Blowing Up the Bombproof 1981 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz on Motor MythBusters!
Robert De Niro, in the 1995 film Casino, buys a 1981 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz specifically for the extra steel plate built into the floor under the driver’s seat. Explained away as being part of the refinement of the Biarritz package, De Niro’s real reason for choosing the reinforced Cadillac is that, according to the movie, the Eldorado Biarritz is bombproof. There’s no way the Motor MythBusters are passing up a chance to play with high explosives, so it’s off to the bombing range with their new-to-them 1981 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz!
Related: Please don’t blow up your own Cadillac Eldorado. It’s so much easier to watch the Motor MythBusters do it for you, only on the MotorTrend App. Plus you get other great exclusive shows like Kevin Hart’s Muscle Car Crew, Roadkill, Faster with Finnegan, and so much more! Sign up for your free trial now!
Knowing how cars are manufactured; Faye Hadley, Tory Belleci, and Bisi Ezerioha—the Motor MythBusters team—are skeptical that the extra steel plate exists in the Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz’s body structure. The Biarritz upgrade on the Eldorado was a luxury appearance package with extra-thick padded and tufted leather seats with contrast piping and stitching, and a special roof treatment with a brushed stainless steel front and heavily-padded landau vinyl rear with opera lights. None of that does anything to reinforce the floors.
What is an Explosion?
Whether or not Cadillac actually built the tenth-generation Eldorado to be bombproof, the big fiery explosions special effects teams put together for movies are not how things blow up in real life. An explosion is the rapid expansion of volume that compresses the surrounding air into a shockwave. That shockwave is what causes all the initial damage; imagine the high-pressure air coming out of an air compressor nozzle but as an expanding bubble instead of a focused, pinhole-sized jet. Then there’s the super-heated and rapidly expanding gasses from the explosive itself.
Explosions exist in nature (volcanos and supernovae are two awesome examples), but humans create explosions artificially with chemical compounds, like trinitrotoluene (TNT). The rapid oxidation of these compounds (detonation) generate extremely hot volumes of gas that—thanks to the laws of thermodynamics—expand at supersonic speeds in every direction. The supersonic expansion of gasses around the blast nucleus compresses the surrounding air molecules, forcing them outward.
It’s easy to forget that the air surrounding us has mass until a blustery day knocks over your trash cans, or the neighbor’s tree, or rips the roof off your home. Human beings are fragile organisms and the tissues in our internal organs can only withstand so much pressure before rupturing; our lungs for instance can withstand about 100 psi of pressure before tearing apart—pressures easily achievable in the shockwaves created by small amounts of high explosives.
How to Bombproof a Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz
Absorbing and deflecting a supersonic shockwave generated by high explosives like TNT is no laughing matter. The Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz may have been plush, but does it’s construction have what it takes to stand up to a wall of supersonic, superheated air?
Consider the structures and objects we know to be bombproof: bomb shelters, explosive ordnance disposal suits, armored vehicles; they all have similar construction methods. This usually involves some sort of hard exterior shell to protect against heat and debris, followed by a compressible or deformable material that dissipates the energy of the shockwave (just like the crumple zones engineered into cars to protect occupants during a crash), and usually another hard surface to protect against any debris and heat that made it through.
Bomb shelters use a sandwich of steel plates encasing concrete. Ballistic vests (bombproof to an extent) use kevlar-covered ceramic plates with shock absorbing foam against the wearer’s body and the suits worn by bomb disposal units are effectively full-body versions. To protect against a shockwave and any debris that might be along for the ride, the idea is to have sacrificial material between you and the explosion, hard enough to stop any projectiles and deformable enough to dissipate the shockwave before it hits you.
That sacrificial material could be as simple as the steel floor of a Cadillac and the pillow-top cushioning of the Biarritz’s bucket seats. Cadillacs of any era before the brand’s revitalization in the early-2000s were never known to be svelte, and most bombproof devices and structures are known for their heft, but it’s suspect that even two layers of 18-gauge steel floor pan that might exist in the ’81 Eldorado Biarritz are enough to protect the occupant from an explosive device. The Motor MythBusters are about to find out if the Eldorado Biarritz is bombproof, and you can too! Click here to see what happens, only on the MotorTrend app. Sign up for your free trial while you’re at it!
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