1959 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz Convertible

Published on
Published on
Published on
Review Author(s)
Product / Stock #
Company: Revell, Inc. - Website: Visit Site
Provided by: Revell, Inc. - Website: Visit Site
Box Art

The 1950’s were a decade of joyous excess in automotive design. After the austerity of the Great Depression and the deprivations caused by World War II, Americans were excited and optimistic about the future and America’s position in the world, and our cars showed it with increasingly powerful engines, multi-tone paint jobs, acres of gleaming chrome, and space-age tailfins. The pinnacle of this expression came in 1959, when General Motors unleashed its latest automobile designs. Every model, from the lowliest Chevrolet to the poshest Cadillac, sported tailfins the likes of which would never be seen again. Of these, the Cadillac fins, reaching nearly as high as the roof of the car, have come to symbolize the best (or, to some, the worst) of what that era offered.

Revell/Monogram has recently re-released its excellent rendering of the king of all Cadillacs of that year, the Eldorado Biarritz convertible. This kit was originally released in the early ‘90s and has remained a favorite ever since. Let’s take a look and see if it still holds up well.

The kit comes in an extra-large box, which is necessary for the incredibly long Cadillac body. Inside are 157 pieces, mostly molded in the standard white plastic. A large tree of chromed pieces, plus clear, clear red, and vinyl tires with plastic whitewall inserts round out the parts count. Clear and chromed parts are bagged separately from the white parts. My kit had no sink marks, but some of the mold parting lines are rather prominent, and a small amount of flash is evident in various places.

The large decal sheet is comprised mostly of red upholstery inserts to do the interior in a red-and-white two-tone scheme, but it also includes the speedometer, the wheel cover centers, emblems, three sets of license plates, and various engine compartment decals.

The 12-page instruction booklet is typical Revell fare: good line drawings with part numbers and names and paint call-outs. The assembly process is broken out into 19 steps. I found no errors or omissions, although the positioning of some items in the very crowded engine compartment is not terribly clear. Painting suggestions appeared to be accurate, based on my research of actual vehicles.

Assembly begins with the 32-piece engine. Several of the pieces (air cleaner, distributor, etc.) are not installed until final assembly because they would interfere with the fender wells and/or firewall when trying to mate the body and chassis.

Chassis assembly is fairly straightforward, with a 7-piece rear suspension, 8-piece front suspension, and separate dual exhausts with drilled-out tips. Everything fits snugly where it needs to go. I did have trouble getting the finished tire/wheel assemblies to snap into place on the axles. In the end, I had to glue two of the four (one front, one back) in place.

The interior builds up on a platform that initially consists of just the floor and the rear seat’s bottom cushions, which makes the task of masking for the two-tone interior much easier. You have the option of doing either a split bench or bucket seats for the front. The steering wheel and column is a three-piece affair: the outer wheel, the chrome hub and horn ring, and the column with turn signal and shift lever stalks. This attaches to the dashboard in a very secure manner, making the alignment of this assembly a no-brainer. Engraving on the seats, side panels, and dash are all very good.

Once the interior is installed in the body and a few items are added to the engine compartment, the body is fitted to the completed chassis. The fit is very tight, requiring the lower body sills to be stretched fairly wide to clear the front and rear inner fenders. Some parts of the engine also interfere with the fender wells, but with a little extra stretching and wiggling everything eventually falls into place. I ended up not even bothering with glue here, because the assembly was so snug; I would be glad of this later on.

With the body and chassis assembled, the remaining engine compartment items can be installed, followed by the front and rear bumper assemblies. The windshield frame is a separate chrome piece, into and onto which the windshield, windshield wipers, sun visors, and rear view mirror attach with firm anchoring points. This drops into place on the body with no problems. Final assembly finishes up with the hood, vent windows, and two-piece side view mirror. The final option is to use the convertible top or the hard boot.

I had built this kit once before, about 20 years ago, when it was molded in pink plastic (Springsteen’s “Pink Cadillac” was a big hit at the time). I didn’t know about Bare Metal Foil at the time, or blocking primer, or white glue, so it didn’t turn out as well as I had hoped. I’ve been looking forward to taking another crack at it ever since. After doing my research, the first step in my build was deciding on the interior and exterior colors. I wanted to do a two-tone interior but, if I used the kit-supplied decals, then I was locked into a red body, and I didn’t want to do it in red. I ended up settling on silver with a black and dark silver interior. I doubt that that particular interior color combination was a factory option, but it looks right to me. I used Krylon flat black for the base color, and Tamiya Light Gunmetal for the dark silver. The body was painted with Tamiya Silver Metallic over top of Tamiya gray primer. All of this came out of spray cans. No gloss coat was used, and no polishing of the finish was needed.

The engine got a coat of Tamiya blue, with Testor’s gold on the valve covers and air cleaner. Krylon semi-gloss black covered the chassis and many other items. A black wash on the front grill, the air intakes in front of the windshield, and the rear speaker grill helps make all those areas look more realistic.

The biggest job on this kit, as you might expect, was the foiling. The interior required matte steel foil for the door panels as well as ultra-bright chrome foil for other areas. By the time I finished the body, I had used nearly a quarter sheet of foil! Here is where my choice of body color works against me, since the chrome foil doesn’t stand out nearly as well against the silver paint as it would against most other colors.

The decals went on with no problems, responding well to decal solvent and snuggling down nicely. Once they dried, I covered the license plates and the wheel cover centers with Micro Krystal Clear to provide a little extra protection as well as a nice 3-D effect. Again, my color choice worked against me here. The decals for the “Eldorado” scripts on the front fenders are nearly the same color as the paint. They do, however, have a black shadow effect that helps the scripts stand out better. Considering how well the scripts hold up to multiple coats of paint, you might want to try foiling them before painting, and then polishing away the paint to reveal the foil underneath.

Assembly went pretty well. I had a slight problem with the rear axle not wanting to settle down onto the control yoke as it should, which made the driveshaft a tight fit later. Another problem was with the rear fin ornaments, which didn’t seem to line up very well with the spears; on the left side, I actually swapped the inner and outer spears to mate up better with the bulges on the fin ornaments. The bullet taillights themselves really need an application of chrome foil on their bases; but they are so small and so slippery that I couldn’t hold them very well, nor could I get the foil to hold to the ribbed base well enough to burnish it down. I ended up not doing anything to them, but an application of chrome silver paint on the ribbed portions before removing them from the sprues might work out better.

Speaking of those side spears on the fins, they are chromed in the kit, but the chrome must have been an option on the real cars because very few of the reference photos I found showed them that way; most were painted body color. Stripping the chrome and attaching the spears before painting would be an option, but you will need to temporarily attach the fin decorations to make sure the spears are lined up properly.

My final bit of difficulty came when I attached the front bumper/grille assembly. The primary attachment points are on the chassis, but there is also a good gluing surface on the front edges of the fenders. The problem I had was that while the left side mated up fine, the right side of the chassis sat a little lower, so the bumper assembly wouldn’t touch the fender without being held in place. Lucky for me that I hadn’t glued the body and chassis together: if I had, this might have been a major issue. I eventually solved this problem with a little gel super glue and a small C clamp to hold everything in place overnight.

As you can see from the photos, the final result came out pretty well. I’m very happy with both the kit itself and with the way my skills have improved over the past 20 years. Revell lists this as a skill level 2 kit and, while assembly is fairly straightforward, the sheer number of parts in this kit and the level of detail they provide would lead me to think that younger or less-experienced modelers would find this kit somewhat difficult; I would consider this more like a level 2.5. That being said, it’s a great kit of a great subject, and anyone with sufficient skills and patience should enjoy it. My thanks to Revell and to IPMS/USA for giving me the opportunity to build this kit once again.


Add new comment

All comments are moderated to prevent spam

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.