Home Cars 120 Years of Pure Luxury: The 21 Best Cadillacs They Ever Made

120 Years of Pure Luxury: The 21 Best Cadillacs They Ever Made

Vukasin Herbez June 18, 2018

Cadillac is one of the oldest, most respected luxury brands in the world. And they have been on top of the game since they started in 1902. For over 100 years, Cadillac has been a legendary car manufacturer and icon of the industry. Also, they have been a cultural reference for generations of Americans. Globally, people recognize Cadillac’s appeal.

In fact, the “Caddy” is a symbol of the American automotive world as well as the pinnacle of engineering. But the road to global respect and legendary status wasn’t easy for Cadillac. They began as an independent manufacturer, and then as a part of General Motors. Cadillac encountered many difficulties, recessions, two world wars and numerous changing trends.

Once “The Standard of the World,” Cadillac lost some of their magic in the 1980s and 1990s due to tight emissions standards. However, a makeover in the 2000’s brought a new lease on life to one of the oldest car brands. So, read on to learn all about the best, most important Cadillacs of all time. These are the cars that made this brand widely popular. In fact, their influential models have stood the test of time.

1. Cadillac Model S 1908

From the beginning, Cadillac paid attention to the quality and durability of their cars. In those early years, quality was important since most vehicles were fragile and famous for constant problems. However, Cadillac was not one of them. In 1908, Cadillac won the prestigious Dewar Trophy from the Royal Automobile Club in the UK.

And they did that for passing their strict interchangeability and durability tests. This important award put Cadillac on the map. And soon, Cadillac earned a reputation for being one of the best car makers in the world. This inspired the famous marketing slogan “Cadillac – The Standard of the World,” people have associated with the brand.

2. Cadillac Type 51 V8

One of the technical symbols of the Cadillac brand is the mighty V8 engine. But not many know this they were one of the first to introduce V8s in mass production in 1915. In those years, the V8 configuration was an advanced high-tech solution.

The first Cadillac with this engine was the Type 51. And it was a performance sedan by the standards of the early 20th century. It had a 314 CID V8 motor with 70 HP, delivering a convincing performance for its time. Buyers loved the new Type 51. And with the introduction of this engine, performance became a major part of Cadillac’s portfolio.

3. Cadillac V16

Back in the early days of the automotive industry, luxury car buyers had lots of choices. There were several upscale domestic brands like Packard, Pierce-Arrow, Lincoln, Imperial, Auburn, Marmon, Duesenberg and Cord. And then there was Cadillac. Despite having General Motors as its parent company, Cadillac needed something to attract wealthy buyers and generate sales.

And what better way to introduce something outstanding than an updated engine? In those days, V8 engines were a novelty. In fact, just a few brands produced them. Most luxury models had smooth-running straight-eight powerplants with lots of torque. So, Cadillac decided to introduce a new V16 engine.

They knew it could deliver performance and power on a whole new level. The Cadillac V16 had the displacement of 452 CID and produced 185 HP. But even with its relatively small power figures, it delivered unmatched torque and smoothness, as well as effortless acceleration. However, the timing of the introduction couldn’t have been worse. The stock market crashed, and the Great Depression started just a few months before they introduced the V16.

However, the qualities of the V16 found their way to the buyers. So, in 1940 when production stopped, Cadillac built more than 4,000 of those magnificent machines. The V16 was available in all body styles that specialized body shops produced. They could even personalize them according to the wishes of the buyer.

4. M5 Stuart Light Tank

You probably didn’t know that Cadillac was a big name in military hardware production. In fact, they produced tanks and tank engines for decades after WWII ended. The war started in late 1941 when there was an attack on Pearl Harbor. The automotive industry immediately stopped producing passenger cars.

And they started producing military equipment, vehicles, weapons, planes and tanks. So, the Cadillac factory was responsible for tank production. They put Cadillac engines in military machines due to their big power and quality. During four years of war, Cadillac produced several tanks and light armored vehicles. They also produced components for aircraft.

However, their most famous product was the M5 Stuart Light Tank. It was a light armored vehicle that the U.S. forces used as well as many allied armies. Even long after the war, during the 60’s, Cadillac had several military contracts. Their engine division provided drivetrain components and engines for a variety of military vehicles.

5. 1949 Cadillac De Ville

The 1949 Cadillac was an important model for the company. It introduced big chrome fins, a new design element that became a trend. The raised rear fenders near the rear lights started a revolution in American design during the ‘50s. It was one of the first fresh post-war designs as well as an influential model since it introduced a new trend.

The new 331 CID V8, 1949 Cadillac produced 160 HP. And that was powerful by the standards of the day. With a manual transmission, the De Ville could accelerate to 60 mph in just 12 seconds. So, the performance was fast for the late ‘40s.

In fact, it transformed this luxury coupe into a muscle machine. The De Ville came as a coupe, sedan or convertible. And it set the standard for later models with style, grace, performance and quality.

6. 1953 Cadillac Eldorado

The 1950s brought post-war optimism and rising standards. So, Detroit responded with fresh models and more power. But nothing could match the highly exclusive Cadillac Eldorado in 1953. Cadillac based it on the Series 62 convertible model. However, the Eldorado was the first true personal luxury car.

Also, it was the most expensive Cadillac at that time. In fact, it cost $2,000 more than the rest of their lineup. The main features included an advanced one-piece wraparound windshield and an interesting belt line with a slight dip before the rear fenders. Also, the raised tail lights were the precursor for their famous chromed fins that arrived a few years later.

The power came from the same 5.4-liter V8 as the rest of the 1953 models. But Cadillac only made 532 Eldorados that year. Despite the limited availability, the popular Eldorado stayed in their portfolio for 50 years.

7. 1957 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham

During the ’50s, Cadillac enjoyed considerable success in the domestic market as well as globally. The reason is that they had no significant competitors. In comparison to the European luxury cars of the period, the Cadillacs were more modern, faster and powerful. And in 1957, Cadillac introduced the Eldorado Brougham to overthrow Rolls-Royce as the ultimate luxury automobile.

It was a hand-built, super luxury model with unique features and technology. Even by today’s standards, this is an extraordinary automobile. The Eldorado Brougham featured a special design, quad headlights and suicide doors. The interior was full of chrome and the finest leather. Buyers could even opt for sheepskin rugs and special seat patterns.

One interesting detail was the stainless steel whiskey glasses drivers could place on a small tray in front of the co-driver. Underneath the sculpted body was brand new air suspension technology and a 6.0-liter V8 engine with 325 HP. The new Eldorado Brougham was an astonishing car, but it cost over $13,000 dollars.

That was more than the Rolls-Royce and almost twice the price of a regular Cadillac Eldorado. For this reason, they only sold 704 cars in the two-year production run. But it remains one of the best Cadillacs they ever built.

8. 1959 Cadillac De Ville

No list of best Cadillac models can go without the legendary 1959 Cadillac. This car represents great things about the brand. It was a classic American car and a landmark in design and technology. First, the design of the 1959 model year saw Cadillac’s most noticeable feature. They were big chrome fins that went to ridiculous heights.

In fact, they were exactly 98 inches high. Also, Cadillac updated the technology of the mechanical layout with an improved suspension and components. And then they added a 6.4-liter V8 engine with up to 320 HP. In 1959, Cadillac sold 142,000 of them, which is respectable by today’s standards.

And they sold several models, including the Eldorado and Fleetwood limousine. Cadillac even offered a naked chassis with engines for commercial use like ambulances and hearses. Thanks to its timeless design and amazing power and quality, 1959 is one of the best years in Cadillac history. And the Cadillac De Ville is one of the landmark American cars of all time.

9. 1967 Cadillac Eldorado

One important year was 1967 when the Eldorado received a new design, technology and drivetrain. For years, the Eldorado served as a top-of-the-line personal luxury model from Cadillac. But by the mid-60s, almost all GM brands developed similar cars to compete with the Eldorado on the market. So, Cadillac needed a new model to make a statement.

But they still wanted to keep the Eldorado on top of the segment. The 1967 model featured gorgeous new coupe styling with hide-away headlights. Also, it had a long hood and an elegant rear end. Car fans thought the new Eldorado looked gorgeous. So, even when they discontinued the convertible option, sales still went through the roof.

But the biggest change was the switch to front-wheel drive (FWD). In those days, FWD was only in those rare foreign models. So, when Oldsmobile introduced front-wheel drive on its 1966 Toronado, Cadillac improved it for use on the Eldorado. With this feature, the Eldorado had nearly perfect handling and driving dynamics. However, it still retained the mighty 340 HP engine and all the Cadillac characteristics.

10. 1968 Cadillac De Ville

Back in the late ’60s, Cadillac was on top of their game. The sales figures were high and their lineup was full of interesting, luxurious cars. With the new front-wheel drive Eldorado, their reputation was second to none. However, Cadillac was always improving its products. So, in 1968, they introduced one of their best engines as standard for all models.

And the brand new 472 V8 was the final piece of the puzzle. The De Ville was the best luxury sedan of the late ’60s. It had 375 HP under the hood and an unmatched style and presence. Also, Cadillac improved the design they first introduced in 1965, adding stacked headlights and big grilles. So, with the new 472 V8, the 1967 Cadillac De Ville was the perfect luxury car.

11. 1976 Cadillac Eldorado

The 1976 Eldorado was an automotive dinosaur in many ways. It was the last Cadillac they produced with the enormous 500 CID V8 engine. The Eldorado was also one of the biggest car engines they ever made. This was the last Cadillac convertible for over 10 years. In fact, in the late ’70s, safety laws almost killed the convertible class.

And it was the last of big land yachts to dominate the domestic car industry, too. Even during production, it was obvious the industry was changing. So, Cadillac had to rethink its strategy to stay in the game. However, the glorious 1976 Eldorado was the perfect way to end an era of monstrous engines, chrome trim and plush interiors.

12. Cadillac Seville

The 1975 Seville was shocking to Cadillac purists because it was the first downsized Caddy ever. However, it was an affordable luxury car and a smart move for the company. In fact, the Seville became one of the best U.S. sedans of the late ‘70s. After 1970 to 1977 with big land yachts and heavy cruisers, Cadillac realized the market was changing.

Those foreign cars, such as the Mercedes W116 S Class, were competing with them. So, Cadillac decided to introduce a smaller, more modern car. But, they wanted to make it every bit a Cadillac, so the market would embrace it.

And the 1975 Seville was the perfect car for the time. So, Seville sales went beyond Cadillac’s expectations. The Seville was elegant and came in the perfect size. Also, it was reasonably powerful. It even came with a long list of options and trim choices. This included the interesting slantback body style in a Gucci-themed trim package.

13. Cadillac Allante

The 1980s weren’t particularly successful for Cadillac. Throughout most of that decade, Cadillac tried to reinvent itself. They wanted to introduce cars that would fight their European competitors. But, in most cases, the ’80s Cadillacs weren’t interesting. In fact, almost all are forgotten, but one car is a future collectible. And it is the elegant Cadillac Allante Cadillac introduced in 1987.

The company envisioned the Allante as a competitor for the Mercedes SL convertible. And it was a two-seater luxury convertible they enlisted Pininfarina in Italy to style. Also, they gave it a Northstar V8 engine and front-wheel drive. This was an unusual combination, but the car looked and performed well.

Even the production process was specific because Pininfarina did the fabrication in Italy. And after that, they shipped the cars to America by jet. But this affected the cost of the final product. The Allante stayed in production until 1993 and they made over 21,000 of them. But the car was too expensive for them to produce. And allegedly, the factory lost money on every Allante they made.

14. Cadillac Escalade

Although Cadillac jumped on the luxury SUV bandwagon late in 1999 with the first-generation Escalade. However, it was just a rebadged Suburban. But soon, Caddy was one of the most dominant models in the market. The opulence of classic Cadillac cars easily transferred to the 21st century and luxury SUV segment.

Cadillac saw the opportunity, so they presented three generations of the biggest, most opulent luxury SUV models available. And the market went crazy for these apartment complexes on wheels. Although the Escalade was a rebadged Suburban, Cadillac managed to hide that with an enormous amount of luxury details. The Escalade is the perfect classic Cadillac in a modern interpretation for the next generation of luxury car buyers.

15. Cadillac CTS-V

For years, Cadillac was without a proper performance series to compete with BMW or Mercedes until the V-Series was born. It was all that Cadillac lovers dreamed of: Powerful engines, world-class handling, suspension setups and exclusive production. Even the competitors took notice when Cadillac rolled up with the new V-Series model.

The most successful was the second-generation CTS-V model they produced between 2008 and 2014. Under the hood was a supercharged 6.2-liter V8 with 556 HP, making the CTS-V the most powerful performance sedan on the market. The suspension and the rest of the drivetrain were advanced, so the CTS-V was the full package and one of the best cars available.

Cadillac produced three body styles, so the CTS-V came as a sedan, a coupe, and interestingly, as a wagon, too. With 556 HP LS9 V8 engine and 0 to 60 mph time of just 3.8 seconds, the second-generation CTS-V was one of the fastest four-door vehicles on the planet. The CTS-V was also a true muscle car sedan.

16. Cadillac CT6

Along with the new CTS and ATS sedans, Cadillac recently introduced a fresh new flagship sedan in the form of the CT6. It stunned the automotive public with its refinement, power and technology. This is a true definition of a modern Cadillac. Also, it is the latest car to redesign brand values while keeping the spirit of American luxury alive.

With its elegant lines, powerful four and six-cylinder engines, rear and all-wheel drivetrain, the CT6 looks like a spaceship compared to Cadillacs of bygone eras. But behind all this technology and equipment there is still the recognizable feel of a “Standard of the World” luxury sedan. And it shows that Cadillac is truly back.

17. 1959 Eldorado Brougham

Even though most car enthusiasts recognize the 1957 to 58 Eldorado Brougham, Cadillac made some even more exclusive 1959 to 60 models. And most people consider them to be one of the finest Cadillacs they ever built. In fact, Cadillac didn’t produce the Brougham at all. It was Italy’s famous Pininfarina coachbuilder.

The price was three times the price of a standard Cadillac. And in its two-year production run, they only made 200 of them. The 1959 to 60 Eldorado Brougham featured the same equipment, air suspension, 389 V8 engine and styling as regular Cadillacs, but it differed in the details.

18. 1982 Cadillac Eldorado Touring Coupe

After the enormous and legendary 1978 Eldorado, Cadillac introduced the smaller, more modern 1979 model. The car featured front-wheel drive and upgraded ergonomics riding on a much shorter platform. The smaller dimensions brought new driving dynamics. And in 1982, Cadillac introduced an interesting package called the Eldorado Touring Coupe.

They marketed this car as a driver’s machine. It came with a stiffer suspension, black wall tires, the minimal use of chrome and a bucket seat interior. Due to its modifications, the 1982 to 1985 Eldorado Touring Coupe really a competent yet interesting car.

19. Cadillac ATS-V

To fight its German competitors in the compact executive class, Cadillac launched the ATS in 2013 and its performance version, the ATS-V, two years later. Soon they declared the smaller Cadillac one of the best and the fastest cars in its class.

Cadillac perfectly engineered it, so it was brutally fast. Under the hood is a twin-turbo 3.6-liter V6 engine pumping 464 HP. And it can launch the ATS-V from 0 to 60 mph in just 3.7 seconds with the top speed of 189 mph.

20. Cadillac Seville STS

The Seville started as a small Cadillac back in the 1970s but by the mid-90s it had evolved into a full-size car. And it came with modern and advanced technology and some interesting features. It adopted the front-wheel drive layout but enhanced it so it offered a comfortable ride yet a convincing performance.

The late ’90s Seville STS had a 4.6-liter Northstar engine. It delivered 300 HP to the front axle, making it the most powerful FWD car they ever built up to that point. The enormous power translated into a vivid performance. In fact, the STS could achieve 0 to 60 mph in 6.4 seconds, which was faster than most ’90s muscle cars.

21. Cadillac Eldorado Sport Coupe

They produced the last and tenth generations of the legendary Cadillac Eldorado from 1992 to 2002. This marked the end of an era for one of the most respected nameplates in the industry. The last Eldorado was a quality-built machine full of luxury and power. But the market for such cars died, and so did this model.

The Eldorado Sport Coupe featured 4.6-liter V8 engine, sport-tuned suspension, a host of electronic systems and discrete styling cues. Even though those cars are inexpensive today, they will be highly-desirable classics in the future.

These are the 21 best Cadillacs they ever made. Which is your favorite? You can be driving a standard of the world that will make your neighbors jealous.

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