The History Of Chevrolet Caprice Classik
The Chevrolet Caprice and Caprice Classic were full-sized automobiles produced by the Chevrolet division of General Motors in the United States and Canada from 1965 through 1996 model years and in Mexico from 1977 through 1983.
Throughout its life, the Caprice was the most expensive and luxurious model in the Chevrolet full-size car range, which during its lifetime also included the Biscayne, Bel Air and Impala. Its exit without replacement after the 1996 model year would leave the Ford Crown Victoria, and its cousins the Mercury Grand Marquis and Lincoln Town Car, as the only traditional full-size American sedans.
The Caprice began life in mid-1965 as a luxury trim package for the Impala four-door hardtop sedan, in response to the successful Ford LTD series. This included a stiffer suspension, higher-grade cloth and vinyl seat and door trim (as well as thicker, higher-grade carpeting), walnut trim on the dashboard and door panels, pull straps on the doors, extra convenience lights, special full wheel covers and an optional vinyl top. The name for the Chevrolet Caprice was coined by Bob Lund (Chevrolet's General Sales Manager) after a classy restaurant he frequented in New York City. However, some say the Caprice was named after Caprice Chapman, daughter of auto executive and influential Indy-car official James P. Chapman.
The Caprice was very well received during its abbreviated first year in 1965. For 1966, the Caprice was expanded into a full top-line series to also include a two-door hardtop with a squared-off formal roofline (in contrast to the Impala/ SS coupe's fastback roof) and a station wagon with simulated wood exterior trim - the first Chevy "woody" wagon since 1954. A V8 engine was installed in every Caprice. While features such as an automatic transmission, power steering, white sidewall tires, and vinyl top were extra-cost options, virtually every Caprice was sold with them. It is interesting to note, however, that a few Caprices were ordered with the optional 4-speed manual transmission, few or no power accessories, and the 425hp (317kW) 427 cubic-inch Turbo Jet V8. However most customers frequently ordered more civilized, but still powerful V8 engines such as the 325hp (242kW) 396 cubic-inch Turbo Jet V8 to handle multitudes of luxury options such as air conditioning, power windows, Cruise-Master speed control, power seats and stereo radios; several automotive history books noted that a fully-optioned Caprice rivaled the appearance, comfort and convenience of the Cadillac DeVille (which ironically was based on the Caprice and other B-body GM cars, but on a larger and more expensive C-body).
The 1966 Caprice received only minor detail changes from its 1965 predecessor that included a revised grille and new rectangular taillights which replaced the Chevrolet-traditional triple round tailights used in full-sized cars each year since 1958 with the exception of the bat-winged '59 model. New options for 1966 included the automatic "Comfortron" air conditioning system on which the driver could set a constant year-round temperature reading and a "Tilt and Telescopic" steering wheel that could be adjusted vertically in six positions as well as be telescoped further out from the steering column for improved driver comfort.
The Caprice sedan and coupe came standard with a luxurious cloth and vinyl bench seats with a folding center armrest in the rear seat. Optional on both models was a Strato bench seat which combined bucket-style seatbacks and center armrest with a bench cushion for six-passenger seating. Coupes could also be ordered with an all-vinyl interior featuring Strato bucket seats and center console with floor shifter, storage compartment, courtesy lighting and full instrumentation at the front end of the console that was integrated with the lower instrument panel - in essence a more luxurious Impala SS in a formal-roofed bodyshell. Station wagons featured an all-vinyl bench seat interior.
The 1967 Caprice received a heavier restyling with more rounded bodylines along with revised grilles and taillights, optional front fender corner lamps which illuminated with the headlamps and a revised instrument panel with round instruments along with a new steering wheel. Also new this year was a dual-master brake cylinder along with optional front disc brakes, with other new options including a stereo 8-track tape player, power door locks and a fiber optics monitoring system. The same seating selections continued as before with revisions to trim patterns plus the new addition of all-vinyl upholstery as a no-cost option for conventional and Strato bench seats in sedans and coupes. Engines/ transmission offerings were a carryover from 1966 except that the 425hp (317kW) 427 cubic-inch Turbo Jet V8 was no longer listed on the option list, leaving the 385hp (287kW) 427 as the top power offering. Also the three-speed Turbo Hydramatic transmission previously only offered with the 396 and 427 cubic-inch V8s was now available with the 275hp (205kW) 327 cubic-inch Turbo Fire V8.
A minor facelift was made on the 1968 Caprice that included a new grille with taillights set into the bumper and optional hidden headlamps, along with ventless front windows on coupes. Federally-mandated side marker lamps became standard on all US cars that year; the Caprice carried over the optional white corner marker lamps at the forward edge of the fenders in addition to the now-required amber parking lights which were illuminated with the headlights. Also, a new 307 cubic-inch Turbo Fire V8 rated at 200hp (150kW) replaced the 195hp (145kW) 283 small block as the standard engine. Inside, the instrument panel was revised with a return to the horizontal sweep speedometer and a revised three-spoke steering wheel. The horizontal sweep speedometer made adding an optional instrument cluster as was found on the Super Sport models a difficult proposition; this was solved by narrowing the speedometer within its opening and flanking it with engine-turned instruments in the place of warning lights. The fuel gauge, placed next to the speedometer within its own pod in the base models, was moved to its new place next to the speedometer. A tachometer took the place of the fuel gauge in the large opening left by the fuel gauge.
The 1969 Caprice and other full-sized Chevrolets were restyled with crisper bodylines and front bumpers that wrapped around the grille (again with optional concealed headlights, for which headlight washers could be added as a new "one year only" option) along with ventless front windows on all models. The 119-inch (3,023mm) wheelbase, inner bodyshell and framework were carried over from the 1965 model - along with the rooflines of pillared four-door sedans (which were offered in lesser Impala, Bel Air and Biscayne series, but not on Caprices, which continued only in two- and four-door hardtop choices only). The station wagon was renamed the Kingswood Estate, but continued to use exterior woodgrain trim along with exterior and interior trim shared with Caprice sedans and coupes. Inside, front seat headrests were now standard equipment due to a federal safety mandate and the ignition switch moved from the dashboard to the steering column and doubled as a lock for the steering wheel when the key was removed, a Federal mandate that took effect with the 1970 models but introduced a year earlier on all General Motors cars.
The 1969 Caprice also offered a new GM-designed variable-ratio power steering unit as optional equipment along with a seldom-ordered "Liquid Tire Chain" option. The standard engine was enlarged to a 235hp (175kW) 327 cubic-inch V8 with optional engine choices including a new 350 cubic-inch Turbo Fire V8 rated at 255 and 300hp (220kW), a 265hp (198kW) 396 cubic-inch Turbo Jet V8, and 427 cubic-inch Turbo Jet V8s rated at 335 and 390hp (291kW). All V8 engines were now available with the three-speed Turbo Hydramatic transmission for the first time though the two-speed Powerglide was still offered with the 327 and 350 V8s.
The 1970 Caprice got a minor facelift featuring a more conventional under the grille bumper replacing the wrap-around unit used in 1969 along with new triple vertical taillights in the rear bumper. Power front disc brakes and fiberglass-belted tires on 15-inch (380mm) wheels were made standard equipment along with a larger 250hp (186kW) 350 cubic-inch Turbo Fire V8. Optional V8s included a 300hp (220kW) 350 and a new 265hp (198kW) 400 cubic-inch Turbo Fire V8. At the top of the engine roster, the big block 427 was replaced by a new (and bored out) 454 cubic-inch Turbo Jet V8 offered in power ratings of 345hp (257kW) and 390hp (290kW). Both the 250- and 265hp (198kW) Turbo Fire engines were designed to use regular gasoline while the 300hp (220kW) 350 Turbo Fire and both 454 Turbo Jet engines required premium fuel.
A three-speed manual transmission with column shift was standard equipment as in previous years but the floor-mounted four-speed manual with Hurst shifter was dropped from the option list for 1970 as were the Strato bucket seats and center console previously offered on coupes. Automatic transmission options included the two-speed Powerglide on 350 V8s and Turbo Hydramatic with all engines.
The 1971 Caprice was completely restyled on a longer 121.5-inch (3,090mm) wheelbase and featured more rounded fuselage styling similar to that pioneered by Chrysler Corporation on its 1969 full-sized cars, along with new flush "pull-up" exterior door handles and double-shell roofs - both features first appearing on the 1970 1/ 2 Camaro and Pontiac Firebird. The basic "Full-Perimeter" frame and all-coil suspension were refined for improvements in ride and noise reduction. The new styling was highlighted by a Cadillac-like eggcrate grille with a "Caprice" emblem in the center and brushed metal trim surrounding the taillights on the rear deck.
Inside were revised interiors featuring a two-spoke cushioned steering wheel and new instrument panel with horizontal sweep speedometer and instrument placement similar to previous full-sized Chevrolets. Caprices continued to feature higher grade interiors than their Impala counterparts with luxurious cloth-and-vinyl upholstery on both sedans and coupes and a center front seat armrest on sedans, along with woodgrain trim on dash, steering wheel and door panels plus carpeting on floor and lower door panels.
Station wagons now used a unique 125" wheelbase and were bigger than ever before. As with the year before, station wagons contiuned to use unique model names, however, the Kingswood Estate wagon was considered to be equivalent to the Chevrolet Caprice being the top level wagon. Unlike the years previous, station wagons used unique rear suspension, using a solid axle with leaf springs as opposed to the sedans and coupes coil springs and trailering arms. Also new was the "Glide-Away" clamshell style disappearing tailgate. This design had the glass upper portion of the tailgate slide into the roof, and the lower steel portion slide into a compartment under the floor, providing a completely open space with no tailgate in sight.
The cargo capacity was the biggest it would ever be for a Chevrolet wagon, at 106.4 cubic feet. With 100.5inches (2,550mm) from the front seat to the tailgate and 48.8inches (1,240mm) between the rear wheels, these wagons could easily carry a 4 x 8 sheet of plywood with the tailgate closed. Kingswood wagons came in 2-seat or 3-seat variants. The 3-seat model had a forward facing rear seat that was placed over the rear axle area allowing for two additional occupants making them 8-passenger wagons. The Kingswood Estate had the same standaed 400 cubic-inch 2-barrel engine as the sedans, and the same engine options as the coupes and sedans. The station wagons were only available with single exhaust systems though so had the lesser power ratings.
Power front disc brakes were standard equipment, along with a larger 255-gross horsepower (170 net) 400 cubic-inch Turbo Fire V8. This engine, along with all optional powerplants, were designed to run on regular leaded, low-lead or unleaded gasoline of 91 research octane or higher. To achieve this, all engines had the compression ratios lowered to 8.5:1. General Motors was the first of the big three to have all engines run on regular fuel and these changes were made to help meet the increasing stringent emission regulations that were to come in to place in years to come.
Optional engines included 300 horsepower (206 net) 400 cubic-inch Turbo Jet V8 (not to be confused with the two-barrel 400 small block this engine actually displaced 402 cubic-inches) and 365-gross horsepower (285 net) 454 Turbo Jet V8 which came standard with dual exhaust. When equipped with dual exhaust, the 400 Turbo jet was rated at 260hp (190kW). At mid-year, the Turbo Hydramatic transmission and variable-ratio power steering became standard equipment on all Caprice (and Impala) models.
Chevrolet specifications included both "gross" and "net" horsepower figures in 1971, which was a year before the industrywide transition to SAE net horsepower figues. The "gross" horsepower figures were based on the power rating of an engine as measured on a dynameter with no accessories, exhaust system or emissions equipment installed. These measurements were not standardized, inaccurate and some manufacturers deflated or inflate power ratings to their advantage. SAE net horsepower standardized horsepower ratings in accord with SAE standard J1349 figures to get a more accurate horsepower figure. "Net" horsepower was measured "as installed" in a vehicle with power using accessories and emission equipement installed, exhaust systems, and air cleaners, leading to lower horsepower ratings. For 1971, the 400 Turbo-Jet engine was rated at 300 gross horsepower with and without dual exhaust, while the more accurate net firgures show it rated at 206hp (154kW) with single exhaust and 260 with dual exhaust. Beginning in 1972, automakers would follow SAE standard J1349 and the "net" horsepower ratings were the only advertised ratings.
In its May, 1971 issue Motor Trend magazine published a comparison road test that included a Caprice Coupe and a Cadillac Sedan de Ville. The tested Caprice was powered by the 454 V8 and loaded with virtually all available options to provide a more equal test of the two cars and match the level of equipment and opulence of the Cadillac. Though M/ T noted that the Cadillac had a higher level of quality than the Chevrolet along with a far more luxurious interior (the DeVille was upholstered in leather while the Caprice had the standard cloth trim), the magazine ultimately considered the Chevy as the better value in its loaded form at $5,550.35 (base price $3,740) compared to the Cadillac's $9,081 pricetag mainly due to the price spread of the two cars as tested and the fact that the $3,500 price difference bought only a bit more quality and a few more trick luxury options.
The 1972 Caprice received a revised grille that was lower in height than '71 but still in an eggcrate pattern flanked by a new bumper with increased protection one year ahead of the Federal mandate. This was done by a bumper within bumper design. Heavy gauge beams reinforce the bumper which are attached to the frame. The rear bumper also featured this design and now had the triple taillights now mounted in the bumper. Engine offerings were carried over from 1971 with the switch to "net" horsepower ratings including 170hp (127kW) for the standard two-barrel 400 Turbo Fire V8, 210hp (157kW) (240hp (179kW) with optional dual exhaust) for the four-barrel Turbo Jet 400 big-block V8 and 270hp (201kW) for the four-barrel dual exhaust 454 Turbo Jet V8 (rated at 230hp (172kW) in wagons with single exhaust). Turbo Hydramatic transmission, variable-ratio power steering and power front disc brakes continued as standard equipment. New to the Caprice lineup was a pillared four-door sedan.
The Caprice was renamed the Caprice Classic for 1973, a year highlighted by a new cross-hatch grille over the new 5mph (8km/ h) energy absorbing front bumper and revised square taillights, again mounted in the bumper. Increasingly stringent emission standards added EGR (exhasut gas recirculation) valves to engines, and accordingly horsepower figures continued to drop. The standard Turbo-Fire 400 two-barrel was now rated at 150hp (112kW) while the only optional engine was the Turbo-Jet 454 V8 produced 245hp (183kW) with dual exhaust (215hp (160kW) with single exhaust used in station wagons). A convertible, brought over from the lesser Impala series, was moved to the Caprice lineup for the first time in 1973 and the woodgrained-trim station wagon known as the Kingswood Estate since 1969 was renamed the Caprice Estate. A new option on Caprice Classic sedans and coupes was a 50/ 50 bench seat with recliner on the passenger side.
A new grille and taillights moved above the new 5mph (8km/ h) rear bumper highlighted the changes for the 1974 Caprice Classic along with new thick "B" pillars and fixed rear quarter opera windows on two-door coupes, which essentially eliminated pillarless hardtop design much like the GM intermediates did the previous year. Other bodystyles including the four-door pillared and hardtop sedans, convertible and Estate Wagon were carried over with only minor changes from 1973. New to the engine roster was a four-barrel version of the small block 400 cubic-inch Turbo Fire V8 rated at 180hp (134kW) (which was the standard engine on wagons and all cars sold in California, optional on other models in 49 states). All other engines were carried over from 1973 although the 454 Turbo Jet lost 10horsepower (7.5kW), now rated at 235hp (175kW) Also new for 1974 were integrated lap and shoulder seat belts and the unpopular "interlock" system that required the driver and front seat passengers to fasten seat belts in order to start the vehicle. The interlock mandate received so much public outcry that Congress rescinded it shortly after the introduction of the 1975 models. A new option this year was a remote control for the passenger-side outside rearview mirror.
For 1975, the Caprice Classic and Estate Wagon received revised grille and tailight trim along with six-window styling on four-door models with the third window on the four-door hardtop essentially an opera window. The dashboard, radio and climate control graphics were revised; the speedometer read up to 100mph (160km/ h), and had smaller numbers for kilometers per hour. The Caprice convertible would be discontinued after the 1975 model year along with its full-size B-body ragtop counterparts including the Oldsmobile Delta 88, Buick LeSabre and Pontiac Grand Ville. Just about 8,350 Caprice Classic rag tops found buyers in 1975, and both surviving Caprice Classic (1973 to 75) and Impala (1971, 1972) ragtops have demonstrated quite an appreciation in value. This depends on the car's overall condition with a low mileage, unmolested original, always being highly coveted by collectors and fans.
As fuel economy became a bigger priority among Americans following the Arab Oil Embargo of late 1973 and early 1974, Chevy made the smaller 145hp (108kW) 350 cubic-inch small block V8 with two-barrel carburetor standard on all Caprice models except wagons for 1975 for sedans and coupes. In California, the four-barrel 155hp (116kW) 350 V8 was the base engine and this engine was unavailable elsewhere. Optional engines included the 175hp (130kW) 400 small block V8 (standard on wagons) and 215hp (160kW) 454 big block, the latter not available in California. All engines except for the 454 were single exhaust systems with the introduction of the catalytic converter. Station wagons that used the 454 now featured dual exhaust as well. Also introduced this year were GM's "High Energy" electronic ignition and radial tires that were advertised as part of "Chevrolet's New Efficiency System." The theme of economy continued through to the new options this year: A new "Econominder" gauge package included a temperature gauge and a "fuel econominder," the latter being a gauge alerting drivers as to when their driving habits caused the engine to use more or less fuel. Also new on the options list: intermittent windshield wipers, and 50/ 50 seating options on the Impala coupe/ sedan and Caprice Classic convertible models.
The "Landau" model was also introduced in 1975, and was primarily an appearance package. Carried over unchanged into 1976, the Landau featured a choice of special paint colors, sports-styled dual remote outside rearview mirrors, color-keyed wheel covers, a landau vinyl roof (with chrome band across the roof), a vinyl bodyside molding insert, and pinstriping. Inside there were color-keyed seat belts and floormats. Fender and dashboard emblems rounded out the package. With minor changes, the Landau would be carried over into the 1977-era coupe models.
The 1976 Caprice Classic marked the sixth and final year of a body style introduced in 1971. The '76 Caprice weighed approximately 4314 pounds and was 222.9 in. (5.66 m) long, growing considerbly from the 1971's 4040 pounds and 216.8-inch (5,510mm) length. Only minor changes were made for '76, including an eggcrate grille similar to that of the 1976 Cadillac Calais/ DeVille/ Fleetwood flanked by new rectangular headlights, along with revised exterior and interior trimmings. Engine options remained unchanged, and the 350 2-barrel remained standard in everywhere but California (which had the 350 4-barrel as standard). Power ratings were unchanged except for the 350 4-barrel engine was now rated at 165hp (123kW) and the dual exhaust equipped 454 was rated at 225hp (168kW) (still unavailable in Californaia). The was the final year for the big block 454 V8 to be offered, along with hardtop body styles and the clamshell-tailgate design for the station wagon.
The 1977 Chevrolet Caprice Classic and its b-body siblings were drastically downsized, which greatly reduced its weight and exterior dimensions, while increasing usable interior space compared to 1976 models. GM called its downsizing program Project 77 and invested $600 million to develop the most changed full-size Chevrolet to date. The weight difference between the 1976 and 1977 models was 611lb (277kg) for coupes, 637lb (289kg) for sedans and 871 pounds for wagons. The 1977 Caprice was over 10inches (250mm) shorter in coupe and sedan form, and over 14inches (360mm) shorter in wagon form. Wheelbases were reduced to 116inches (2,900mm) for all models from the 121.5inches (3,090mm) for coupes and sedans and 125inches (3,200mm) for wagons. Width was reduced by 4inches (100mm) for sedans and coupes; wagon's width remained virtually unchanged. The only dimensions the increased were the height which increased by 2.5inches (64mm) and trunk capacity which went up to 20.2 cubic feet for sedans and 19.8 cubic feet for coupes.
Although by modern standards the 1977 downsized Chevrolet cars are quite large, the new Chevrolet had exterior dimensions closer to the intermediates of its day. In fact the 1977 Caprice shared the same 116" wheelbase of the intermediate sized Chevrolet Chevelle. The introduction of such a small full-size car was considered quite a risk for General Motors. To help ensure the car was a success, preview clinics were held by Chevrolet which returned very positive results. Furthermore, the design process for this car was revolutionized. No longer would the design be focussed towards the longer, lower, wider trend the GM had followed for many years. Designers started with a passenger compartment that was larger and more comfortable than the 1976 models and then worked outward to the exterior. Wind tunnel testing was used to help define the shape of the new Chevrolet rather than fix aerodynamic problems that cropped up after the design was completed as in previous years.
Ford would respond with creative badge-engineering by applying a full-size nameplate to its intermediate line creating the 1977 LTD II, which was basically a reskinned and renamed Torino. Ford hoped customers would be turned off with Chevrolets small full-size models and advertisements of the day showed how Ford offered a choice of a large or smaller full-size sedan (LTD or LTD II). Ford hoped the LTD II would steal customers who wanted a smaller full-size car, but in reality the LTD II had poor space efficiency and didn't compare well with the Chevrolet fullsize models. In 1979 Ford released a true downsized full-size car with the introduction of the 1979 Ford LTD. Chrysler responded in 1979 when it re-engineered its intermediate B-body cars, and designated them the full-size R-bodies. However, these were not true downsized cars like GM and Ford introduced.
All Chevrolet Caprice models were called Caprice Classic for 1977, as had been the case since 1973. The Caprice Classic was available as a 4-door sedan, a 2-door sedan, a 6-passenger 2-seat station wagon and a 8-passenger 3-seat station wagon. All models were pillared sedans, and all doors had window frames. No more hardtop models were offered.
The 2-door models featured a unique rear window that created a semi-fastback. This glass had sharp corners giving it three sides. This was done through "hot-wire" bending process. The Caprice was available as the sport coupe or as the Landau coupe. The Landau coupe featured a partially covered vinyl roof.
Station wagon models received a new three-way tailgate for 1977; the clamshell tailgate was gone. The 3-seat models featured a rear facing third seat for two occupants making these cars 8-passenger models. The cargo capacity was reduced to 87 cubic feet, and although the station wagon could still carry a 4' x 8' sheet of plywood, this could now only be done with the tailgate down. Station wagons used the coil spring suspension in the rear, like the sedans and coupes.
The 1977 Caprice Classic was not only smaller in overall dimensions, but also in engine size. For the first time since the Caprice was introduced in 1965, a V8 engine was no longer standard equipment. The base engine for 1977 Chevrolet Caprice coupes and sedans was Chevy's long-running 250cuin six-cylinder powerplant rated at 110hp (82kW). This engine was last available in a full-size Chevy in 1973 in the lower-line Bel Air. Standard on station wagons and optional on other Caprice models was a 145hp (108kW) 2-barrel 305cuin version of the Chevy's small-block V8. This was the first year the 305cuin had been used in a full-size Chevrolet; it was first introduced in 1976 in compact and mid-sized Chevrolet lines. A 170hp (127kW) 350cuin V8 with four-barrel carburetion was now the top engine offering as the larger 400 and 454 V8s were discontinued.
With the new lighter weight and smaller engines, Chevrolet promised increase fuel economy without great loss of performance compared to 1976 models. The EPA estimates for 1977 Chevrolet was 17 MPG city and 22 MPG highway for 6 cylinder models. Ford's 1977 LTD was rated at 15 MPG city and 19 MPG highway with its smallest engine, the 302 V8. By the same EPA estimates, Plymouth's Gran Fury returned 13 MPG city and 18 MPG highway with the 318 V8. Performance was good when comparing the smaller 1977 Caprice to the 1976 Caprice. A 1976 350 2-bbl powered Chevrolet ran 0-60 in 12.9 seconds, while a 400 powered model ran 10.7 seconds. 1977 models ran 11.4 seconds to 60mph (97km/ h) with the 305 engine and 10.8 seconds with the 350 engine. Car and Driver tested a 1977 Chevrolet Impala with the 350 engine and 3.08:1 axle running a 9.6 second 0-60 time and obtaining a 117mph (188km/ h) top speed. The 350 was available with a 2.56:1 axle ratio and a 3.08 axle ratio which may explain the difference in performance times.
EPA Fuel Economy Ratings For 1977 Fullsize Cars
In 1976 the full-size Chevrolet was the third best selling car in the United states, while the 1977 models became the number one selling car in the United States. More than 660,000 full-size Chevrolets were produced in 1977, with the most popular model being the 4-door Caprice Classic sedan (212,840 produced). By 1978 more than 1 million downsized Chevrolets were produced, when another 612,000 cars were produced. Not only did the public take to the new downsized Chevrolet's but so did the auto publications. Motor Trend named the Caprice its Car of the Year for 1977 and Car and Driver declared "Even the most jaded car critics are in fact tripping over each other trying to be the first to anoint this sedan to be the best full-sized Chevrolet ever made." Car and Driver went further to comment on the F41 suspension option which included stiffer springs, larger sway bars wheels and tires to say it will "make you think your Chevy came from the Black Forest instead of Detroit."
Only minor revisions were performed to the 1978 Chevrolet Caprice Classic. Front and rear styling were revised slightly. The engine line-up remained unchanged, but numerically lower axle ratios were used in an attempt to boost fuel economy. The 305 and 350 engines went from a standard 2.56:1 axle in 1977 (2.73:1 for wagons), to a 2.41:1 axle in 1978 (2.56:1 for wagons). An optional 3.08 axle was also available for 350 powered Caprices. The 305 V8 engine received an aluminum intake manifold which reduced engine weight by 35 pounds. A larger brake booster was also added to help reduce braking effort. New options included a steel sliding moonroof and 40-channel CB radio built into the AM/ FM radio.
For 1979 the Caprice Classic continued with only minor refinements. Again the front and rear styling was refreshed slightly. The 250 six gained five horsepower, while the 305 V8 lost 15horsepower (11kW). The change to the 305 was a result of switching from the larger Rochester 2GC carburetor to the smaller Rochester Dualjet carburetor. The 350 engine was unchanged.
The 1980 Caprice Classic saw its first major revision since the 1977 downsized. To further improve the fuel economy of the car, efforts were made to reduce weight and improve aerodynamics. The Caprice received all new exterior sheet metal, without drastically changing the look of the car. To improve aerodynamics the hood was tapered lower, while the trunk area was higher. The grille was now a egg crate style while the tail-light panel featured three separate square lights per side. All the doors and components within were redesigned to be lighter, including the window crank mechanisms, which now used a tape drive mechanism. Greater use of aluminum including in bumper reinforcement and in sedan/ coupe radiators helped to further reduce the overall weight of the vehicle. 1980 models were approximately 100 pounds lighter than 1979 models.
The new styling increased the trunk capacity of both coupes and sedans to 20.9 cubic feet. This increase was also partially achieved with a now standard compact spare tire on a 16-inch (410mm) wheel. A new frame lift jack replaced the bumper mounted model. A larger 25 US gallon fuel tank was standard equipment in sedans and coupes. Easy-roll radial tires, improved anti-corrosion measures, low friction ball joints and larger front suspension bushings were also new for 1980. Puncture-sealant tires and cornering lights were new options.
The 250 six, was replaced by a new 90 degree Chevrolet 3.8L (229cuin) V6 as the base engine for sedans and coupes. This engine shared the same bore and stoke as the 305cuin V8. California emission cars used the Buick 3.8L (231cuin) V6 engine. The Chevrolet 3.8L was rated at 115hp (86kW) while the Buick V6 engine had a 110hp (82kW) rating. Although the 3.8L V6 had the same horsepower rating as the 250 six used in 1979, the 250 had 25ft·lbf (34N·m) more torque than the 3.8L (200 ft·lbf vs 175 ft-lbs). The 3.8L V6 did boost Chevrolet Caprice's fuel economy to and EPA estimated 18 MPG city and 26 MPG highway, the highest a full-size Chevrolet had been rated to date.
The base V8 engine was new for 1980. The 4.4L 267cuin V8 rated at 115hp (86kW) and was the standard engine for station wagons. This engine had a 2-barrel carburetor Rochester Dualjet carburetor, and was not available in California. The 2-barrel carburetor on the 305cuin V8 was replaced with a 4-barrel increasing the 305's output to 155hp (116kW). This was now the most powerful engine option (standard on California station wagons), as the 350cuin V8 was no longer available, except as part of the police package option. The Oldsmobile-built 350 cubic-inch Diesel V8 was added to the option list for station wagons. This engine was rated at 105hp (78kW) and 205lb·ft (278N·m). To further increase fuel economy, all transmissions were equipped with an electronically controlled lock-up torque converter clutch.
1981 saw only minor revisions to the Caprice Classic. Styling was unchanged other than the grille which remained egg crate style but now had larger sections. Refinements included redesigned front disc brakes for less drag and a translucent plastic master cylinder reservoir. The cruise control became equipped with a resume feature, while wire wheel covers had locking bolts to secure them in place.
The engine line-up remained unchanged, although the 3.8L 229cuin V6 was now rated at 110hp (82kW) and the 5.0L 305cuin V8 was rated at 150hp (112kW). All engines were updated with the Computer Command Control (CCC) system which included an electronically metered carburetor. This change occurred in 1980 for California emission cars and did not occur to Canadian emission cars until 1987. A new four-speed automatic overdrive transmission with lock-up torque converter joined the powertrain line-up. This transmission helped boost highway fuel economy, while improving city performance by with a 3.08:1 rear axle ratio. The overdrive transmission was only available with the 305cuin V8, and was a mandatory option for this engine.
Few changes occurred to the 1982 Chevrolet Caprice Classic. Styling remained unchanged from 1981. The model line-up was reduced by one, with the Caprice Landau coupe leaving. Remaining were the Caprice Classic Sedan, Caprice Classic sport coupe, Caprice Classic 6-passenger wagon and the Caprice Classic 8-passenger wagon.
The engine line-up and power ratings remained unchanged. The 350 cubic-inch Diesel V8 engine was now available on all models. The automatic overdrive transmission was available with both the 267cuin V8 and the 305cuin V8 engine. This transmission was no longer a mandatory option for the 305cuin engine, which now came standard with the three-speed automatic (except for California models).
1983 was marked with the fewest Chevrolet Caprice models to date. No two-door Caprice models were produced, leaving only the Caprice Classic 4-door and the 8-passenger Caprice Classic station wagon, since the 6-passenger Caprice wagon also left the line-up. The 4.4L 267cuin engine was discontinued, but all other engines remained unchanged. The 305cuin engine and the automatic overdrive transmission was standard on station wagons. The 350cuin diesel was available with the automatic overdrive transmission at extra cost, while the 305cuin V8 came equipped only with the automatic overdrive transmission. The 1983 Chevrolet Caprice Classic was selected on the Car and Driver Ten Best list.
The Chevrolet Caprice Classic 2-door sport coupe returned for the 1984 model year making the line-up consist of three models. Styling still remained unchanged, and 1984 models were virtually identical to 1981 models. The windshield washer controls were moved from the dashboard to the turn signal stalk to create the multi-stalk. The optional cruise control (which continued to be mounted on the turn signal stalk) now featured acceleration/ deceleration in 1mph (1.6km/ h) increments. An optional Landau package included a vinyl roof, sport mirrors and reveal moldings.
Powertrain availability and power ratings were unchanged for 1984. The 350cuin diesel engine came standard with an automatic overdrive transmission when equipped in station wagons.
For 1985 the Chevrolet Caprice received minor updates while styling remained unchanged. The interior of the Caprice was updated for 1985, marking its most significant update since 1977. The simulated woodgrain applique used on the dash was replaced with a simulated silver metallic applique. The shaft-style radio was replaced with a more modern double DIN style radio, while the pull-out headlight switch was replaced by a push button style switch. The climate controls were updated with rotary switches for the fan and rear window defroster replacing the toggle style switches. The instruments were updated to have a more modern appearance, with a horizontal speedometer while a round speedometer was included with the optional gauge package.
The engine line-up saw major changes for 1985. The 4.3L V6 engine (262cuin) replaced both 3.8L V6s in 1985 as the base engine for sedans and coupes. The 4.3L engine was rated at 130hp (97kW) and 210lb·ft (285N·m), producing 20hp (15kW) more than the 229cuin V6. The 4.3L V6 shared its bore and stroke with the 350cuin Chevrolet V8. This engine came standard with a three-speed automatic but was available with the four-speed automatic overdrive transmission. The 5.0L 305cuin V8 engine received an electronic spark control and compression was increased from 8.6:1 to 9.5:1. This caused the 305's output to jump to 165hp (123kW). The 350cuin diesel engine remained unchanged.
1986 marked the first time the Caprice saw a major exterior restyle since 1980. The front fascia was restyled to have a more aerodynamic look. The Caprice emblem was no longer a hood ornament, and was mounted directly to the centre of the front fascia. A new smaller sleeker grille with prominent vertical chrome divider bars replaced the egg crate style used in 1985. The rear tail lights were restyled to look more modern, but continued to have three lights per side. The sheet metal remained unchanged, however the new front and rear restyles updated the appearance of the Caprice.
With the Chevrolet Impala no longer being produced, a new base Caprice 4-door model was introduced. The Caprice Classic was still available as a 4-door sedan, coupe and 8-passenger station wagon, while a new Caprice Classic Brougham 4-door sedan joined the model line-up. Brougham models featured a 55/ 45 front seat with armrest, and a new "pillow design" with velour fabrics. Broughams featured woodgrain applique on its dash fascia, a dome map light, front door courtesy lights and 20-oz carpeting. Power window controls for all model moved from the door panel to the armrest for improved ergonomics.
The 4.3L V6 engine received a 10hp (7.5kW) boost, rated at 140hp (100kW). The 305cuin engine was unchanged and remained standard on station wagons. Station wagons built after approximatley November 1st 1985 came equipped with the Oldsmobile-built 307cuin engine. After this point the 305cuin was no longer available in station wagons. This engine was used in all GM b-body station wagons from this point on to simplify production. The 307cuin was equipped with a 4-barrel carburetor and was rated at 140hp (104kW) and 255lb·ft (346N·m). The 350cuin diesel engine was discontinued.
After the restyle the previous year the 1987 Chevrolet Caprice saw only minor styling revisions. All models came equipped with new modern composite lights and a stand-up hood ornament returned. A woodgrain applique was used on the dashboards for all models. The model line-up was slightly revised, and now included a base level Caprice 8-passenger wagon, and a Caprice Classic Brougham LS 4-door sedan. The Brougham LS featured all the Brougham amenities, plus a padded vinyl roof, opera lights and LS monograms. Leather upholstery was a new available option for Brougham and Brougham LS sedans.
The engine line-up received only minor changes. The 4.3L V6 and the 305cuin V8 were updated with roller lifters and center bolt valve covers. The 305cuin had a 5hp (3.7kW) rating increase and was now rated at 170hp (127kW) and 250lb·ft (339N·m). The 307cuin Oldsmobile built V8 remained unchanged and was the only available engine for the station wagons. Some Canadian sold Chevrolet Caprice sedans used the 307cuin Oldsmobile built V8 in place of the Chevrolet built 305cuin engine during the 1987 model year.
Few changes were performed for the 1988 Chevrolet Caprice. The model line-up was again revised, with the Caprice Classic sport coupe dropped, making the 1987 Caprice Classic sport coupe the last full-size 2-door Chevrolet. The station wagon line-up was reduced to one model, the Caprice Classic 8-passenger wagon. Engines remained unchanged, but the four-speed automatic overdrive transmission was standard on all engines and models. Standard equipment for all models included tinted glass, a remote control drivers mirror, automatic headlight on/ off, and an AM/ FM stereo.
1989 marked the first year the Chevrolet Caprice was equipped with fuel injection on a V8 engine. The Ford LTD Crown Victoria had been equipped with fuel injection on its V8s since 1983. The 305cuin V8 was updated with throttle body electronic fuel-injection. This engine was rated at 170hp (127kW) and 255lb·ft (346N·m), which was only a slight increase in torque over the carbureted engine. However, the cold weather starts, drivability, fuel economy and emissions were all improved as a result of fuel injection. The 4.3L V6 was no longer the base engine, and was now only available in Taxi and Police optioned Caprices. The 307 engine remained unchanged for station wagons. Rear seat passengers received shoulder belts for the outboard positions and air conditioning was standard on all models.
1990 was essentially a carryover year for the Chevrolet Caprice and it marked the last year for the 1977 downsized body style. New for 1990 were door mounted front seat belts, quick connect fuel lines for the 305cuin engine, and Scotchgard protected interior fabrics. The door mounted belts were installed to meet Federal Government passive restraint requirements for the 1990 model year. The model line-up and engine line-up were unchanged. The 1990 Caprice was only produced until the end of 1989 when production was shut-down to prepare for the redesigned 1991 models.
Police Package Chevrolet Caprice
The 1977 downsized Chevrolet Caprice was not available as with Chevrolet's 9C1 police package option. This package was only available on the lower Line Impala and Bel Air (Bel Air only sold in Canadian market). Although the downsized Chevrolets had excellent performance, police fleets still had Ford and Chrysler's larger models with big block engines to choose from. As Ford and Chrysler phased these models out, the smaller Chevrolet became more competitive in the police market.
The 1986 model year was the first year that that the Chevrolet Caprice was available with the 9C1 police package. With the Impala phased out after 1985, the new base Caprice became the logical choice for the police pacakge. The 9C1 Caprice was avaialble with the 4.3L V6 or the 350 cid V8 engine only. Both engines were equipped the Turbo-hydramatic 700R-4 transmission and a 3.08:1 axle.
In 1986 Michigan State Police tests, the Chevrolet Caprice was competitive with the Ford LTD Crown Victoria, Dodge Diplomat and Plymouth Gran Fury. The Caprice had the fastest quarter mile times of the three, and the best fuel economy. The Dodge and Plymouth out ran the Caprice in the 0-100 MPH times, while it placed last in the road course times. However, there was only a 1/ 3 second difference between the fastest and slowest on the road course. All four cars were very close in competition for 1986, and there was little performance difference.
For 1987 the 9C1 Caprice remained with few changes. The 350-4bbl engine received a boost in compression, roller lifters and new center bolt valve covers. The 180hp (134kW) rating of this engine helped set the Caprice's performance above its competition. The 4.3L engine remained available, but was marketed towards urban police departments with little need for performance.
Michigan State Police tests had the Chevrolet Caprice beating out its competition from Ford, Dodge and Plymouth in almost every category. The Caprice had the quickest quarter mile times and 0-100 MPH times, the highest top speed, the fastest road course time, and the best fuel economy. The Plymouth and Dodge beat out the Chevrolet with shorter braking distances. The 1987 Chevrolet Caprice won the contract for the Michigan State police and would hold this contract until 1996 with the Caprice was discontinued.
For 1988, the 9C1 Caprice was unchanged. Michigan State Police tests proved to be more competitive, with the Ford LTD Crown Victoria show a strong improvement in performance. The Plymouth and Dodge models continued unchanged and were not competitive with the Chevrolet and Ford. 1988 tests showed the Caprice with the fastest quarter mile and 0-100 MPH times, the best fuel economy, the fastest road course time (although it tied with the Ford) and the best ergonomics. The Ford edged out the Chevrolet with a 1mph (1.6km/ h) faster top speed, and better brakes, but the Chevrolet scored second place for both those categories. Overall the Chevrolet scored the highest in the competition, followed by the Ford, Dodge and Plymouth.
For 1989 the 9C1 Caprice saw some major changes to the drivetrain. All engines were now equipped with Throttle-body fuel-injection, and the 305 cu in engine was now added to the option list. The available engines were now the 4.3L V6, the 305 cu in V8 and the 350 cu in V8. The 4.3L and 350 engines were equipped with TH700-R4 transmissions while the 305 engine used the TH200-4R transmission. The 4.3L and the 305 used the 3.08:1 axle ratio, while the 350 powered cars now used a 3.42:1 axle ratio.
The 4.3L remained at 140hp (104kW), while the 305 TBI engine was rated at 170hp (127kW), and the 350 TBI engine was rated at 190hp (142kW). The 350 powered Caprice did well again at Michigan State Police tests for pursuit rated cars. It had the fastest 0-100 MPH, the fastest road course time, the highest top speed and the best fuel economy. The Dodge Diplomat and Ford LTD Crown Victoria out braked the Caprice, and the Plymouth Fury and Dodge Diplomat had better ergonomics than the Caprice.
1990 was a carry-over year for the 9C1 Caprice with the only major change being door mounted seat-belts. In Michigan State Police tests, the Dodge Diplomat and Plymouth Fury were no longer produced, so the only competition was from the LTD Crown Victoria. The Caprice won all six categories for 1990, having the quickest 0-100 times, the fastest road course times, the best brakes, highest top speed, the best fuel economy and the best interior ergonomics. This was the first time any car had won all six categories in Michigan State Police tests.
The 1991 model had a substantial restyle, and was awarded the Motor Trend Car of the Year award when it was introduced. It replaced the 1977-based rectilinear design with more aerodynamic sheetmetal, although the chassis frame and many other mechanicals were carried over from the previous model. Two trim levels were initially offered, base, and upscale Classic, replacing the previous Classic and Brougham models. While the Caprice was a larger car, General Motors hoped to join the trend towards aerodynamic styling and regain the top spot as America's favorite automobile.
The car's styling was outside the box, and for 1993 there were some revisions, the most obvious being the removal of the skirted rear wheel wells in favor of more conventional, open wheel wells. This applied only to the sedan model; station wagons retained the skirted wheel wells until the end of production.
In 1994 the Caprice received the new-generation GM engines, including an optional detuned version of the Corvette's LT1 350cuin (5.7L) engine that put out 260hp (194kW) and 330ft·lbf (447N·m) of torque. The LT1 was standard in the 9C1 police-package and the wagon. The 1994 Caprice's interior had a redesign which featured a Camaro steering wheel, digital speedometer and a new console. In 1994 Chevrolet also revived the Impala SS name by upgrading the 9C1 (police package) with a special body-colored grille, spoiler, C-pillar trim, special interior treatment and 17" alloy rims made by ROH on BF Goodrich 255/ 50/ 17 tires. In 1995 the sedan's rear quarter windows were redesigned to match the style of the Impala SS, and new wing mirrors were fitted. In 1996, the Impala SS was improved by moving the shifter to the floor console and adding analog gauges as opposed to digital gauges in the standard Caprice.
The Caprice 9C1 with the LT1 engine became one of the fastest and most popular modern day police vehicles. This vehicle established such strong devotion by many police departments that a cottage industry thrived in refurbishing Caprices for continued police service after GM discontinued production of the car.
The last-generation Caprice did not hold on to high sales numbers, and eventually the car's production was stopped in 1996. In 1997, the Lumina LTZ was introduced to take the Caprice's place as Chevrolet's premium passenger car. It was a corporate decision that more money could be made offering sport utility vehicles than full size family sedans. The assembly plant that had built the cars in Arlington, Texas was converted to SUV production. This specific plant built the Cadillac Fleetwood, the Caprice sedan and wagon, Buick Roadmaster sedan and wagon, and Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser wagon. The new product line was to be the GMC Denali and Yukon, the Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban, and more profitably the Cadillac Escalade and Escalade EXT.
With the exit of the Caprice, the Ford Crown Victoria, continued as the sole traditional rear-drive body-on-frame V8-powered American (Canadian built) sedan until the Dodge Charger arrived in 2006. It would soon dominate fleet sales to police departments and taxi fleets. The Chevrolet Impala has since moved upmarket to the position as Chevrolet's large family sedan. In its latest revision, it also offers a powerful V8, though in a front wheel drive configuration.Main article: Holden Statesman
General Motors revived the Chevrolet Caprice nameplate in the Middle East markets on imported Holden Statesman/ Caprice built by its Australian subsidiary Holden. The Holden WH Statesman was the first Statesman to be engineered to support both left- and right-hand drive (Middle Eastern market being LHD while Australia right-hand drive) in order to allow for manufacturing of export versions. Same was true for the related short-wheelbase Holden VT Commodore, whose left-hand drive version became the Chevrolet Lumina in the Middle East.
The Middle Eastern Caprice came out in 2000 in four versions, base LS, standard mid-range LTZ, a sporty SS and the range topper Royale (introduced in 2002). Differences between the models were mostly equipment and slight styling tweaks. The base LS and LTZ came standard with a 295hp (220kW) 5.7litre Gen III V8, the SS and Royale came with a 325horsepower (242kW) version of the same engine. In 2003, Holden launched a revised and facelifted Statesman and Caprice, which was reflected in their Middle Eastern versions for the 2004 model year. The new models sported new front and rear fascias and completely redesigned interior. Engines carried over unchanged.
In November 2006, Chevrolet launched a completely redesigned Caprice lineup, again based on the recently introduced Holden WM Statesman. The new Caprice lineup includes the base LS, LTZ, SS and Royale, all sporting the new 360hp (268kW) LS2 6.0litre V8. The Holden-sourced Chevrolet Caprice has become GM's top selling vehicle in the region.
In the 1970s, the Chevrolet Caprice name was also used in South Africa for a version of the Holden's Statesman.
The Caprice was twice honored with the Motor Trend Car of the Year award, in 1977 and 1991. The Caprice Classic was also on Car and Driver magazine's Ten Best list for 1983.
- 3-speed manual: standard 1965-early 1971
- 4-speed manual: optional 1965-1969
- Powerglide, 2-speed automatic: optional 1965-1970
- Turbo Hydra-Matic 350 and 400, 3-speed automatic: Optional 1965-early 1971, standard late-1971-1988
- Turbo Hydra-Matic 200-4R and 700R4/ 4L60, 4-speed overdrive automatic: Optional 1981-1988 models, standard 1989-1993
- 4L60-E electronically controlled 4 speed automatic w/ overdrive, standard 1994-1996
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