Harley Earl was the czar of 1950s car styling. Before the days of focus groups, government regulations, and legal departments, Earl had few restraints or boundaries to conform to. Likewise, the rampant designs that emerged from GM’s Warren Technical Center under his reign were bold and brash and are now regarded as timeless masterpieces of industrial design.
Of all the divisional palettes Earl had to choose from, Cadillac was the pinnacle of his focus. Beginning in 1948, he added rudimentary tail fins to new Cadillacs, creating a worldwide style trend that culminated in the outrageous “Wreath and Crest” models for 1959. Cadillac would even retain tail fins until the 1964 model year, long after the cosmetic appendages had been shaved off from contemporary competitors.
The 1957 and 1958 Eldorado Sevilles are often overlooked in Cadillac’s wild styling legacy. Only 2,100 units were built in 1957 and only 855 units in 1958. The main difference between the two years is that the 1957 model had dual headlights and the 1958 model had a quad setup. These large Eldorados were essentially Coupe de Villes with an entirely different rear clip grafted onto the rear. They moved down a notch in the lineup to the top-of-the-line Brougham model.
In the early 1960s, the finned Cadillacs of the 1950s suddenly seemed old-fashioned compared to the streamlined contemporary models of new GM Design Chief Bill Mitchell. Unfortunately, many old Cadillacs have ended up in the wrong hands and been driven to the ground or, worse, sent to the crusher. These were complex, heavy cars, built like tanks and are extremely difficult to restore then and today.
Fast forward to SEMA 2022, and Central Hall was buzzing with a dizzying array of builds from the industry’s biggest names. But among this kaleidoscope of coolness, a car stopped me dead in my tracks, leaving me stunned and stunned. There, on the floor of the convention center, stood a gorgeous 1957 Eldorado Seville, floor-beaten in a coppery hue that would have been a perfect hue for a Hollywood starlet’s cocktail dress. Absolutely stunning, to say the least.
This Cadillac is the brainchild of Chevy’s publication The BLOCK, and the guys break down the backstory of the build in a nutshell for us. “Our latest project at The BLOCK is Rosiea 1957 Cadillac Eldorado Seville two-door coupe. Designed by Andy Williamson, the Caddy was built by the team at Retro Designs Speed & Custom in Harrisburg, North Carolina, and features a Chevrolet Performance LT4 E-ROD crate engine to inspire driving.
“Rosie is part of the Mobil 1 ‘Keep Route 66 Kickin’ campaign, a program in which the world’s leading synthetic motor oil brand strives to make ‘The Mother Road’ a national historic route. Rosie plans to spend the rest of the year and through 2023 reminiscing on Route 66 and other highways while encouraging others to do the same in their own vehicles.”
Rosie was purchased in St. Louis and was a well-preserved example that served on weekends in good weather. If you think this was a frame-off build, you’re wrong. Still riding on its factory frame car (now packaged by Smith Chassis and Metalworks who have added an Air Lift Performance system), this car has the same paint job it had when The BLOCK bought it, albeit with a correction and deep detail.
The beating heartbeat of this build is all Chevrolet. The guys at The BLOCK saw an opportunity to equip it with modern performance and they passed on their thought process. “We chose a Connect & Cruise Crate Powertrain system with the LT4 E-ROD (allowing Rosie to cruise in all 50 states) and a 10-speed SuperMatic 10L90-E automatic transmission. The 6.2-liter supercharged engine produces 650 horsepower and 650 lb.-ft. of torque, while the transmission has a 715 lb-ft. maximum torque capacity, an overall gear ratio of 7.39 and an aggressive first gear of 4.70. The result is great acceleration on entry combined with smooth highway cruising.”
The interior also underwent a metamorphosis. The car came from the factory with a metallic bronze and black brocade interior that had received a mediocre update at one point, but we would have liked it to be retained in Rosie. Instead, they went with a pink interior which, while super fabulous, is a slightly awkward combination with the copper exterior and leaves us yearning for the original. Nevertheless, this is a perfectly stitched cabin that adds modern amenities such as air conditioning, a modern Bluetooth stereo and air controls.
The BLOCK turned to Dakota Digital for a speedometer conversion to convert the electric speedometer on the modern 10L90-E 10-speed transmission to a cable-driven setup. This allowed them to keep the factory gauge while using a modern transmission.
Rosie is beautiful again in all her glory and she is ready to cruise the countryside. If you see a copper-finned beauty breathing the asphalt ribbons of Route 66, it might be Rosie. Check out more details on the Mobil 1 Route 66 event here to see where she’s headed.