Harley Earl was the czar of ’50s automobile styling. Before the days of focus groups, government regulations, and legal departments, Earl had little restraint or boundaries to hinder his artistic vision. Commensurately, the unfettered designs that came out of GM’s Warren Technical Center under his rule were bold and brash and are now considered timeless masterpieces of industrial design.
Of all the GM divisional palettes that Earl had to choose from, Cadillac was the pinnacle of his focus. Beginning in 1948, he added vestigial tailfins to new Cadillacs and created a worldwide styling trend that culminated with the outrageous 1959 models. In fact, Cadillac would retain tail fins through the 1964 model year, long after the cosmetic appendages had been shorn from contemporary competitors.
Often overlooked in Cadillac’s wild styling legacy are the 1957 and 1958 Eldorado Sevilles. Only 2,100 examples were built in 1957 and a scant 855 units in 1958. The main difference between the two years is the 1957 model had dual headlights, and the 1958 has a quad arrangement. These big Eldorados were essentially Coupe de Villes with an entirely different rear clip grafted on the back. They were positioned a notch down in the lineup from the top-of-the-line Brougham model.
At the dawn of the 60s, finned Cadillacs of the 50s suddenly seemed ancient compared to new GM Design Chief Bill Mitchell’s sleek contemporary models. Sadly, many old Cadillacs got into the wrong hands and were run into the ground or worse, sent to the crusher. These were complex, heavy cars, built like tanks and are extremely challenging to restore then and today.
Fast forward to SEMA 2022, and Central Hall was buzzing with a dazzling array of builds from the biggest names in the business. Yet, amongst this kaleidoscope of cool, one car stopped me dead in my tracks and left me flummoxed and dumbfounded. There on the convention center floor, was a gorgeous 1957 Eldorado Seville, slammed on the ground in a coppery hue that would have been a perfect shade 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 Rosie, a 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 looks to make ‘The Mother Road’ a national historic trail. Rosie is set to make memories on Route 66 and other highways for the remainder of the year and through 2023 – while encouraging others to do the same in their own vehicles.”
Rosie was purchased in St. Louis and was a well-preserved example that saw fairweather weekend duty. If you think this was a frame-off build, you would be wrong. This car is still riding on its factory frame car (now bagged by Smith Chassis and Metalworks which added an Air Lift Performance system) and sports the same paint job as when The BLOCK purchased it, albeit with a correction and deep dive detailing.
The thumping heartbeat of this build is all Chevrolet. The guys at The BLOCK saw an opportunity to outfit it with modern performance and they relayed their thought process. “We chose a Connect & Cruise Crate Powertrain System featuring the LT4 E-ROD (allowing Rosie to cruise in all 50 states) and a SuperMatic 10L90-E 10-speed automatic transmission. The 6.2-liter supercharged engine turns out 650 horsepower and 650 lb.-ft. of torque, while the transmission has a 715 lb-ft. torque-capacity limit, a 7.39 overall gear ratio, and an aggressive 4.70 first-gear ratio. The result is great step-off acceleration married with calm cruising on the highway.”
The interior saw a metamorphosis as well. The car came from the factory with a metallic bronze and black brocade interior which had seen a mediocre update at some point, but we would have loved to see it retained in Rosie. Instead, they went with a pink interior that although super fabulous, is a slightly awkward pairing with the copper exterior and leaves us longing for the original. Nonetheless, this is a perfectly stitched cabin that adds modern amenities like air conditioning, a modern Bluetooth stereo, and air ride controls.
The BLOCK turned to Dakota Digital for a speedometer conversion to convert the electric speedo on the modern 10L90-E 10-speed transmission to a cable-driven setup. This allowed them to keep the factory gauge while running a modern transmission.
Rosie is splendid in all her glory once again, and she is ready to revisit landmarks around the country. If you see a coppery-finned beauty inhaling the asphalt ribbons of Route 66, it just might be Rosie. To see where she’ll go next, check out more details about the Mobil 1 Route 66 Event here.