1974 Cadillac Fleetwood Eldorado
1974 CADILLAC VEHICLE IDENTIFICATION NUMBER
GM changed its serial numbering system in 1972 to incorporate an alphabetical series code and engine type code. For 1974, 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: 6L47S4Q400001
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 (74 - Model Year; 6 - Cadillac Division; EL - Eldorado Series;
47 - 2-Door Coupe Body Style or 67 - 2-Door Convertible)
1974 Cadillac Eldorado—A Lifestyle and A Legend
Above: 1974 Cadillac Eldorado Coupe in Dynasty Red with White padded vinyl roof and Medium Red Sierra Grain Leather interior
With two record breaking sales and production years behind it, Cadillac Motor Car Division had every reason to expect the trend to continue. The Eldorado had surpassed the 50,000 mark the previous year, and attractive styling updates for 1974 were likely to continue the Eldorado's popularity. But that was not to be. Events on the other side of the world were about to have an unexpected and profound impact on the American automobile industry.
Late in 1973, as the new 1974 models were just beginning to draw potential buyers into the showrooms, political turmoil in the Middle East resulted in an oil embargo of Arab oil into the United States. Faced with rising gasoline prices, as well as the possibility of shortages and rationing, a nervous public shifted to smaller, more fuel efficient cars and abandoned the large cars they'd loved for so long. Fortunately, the embargo was temporary and by the spring of 1974, it became obvious that we weren't going to run out of gasoline, which meant people began shifting back to the full sized luxury cars they had really wanted all along.
But this didn't come soon enough to save the model year. Cadillac built just 40,412 Eldorados during the 1974 production run, a decline of 21.5 percent from the previous year. But there was some good news for Cadillac. In spite of the sales drop due to the oil scare, Cadillac actually picked up market share for the year. In 1973, Cadillac had 30.3 percent of the U.S. luxury car market. That figure rose to 34.5 percent for 1974.
Most of the Eldorado's competitors carried over styling from 1973, but most did get rear end updates to accommodate the new 5 mph Federal Standards for rear impact protection. The Continental Mark IV sold better than the Eldorado again this year, a fact that had not gone unnoticed by Cadillac Division. The Fleetwood Eldorado's second generation styling wasn't being accepted by the public, and even the automotive magazines of the time were commenting on the Eldorado's heavy appearance. To address this, the chrome air intake molding was eliminated from the leading edge of the rear fender for 1973, as was the center projection on the deck lid and bumper. These actions no doubt helped sales, as they did improve for 1973. But Cadillac knew more would need to be done, but those changes wouldn't be ready until 1975. This meant the Eldorado had to compete in 1974 with updates to styling that was now showing its age, and was not as popular as the look that preceded it.
The Continental Mark IV got new wrap around taillights that served as rear side markers, and the deck lid hump was no longer continued down into the rear bumper styling, no doubt due to the new rear bumper regulations. The Ford Thunderbird incorporated back-up lights into the center section of the taillights, which no longer had a wall-to-wall strip of red light at night. The Chrysler Imperial introduced all-new styling, which was beautiful. Brought back from the dead at the last moment, there wasn't a personal luxury car in the line until late in the year when the Crown Coupe was introduced. Sales were slow, especially for the debut of new styling, which normally led to greater interest.
Cadillac marketed the Eldorado as a legendary automobile, unique due to its front wheel drive, variable-ratio power steering, Automatic Level Control, and the availability of a convertible in the line. It was pointed out that the Cadillac Eldorado provided many meaningful features as part of its standard equipment. Glamour was emphasized, as were the many changes to styling, performance, economy, and new interior touches of luxury, such as the use of distressed pecan vinyl panels and the new instrument panel.
But Cadillac had come to the realization in late 1973 that it could no longer continue on the same path it had been on, no matter how successful it may have been in the past. Smaller, more efficient luxury cars would be needed in the future, Cadillac believed, and it was determined to lead the way. Work on a new, smaller Cadillac was now the top priority, and the full-sized luxury cars the public had become accustomed to were about to undergo a considerable change. New styling for the Eldorado was just around the corner in 1975, but an even greater change was now in the early planning stages.
There would still be some great Eldorados built in the seventies, but even as they began to come off the assembly line and appear in dealer showrooms, the distance in front of them was much shorter than the distance behind them. New limited edition trim packages would introduce even higher levels of luxury, and one model would say farewell, at least for a time.
The 1974 Eldorado was the last to retain the original second generation styling. The 1975 cars would use the same basic body, but would receive substantial styling updates to give it a fresh, new look. The earlier cars will provide better performance, as emissions concerns continued to choke down performance progressively as you got further into the decade. Look for a car with the optional High-Energy Ignition System option, as it made a difference and became standard across the line in 1975.
Check for rust in the usual places, under the vinyl roof and around the moldings. The bottoms of the front fenders seem to be susceptible on Cadillacs of this era, and check the edge of the hood and deck lid as well. Parts are normally easy to obtain, as many parts were used across GM divisions, but beware that some unique trim pieces can be difficult to find. The 1974 models have a slightly better ride than the earlier models, due to an improved rear suspension with rear stabilizer bar. A network of interconnecting acoustical materials provided a level of quiet inside the car that was a new standard, even for Cadillac.1974 would be the final year for the rear fender skirts as well, and many do prefer the more formal, graceful look of the car with the skirts.
The Eldorados of the seventies were a unique driving experience, and offered an unusual level of performance, handling, and luxury that worked well together. If you've never driven a car of this size before, a few minutes behind the wheel will show you that they are surprisingly agile and easy to drive. An hour or two, and you'll feel as if it's been your favorite car for years. Buy the best one you can find, restorations are expensive and the final product currently doesn't have the value to support the expense of a major restoration. There are still many clean, original examples out there, and those are the ones to seek out.