The Triumph TR6 Is The Perfect English Car And The Cadillac Eldorado Is The Perfect American Car


Hello fellow Autopians! If there is one thing that I have learned writing for this site it is how passionate you all are. I shouldn’t have been surprised since I saw the same thing at the previous site we all used to frequent and I love you all for it.

With that in mind, I’m going to throw something out there that I’m sure will bring out some of that passion, so get ready to blow up the comments section. Here it is: The Triumph TR6 is the perfect English car and the Cadillac Eldorado is the perfect American car. By that I mean they are the perfect cars for the environment for which they were intended.

<<insert picture of me ducking as various heavy and sharp objects are lobbed my way>> [Editor’s Note: The image Huibert provided was too graphic for our current editorial standards. – JT] 

You may think I’ve lost my mind but hear me out first. All cars are a product of their environment. The environment dictates how a car will be used and by whom and the result is a car that, hopefully, perfectly suits that environment and customer usage. While my statement only addresses English and American cars, the same thing can surely be said for any country or region of the world. You could say the 5 series is the perfect car for Germany or the Citroen SM is the perfect car for France, etc. But for now, let’s just talk about England and America mainly because I live in America and I’ve just spent three weeks in England. Also, I spent two years in England doing ride and handling development at Jaguar Cars so I’m pretty familiar with the place and what it’s like to drive there.

Let’s unpack this a bit. When I lived in England back in the late 90’s, I knew I would be there for at least two years and while I would have access to some cool cars from my work, I can’t live without a toy so I quickly set about finding a cool car toy and settled on a 1971 Triumph TR6. It was red with a black interior, 150 HP fuel-injected engine with 4-speed gearbox and electric overdrive. In a word, it was the TR6 to have. It was, and still is (in my humble opinion), the quintessential British sports car. Where I lived, I was close to an area called the “Cotswolds” which is known for its beautiful villages and houses made from a local stone appropriately called Cotswold Stone. It gives the houses a look as if they organically grew out of the soil.

The roads between these villages are narrow and windy and they dip and dive over the land. Many of the roads are lined with hedges or stone walls so you can’t always see what’s around the corner. This means you need a car that will move with the road and be quick to respond. Because the roads are so windy, it also means you don’t need a lot of power or top speed. 500+ horsepower is wasted on these roads since you rarely have a chance to open it up anyway and a wide car like many of today’s Ferraris or Porsches would scare the heck out of me when a tractor invariably comes the other way. Much better to have a narrow car for these roads. Mind you, there are no true narrow cars anymore since safety requirements mean more metal and space surrounding the occupants is a must but the narrower the better for these roads.

I spent a lot of time driving that TR6 and it was immediately clear that this car was absolutely perfect for that environment. It was nimble, 150 Hp made it reasonably quick, and the manual rack and pinion steering gave it excellent feel and precision. Its narrowness meant I was never worried about passing another car or tractor and the springs were reasonably soft so the car moved with the dips and dives in the road. My boss at Jaguar used to say the car had to “breathe,” It had to be able to move and flow with the road. I’ve driven BMWs, Audis, and Mercs on those same roads and they’re all so stiff they get yanked down into the road undulations and thrown back up on the other side. Your head gets thrown side to side constantly until you’re sick of it. Vehicle Dynamics engineers have a very technical sounding name for this: “head toss.” While these cars are superb on the Autobahn, I find them supremely uncomfortable on these English roads.

Lastly, we need to remember that many people in England, and many other countries in Europe for that matter, just didn’t travel very far. I grew up in Holland and knew of many people who had never left the village they were born in. For others, a 10-mile trip was very long and happened rarely. Most people just didn’t spend much time in their cars.

In the meantime, while the English were building the TR6 and other cars like it, over here in the US, we had a very different driving environment. Our roads were long, straight and wide. With the invention of the car, the average American quickly took to the road to explore this vast country we had. We drove for hours and hundreds of miles at a time, so we wanted a car that was comfortable and could eat up the miles with ease.

Our roads were wide so our cars didn’t need to be narrow. Roads were mostly straight so going around corners was not a priority, and since we were spending hour after hour in our cars, they had to be comfortable above anything else. Given these conditions, you can see why American cars of the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s turned out the way they did. Based on this, it is my opinion that the Cadillac Eldorado from the ’60s and ’70s epitomizes these priorities and represents the perfect American car. It was very good at doing all the things Americans wanted from a car. No, it was not fun to drive and you wouldn’t want to take it down a canyon road quickly but that wasn’t so important. It was comfortable and you could drive it for hours without getting tired.

I know what you’re going to say at this point. You’re going to say that the Cadillac Eldorado is soooo 1970s and we’ve moved far beyond that type of car. But have we really? The top selling vehicles in America are the Ford F-Series pickups, the Chevy Silverado, and the Ram Pickup. I say these are the Cadillac Eldorados of our time.

The three pickups sell for their utility but they have become boulevard cruisers too. They ride well, are roomy, their steering and handling is mediocre at best but they will soak up mile after mile of highway. Similarly, the Toyota Camry is always near the top best selling car and it’s easy to see why. While it isn’t the size of the Cadillacs of old or the pickups, it is roomy, comfortable and will drive for hours without beating you up. It doesn’t steer or handle particularly well but it does everything us Americans want in a car, just like the Eldorado did.

Now I want to hear from you all. Do you think I’m nuts? Tell me what you think is the perfect car for the environment you live in and why.

Ready, set, go!


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65 Responses

  1. Having been in Broughton on the water a few months ago I’d say the perfect car for the Cotswolds would be a Peel P50 but our Ford Galaxy was pretty good given there were 5 of us. But yes the concept of terroire for a car holds strong, though an 13 hour highway drive in aus in a 1.25l KIA was still completely fine

  2. That TR6 if driven in the summer in the US would vaporize fuel quite repeatedly. Mechanical fuel inject and craptastic Lucas electrics be damned, it is still a far cry better than the TR7 and 8 that followed. I think however the Morris Mini or the Ford Cortina are more appropriate representations of English motoring. America has far more facets due to the large country and many climate ranges, so I think pigeon holing the representation in the form of a FWD luxo-barge is wholly inaccurate.

    1. I’m going to say something at least one person will disagree with – the vast majority of people with pickup trucks would be happier with a different vehicle.

      Almost certainly. Pickup trucks are, for many people, a statement that says “I am a rugged, American, manly-man.” They’re an accessory, much like the latest iPhone.

    2. There are of course many answers to the question I posed, and I think the ones you mentioned are equally valid though I haven’t driven either. As far as the Eldorado goes, I wasn’t thinking about FWD vs RWD since I suspect the majority of car owners now or then wouldn’t know which wheels their engine was connected to. The Eldo, to me, simply embodies the characteristics I think Americans wanted then and still want now.

  3. I am only going to quibble, not disagree. The specific year Eldorado you have chosen is after the Eldorado had descended into self-caricature. If you forgive me, the last years of the Eldorado are like the last years of Elvis – certainly not without fans or virtues, but perhaps in memoriam best glossed quickly past.

    Let us remember the Eldorado in its glory years, of which for me means 1967.

    429 cubic inches (a new even 7 liters) of displacement. 480 Ft-Lbs of torque and 340 BHP (250.24 KW).
    According to ProfessCars estimation this Cadillac is capable of accelerating from 0 to 60 mph in 8.1 sec, from 0 to 100 km/h in 8.6 sec, from 0 to 160 km/h (100 mph) in 22.7 sec, from 0 to 200 km/h (124 mph) in 75.2 sec and the top speed is 134 mph.

    This Eldorado more fits the American spirit in that it has wretched excess in spades but also has “muscle” and the beauty expected of American cars before the government stuck its wooden shoes and wooden head into the design and engineering process.

    This is a better counterpart to the TR-6 you propose as you offer it in its finest form to wit: fuel-injected and without the bump-o-rama bumpers.

    Assuming you agree to this change, I will promise not to mention the TR-7, which -it could be argued – suffered from the same interventions and suffered the same flaccid fate.

    1. I actually didn’t pick a specific year Eldorado, the editors did that for me with the images (thanks guys!). Other than styling, I don’t see much difference between the 60’s or 70’s Eldorados. They all embody the same spirit in my mind and fit the bill equally. I do agree that the mid 60’s cars are stunningly beautiful.

  4. I agree that the Eldorado is as American as apple pie, but it was always a bit of an oddball with that fore-and-aft mounted V8 and front wheel drive. I think much more quintessentially American is its sister the Coupe DeVille or even more so, their slightly plebeian cousin the Chevrolet Impala. Big, comfy,V8, and in your face.

    See the USA in your Chevrolet, dammit! 🙂

    1. I agree the Eldorado was a bit of an oddball but I also think most people have no idea which wheels their engine is connected to, so I didn’t really factor into it. The Coupe Deville and the Impala all embody a very similar spirit that make then very good choices for perfect American car as well.

  5. I see where you’re coming from, but both of those cars are, to a large degree, playthings. They don’t represent the most useful form of vehicle for each environment. They’re fun, but the number of people who used them as daily transportation, even in their prime, was miniscule.

    I propose the following choices… well, you asked…

    Perfect American car: Chevy Suburban. It’s essentially a station wagon, but sits taller on a truck chassis. Lots of room, comfy on the highway, more than what most of its buyers really needs, but not so much more so that it becomes cumbersome. You can take the kids to school or to Yellowstone in it and it’s equally at home doing both.

    Perfect English car: Ford Fiesta. Still small and economical, reliable, good-handling, works well on those narrow country roads (which I love, btw), but can seat four and work well as a household’s only car. I would imagine most British households only have one car, so it needs to be well-rounded.

    1. I have always been an evangelist for the Suburban as the most useful vehicle available. With the second and 3rd rows folded down you can carry the stereotypical 4×8 sheet of plywood. You can also haul the whole family and a boat or camper. Pair that with the bulletproof smallblock and you have a winning combination.
      It’s funny how we associate England with convertibles when their weather is not conducive to open top cars.

    1. Maybe it’s because I’ve never road-tripped in an Acadia, but my Volt is superb for road trips (barring, of course, the short legs thanks to that little 9-gallon gas tank). 3800lbs, low to the ground, and aerodynamic means it’s much more stable vs. wind than it looks. That said though, Mrs. Zeppelopod’s C-Max SEL tends to get preferred because she likes the higher seating position and it’s got much longer gasoline range.

  6. I daresay you undercut your own case with a better answer: “The top selling vehicles in America are the Ford F-Series pickups, the Chevy Silverado, and the Ram Pickup. I say these are the Cadillac Eldorados of our time.”
    I would agree that the modern pickup is in fact the quintessential American “car”. As you correctly note, the pickup will take the driver and passengers great distances with ease, with all wheels driven will handle inclement weather and bad roads/no roads, and tow and carry large quantities of cargo. Now, do most Americans actually need all this capability? Probably not, but the average person believes they do. While I have a small hot hatch to meet my needs for daily driving, these are certainly the reasons I have a Suburban, which is just an enclosed pickup.

    1. I’m going to say something at least one person will disagree with – the vast majority of people with pickup trucks would be happier with a different vehicle.

      I’m not going to compare them to a smaller sedan. I’m going to compare them to a Suburban. A Suburban has more seats, more usable space which also happens to be easier to load, roughly the same capability – it can’t tow a fifth wheel but that’s a very small percentage of the market – is actually significantly better in snow since it doesn’t need to be weighed down as much. It’s equally comfortable and roughly the same size.

      Unless you’re towing a fifth wheel or doing some commercial work you don’t actually want a pickup. I say this as someone who lives somewhere that pickups are the vast majority of vehicles on the road, they’re actually shockingly poorly adapted to the environments they operate in and bring with them a ton of compromises with few to no actual advantages for most buyers. I’m not saying they’re not used to their full capability, most people own cars that aren’t used to their full capability. I’m saying that the design actually runs counter to what buyers actually need their cars to do.

      1. I agree that if all you need to do is haul people and their luggage plus tow a modest amount, a Suburban or similar is perfect. Great road trip vehicle. I will disagree that “the vast majority” own something so counter to their interests. Some of them sure, but I don’t think it’s that many.

        There’s a lot of stuff that I do with a truck bed that I couldn’t do with a Suburban unless I brought a trailer along. Maybe I carry large and/or dirty stuff more often than the average owner, but furniture, bulk mulch and dirt, yard waste, bikes, ATVs, etc often find their way into my truck bed, and I wouldn’t want any of those in a Suburban.

        GM also seems to have consciously aimed the Suburban upmarket from where it used to be, which is awesome if you’re road tripping in one, less awesome if you’re trying to drive through a muddy field on 22″ wheels with low hanging running boards. The 2500 model is gone. You can still buy a base model, but when was the last time you saw one dirty at a job site?

        Finally, I guess I don’t see a lot of drawbacks from the pickup body style. Traction and stability control have cut way back on the weight distribution penalty in snow; I live in a snow belt and my truck handles nasty roads just fine. My CCLB truck is longer than a Suburban, but as I’ve said many times here, the size becomes pretty manageable with practice. I think you’re being overly harsh on the body style, and while I really like (and considered buying) a Suburban, there really are a lot of people that couldn’t substitute one.

      2. I suspect there are probably more than a few who bought a pickup as a fashion statement but I think the majority use it for what it was designed for. Don’t forget that they have been the best selling vehicles for many decades now, long before they became fashionable, so I think the majority of customers use them as they were meant to be used. Having said that, I DD a 2020 F150 Supercrew and there are certainly times wish I wish it were a Suburban so I could just throw stuff in the back without it getting dirty, but then I’m glad it’s a pickup when I go to Home Depot and get a load of lumber or mulch for the yard. It’s horses for courses, really.

        1. Here’s the thing though, and I’m basing this on living in pickup country, the majority of owners don’t use their trucks for any of that. The box is empty most of the time, probably half have a tonneau cover or box cap and they spent half the time doing a bad job hauling children around.

          People might tell themselves they’ll haul a couch every week or fill it with gravel but they don’t. They never do. Probably 80% of households here have a truck in front and 75% have never done anything that only a truck can do.

          I’m not saying it’s a fashion accessory, it’s just something people think they’re going to use all the time and wind up never actually using. It’s the treadmill of transportation.

          1. I think it’s very odd that some people seem to devote a lot of energy to policing what others do or don’t do with their vehicles.

            They guy with the clean pickup bed in the office parking lot might tow a boat every weekend.

            Or might have just helped his friend move.

            Or worked all Saturday in his yard.

            And so on.

            My truck certainly isn’t used every day or even every weekend. But it’s used often enough that renting or borrowing a truck every time would be a serious imposition. And as I stated in my first post, the truck has very few downsides that make it difficult to own vs. any other large vehicle. I suspect most non-professional truck owners make a similar calculation when they decide what to buy.

      3. I’m going to say something at least one person will disagree with – the vast majority of people with pickup trucks would be happier with a different vehicle.

        Almost certainly. Pickup trucks are, for many people, a statement that says “I am a rugged, American, manly-man.” They’re an accessory, much like the latest iPhone.

      4. Here I am. I disagree. While the Suburban is good in some areas, far superior in others it also falls short in many areas you mentioned. More cargo area? Well if your moving people far superior. If your moving boxes that can be stacked in the available room and must be kept dry and fit in the door space better. But a refrigerator not fitting poorer than a truck. A load plywood equal after you remove the interior. A load of gravel? Well horrible comes to mind. Heck even if it fits between the loading area and the access Well like installing a toddlers seat. Better in snow? Not with a little weight in the back. As far as seats and passengers and handling I’ll take a minivan if I don’t need a pickup. Which is better than the Suburban in all areas where the Suburban beats a pickup.

      5. Perhaps not a popular sentiment, but the minivan is a superior choice. Far more space efficient, fuel efficient, better handling, and practical than a Suburban.

        While the minivan is not as “manly” as a truck or big ass SUV, it’s a better choice for 90% of families.

  7. When you specify the environment as such, I don’t have any quibbles with it. There may be some debate if you looked at what the soul of the country was, in car form. A Mustang in the US, maybe an estate car for England? Outside of Morris and Aston Martin, I’m not familiar enough with English estate cars to pick one, though. I’d lean more towards Morris than Aston, the whole sensible thing Vs “what we want to actually be” thing

    Although, you addressed what the modern US car would be with the trucks or Camry. You didn’t address what the modern English car would be.
    I’d have to say the Miata. Its a modern TR6, with all that entails; and like most English things the idea at its heart and soul may be quintessentially English (in this case, a two-seater convertible) but another country took a crack at it and did it so much better that the English version doesn’t get produced anymore

  8. While I have no use for a full-on Cadillac, I get where you’re coming from. My little shitbox is fun on the backroads, but gets tiresome after a few hours on the highway: it’s more about torsional rigidity than low NVH. My sister’s much newer Lexus feels as silent as a Tesla unless you floorboard it: I think it’s more like the Cadillac of yore—except it turns rather well when asked

  9. You lucky bastards got the fuel injected TR6 while us poor schlubs across the pond has to settle for the emissions-strangled Stromberg carbs and maybe 105hp instead.
    Personally, I’d rather have the TR5/TR250. Same motor, better looking Michelotti body.

    1. Proper TR5 all the way. I had a 73 US spec TR6 that I bought in 78 and it was junk already. I loved it, but it was a royal pain in the ass. Just finding 15″ tires was a joke in the early 80s. And it ate differential mounts like candy.

        1. I had a 77 TR6 with the Strombergs. White with chestnut interior. First car I bought with my own money. Loved that car right up until it burst into flames, while I was driving it. My wife then bought an MGB (red with navy blue interior & top). It just wasn’t the same.

  10. I don’t know if I’d say “perfect”; I’d say your choices are “best of the stereotype.”

    I’d say that the perfect American Car is the the 1971-1985 Oldsmobile 88. It is big, comfortable, upper middle class, reliable (and remember the era, but they’re pretty good even today), fixable, and practical. It does everything that the Caddy does, but in a less ostentatious manner.

    I can’t comment on the perfect English car, but I’ll wager there’s an equivalent to the Olds 88…

  11. Much as I love the look and sound of a TR6, Britain isn’t just about country lanes – there are lots of motorways too which is where it would be too low and buzzy. It’s also not got good wet weather handling or weatherproofing. So I’d suggest a Rover 3500S P6. Narrow, loads of overtaking torque, seats 4 and decent handling. But the actual right answer is a Mk 2 Golf GTi. I couldn’t really recommend the British equivalent (MG Maestro – although the EFi was pretty decent). I kept up with a Lamborghini Countach cross country in one many years ago. The Lamborghini would blast away on the straights but it was just too wide to negotiate corners at any speed and it was slow to pick up speed between corners without a lot of gear changing. The Golf has the right combination of agility for country roads (wet or dry) and cruising capability for the motorways. And you can open the sunroof when the sun comes out instead of waging war with a TR6 hood.

  12. LJK Setright said that the V12 Jaguar XJ-S was the perfect American car, that no American company could ever build.
    (In the same review, he also said that the V12 XJ-S felt the same driving at 140mph as it did at 70mph, so you might as well drive it at 70mph. From he who advocated driving at the maximum safe speed everywhere all the time.)

  13. I’ve never been to England, so I’ll take your word on the Triumph – they do look like fun. Personally, I’ve been a little bit obsessed with Spitfires, and hope to own one before too long as a companion to the only British car currently in my fleet – an ’82 XJ6.

    As to the Eldorado, I owned a ’75, the Coupe version. I absolutely loved driving that car. Some people prefer canyon carvers, I like couches mounted to wobbly springs mounted to watercraft. I don’t know if I’d call it the “perfect” American car, but it was definitely representative. America has always had a bit of a reputation for excess and that ’75 Eldo was excessive excess. A 500 cubic inch V8 that simply absorbed gasoline. No transmission tunnel so the floor in front of the seats looked like a good place to tango. It felt like taking an acreage out for a spin.

  14. I make $80 a day working from home, screaming into the wind about which is the perfect car for something, something, something…

    The Bedford Van is the right car for England. You can shag in it, move your drum kit, park it anywhere and no one will notice or bother to steal it, even use it as a getaway in a bank robbery. It’s the F150 of the UK.

  15. “No, it was not fun to drive”

    I’m sorry, what? Driving down the highway, top down, comfortably doing 80mph and barely feeling like you’re moving with the tunes cranked to 11 isn’t fun?

    I think fun is subjective. The Caddy sounds like an absolute blast of a road tripping machine. Its a shame that, as you said, the modern equivalent is a truck or truck based vehicle. I’m waiting for one of those last Lincoln Continentals to hit the used market. Cadillac doesn’t really have a car like that in its lineup. Anything long, lower than a truck, and comfy is the dream.

    1. I get what you’re saying completely. I have a 1971 Monte Carlo that is fun to drive in a way that is completely different from say a Porsche or Corvette. I get a feeling of accomplishment that the thing hasn’t killed me when I drive it hard. Plus, cruising in it is great fun, especially with the top down (yes, it’s a convertible). My 2015 Mustang is fun to drive for completely different reasons. I was using a more traditional definition of “fun to drive” but I get your point and agree there are many ways to define that term.

      1. I have no idea what the ‘traditional’ definition of fun to drive is. For me, if I could be in the cockpit of a plane of high speed train and watch things zoom by quickly, that would be fun. If I had the guts, time, and money to do amateur drag races at a strip, that would be awesome.

        A comfortable, street legal way at the bottom of those types of speeds is as good I can get. When its warm, we take my wife’s 1-series convertible out on the autobahns. Cruising at 100+mph with the top down is amazing.

    1. Hah, my Grandad had an E-reg Maestro that lingered on until the early 2000s when my Dad drove it. Really good interior design mated to awful mechanicals. I remember it being light, airy, practical and slow. The hot hatch was meant to be the business.

      1. Yeah, you are right, wasn’t really a comparison. Don’t know if the TR6 is the quintessentially British car, maybe in the eyes of some Americans, probably not so much in the eyes of the British, I’d probably pick a Mini or Morris Minor or something like that. I know those are pretty old, but they also came out when the Brits were at the top of their game in the 50s and early 60s.

  16. The three pickups sell for their utility but they have become boulevard cruisers too.

    They don’t sell for their utility. They sell for the *image of their utility*. Stolen valor of the working class by middle managers and dudebros means Ford et al can make a $100k F250 and the money printer goes brrrrr.

    1. I agree that more than a few pickups are sold as a fashion statement but they have been the best selling vehicles in this country for many decades now, long before they became fashionable, so I suspect the vast majority are sold and used as they were meant to be. It’s true many go for ridiculous prices but those are probably the outliers. I don’t think Ford or GM break down sales data by series, i.e. XL vs XLT vs Lariat, etc. but I suspect the XL and XLT dominate the sales chart which is what fleets and commercial customers would be buying.

  17. “150 Hp made it reasonably quick”
    “150 Hp”
    “reasonably quick”
    Still processing that from the vantage point of my 52 hp Mk2 Jetta, 47 hp VW Type II, and 42 Panhard Dyna Z.
    Those are indeed valid arguments about the TR6 and the Eldorado as the quintessential English and American cars though I’d argue that the Mk2 VW, whether it be Jetta or Golf, could serve as *both* in light of highly competent roadhandling even in stock form & surprisingly comfortable highway cruising. A twofer, as it were.

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