1956 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz

1956 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz

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The Spectacular Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz

In the two years since the Eldorado was first introduced by Cadillac, it has won itself a unique place in the hearts of motorist everywhere. Though the Eldorado name originally designated only the convertible model, it will include for 1956 both an open and closed car. The first of these- the spectacular Biarritz- is a true achievement in advanced design and engineering. Its high-sweeping fender lines... its beautiful grille and rear bumper assembly ... its unique "disappearing top" ... its special "Sabre - Spoke" wheels ... its special hood ornament ... its chrome ribbed saddle molding ... and it's many special color options ... give it a beauty all its own. To add still greater glamour, the Biarritz is available with gold wheels and a gold grille. And the Biarritz is powered by a special 305- h.p. Cadillac engine, and offers Cadillac's most advanced features of engineering throughout. In every way, it is a true masterpiece of Cadillac craftsmanship.

1956 Cadillac Brochure

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Click on the Eldorado color names below to view the cars.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Cadillac Sabre Wheel

In this article we will cover the history, evolution & application of the Sabre wheels in chronological order from 1955 to 1958.  


 First introduced on the 1955 Cadillac Eldorado. The Sabre wheel was the first aluminum wheel used on any modern passenger car. It took the collaboration of two well established companies to bring this wheel to market.  The first is Alcoa Inc., at the time Alcoa was OEM for various aluminum parts found on Cadillacs.  The second company was the Kelsey-Hayes Wheel Corp. At the time Kelsey-Hayes was OEM for the 53-54 Eldorado wire wheels.   

The 1955 Sabre Wheel
1955 Cadillac Data Book Introduction of the New Sabre Wheel. 

  Our first look at the Sabre wheel installed on a 1955 Cadillac is this photo from the Alcoa archives. It's hard to make anything stand out when your backdrop is a 1955 Cadillac but I think Alcoa did the best they could by having a model point out the great looking new wheels they offered.  

Photo courtesy of Alcoa Wheel & Transportation Products. Click to enlarge
 The construction of this wheel was a split rim design. The aluminum part of the wheels were forged by Alcoa. They used a giant press to forge the wheels from a block of hot aluminum. The  back half is made of steel by Kelsey-Hayes. The two halves were then riveted together. This made for a very strong wheel but it required a substantial amount of rivets to hold the halves together. Because of this fact a tire tube was required. See picture diagram below,

Click to enlarge
 The 1955 Sabre was not available for the Series 75 cars according to the 1955 dealer data order book. It probably had to do with the extra weight of the car.

Part number for the 1955 Sabres are as follows,
  •  # 38612 (stamped on wheel hub)

The 1956 Sabre Wheel

1956 Cadillac Data Book Introduction of the Sabre Wheel.  

The Sabre wheel was redesigned for 1956. The split wheel design was changed to a clad rim. This made the rim stronger and allowed for a tubeless tire. This is another first in the automotive world. The '56 Sabre became the very first tubeless aluminum wheel. Here is a picture of the very first forged 1956 Sabre wheel made at the Alcoa plant. The Alcoa workers are standing in front of the giant press that forged a hot block of aluminum into the shape that we all know and love.  

Photo courtesy of Alcoa Wheel & Transportation Products. Click to enlarge

What's a clad design you ask. It's a full steel rim with an aluminum hub riveted to the rim. The follwing pictures should clear it up. 
Click to enlarge
Gold 56 Sabre Click to enlarge
Because of this design, the wheel is sturdier and requires only half the numbers of rivets to assemble. Therefor a tube is not required for the tire. The '56 and up Sabres are now available on the Series 75 cars as well. They were not the same part number as the Series 60/62 wheel. This fact makes the Series 75 wheels the rarest of all Sabre wheels. 

Here is a very rare look at a Series 75 with sabre wheels. 

Photo courtesy of the Cadill-Ikes chapter.  Click to enlarge

Also new for 1956 and 1956 only, was the gold sabre wheel. The gold was an anodized finish. It looked great but was problematic for the general consumer because the finish was easily damaged if aggressive cleaners were used. For this reason the gold sabre wheel was discontinued after 1956.  
Click to enlarge
Cadillac must have received many complaints about the discoloration of gold wheels. This problem was mentioned more than once in the Cadillac Serviceman issues for 1956.  
Jan 1956 Serviceman. Click to enlarge

April 1956 Serviceman. Another reminder. Click to enlarge. 
Part number for the 1956 Sabres are as follows,
(# stamped on wheel hub)
  •  # 39786 Chrome Finish
  •  # 39787 Chrome Finish Series 75
  •  # 39796 Gold Finish
  •  # 39797 Gold Finish Series 75
The 1957-58 Sabre Wheel

1958 Cadillac Data Book Introduction of the Sabre Wheel.  

This wheel was the same construction as the '56 wheel. The only difference was the steel rim. It was altered slightly to allow the rim to fit over the new shape of the brake drum found on the 1957 and 1958 Cadillacs. The gold wheel was no longer available. 

Part number for the 1957-58 Sabres are as follows,

(# stamped on wheel hub)
  • # 41098 Chrome only
  • Series 75 part number unknown at this time
So there you have it folks! The Sabre wheel in full detail. This author believes it's one of the best looking wheels ever produced. I hope this article did the wheel some justice :) 

Special thanks to the folks at Alcoa Corp for their help with this article.