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1981 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz

I purchased my 1981 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz in July of 2000. Without even looking for a car or parts, I went to the big swap meet in Iola Wisconsin. Near the end of the show on Saturday I stumbled across this Eldo with poor paint, a big dent in the drivers door, and a heat checked interior. The man who owned the car told me it had 20,000 miles on a rebuilt motor and that there was a brand new vinyl top in the trunk. We came to an agreement and I drove the car the three hours to home.

Orginally I had planned on giving the car a quick paint job and just run it. I wanted the car because my folks had one like it brand new in '83. I also wanted to keep the miles off our new cars - a 1998 Dodge Pick Up and a 2000 Chrysler Concorde. Anyway, the project became a little deeper as I decided to fix all the little things and basically bring the car to near new condition.

I had some difficulty finding information about the car so I thought I would put this up to help others with similar projects. The one source that REALLY helped me was the Cadillac mailing list at Egroups:
Go Here For Cadillac Help!

Thanks to all that helped me out.

Vinyl top Installation:

A brand new vinyl top was in the trunk. It was maroon in color and looked nice to me. So I thought I'd put it on. I decided to put the new top right over the old one as the padding was still good. First of all you have to go through the difficulty of removing the rear interior side panels, metal access plate just rear of the window, and the trim around the top. The rear windows must be popped out (3 bolts) do get the trim off. The opera lights and "Biarritz" emblems must be unscrewed from inside the access panel. I went down to Menards and picked up a gallon of contact cement and a bunch of cheap brushes. Lay the top out on the car and let it sit in the sun for a while. This makes thetop easier to stretch. I started the installation at the top seam right where the roof drops down. Apply the cement to both the top and the new top and wait about 10 minutes. The I placed the pieces together along the seam. It is extremly important to get theis seam straight and in the correct position. This is reletively easy with the old roof still on. I then worked forward in sections until all of the top of the roof was glued down. Next I stretched and glued the sides down. Now comes the difficult part. The rear window! You will need to trim out the rear window as you work in small sections from the roof line down. You can leave quite a bit of extra material in the long stretches but at the corners you need to get pretty close and use alot of stretching to get the looking good. I used a paint stick to push the material under the padding. After the top is all glued down you can trim around the edges where the trim goes on. Be careful to leave enough material. My top did shrink a little after I trimmed it so be careful! Then just reinstall the trim. You will now need to take the next two days off of work to get all the glue off the rear window and stainless top. Or you could have masked them in the beginning - wish I had!

Opera Lights:

Both of my opera lights were cracked. I ended up buying a 1985 Eldorado parts car from a local junk yard. the opear lights on this car were good so I just swaped them. These lights do work. A fiber optic cord run rearward over the fender wells and leads to a lamp housing in the trunk. There is a housing on each side of the trunk. If your lights don't work you need to replace the bulbs inside!

Paint and Bodywork:

I'm not going to go into how to paint a car here. We fixed all the dents and stripped the car down. This included taking the front end off as it is IMPOSSIBLE to remove the Biarritz fender chrome with the fenders on. I was pleasantly surprised at how nice the body was - absolutely NO rust. The car apparently spent most its life in Utah. I painted the car the stock 81 white in Concept (PPG) Urathane. We sanded and buffed the final product for the slick look. Then we put it all back together again.

Interior:

I decided to use the seats out of the parts car as they were really nice. They were maroon and needed to be carmine so I decided to dye the entire interior. I used SEM plastic and vinyl dye. This product is sprayed on like the old laquers with no additives at all. The parts must be clean and I used a leather prep even though it was probably not necessary. Count on using ALOT of product. It sprays thin and I used almost 2 gallons for the interior. It is best to let the parts sit for a couple days before installing them as they are easily damaged while setting up. DO NOT SPRAY IN VERY HIGH HUMIDITY AS THE DYE WILL GET FOGGY! I also installed new carpeting I found online for about $100.00. I used the best parts from the two cars in the interior.

Suspension:

Now that all the cosmetics are done I decided to pick away at all the small problems. They car shakes as you drive it down the road so I assumed CV joints. I ordered both sides rebuilt from NAPA. I think these are a good deal at $72.00 per side. The left side went well and this is the procedure:
1. Jack car up so the tire hangs.
2. Remove hubcap and tire.
3. Remove spindle cotter key, tin cover, and nut.
The nut is 1 3/8" and is VERY tight. This may take a while to loosen!
4. Remove the tie rod end cotter key and nut. Seperate the rod end from the knuckle.
5. Remove the 6 bolts from the drive axle on the far end of the assembly.
The assemly should now be loose.
6. Remove the cotter key and nut from the UPPER ball joint.
Seperate the ball joint from it's knuckle.
7. You should now be able to remove the assembly.
8. Set the new assembly in place with the spindle end loosely in it's hole.
9. Install the 6 bolts into the drive axle first.
10. Reverse the steps to reinstall.
BE CAREFUL NOT TO DAMAGE THE NEW RUBBER BOOTS!

The right side is installed the same way! I had another problem to contend with. On the right side, there is an extra support brace and bearing that the drive axle rides in. This should normally not effect your CV installation but in my case the bracket was completely broken off. This is what caused most of my vibration problem. I welded the front portion of the bracket back together. The rearward bolt hole in the engine block was completely destroyed. The boss was almost half missing! So I ended up remaking the bracket so that the unit bolts into a different hole in the block. There is very little room in this area and it is a real pain! PLEASE check this bracket for any cracking while the CV assemly is out so you can aviod the same sort of damage I had.

I believe that the reason I got a good deal on the car is because of this problem. It was certainly beyond the sellers ability to fix and would have been expensive if I had had someone else do it. I find it VERY hard to believe that the seller was unaware of this problem. Just check for cracking!

Pitman Arm

After we fixed the CV joints the car still has a little shake and the steering seemed loose. After closer inspection we found that the ball joint on the end of the pitman arm was very loose. I ordered a new unit from NAPA. Here's the method:
1. Remove the cotter key and nut from the ball end of the arm.
2. Position the arm by moving the steering wheel so that you can easily access the joint from below. This position is behind the frame crossmember.
3. Use a small claw type puller (the type with 2 hooks and a threaded rod in the middle) and pop the joint apart. A "tuning fork" type seperator does not seem to work.
4. Remove the two power steering hoses from the steering box.
5. Remove the bolt that goes through the steering shaft. This is located just next to the power brake booster by the firewall.
6. Remove the three bolts that hold the steering box to the frame.
7. Now you can remove the steering box and attached shaft from the car.
8. Put it on the bench and remove the nut that holds the arm on.
9. Mark the position of the arm on the steering box.
10. Using a pitman arm puller remove the arm. Do not use the smaller puller you used earlier. Mine is now broken.
11. Install the new arm in the same position as the old one. Examine the splines for correct attachement as it can only be installed four ways.
12. Reistall the unit in reverse order. Remember to add power steering fluid.

FIXING ENGINE ERROR CODES: My car kept showing a check engine light. I checked the codes and they were 22, 27, and 30.

To check the codes turn the ignition on. Press the OFF and WARMER buttons on the climate control simultaniously until you see two dots. The display will now show an '88' followed by error codes. It will show the codes three times and then display '70'.

All those codes have to do with the throttle. I looked at the area and immediately saw that the Idle Speed Control plunger was not hitting the throttle. Someone had bent it. I straightened the unit and noticed that the ISC plunger would not retract - therby giving a constant high idle.

I replaced the ISC motor, TPS sensor, MAT sensor, Coolant sensor, and the Oxygen sensor. I also rebuilt the throttle body. It was at this point I realized I needed a new computer. I ordered and recieved a rebuilt unit from NAPA. After installation, the car would barely run. I tried to make adjustments but injector fuses kept burning. So I yanked the new ECM and put the old one back in and made an appointment at Cadillac. The mechanic went through the same process I did and decided on a new ECM as well. They ordered a factory replacement and after installation all is well. Be careful of aftermarket ECMs. They can not be returned!

It is also importnat to remember to clear the computer error codes after each attempt at fixing the problem.To clear the codes enter the diagnostic mode as before. Once there hold the OFF and HIGH buttons simultaneously until you see two dots.

FIX CRUISE CONTROL

I spent days trying to figure out what was wrong with the cruise. It just would not work.

Ultimately, there was nothing wrong with it. Your cruise may not work if your check engine light is on. Fix the errors first!

FIX AIR CONDITIONING

The cars air would not work. I ended up needing a new compressor and a recharge. The air worked great for a couple weeks but now the clutch will not engage. I'll update you when it gets warm again! Things I Have Left To Do:

I still have a small shake at about 60 mph.
Fixed - one brand new tire was bad!

I want to find some descent red Biarritz seats

THANKS FOR VISITING! Larry