GM design guru Harley Earl was the undisputed star of ’50s automobile styling. Before the days of focus groups, government regulations, and HR departments, Earl had free reign to realize his artistic vision. The outrageous designs that came out of General Motors under Earl’s watch are now considered timeless benchmarks of industrial design, and Cadillac was the pinnacle of his focus.
In 1948, he added budding tailfins to GM’s Wreath and Crest division and created a design trend that culminated with Cadillac’s outrageous 1959 models. Cadillac would hang on to tail fins through the 1964 model year, long after the visual cues had been banished from its competitor’s models.
Cadillac Sibling Rivalry
While Cadillac’s 1959 models get the lion’s share of admiration, the 1957 and 1958 Eldorado Sevilles are just as outrageous. 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 two headlights, and the 1958 model had four.
These big Eldorados were essentially Coupe de Villes with new curvier lines from the B-pillar back. They were positioned a notch down in the lineup from the top-of-the-line Brougham model but were equal stars of Cadillac’s lineup.
As the Sixties progressed, finned Cadillacs of the 50s suddenly seemed passe 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 were extremely challenging to restore then and today.
This Cadillac Makes The Big Show
Fast forward to SEMA 2023, and Central Hall was packed with the best cars from around the world. A dazzling array of human achievements would be an understatement. Suddenly, even in a crowded, chaotic environment, we saw her, holding court over at the Mother’s Polish booth.
Sleek, scarlet red, and dripping with jewelry she stood out from the other cars and when we gazed upon her, time stood still and the din of the crowd faded away. Here was the famous princess of the royal Cadillac family, occupying the stratosphere of automotive society. We were mesmerized.
This 1957 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz convertible, built by Mike Goldman Customs out of Meridian, Mississippi, was one of our favorites from SEMA 2023. Not only was the car meticulous and impeccably presented, but a powerful secret lay under her silky red bonnet. We were keen to find out her backstory so we gave a call to the maestro himself, Mike Goldman and he filled us in on the 411 of the car.
In The Beginning
Mike and his wife Sherry have operated Mike Goldman Customs since 1990. They’ve been married for 43 years and have two children, Natalie and Talbert. Mike told us “Back in the day, I had a sand and gravel business that I got tired of, so I came home one day and told Sherry, ‘I’m selling all the trucks and we’re starting a hot rod shop.’ She thought I was crazy.” Since then, they’ve never looked back.
This 1957 Cadillac started life as a turquoise/turquoise car that had around 80k miles on the clock. It had some tinworm infestation so Mike and his team replaced the floors and other rust-prone areas. The current owner of the car acquired it as an unfinished project. He brought the car to Mike and his shop in 2021 and his team resumed the build at the height of COVID. They finished it up just before SEMA 2023.
Mike wanted a stout foundation for Her Highness, so he went with an Art Morrison chassis that included suspension and steering systems. From there, he added 14-inch, six-piston Wilwood brakes, and a gas tank from Rick’s Tanks. To clear the Caddy’s underhood components, Mike’s team customized an Ididit steering column.
The car rolls on a set of 18″ versions of Cadillac’s famous Sabre wheel, wrapped in Diamondback Tires. Mike Curtis of Curtis Speed in Orange, California custom-made the wheels and they are a treat to behold.
From there, Mike installed a Chevrolet Performance “Connect and Cruise” LT5 V8 (yes, the same mill in a C7 ZR1) and eight-speed automatic. Other than a tune, the LT5 is essentially stock with a slightly massaged power output of around 850 horsepower.
An LT5 is an incredible beauty right out of the crate, but Mike’s team added PWL valve covers, and son Talbert Goldman cut and modified them to make them fit under the hood. Then, Jon Wright at Custom Chrome Plating coated the covers and Talbert added matte black finishing touches. Talbert also fabricated the three-inch exhaust that artfully exits out of the back bumper.
The interior saw a metamorphosis as well. The car’s formerly turquoise cabin had seen better days. Paul Atkins Interior out of Hanceville, Alabama, tackled the cockpit. They added 1959 Cadillac bucket seats, a custom console, and then covered everything in red leather. Dan Baker from Alumicraft fabricated interior pieces that have been “extinct” for some time. Mike’s team added Vintage Air, for front and rear passengers, Dakota Digital gauges, and a Bluetooth sound system from RetroSound. The icing on the cake was a small-diameter custom steering wheel that looked like it came off a GM assembly line in 1957. Again, Mike Curtis of Curtis Speed did an outstanding job.
Teamwork Makes The Dream Work
The body was laser-straight and the Victory Red paint looked as deep as the sea. This is a big car, and we can only imagine how much sanding and prep it took to get Her Highness back to better than factory fresh. Not only that, this pampered Caddy is adorned with such massive amounts of brightwork and trim it was enough work for two plating shops, Advanced Plating from Portland, Tennesee, and Wright’s Custom Chrome Plating out of Grafton, Ohio.
Mike usually had five or so builds going during the year and he told us, “I really have to hand it to my current team, they are really a talented bunch of people and we’ve got a good vibe going. I have a mix of the most talented folks from around the country married with the best local craftsman from our area. We can handle all aspects of a build in-house as well. We love what we do and we’re having fun doing it.”
The Cadillac Epilogue
Many have seen a viral video of the fender bender between this red Eldo and a blue-green GTO on the floor of the Las Vegas Convention Center at SEMA 2023. Although nerves were rattled, the damage was minor and luckily no one got hurt. Mike had the fun task of notifying the owner, who was following the Texas Rangers around the country. When they won the World Series, he skipped SEMA and that might have been good in retrospect. He told Mike, “You guys built the car, go ahead and fix her back to good as new.”
So all’s well that ends well, and Mike and his team have their work cut out returning the Eldo back to perfection, and plotting their next works of art. Stay tuned to LSXMag for the latest updates on Mike Goldman Customs.