- Unrestored survivor
- 1,404 actual miles
- Highly optioned
- Original 500ci V8
- TH425 3-speed automatic
- Rare fiberglass parade boot
- Factory air conditioning
- Power steering/brakes
- Automatic load leveling
There's no question that survivor cars are commanding more respect than ever before. Nearly every major car club has a survivor category and, when the word is attached to a credible car, prices seem to climb a little every year. It's an understandable trend. After all, anyone can restore a car but the factory only bolts them together once. This 1976 Cadillac Eldorado convertible is a survivor in the best of ways. Not only is it an ultra-clean unrestored example – it's logged just 1,404 miles since rolling out of Cadillac's Detroit line 37 years ago. Packed with a 500ci V8, TH425 automatic, and nearly every option on the list, this car was the definition of luxury in its day and continues to be a show-stopper. Regardless if you're looking for a pristine Eldo to add to your collection or just want a low-mileage cruiser to enjoy on sunny weekends, this fully documented Cadillac is the ultimate.
Here's how it started life, according to the original window sticker:
AV7: Dual Comfort seat – 50/50
UM2: AM/FM stereo with tape player
B93: Door edge guards
N37: Tilt & telescope steering wheel
A90: Remote control trunk lock
Y27: Carpeted rubber floors mats
B36: Trunk mat
T82: Twilight sentinel
C49: Rear window
K30: Cruise control
T80: Headlamp control – Guidematic
DF3: Mirror – ride side remote control
D64: Illuminated passenger vanity mirror
CD4: Controlled cycle wiper system
C97: Illuminated entry system
VK3: Front license plate mounting bracket
VB8: Trumpet horn
C02: Convertible top boot – hard
U81: Fuel monitor
A81: Recliner – power passenger 50/50
AU4: Automatic door locks
Grand total: $12,707 ($52,229 by 2013 standards)
This Eldo's story starts in January of 1976 when it rolled off the assembly line and onto the asphalt at Capital Automobile Company in Atlanta, GA. At the time, it looked like new government safety regulations were going to bring an end to the production of American convertibles and Cadillacs like this one were in high demand. Elmer Puckett of Puckett Motor Company in Elgin, Illinois saw the profit potential in these cars and set about collecting as many as possible. On February 26 of 1976, this Eldorado joined 18 others, including two rare bicentennial editions, in Puckett's climate-controlled warehouse where it remained for the next 27 years. Owner number two brought the car home in July of 2003 where it remained until sold at auction in spring of 2013.
Looking over the car today, it's hard to deny its presence. Thanks to safety bumpers mandated in the mid-70s, the car measures over 18.5-feet in length and tips the scales at over two and a half tons. It makes the most of that size with a coat of Sable Black paint topped off by painted red pin striping on the sides and hood. The car rarely had a chance to incur damage so everything in sight, with the exception of the power antenna and fender extensions, is factory installed. Cadillac used a lot of straight lines in this design and, thanks to careful care, they remain straight. Fitment is equally good with narrow and consistent shut lines all around. A flip of a switch calls a like-new black canvas convertible top into action while a rare fiberglass parade boot conceals it on sunny days.
Luxury is about details and a closer look at the Eldo reveals plenty of them to admire. The front view is defined largely by the massive chrome bumper with four rubber-clad bumper guards. Deep-set headlights, in '76-exclusive blackout trim, frame Cadillac's version of an egg-crate grille while a distinguished hood ornament and Cadillac script on the lip bring the hood in with style. For original pieces, the glass looks great, as does the well-preserved stainless trim around the windshield. At either side, Cadillac-branded rear-view mirrors provide a glimpse into the past. The side profile is defined by bright wheel moldings and stainless rocker trim while, above a thin trim piece with a black inset adds some motion between the fender wells. The rear view sports subtle fins capped with chrome trim and single-element taillights while a Cadillac badge tops the license plate recess. It's a simple but elegant presentation still capable of drawing stares and smiles.
Cadillac always had a fondness for using big displacement engines, but the 1970s saw the top of motor mountain with the introduction of the 500ci V8. Though compression was dropped from 10.0:1 to 8.5:1 in 1971, these engines were still smooth and reliable with plenty of power on tap. This ultra low-mileage example starts with one of Cadillac's ubiquitous “5200” blocks dressed in its original coat of blue paint and authenticated by a matching VIN derivative. Up top, a pristine black single snorkel air cleaner assembly conceals a single Quadrajet 4MV four-barrel carburetor bolted to a low-profile intake manifold. At either side, stock cast iron heads are topped with painted blue valve covers while, below, nicely-aged cast exhaust manifolds show spent gases the way out. The accessory drive spins a center-mounted air conditioning compressor alongside the alternator, and power steering pump. Opposite, a large factory radiator works with a seven-blade fan to keep the behemoth cool. Unlike most GM products, the factory HEI distributor is at the front of the engine, sending spark through 8mm plug wires. Aside from a new battery, everything appears factory original including hoses, clamps, and decals. Turn the key and the 500 fires to life, ready to put some more miles on the odometer.
When the car was in Puckett's possession, it was kept on blocks to relieve the suspension system and prevent damage. Today, the all-original undercarriage shows the benefit of both that special treatment and limited road use. Cadillacs are known for their superior ride and, for this Eldorado, credit goes to a suspension that consists of torsion bars up front and trailing links that locate a beam axle on coil springs out back. Load leveling was a standard feature, so you'll notice a pair of air shocks by the rear axle as well. While the longitudinally-mounted engine may have made you think otherwise, this car is still front-wheel drive. Like Oldsmobile's Toronado, the car utilizes a TH425 transmission which channels power to the front wheels through CV-jointed half-shafts. It's a compact setup that manages to allow the use of many common TH400 parts while also reducing torque steer. Adequate braking is provided by power-assisted four-wheel disc brakes, while factory-installed variable ratio power steering makes turning the 5,400 lb cruiser a little easier. At the corners, steel wheels with full body-matched colors meet the road through Firestone wide white walls.
Swing open those long doors to find a welcoming and perfectly preserved Antique Dark Firethorn leather interior. This isn't some tidy two-tone either – it's red from front to back and side to side. Cross over the stainless door sill plates to find red carpet protected by a pair of impressive one-piece floor mats branded with Cadillac emblems. Front-row seating consists of adjustable dual comfort 50/50 seats while the rear bench makes room for at least two more occupants. Slide into the driver seat to admire a driver focused dash finished in bright red and wood grain applique. The anchor piece is a large horizontal speedometer mounted behind a red three-spoke steering wheel. The column offers both tilt and telescopic capabilities. Around the wheel, controls for the HVAC system, cruise control, power top, rear defroster, and power antenna are within reach while entertainment is provided by the original AM/FM radio. At either side, elaborate door panels continue the wood applique treatment around large door pulls and power window and lock switches. From the soft surfaces to the pulls and sliders, visible wear is virtually non-existent. That level of preservation extends into the large trunk space where there is still plenty of room for luggage despite the presence of a full-size spare and pristine road-side tools.
Documentation for this cruiser comes in the form of original paper work from both Capital Automobile Company and Ed Puckett. You'll get the original window sticker, 1976 Cadillac marketing materials, the original invoice, the pre-delivery checklist, a spare key, the original owner's manual, the car shipping order, maintenance information, customer information, a Uniroyal tire brochure and more. It's basically like buying the car new!
While it may not have been the last American convertible ever produced, the car had very few topless contemporaries. In fact, it would be six years before any of the Big 3 turned out another ragtop. Trivia aside, this an amazing chance to own what surely has to be one of the lowest-mileage '76 Eldorado convertibles in existence. With the big 500 up front and nearly every available option packed into a flawless Firethorn interior, it's hard to picture a better cruiser for sunny days. Don't miss your chance to own one of the nicest original Eldorados on the planet!