Although cars bearing the name varied considerably in bodystyle and mechanical layout during this long period, the Eldorado models were always near the top of the Cadillac line. Nevertheless, and except for the Eldorado Brougham models of 1957–1960, the most expensive models were always the opulent, long wheel-based Series 75 sedans and limousines, not the Eldorado.
The name was proposed for a special show car built in 1952 to mark Cadillac's Golden Anniversary; it was the result of an in-house competition won by Mary-Ann Zukosky (married name = Marini), a secretary in the company's merchandising department. Another source, Palm Springs Life magazine, attributes the name to a resort destination in California's Coachella Valley that was a favorite of General Motors executives, the Eldorado Country Club. In any case, the name was adopted by the company for a new, limited-edition convertible that was added to the line in 1953.
The name Eldorado was derived from the Spanish words "el dorado", "the gilded one" or "the golden one"; the name was given originally to the legendary chief or "cacique" of a South American Indian tribe. Legend has it that his followers would sprinkle his body with gold dust on ceremonial occasions and he would wash it off again by diving into a lake. The name more frequently refers to a legendary city of fabulous riches, somewhere in South America, that inspired many European expeditions, including one to the Orinoco by England's Sir Walter Raleigh.