1973 Cadillac Fleetwood Eldorado
1973 CADILLAC VEHICLE IDENTIFICATION NUMBER
GM changed its serial numbering system in 1972 to incorporate an alphabetical series code and engine type code. For 1973, this new numbering system was used on both the serial number tag and the body number plate under the hood.
A 13-digit number appears on top of the dash on the driver's side of the
car, and can be viewed through the windshield. A second number appears
on a tag on the rear upper portion of the cylinder block behind the intake
manifold. The digits resemble: 6L47S3Q100001
BODY NUMBER PLATE
Complete vehicle identification is determined by the Body Number Plate, which is located under the hood on the cowl, near the top.
ST = Style (73 - Model Year; 6 - Cadillac Division; EL - Eldorado Series;
47 - 2-Door Coupe Body Style or 67 - 2-Door Convertible)
More Glamorous and More Exciting for 1973
After an incredible record setting year in 1972, Cadillac was able to once again shatter previous production and sales records for 1973. A total of 304,839 Cadillacs were built, surpassing the 300,000 mark for the first time ever. Just the previous year, Cadillac surpassed the production of 250,000 cars for the first time. It would seem Cadillac could do no wrong at this point.
For 1973, the Eldorado Coupe and Convertible surpassed the 50,000 production mark for the first time, setting a new record for the models. A Cotillion White 1973 Cadillac Fleetwood Eldorado Convertible served as the Official Pace Car of the 57th Indianapolis 500 Race on May 28, 1973. It was driven by Jim Rathmann, and unfortunately the opening laps may have been the best part of the entire race, which was besieged with accidents and weather-related delays.
In fact, the 1973 race was one of the worst ever for the event. The race had to be postponed twice due to rain, and instead of being the expected one day event, it actually ended on the following Wednesday! The 1973 race was deadly, too. Driver Art Pollard was killed in an accident on the qualifying day, running 191.4 mph during the practice session when he lost control and smashed into a concrete retaining wall, which caused his car to burst into flames and spin across the track into the infield, where it rolled several times. He died an hour later of flame inhalation. A large accident on Saturday injured driver David "Salt" Walther as well as 13 spectators when he drifted into another car, causing his car to hit the grandstand fence, twirling it around several times. The fuel tank separated from the car and burst into flames, spewing 70 gallons of fuel into the grandstand. The race was halted, without so much as a single lap having been completed.
And that wasn't the end of the bad news. Another driver, Swede Savage was seriously injured on Monday, and died a month later. On Lap 59, the rear of Savage's car slipped in Turn 4, and when Savage recovered the car was headed straight for the inside wall. Savage hit the wall head on, ripping the car in half and exploding into flames. A crewman, Armando Teran, headed toward the accident and was killed when a safety truck speeding up the pit road at 60 mph in the wrong direction hit him from behind, killing him instantly. After yet more rain delays with more in the forecast, the race was mercifully ended after just 133 laps. The Indy 500 normally ran 200 laps. Gordon Johncock was declared the winner. When asked to comment, Johncock said, "It was just a race that everybody wanted to get over with and go home and forget about it."
Above: 1973 Cadillac Eldorado Convertible in Cotillion White with Medium Red (Scarlet) interior
Cadillac's Eldorado advertising for 1973 included a couple of ads directed at women, advising the Eldorado was appreciated more for its abilities than for its prestige or appearance. Another "Cadillac presents the class of '73" showed a Cotillion White Eldorado Convertible with a Sable Black Coupe and a Sedan deVille. A two page ad, "Eldorado. Three things make it unique," poised a Cotillion White Coupe on the curb of a busy city street at dusk. Elegant with its parking lights on, a couple in the background is conversing with another couple riding in a horse drawn carriage. Further off in the distance, you can see traffic speeding by, but time has stopped for the Eldorado couple. The ad copy advised of the virtues of Eldorado ownership, but the image says as much as the ad copy. If you want to escape the hectic pace and have time to enjoy life, you buy an Eldorado.
Eldorado's top competitor, the Continental Mark IV, was also selling in record numbers, with 69,437 built in 1973. The Mark IV was introduced in 1972, and was the follow up model to the popular 1969-1971 Continental Mark III. Overall, Cadillac was still outselling Lincoln by a wide margin, but the Eldorado was losing out to the Mark, which seemed to have the edge in the styling department. This trend would continue through the rest of the decade, even after a major restyle in 1975 for the Eldorado.
The Buick Riviera and Oldsmobile Toronado weren't selling as well as product planners had hoped, and in an attempt to improve the Riviera's sales, Buick had toned down the "boat tail" rear styling on the 1973 Riviera, but that move hadn't helped to sell more cars. Even more changes would be made for 1974, in an attempt to move more cars. In fact, everything behind the front doors would be new. But even that would not help the Riviera.
The Toronado didn't have controversial styling like the Riviera to blame, but they were slow sellers as well. In the personal luxury car market segment, Ford's Thunderbird was the sales leader for 1973. Pontiac introduced a new Grand Prix this year, and it had beautiful styling and was very popular. It's possible some Riviera and Toronado sales may have been lost to smaller, mid-sized cars like the Oldsmobile Cutlass, which was one of the most popular and best selling cars on the road at the time. All of GM's mid-sized coupes—Chevrolet Monte Carlo, Pontiac Grand Prix, Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme, and Buick Century—had attractive new styling for 1973, and each offered new Opera Window styling, which was one of the big styling trends at the time. With the cost of living increasing at the time and rising interest rates, some people very likely stepped down to save money, as all of GM's mid-sized coupes sold well for 1973.
Above: 1973 Cadillac Eldorado Coupe in Dynasty Red with White padded vinyl roof and White leather interior
The styling of this generation of Eldorado wasn't accepted as well as the styling of the earlier cars, and it's likely that some of the changes made for 1973 helped sales. The revision of the rear deck and bumper and the elimination of the chrome air intake decoration on the rear fenders in particular may have been mostly responsible for improved sales, as those seem to be the very things most object to today when discussing the styling of the 1971-1972 cars.
If you're considering the purchase of a 1973 Eldorado, trouble prone areas include corrosion under the vinyl top and around the roof moldings. Also check the bottoms of the front fenders. The scissor design of the convertible top mechanism can bind and bend, so make sure the top lowers and raises properly. Also check for door courtesy lights that may flicker or go out as you open the door, a sure sign that the wiring between the door and car is damaged and in need of repair. Sporadic operation of power windows and locks depending on the position of the door is another indicator. Mechanically, these Eldorados are solid, well-built, well-designed motorcars that are a pleasure to drive even today. The fact that they are such wonderful cars more than three decades after they were built serves as proof that Cadillac did indeed build a superior automobile.
After two record setting years in a row, Cadillac was ready for a third exceptional year. More styling changes would give the Eldorado a fresh look for 1974, and a sophisticated new instrument panel design would debut that was well organized and provided more room for front seat passengers. But in another part of the world, events were occurring that would soon have a huge impact on Cadillac as well as most other auto manufacturers for the 1974 model year. And the result of those events would forever change the American luxury car market.