Cadillac, the Former Premier American Luxury Sedan

Almost since its inception 114 years ago in 1902, the name Cadillac has meant luxury, success, only the best. Although over the years Cadillac has had close competitors, this luxury brand has managed to remain at the top.

The Post WWII Era

Only some time after WWII and the explosion of imports from the UK, Germany, Italy and of course Japan, did things begin to change. While the early Japanese imports offered no threat to Cadillac, BMW, and Mercedes as well as the venerable Jaguar did. It became perhaps a bit more sophisticated to be seen cruising about in a Jaguar than in a Cadillac. Yet, for all that, the Cadillac, with its firm grip on the American psyche, managed to hold its own.

The Rise of The Cadillac

Always a luxury vehicle, the Cadillac really began to shine after WWII when each year the new models appeared to grow longer, richer and more outstanding with every new innovation. The 1959 Cadillac with its Buck Rogers rocket tail fins couldn’t be missed when a viewer watched it cruise smoothly down the boulevard. Its rich colors, soft ride and elegant leather interior and beautiful appointments made a ride in this vehicle an experience.

American Luxury

It is true there were more luxurious vehicles available throughout the world, but even the most successful business person or celebrity seldom spent perhaps ten times the cost of a Cadillac for what might be, in some ways, a less desirable vehicle, a less “comfort” vehicle. Holding the wheel of a Cadillac held a magic all its own. A vehicle with less “cachet”.

A good argument can be made for the 1959 Eldorado being the culmination of everything the name Cadillac stands, or ever stood for. Its long sleek body, the aggressive and impressive grill with four headlamps and two parking lights gave this Cadillac an important presence as it approached.

1959 Cadillac

1959 Cadillac with Buck Rogers fins.

When parking, the driver didn’t even have to remember to turn the lights off. Plenty of time for the occupants to exit the vehicle and enter the house or building. After allowing a few minutes grace, the headlamps extinguished themselves automatically. Never a concern that a driver might return to find a dead battery due to forgetfulness.

The Essence of Cadillac

And in silhouette the distinctive length and futuristic tail light fins were clearly unmistakable. While many felt Cadillac had gone a step too far in this long unwieldy design, many others felt it was, and still is, the very essence of Cadillac.

Today, with the cost of gasoline constantly rising, automakers the world over have begun to pay much more attention to economy. Today’s vehicles have almost without exception been designed more aerodynamically to cut wind resistance. They have been made smaller and lighter and engines are constantly being developed to be more efficient and use less fuel. Use of electricity to push vehicles (a development nearly as old as the very first automobile), has created a renewed interest in this form of fuel.

While economy is desirable, most thinking people wonder at the thinking that has gone into today’s luxury vehicles, including Cadillac.


The very name, Cadillac, means luxury. Isn’t it an oxymoron to build and advertise a small aerodynamic, economical Cadillac as being more fuel-efficient and less expensive to own? Today’s Cadillacs are almost indistinguishable from all the other vehicles driving down our boulevards today.

After all, if a less expensive, more fuel-efficient vehicle is what a person wants, there is a tremendous variety on the market today. Almost every automaker strives to create more efficient vehicles that will be less costly for owners to operate. If a person wants the luxury of a real Cadillac, is that person likely to be overly-concerned about the cost of fuel for America’s once premier vehicle?