12 March 2011
1956 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham Town Car Prototype
High Bid of $460,000
- Chassis no. S0 2491
- From the Estate of John M. O’Quinn
- Motorama and Paris Salon show car, unveiled at the Waldorf Astoria
- Gold-trimmed passenger compartment
- Operational concept car with V-8 engine for show use
The Eldorado Brougham is sometimes called Cadillac’s answer to Ford Motor Company’s Continental Mark II, though in reality 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 higher than the Mark II’s $10,000 sticker.
Finally ready for production in 1957, the Brougham had made the show circuit in 1956, including the 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 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. Very similar to the hardtop Brougham, it had an open chauffeur’s compartment, different roofline and more understated side trim. Inside, the passenger compartment was done in beige leather in a “biscuit and button” motif with gold trim; the chauffeur was treated to black Moroccan leather and chrome. The passenger compartment was 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 from New York it went to Miami, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Boston. In October, the Town Car was at the Paris Salon, where it drew much applause. At the end of the season, of course, the Brougham entered production, and the Town Car retreated to the shadows. Like many GM concepts and prototypes, it was consigned to the storied Warhoops salvage yard outside Detroit in December 1959.
The staff at Warhoops, however, could not bear to euthanize it, so the Town Car sat for years under a tarp until discovered by renowned Chicago entrepreneur, collector and restorer Joe Bortz in 1989. Bortz has made a career of rescuing and collecting concept cars and prototypes, particularly GM Motorama alums. Bortz did not restore it, however, but he sold it to J.C. Whitney owner Roy Warshawsky in the early 1990s. Warshawsky planned a total restoration but passed away before he could complete the job. A subsequent owner was Dick Baruk of Detroit.
Ultimately the car’s restoration was completed by RM Auto Restoration. One particularly complex portion of the project was fitting the car with a V-8 motor 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, 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 and on and off the trailer. Naturally, no road or safety testing was ever done, either by GM or RM, and consequently the car is not suitable for road use of any kind.
Following its completion, the restored Cadillac was acquired by prolific Houston collector John O’Quinn, in whose collection it remained in climate-controlled storage. It was on display and was occasionally lent out for museum exhibits.
The restoration is now several years old, but it still presents extremely well. The whitewall tires have yellowed somewhat, but 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, which matches the beige leather, all in excellent condition. The engine compartment is clean and well detailed.
A star in its day, and hardly faded by time, this Motorama show car presents beautifully. In an age where bulky stretch limousines are the norm, it is sylphlike and sultry, seductive and smart, just the right car in which to amaze onlookers at a concours event.
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