The Eldorado model was part of the Cadillac line from 1953 to 2002. The Cadillac Eldorado was the longest running American personal luxury car as it was the only one sold after the 1998 model year. Its main competitors included the Mark Series and the lower-priced Buick Riviera. The name Eldorado was derived from the Spanish words "el dorado", the "gilded one"; the name was given originally to the legendary chief or "cacique" of a S. American Indian tribe. Legend has it that his followers would sprinkle his body with gold dust on ceremonial occasions and he would wash it off again by diving into a lake. The name more frequently refers to a legendary city of fabulous riches, somewhere in S. America, that inspired many European expeditions, including one to the Orinoco by England's Sir Walter Raleigh.
The name was proposed for a special show car built in 1952 to mark Cadillac's Golden Anniversary; it was the result of an in-house competition won by Mary-Ann Zukosky (married name = Marini), a secretary in the company's merchandising department. Another source, Palm Springs Life magazine, attributes the name to a resort destination in California's Coachella Valley that was a favorite of General Motors executives, the Eldorado Country Club. In any case, the name was adopted by the company for a new, limited-edition convertible that was added to the line in 1953.
Although cars bearing the name varied considerably in bodystyle and mechanical layout during this long period, the Eldorado models were always near the top of the Cadillac line. Nevertheless, and except for the Eldorado Brougham models of 1957-1960, the most expensive models were always the opulent, long wheel-based "Series 75" sedans and limousines.
Sure enough, Cadillac soon announced that Eldorado's 49th model year, 2002, would be its last. The Eldorado had one more bow to take, though, as the final ETC model became one of the most powerful front wheel drive cars ever built at 300 hp (224 kW).
To mark the end of this historic name, a limited production run of cars in red and white, the colors of the 1953 convertible, were produced, with exhaust notes tuned to imitate that of their illustrious forerunner. Production ended on April 22, 2003, and was replaced by the Cadillac XLR roadster for 2004.