n 1953 the Cadillac Motor Car Company introduced the Eldorado line of cars. Original sales brochures described the car as "dramatically styled by Fleetwood to capture the heart of all America." The standard equipment list read like a menu and it was far and away the most luxurious car America had mass produced in its long automotive history. The car was pure Hollywood and engendered names for its exterior trim and chrome­. For example the rear bumper protuberances became known as "Dagmars," after the voluptuous television starlet of the day. At $7,750 it cost five times that of a Chevy and twice as much as a Cadillac '62 convertible (the continental kit was extra).
GM styling head, Harley Earl, could not have guessed that the Eldorado would be met with such widespread acclaim or that it would be in such demand since only 532 were produced in 1953.
This 1953 Eldorado was the concept of its owner who, with the assistance of world renowned custom car builder John D'Agostino, assembled a team of skilled professionals to create one of the world's most spectacular custom cars. It was built as a tribute to Marilyn Monroe who was often seen behind the wheel of her 1953 Cadillac Eldorado. The owner had this Eldorado for seventeen years prior to commissioning the custom work and it was in excellent overall condition, running smooth with 57,000 miles before the work commenced.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1953 Cadillac Eldorado Custom
Years Produced:1953
Number Produced:532, but only one like this
Original List Price:$7,750
SCM Valuation:N/A
Tune Up Cost:$400
Distributor Caps:$29
Chassis Number Location:right frame rail side
Engine Number Location:crankcase right side above water pump
Club Info:International Show Car Assoc., 6841 N. Rochester Road, Rochester Hills, MI 48306
Alternatives:Boyd's Chezoom, Roth's Rat Fink, Figoni & Falaschi Talbo

The car was built at Acme of Antioch by John Aiello and features a Carson-type fully removable top as well as custom extended side scoops and lengthened fins. The DuPont custom-finish pastel ivory paint is attractively blended with the color gold pearl to produce a faded, opalescent, high-gloss look. The sculptured white leather interior is by Craig Willits of Craig’s Interior Design and is accented by custom blonde bird’s eye maple woodwork. Chrome and gold plating by Sherm’s Custom Plating of Sacramento cost nearly $22K. The original engine was restored and detailed by Brian and Randy Fealy. It features six original Kelsey-Hayes wire wheels with 1953 standard-stock whitewalls. Finally, there is a voice-activated fifty disc Pioneer CD changer with custom speakers.
Following the completion of “Marilyn” it debuted at the 1998 Grand National Roadster Show where it was the crowd’s favorite. It has won multiple Best of Show awards, including being chosen as the Most Beautiful Custom at the 1998 Sacramento Show. It has been featured both nationally and internationally in a multitude of magazines and calendars. This tribute car should be commended for its amazing attention to detail and quality throughout.
The car pictured was sold at Christie’s auction at Pebble Beach in California, on August 29, 1999 for $145.5K including commission. It was hammered sold 30% above Christie’s high estimate. It takes an exceptional custom to surpass the experts’ estimate, but if any custom could do it, it was this superb car. It is a fitting tribute to the memory, style and elegance of Marilyn Monroe.
It also was a much better buy than her 1959 Golden Globe “Best Actress in a Comedy” award which Christie’s sold two months later in New York for an almost identical price of $140,000.
“Marilyn” exhibits the high-quality craftsmanship typical of the best customs, but it is distinguished by its subtle restatement of the original ’53 Eldorado’s lines and concept. There isn’t a feature or contour on “Marilyn” that hasn’t been refined by its builders, but also that isn’t found on the stock ’53 Eldorado; without the spotlights and tail-dragging posture it would almost look stock. This car’s subtlety puts it in a class with the very best customs, legendary cars like Boyd Coddington’s Chezoom.
While many customs sell after their first round of shows at a price that barely (if at all) recovers the cost of their components, “Marilyn” brought a surprisingly high price. Surprising, particularly because it was sold at Pebble Beach, a venue that traditionally rewards originality and correctness more than creativity and craftsmanship.
If “Marilyn” hits the car show circuit, as it should, it will captivate and fascinate thousands of enthusiasts.
(Photo and data courtesy of auction company.)

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