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CATEGORIES (articles) > Donor Car Information > Chevy donors > Chevrolet Caprice History

Chevrolet Caprice History

Chevrolet Caprice
Manufacturer: General Motors

The Chevrolet Caprice (later called Caprice Classic) was a series name of automobile produced by Chevrolet, a division of General Motors, in the United States from the 1965 through 1996 model years.

Throughout its life, the Caprice designated the most-expensive (and most luxurious) model of the Chevrolet full-size car range, which during its lifetime also included the Biscayne, Bel Air and Impala.

US History

1972 Chevrolet Caprice Hardtop Coupe
1976 Chevrolet Caprice Classic Landau — during the 1975-76 model years, the Caprice reached its greatest overall length.

The Caprice began life in 1965 as a luxury trim package for the Impala four-door hardtop sedan, in response to Ford's successful 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 a 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.

The package was very well received, and was expanded in 1966 to include a two-door hardtop and a station wagon. 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. Also, customers frequently ordered luxury options such as air conditioning, power windows, 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.

As the Caprice became the new top-line full-size Chevrolet, the Impala (formerly the top model, which also included a Super Sport version) was demoted to second-best, with the Bel Air and Biscayne handling the lower part of the lineup. In 1973, the Caprice was renamed the Caprice Classic and added a convertible that lasted only three model years before it was 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.

By 1976—the sixth and last year of a body style introduced in 1971—the Caprice weighed approximately 4800 pounds (2180 kg) and was about 19½ ft (5.9 m) long—longer even than many modern full-size pickup trucks.


1979 Caprice Classic sedan (export model with amber rear turn signals)

The 1977 models were downsized, two years before Ford Motor Company could respond with its downsized LTD. It was this platform that was retained (with a major body restyling for 1991) until 1996. This new body style was so popular that there were 1,000,000 Caprices/Impalas sold in the first two years. This is important because the next-most-popular GM offering was the Oldsmobile with 400,000 Delta 88s/Ninety-Eights and about 100,000 Pontiac Bonneville/Catalinas sold offering the same body style. These sales figures led to the demise of the Pontiac Catalina in 1980 and re-configuraton of the Bonneville into a mid-size sedan based on the Malibu platform. The full-size Pontiac sedan was resurrected as a Pontiac Parisienne (which was essentially a Caprice with a Grand Prix gate-style grill and horizontal bar tailights and higher level Oldsmobile Delta 88 interior and carpet). These cars were so similar that they shared they same dashboard, although steering wheels were different. Most all station wagons and certain sedans—mostly those wearing other-than-Chevrolet badging—used the Oldsmobile 307 in³ (5.0L) engine, while Chevrolet sedans and optioned Cadillacs used the Chevrolet 305 in³ (5.0L) 350 in³ (5.7L V8. This car was offered initially only in Canada and sent southwards when Pontiac dealers complained of a lack of a full size car for their traditional sedan buyer.

1981-1984 Chevrolet Caprice Classic. The Caprice was widely used as taxicabs and police cars.

During the 1977-1990 era, major styling changes were made in 1980 and 1986. Model offerings included a four-door sedan, two-door pillared coupe and 2 and 3-seat station wagons. The lower-line Impala was dropped after 1985, replaced by a rebadged base Caprice for 1986, the same year that a new Caprice Classic Brougham was introduced with a more luxurious interior than the regular Caprice Classic with pillowed velour 60/40 bench seats. In 1987, an "LS" option package was made available on the Caprice Classic Brougham that included an exclusive Landau vinyl roof trim and an even more luxurious interior available in cloth or optional leather upholstery—the first full-size Chevy with real "hide" seats since the 1952 Bel Air.

With the introduction of the downsized 1977 models, Chevrolet took a larger portion of the law enforcement market with their 9C1 after Chrysler (who had dominated the law enforcement/emergency vehicle market) phased out their big-block powerplants in 1979. The Chevrolet division held 60 percent of the police market (with the major competition coming from the Dodge Diplomat/Plymouth Gran Fury) in the late 1980s and about 80 percent by the early 1990s (when the Dodge/Plymouth sedans were cancelled in the 1989 model year). The Caprice and Impala were also the preferred choice for cab companies during this time. They began to cede their market share on fleet vehicles when the Ford Crown Victoria was redesigned in 1992.


The 1991 model had a substantial restyle, replacing the 1977-based rectilinear design with more aerodynamic sheetmetal, although the chassis frame and many other mechanicals were carried over from the previous model. A major influence in the 1991 restyle was the success of the Ford Taurus with its ovoid body styling. 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.

1991 Caprice Classic. The skirted rear fender detail (partially covering the rear wheel) was dropped in 1993

The car's styling was not well received (some of the press calling it a 'beached whale') and for 1993 there were some styling 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. The Caprice also received minor modifications to its C-pillars in 1995.

In 1994, Chevrolet revived the Impala SS name by upgrading a Caprice 9C1 with a special grille, spoiler, C-pillar trim, special interior treatment and 17" alloy rims made by ROH on BF Goodrich 255/50/17 tires. In addition, the Caprice got a detuned version of the Corvette's LT-1 350 in³ (5.7 L) engine that put out 260 hp (194 kW) and 330 ft·lbf (447 N·m) of torque. In 1996, the Impala SS was freshened by moving the shifter to the floor and analog gauges were in the dash as opposed to digital gauges in the standard Caprice (except the 9C1).

The Caprice's interior had a redesign to level with the Impala's reintroduction, which featured a Camaro steering wheel, digital speedometer and a new console. The rear quarter windows were redesigned to the Impala style in 1995, and new wing mirrors were fitted.

During the Impala SS's production run, the Caprice 9C1 was also fitted with the LT-1 engine, and it became one of the fastest and most popular modern day police vehicles. One of the most notable performance stats is that it was able to beat a Ford Mustang SS4 with a 4.6 L V8 on the dragstrip. 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 Caprice was not well received by critics, and eventually the car's production was stopped in 1996. Some feel this was due to sales pressure from the smaller Chevrolet Lumina growing in size, while others point to financial troubles at General Motors. In 1997, the Caprice was replaced by the Lumina LTZ. 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 being 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 the GMC Yukon, the Chevrolet Tahoe, the Suburban models and more profitably the Cadillac Escalade and Escalade EXT.


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.

Caprice, an international brand

Australian-designed and built 2001 Chevrolet Caprice, for Middle Eastern markets and based on the Holden Statesman
Australian-designed and built 2001 Chevrolet Caprice, for Middle Eastern markets and based on the Holden Statesman

In the United States, the Caprice was based on the Impala model, with additional trim and features; however, except for trim and other minor details, the lesser Biscayne and Bel Air models were essentially identical to the more-expensive models.

Two other model lines carried the Chevrolet Caprice name. In the 1970s, General Motors of South Africa sold the Australian Holden Statesman as the Chevrolet Caprice and Caprice Classic. Holden has also named its in-house-developed full-size car the Caprice (more precisely the Holden Statesman Caprice) and exports it to the Middle East where they are sold as Chevrolet Caprices. Model changes of these Caprices follow their Australian counterpart.

Engines for United States models

I1965-1967283 in³ Small-Block V8
1965-1969327 in³ Small-Block V8
1965-1969396 in³ Big-Block V8
1966-1969427 in³ Big-Block V8
1968307 in³ Small-Block V8
1969-1970350 in³ Small-Block V8
1970400 in³ Small-Block V8
II1971-1976350 in³ Small-Block V8
1971-1976400 in³ Small-Block V8
1971-1972400 in³ Big-Block V8
1970-1976454 in³ Big-Block V8
1976305 in³ Small-Block V8
1981-1985 (police)
350 in³ Small-Block V8
1977-1985305 in³ Small-Block V8
1977-1979250 in³ straight-6
1980-1984229 in³ V6
1980-1985231 in³ V6
1980-1982267 in³ Small-Block V8
1980-1984350 in³ LF9 Diesel V8
1985262 in³ V6
IV1986-1991 (police)350 in³ Small-Block V8
1986-19905.0 L/307 in³ LV2 V8140 hp (104 kW)
1986-19884.3 L/262 in³ V6140 hp (104 kW)225 ft·lbf (305 N·m)
1986-19905.0 L/305 in³ Small-Block V8170 hp (127 kW)255 ft·lbf (346 N·m)
1987-19905.7 L/350 in³ Small-Block V8
V1991-19935.0 L/305 in³ Small-Block V8170 hp (127 kW)255 ft·lbf (346 N·m)
1994-19965.7 L/350 in³ LT1 V8260 hp 330 ft·lbf
1994-19964.3 L/265 in³ Small-Block V8200 hp (149 kW)235 ft·lbf (319 N·m)
Impala SS1994-19965.7 L/350 in³ LT1 V8260 hp (194 kW)330 ft·lbf (447 N·m)

Transmissions for U.S. cars

  • 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 4-R and 700R4/4L60, 4-speed overdrive automatic: Optional 1981-1988 models, standard 1989-1996.

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