In the late 1960′ and early 1970s, Cadillacs were, well, boats. Seeing those cars today makes us wonder how anyone parallel parked or navigated tight city streets in anything that big. It was then that something almost happened that could have taken Caddy in an entirely different direction.
The story goes something like this: successful LeMans driver Luigi Chinetti also happened to be the sole Ferrari distributor in the U.S. from 1947 until 1970. And as stringent emissions regulations towered over the auto industry, Chinetti saw an opportunity to supply wealthy customers interested in buying something distinct and special with an exotic car that would otherwise be eliminated due to impending regulations. So Chinetti came to GM to discuss a modified Eldorado for rich people, and the project to create the NART Cadillac Zagato began.
Back then, the baddest Caddy available was the 1968 Mark VII Eldorado. So GM and Cadillac decided to use the Eldorado as the basis for the project, moving the Big Block 400 horsepower, 500 ci (8.1 liter) V8 to the rear while adding four-wheel disc brakes, a four-speed automatic gearbox, and four-wheel independent suspension (with torsion bars). It was a fancy piece of kit for the time — and most definitely the most unique Eldorado. Ever.
According to reports, the body was designed by Chinetti Jr., who paid an art center grad to bring his sketches to life, while the clay model was finished at GM’s studios. Then, it was off to Italian coachbuilder Zagato to build the final car out of aluminum, with a shortened Cadillac dashboard, all of Cadillac’s luxury amenities such as power windows, climate control and an AM/FM stereo, ’66 GTO taillights, and a bit of Euro flair. The prototype was displayed at Zagato’s stand at the Turin Motor show in 1971 and months later at the Chinetti Motors’ stand at the New York International Automobile Show.
Unfortunately, GM and Cadillac lost interest in the project due to a myriad of factors, including several delays, changes in priorities, and some economic difficulties — leading to the mid-engine project being abandoned, and any possibility of it making it to production — squashed. What a shame.
Thanks to Jalopnik for the inspiration.