of real-estate agent Chris Menrad looks compelling against the backdrop of the midcentury-modern architecture that helps make Palm Springs unique and, surprisingly, so does the 2014 ELR. Each is a personal luxury car designed to bring you here to the desert for a weekend of golf and poolside cocktail parties. Quick, mohair sweaters for everyone!
- 7.0L V-8, 340 hp, 480 lb-ft
- 1.4L I-4/ hybrid, 217 hp, 295 lb-ft
- 3-speed automatic
- Continuously Variable
- Curb Weight
- 4950 lbs
- 4050 lbs
- $6277 ($44,000 after inflation)
- Value Today: