Cross-Country Caddy Battle: 1991 Cadillac Eldorado vs 1992 Cadillac Eldorado

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Yesterday, I got an email from David with a link to a car from our very own S.W. Gossin, from over in his neck of the woods. I took one look at the car in the ad and knew immediately what I had to do: make it a Cadillac day. I found a comparable car, not here in Portland but in California, for us to check out. First, however, let’s put the ’90s to bed and see who took home yesterday’s prize:

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Yep, that is what I expected. It’s hard to beat the utility of a simple little truck. And yes, thank you all for pointing out that I’m a idiot and the Saturn is in fact the SC2 model. I trusted the listing instead of my own eyes, and I should know better by now. Doesn’t matter, I guess, since it lost anyway.

Moving on: Today, it’s an East Coast vs West Coast battle, courtesy of Cadillac’s dinosaur of a personal luxury coupe: the Eldorado. The two cars we have today are only a year apart, but that year spans a generational change. And similar as they may have once been, three thousand miles of open road isn’t the only thing separating them now. Let’s check them out.

1991 Cadillac Eldorado – $2,000

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Engine/drivetrain: 4.9 liter V8, 4 speed automatic, FWD

Location: Fayetteville, NC

Odometer reading: 83,000 miles

Runs/drives? Drives well, according to the ad

Our East Coast contender is the final year of the eleventh (!) generation Eldorado, downsized from the already-downsized 1979-85 model. It has the final evolution of Cadillac’s HT V8 engine, here displacing 4.9 liters and putting out a nice round 200 horsepower. This engine had troubles early on, but by the mid-late 1980s, GM had ironed out most of the kinks and it became a reliable, pleasant beast (as long as you didn’t need to change the rear four spark plugs).

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This Eldorado is the Touring Coupe model, with larger wheels and a little bit firmer suspension than the standard car. It isn’t quite “The Caddy That Zigs,” but it doesn’t quite lumber around like a drunken rhinoceros either.

The seller says they bought this car “to restore,” but it looks to me like it doesn’t need much. New tires, freshly-serviced air conditioning, and “a bunch of other fixes” sounds like a pretty damn nice $2000 car to me. The windshield is cracked, but if that’s all that’s wrong with it, it’s a good deal.

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It is too bad we don’t get any photos of the interior, because that might be the make-or-break factor. If it’s trashed inside, that could turn off a lot of buyers. But I’d say for $2000, it’s worth going to take a look to find out.

[Editor’s Note: I’d like to point out that whomever had this car took the trouble to replace the all-red-with-a-fussy-little-Caddy-crest US-spec taillights with these Europe/global-spec units with amber rear indicators. Or, as I look into this a bit more, it could be that this one was one of the Eldorado Touring Coupe edition ones that used the amber/red taillights to give it a more sporty look. Either way, I think they work in the car’s favor. – JT]

1992 Cadillac Eldorado – $1,950

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Engine/drivetrain: 4.9 liter V8, 4 speed automatic, FWD

Location: Santa Rosa, CA

Odometer reading: 154,000 miles

Runs/drives? Doesn’t explicitly state, but I think we can assume

When I first saw the lead image of this car, I assumed it was just faded red. But then I looked at the other photos, and I am convinced that it is, in fact, painted in a color somewhere in the magenta/fuchsia/hot pink neighborhood.

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That’s right, folks; history is being made. For the first and possibly last time on Shitbox Showdown, we are looking at a pink Cadillac.

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The twelfth generation Eldorado grew a bit, and lost a little bit of the old-man stodginess of the previous generation’s styling. Gone are the bolt-upright rear window and optional landau top (though the aftermarket was happy to oblige, if you really wanted one). This being a 1992 model, it still uses the 4.9 liter HT engine, which would be replaced in 1994 by the notorious powerful-but-fragile Northstar V8.

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Again, we aren’t given any interior photos, and there’s precious little else to go on about this car’s condition in the ad. But if the tags are current, one can assume it’s being driven at least now and then. Like too many Cadillacs, it appears to have some additional chrome stuck on it; I don’t think the bumpers were originally that shiny. And the wire wheels are aftermarket as well. They’re nowhere near deep enough to do Houston proud, and don’t fit the sleek style of this car at all. But when you start out by painting a car hot pink, I guess you stop worrying about what “goes with” the rest of the car.

Well, there they are: one survivor from North Carolina and one modified California special. Both run and drive well, and the price difference is only $50. I guess if you can’t decide, you can flip a coin. (Yes, in fact, I can work a music reference into just about anything.)



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68 Responses

  1. Obviously the ’91 is a better deal on paper: half the mileage, better color, better condition overall.

    But at the age and price of these cars, the buyer will likely be the last owner, so might as well loosen up and have some silly fun with them. Since the 92 is already a terrible color, how about turning into a chalk board car? Or using the pink in some half-baked livery scheme? Or cover it in bubblegum wrappers? The wheels could benefit from spoke decorations like a schwin, or just do the “lift a regular car” thing and put steelies and fat tires on it. That $50 can go right into the silly mods fund.

    1. I went with white as well. I mean, I’m all about function over form, but I’m not sure what looking at that hot pink hood would do to my mental health long-term. Especially at only $50 difference.

  2. Hoo boy, do you want the restoration project that didn’t even make it to the cracked windshield or the high mileage sketchy flipped car that probably still has the title in the prior owner’s name? I’ll take the 1991 because the poorly fit trunk on the 1992 edition would drive me nuts every time I looked at the car. Maybe it’s from shitty repairs, and maybe it’s from shitty GM original build quality. I have no interest in finding out.

  3. I drove a ’91 ETC for a week when they were new. It was not an awful car. Too big for my taste, as most Cads are, but still a decent cruiser. The interior was “meh,” but what GM car from that vintage doesn’t have builder-grade appointments inside?

    If I ever drove the ’92 version, I don’t remember it. In fact, all I remember specifically about the ’91 was that it had two tiny lamps above the inside of the rear window that lit up to show you the brake lights were working. At night, it was like being pursued by a rabid vampire bat.

    I voted for the white one. Neither I nor any of my girlfriends ever had anything to do with Mary Kay products, and I’m not changing that now.

  4. Common automotive sense dictates that the first year of a model run is the worst year, as the process of the manufacturer discovering long term and model specific problems has just begun, and you’re more likely to have those issues.

    Common automotive sense *also* dictates that the last year of a model run is the best year as all the foibles of that iteration have usually been ironed out by then. Revised parts come installed. Recalls are fixed in the factory before the car rolls out the door.

    Common automotive sense says the 91 is the better choice, and I agree.

  5. The styling of the ’91 is much cleaner, IMO. They also have basically identical interior volume, despite the fact that the ’92 is a bigger car. Also that particular ’92 is a hideous color with hideous wheels. I’d definitely take the ’91.

  6. I love the OBS (I think I can use that in this context) Eldorado. Beautiful looking car with a solid drivetrain. Shut up and take my money.

    That generation of Eldorado reminds me of when I was in kindergarten, which would be around ’89-90. There was an elderly couple who lived next door and they had a gorgeous Cadillac Fleetwood that was still pretty new to them. If memory serves, it was Glacier Blue with a Navy Blue velour interior. Every now and then they’d invite my sister and I to ride along with them to the local county park for walks or just little pleasure drives. I still remember the husband calling out to us in the back seat, “It rides just like a cloud, doesn’t it?” to which we ecstatically responded in the affirmative. Our family was pretty poor, so these were special experiences, one which I still haven’t forgotten.

    1. You get a thumbs up for a story about kids who hopped into someone else’s car that didn’t end with faces on milk cartons. You had cool neighbors. I didn’t grow up poor by any stretch, but a Caddy of that era would have been mind blowing for me since my parents always went for the basest of base models they could get when I was a kid.

      1. I’m going to sound like a boomer (which I’m not obviously), but I guess times were different then? Or, because my mom had 3 spare kids besides us, she was fine with it. Being poor, we always were driving shitboxes near the end of the line. One of my childhood memories was riding around in a ratted out mid to late 80s brown Ford Escort with a missing grill and porch door screen over the front to catch bugs and rocks. I rode in the cargo area with a blanket because all the other seats were occupied by our sizeable family. Good times.

        1. I’m a millennial (born in the early 90s and thus well into the throes of “stranger-danger”). I think the truth is that the number of people who want to harm, kidnap, assault or murder a perfect stranger is pretty small. But those are the stories you always hear about.

          The vast number of rapes, kidnaps and murders occur in scenarios where the perpetrator is close to the victim.

          As for car safety, I spent most of my childhood in a 1964 Impala Coupe (the last year of the controversial GM cruciform/X frame design in everything but the Riviera, which retained it through 1970). The Impala had lap belts in the front and none at all in the rear. Originally, I rode in the front seat when it was just me and my dad in the car. Once my sister came along, her car seat was belted into the front and I was relegated to the back, where there were no seatbelts. My parents should have known better, but we never did crash, and the other kids always thought it was cool when my dad showed up in that car.

          1. Born in the 80’s, and the stranger danger stuff was so pervasive that I picked up on it even though my parents never emphasized it to me or my brother. I think they had it in cartoons and probably in schools. The cartoons in those days often took a minute or 2 at the end to teach us sometimes useful lessons.

            “Now you know, and knowing is half the battle. GI Joe!”

            1. Adam Walsh changed America, man. I remember being finger printed at the local library when I was about 5. Parents actually brought their kids in to be finger printed. There was a fucking line. The logic was that if anything ever did happen and we were kidnapped, that having our prints on file could identify us if we were ever found. My brother loved to point out that it’d most likely be murdered, so they’d be identifying my dead body. Gotta love older brothers.

      2. I was born early 60s. Go outside and I don’t want to see you until the streetlights come on. If you’re thirsty drink from the hose. Back when any adult in the neighborhood could spank any kid in the neighborhood and our parents reacted by spanking us too.

        Good times!!!????

      3. I was born early 60s. Go outside and I don’t want to see you until the streetlights come on. If you’re thirsty drink from the hose. Back when any adult in the neighborhood could spank any kid in the neighborhood and our parents reacted by spanking us too.

        Good times!!!????

  7. I know the white one is purportedly half the mileage, but that’s no reason for that unholy-looking cross between a kitchen appliance and a car to be ahead in the poll. I’d roll the dice on the hot pink one because it looks like a car, not a Maytag.

      1. I believe Mary Kay actually does pay the lease on the Career Car if you earn one. But if your performance falls below a certain threshold, you’re responsible for the payment…which might be a bit inflated.

        Also, the long-standing agreement between GM and Mary Kay is that the pink is exclusive to Mary Kay and that if a dealership takes in a Mary Kay car post-lease, it has to be repainted prior to auction or resale. Mary Kay doesn’t want non-members driving its cars.

        1. I haven’t seen one in ages, but those “Night of the Mary Kay Commandos” cars were pretty common around here and this color is not the same. I do remember seeing one ex-Mary Kay-car on a used lot once, so maybe a few slipped through the net, like Jay Leno’s Chrysler Turbine car.

          1. Oh, for sure this isn’t a Mary Kay Career Car; it’s just that we were on the topic of them.

            As far as Mary Kay cars, the lady around the corner from me has one, although hers is a black Equinox. She originally had a pre-refresh version of the Equinox and now she has a post-refresh, so I assume she just re-upped her lease.

  8. Sorry Bruce, I’m going for the 91. The amber turn signals are cooler, and the pink one doesn’t even have the Northstar in it, either.

    The 92’s headlights are the same as used in the C5 Corvette. except they’re glass instead of plastic like in the C5. The Vette has plastic so they could use a weaker motor for the pop-up headlights, but you can probably retrofit the glass lights in it.

  9. I’m going to go with the white ’91. I’m betting the interior is Carolina sun-baked, but for a windshield and ~$2K, who cares? This is the only one of these cars I’ve seen for sale (in this purported condition) in this area for years.

    There are mopeds posted for sale locally for around the same price as this V8 luxury coupe.

    Hat tip to Mark for including it today!

  10. I never cared for either of these.

    What I would take is a 1990-1993 Buick Riviera, a car I believe to be more cohesively designed than the 1991 Eldorado, and with the bulletproof 3800 Series I.

  11. The 92 is a better car than the 91. The 4.9 is probably the best motor they made in the last 50 years, doesn’t feel any different around town than the Northstar but more reliable. I used to work at the Cadillac dealership in high school when both of these cars came out. I also own an ’89 Allante and I did own a 92 Eldorado touring Coupe in polo green on beechwood. They’re both really cool cars. You don’t see many of the old style 91s and they will fly because they’re a little bit lighter than the 92s. But the 92 was Leaps and Bounds above the 91 in styling, and without showing the interior pictures most of the readers wouldn’t care about the difference so much. But the interior is is so much better on the 92. European pretty much. But if I had to pick between both of these particular examples, I would probably pick the 91 just because it’s lower mileage and a better color combination. But if they were both white on tan cars with similar miles, of course you would pick the 92. Also, this is absolutely not Mary Kay pink and must have been repainted. They did sell these in bright red, both 91s and 92s but that color on the 92 is not Factory. Neither is the grill which is a touring Coupe Grill but clearly it’s not a touring Coupe per the wreath and Crest on the c pillar. As long as you don’t run ethanol gasoline these motors will run forever. Otherwise you need to replace the injectors and run non-ethanol.

  12. The European taillights were not added! That is not a correct statement. Red/Orange rears are standard equipment on the Eldorado Touring Coupe (ETC) in US Spec. Red only taillights are only standard Eldorado’s. I’ve seen several of these ETC’s, and they are all Red/Orange.

  13. To the editors of this site blinking on about tail lights: STOP IT ALREADY!*
    *pun intended.

    As for the pink one. No it’s not pink, it’s lipstick. As in ‘lipstick on a Cadillac’. I think we have heard that phrase somewhere and it’s not a compliment.

  14. Those taillights are NOT a swap, they are factory! Both the Eldorado Touring Coupe and its fraternal twin, the Seville Touring sedan, got the amber turn signals. It was supposed to make them seem more like ‘Continental Touring Cars’, or some crap like that. And, it’s the one I voted for – the ’92 is probably ‘fine’, but, the ’91 looks like it’s been a little better cared for. The 4.9s are a great engine, but, they’re paired with a 4T60E, which – it’s not unheard of to get 250k miles out of one, but, they are kinda known for not doing that. Lower mileage, better paint, better suspension – the ’91 is the easy choice here.

  15. Cadillac Day – I like it! This was kind of tough at first, but the ’91 wins out. I’ve owned a ’98 Eldorado and prefer that body style, but after looking closely at the pics, the ’91 seems to be the better of the two.

    It looks like the ’92 is suffering from some clear-coat peeling on the quarter panel and possibly the entire trunk-lid. Another thing evident in the pictures is that the rear pull-down truck mechanism is broke (that’s why the gap is weird-looking). That means the trunk isn’t sealed, and who knows how much moisture has gotten in there in the meantime. Of course, there are no interior pics in either, but looking close at the ’91, I can’t see any dash cracks, and even the rear deck appears to be in decent shape. The ’92 is a complete mystery, but I can’t imagine it’s too good based on the peeling clear-coat and in-op trunk pull-down.

    Of course the miles also play a factor, and the last thing is simply drivability. The newer body style certainly looks better imho, but after driving one for awhile, those giant rear-quarter blind spots do start to get a little old. That ’91 is likely easier to park as well.

    Winner: the slightly older Eldorado, although I do kind of like those baby-swangas on the newer one!

  16. Regardless of color I prefer the looks of the 91, though neither one of them is particularly attractive. The 91 does seem to still have a bit of DNA shared with what I think of as the defining Cadillac look from the 60s cars.

  17. For the first part of my life My Pop Pop Owned Cadillacs. Mainly Eldorado’s the last one he owned was a 96 which looked like the 92. He owned cars after that but GM’s anti coupe approach killed off his favorite. Im going with that but the 91 looks close to what my mom had for the coupe deville when I was 2-3 years old. She traded it in for an 89 Bonneville SSEi with the supercharger

  18. I have to go with the ’91. My dad inherited a silver on gray ’91 Eldorado Bairritz when his dad passed mid-90s. Was a comfortable cruiser and smaller than a lot of other vehicles, even then. Did seem to have more than its share of computer issues requiring dealer visits, but maybe that’s just my “memory.”

    Trunk could fit 2 mountain bikes with front wheels removed and back seats could hold enough camp gear for a weekend.

    Fun fact, the digital speedometer topped out at 125 and would flash “125” after that even with RPM still climbing. Side-fact; teenage me was even dumber than adult me.

  19. I would have to guess the pink one was a MaryKay give-away car. that alone might make it more appealing to some. the biggest issue with the 4.9 was using low octane gas. the low miles of the white one suggests Sunday driven Grandma last car. The east coast gas being usually better grade than anything in Cali would also make it seem like the better choice. but man the style is not as good to me. I like the bigger one and the fact that it is not yet saddled with the Northstar makes it way more interesting.

  20. Both of these are 1,000% Not For Me. That said, amber indicators, especially since if someone went to the trouble of adding them aftermarket, are impossible to vote against.

    Magenta is an excellent, if rarely seen, color for a go-fast car, and this is certainly not that. Much better than more common yellow or acid green.

  21. I’m guessing both interiors aren’t exactly strong selling points, so call it a draw and assume they have a hole in the driver’s seat.

    Someone bothered to paint the ’92 pink, and put those wire wheels on there, and there appears to be something wonky about trunk. My crystal ball says the ’92 has lived a harder life, even though I prefer the look of that body.

    So ’91 it is. One of my neighborhood friend’s Dad always drove Cadillacs, and pretty sure had one of those. In the early 90’s he traded it at some point for the 1994-ish DeVille.

  22. I had this engine in my ’94 Deville and it’s just shockingly good for the numerical power output.

    I liked the onboard diagnostics in it – and I tricked it into thinking it was an Eldorado so that I could get coolant temperature on the digital dash.

    Between these two I’d typically take the 92-93 Eldorado – but a drive thru paint job – wire wheels – and janky trunk? 91.

    I’d bet the 91 also has more Cadillac touches in it than the 92 does. Little Caddy crests dispersed throughout, etc. That’s my vote.

  23. The ’92 not only has almost double the miles, but those wheels and terrible paint color just make it a ‘no’. I wouldn’t want to be caught dead in that thing. The ’91 is the better deal with fewer miles and no need to drop $$ on new wheels and paint.

  24. I’ll take the ’91 just because it’s pretty weird-looking. I’m not saying it looks *great*, but the ’92 is just boring. The ’92 looks like what I would expect to see a little old man driving, except I think by now it’s likely to have been handed down to that guy’s grandkids. Point is, it looks old but not old enough to be interesting. The ’91 looks genuinely as if it’s from another era, and if its proportions are a little awkward, well, at least they’re different.

    Neither is particularly desirable to me overall, however.

  25. All else being equal, I prefer the style of the ’92 to the ’91. It’s not quite as stark as the difference between the 1993 and 1994 Dodge Ram, but the ’92 Eldo just looks way more modern than the ’91. What a difference a year makes, huh?

    But all else is not equal.

    When someone says that they intended to restore a car but are selling it before the work has been completed, that’s a red flag to me that the issues are far greater than originally anticipated, and the seller is just trying to unload the basketcase. That’s a point against the ’91.

    The color of the ’92 is perplexing. In some pictures, it looks like it just may be a faded red; in others, it may be hot pink / magenta. The late-evening lighting in the photos is a little funky making it hard to tell for sure. Drug dealers and pimps paint their Cadillacs hot pink / magenta. My grandfather used to say “When you’re buying a used car, you’re buying someone else’s problems.” I do not want drug dealer / pimp problems.

    So for me it’ll come down to the true color of the ’92. If it truly is just a faded red, then I’ll go with it, knowing that the Northstar engine will let me down, and the janky misaligned trunk will let in water. Otherwise I’ll roll the dice with the ’91.

  26. Gotta be the ’91 ETC with its’ Trabant-esque taillights. Since it’s in NC if an actual Autopian reader actually buys it, the buyer should get to hang out with Jason for a day in exchange for letting him drive it for the first-ever “We Drive A Shitbox Showdown Car” article?

  27. I prefer a good ’92 to a good ’91. But that’s not a good ’92 – plus I can’t buy a car from someone who thinks those wheels are okay – and the funky taillights make that a great ’91.

  28. There’s a house I pass often that has this pair in the driveway. The boxy one is white like this one, but the newer one is steel blue-but with peeling clear coat. Given how nicely the house & lawn are kept, I’m assuming is a couple in their 70s, but I’ve never seen them outside.

    Am I the only one who builds stories in my head based on peoples’ driveways?
    ‘Myrtle..MYRTLE! Have you seen my keys?’
    ‘Did you check your sock drawer, Fred? That’s where you put them last time, remember?’

    1. Yes, especially when you know them or are familiar with them and have the question of “What would compel you to buy that?”

      Like the hoarders down the street from me who managed to kill a 2005 4Runner that they’d bought brand new, within four years, and then decided that what they really needed was a used 745Li.

      I’m sure people thought that about my grandmother too, when she managed to convince the dealership to let her test-drive a new Camaro 1LE 6MT for a night, even though she could barely get in and out of it, with her disabilities.

  29. Really, this is 6 of one and a half dozen of another. If one had the Northstar, we could exclude that one right away, but these have essentially the exact same engine.
    The styling is way better on the ’92, and the interior of a ’92 is a lot more modern than the interior on a ’91.
    But that color is atrocious, it reminds me of my late mother’s lipstick. So I want the ’92, but with the touring package, rims, and white paint from the ’91.

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