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Chevrolet Caprice Classic

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Caprice Classic
Vehicle Model

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Wikipedia: Chevrolet Caprice

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A car produced by Chevrolet. The Chevrolet Caprice was renamed Caprice Classic for the 1973 model year and continued through the 1996 model year.

A black & white Chevrolet Caprice Classic police car appears on the cover of the 2017 book Frank-3 Enroute: The Streets of Las Vegas by Rod Harris with Norma Hood.

History

The following section is an excerpt from Wikipedia's Automotive Industries page on 2 February 2017, text available via the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

The Caprice name was coined by Bob Lund (Chevrolet's General Sales Manager) after a classy restaurant he frequented in New York City. Some say the car was named after Caprice Chapman, daughter of auto executive and influential Indy-car official James P. Chapman.

The Caprice models were renamed to Caprice Classic for the 1973 model year. The Kingswood Estate model with simulated wood-grain body side trim was now named the Caprice Estate. The convertible was moved from the Impala to the Caprice lineup for the first time in 1973.

The 1974 models featured a new grille. The taillights were moved above the new 5 mph (8 km/h) rear bumper. New thick "B" pillars and fixed rear quarter opera windows were new on two-door coupes, which essentially eliminated pillar-less hardtop design much like the GM intermediates did the previous year. Other body styles including the four-door pillared and hardtop sedans, convertible and Estate Wagon were carried over with only minor changes from 1973.

The 1975 models received a revised grille and taillight trim and six-window styling on four-door models. The dashboard, radio and climate control graphics were revised; the speedometer read up to 100 mph (160 km/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 counterparts including the Oldsmobile Delta 88, Buick LeSabre, and Pontiac Grand Ville. Just about 8,350 Caprice Classic convertibles found buyers in 1975.

The 1976 Caprice Classic marked the sixth and final year of a body style introduced for the 1971 model year. 1976 models weighed approximately 4,314 pounds (1,957 kg) and was 222.9 inches (5,660 mm) long, growing considerably from the 1971s 4,040 pounds (1,830 kg) and 216.8-inch (5,510 mm) length. Only minor changes were made for 1976, 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.

Third generation (1977–1990)

The 1977 Caprice Classic was drastically downsized, which reduced its weight and exterior dimensions, while increasing headroom, rear seat legroom and trunk 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 reductions from the 1976 models were 611 lb (277 kg) for coupes, 637 lb (289 kg) for sedans and 871 lb (395 kg) for wagons. The 1977 Caprice coupe and sedan were over 10 inches (250 mm) shorter while the wagon was 14 inches (360 mm) shorter. Wheelbases were reduced to 116 inches (2,900 mm) from 121.5 inches (3,090 mm) for coupes and sedans and 125 inches (3,200 mm) for wagons. Width was reduced by 4 inches (100 mm) for sedans and coupes; the wagon's width remained virtually unchanged. Heights were increased by 2.5 inches (64 mm) and trunk capacities were increased to 20.9 cubic feet (0.59 m3) for sedans and 19.8 cubic feet (0.56 m3) 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-inch (2,900 mm) wheelbase of the intermediate sized Chevrolet Chevelle, and 1977 marked the first, and only, year in history that a midsized car, the Monte Carlo, was larger than a full sized car. 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.

The 1980 Caprice Classic saw its first major revision since the 1977 downsizing. 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 an 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 (45 kg) lighter than 1979 models.

1986 marked the first 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, but was an emblem located on the vertical area directly above the grill in the center 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 taillights were restyled to look more modern and detailed, 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 Impala no longer being produced, a new base Caprice four-door model was introduced (similar to the previous Impala). Still available was a four-door sedan, coupe and eight-passenger station wagon, while a new Brougham four-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 appliqué on its dash fascia, a dome map light, front-door courtesy lights and 20 oz carpeting. Power window controls for all models moved from the door panel to the armrest for improved ergonomics.

9C1 Police model

A police package, orderable under GM's Regular Production Option code 9C1, was introduced for the new base-model Caprice that replaced the Impala for 1986.

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 outran the Caprice in the 0–100 mph times, but placed last in the road course times. However, there was only a 1/3 second difference between the fastest and slowest vehicles 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 changed little. The 350-4bbl engine received a boost in compression, roller lifters, and new center-bolt valve covers. The 180 hp (134 kW) rating of this engine helped boost the Caprice's performance above its competition.The 4.3 L engine remained available, but was marketed towards urban police departments with less need for performance.

Michigan State Police tests had the Chevrolet Caprice beating 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, though the Plymouth and Dodge had shorter braking distances. The 1987 Chevrolet Caprice won the contract for the Michigan State police and would hold this contract until 1996 when the Caprice was discontinued.

For 1988, the 9C1 Caprice was again unchanged. Michigan State Police tests proved to be more competitive, with the Ford LTD Crown Victoria showing 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 1 mph (1.6 km/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 received some major changes to the drivetrain. All engines were now equipped with throttle-body fuel-injection, and the 305 cu in (5.00 l) engine was now added to the option list. The available engines were now the 4.3 l (260 cu in) V6, the 305 cu in (5.00 l) and 350 cu in (5.7 l) V8s. The V6 and 350 engines were equipped with TH700-R4 transmissions while the 305 engine used the TH200-4R transmission. The V6 and the 305 used a 3.08:1 axle ratio, while the 350-powered cars now used a 3.42:1 axle ratio. The 4.3 L remained at 140 hp (104 kW), while the 305 TBI engine was rated at 170 hp (127 kW), and the 350 TBI engine was rated at 190 hp (142 kW). 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 outbraked the Caprice, and the Plymouth Fury and Dodge Diplomat had better ergonomics than the Caprice.

1990 was another carry-over year for the 9C1 Caprice with the only major change being door mounted seatbelts. In Michigan State Police tests, the only competition was from the Ford LTD Crown Victoria, as production of the Dodge Diplomat and Plymouth Gran Fury had ended during 1989. 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.

Fourth generation (1991–1996)

The 1991 model was completely restyled—It replaced the 1977-based rectilinear design with rounded, more aerodynamic sheetmetal. While the body and interior were all new, excluding the Anti-Lock Braking System, the chassis and powertrain were carried over from the 1990 model. Several major components (including the floor pan) are entirely interchangeable between 1977 and 1996.

Motor Trend awarded the new Caprice Classic Car of the Year. Two trim levels were initially offered—Caprice and Caprice Classic, replacing the previous Classic and Brougham models. General Motors had hoped to regain the top spot as America's favorite automobile with the new aerodynamic styling of their full-size offering.

The final B-body Caprice was not well received by critics and did not hold on to high sales numbers. The car's styling was criticized with car aficionados calling it a "beached whale" and "an upside-down bathtub". 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. A final appearance tweak appeared on the 1995 Caprice sedan in the form of a restyled side window between the back door and C pillar (windows on Caprices of the generation through 1994 were triangular, but the 1995 window had 4 sides and lacked the sharp corner pointed toward the rear), and the wagon was given the same mirrors as the sedan. In 1996 the Impala SS was exported to Middle Eastern markets badged as the Caprice SS, with the car being identical to its American counterpart except for the side fonts on the rear quarter panel & the badge on the dashboard saying Caprice SS.


Photographs

1973 Chevrolet Caprice Classic 1973
Photo ©2009 Bill Crittenden
The Cars Time Forgot Car Show
July 5, 2009
View photo of 1973 Chevrolet Caprice Classic - 5,219KB
1973 Chevrolet Caprice Classic 1973
Photo ©2009 Bill Crittenden
The Cars Time Forgot Car Show
July 5, 2009
View photo of 1973 Chevrolet Caprice Classic - 5,872KB
1973 Chevrolet Caprice Classic 1973
Photo ©2009 Bill Crittenden
The Cars Time Forgot Car Show
July 5, 2009
View photo of 1973 Chevrolet Caprice Classic - 3,053KB
1973 Chevrolet Caprice Classic 1973
Photo ©2009 Bill Crittenden
The Cars Time Forgot Car Show
July 5, 2009
View photo of 1973 Chevrolet Caprice Classic - 4,678KB
1973 Chevrolet Caprice Classic 1973
Photo ©2009 Bill Crittenden
The Cars Time Forgot Car Show
July 5, 2009
View photo of 1973 Chevrolet Caprice Classic - 6,378KB
1973 Chevrolet Caprice Classic 1973
Photo ©2009 Bill Crittenden
The Cars Time Forgot Car Show
July 5, 2009
View photo of 1973 Chevrolet Caprice Classic - 3,624KB
1975 Chevrolet Caprice Classic convertible 1975
Photo ©2008 Bill Crittenden
Woodstock VFW "Remember Our Heroes" Car Show
July 12, 2008
View photo of 1975 Chevrolet Caprice Classic convertible - 5,279KB
1975 Chevrolet Caprice Classic convertible 1975
Photo ©2008 Bill Crittenden
Woodstock VFW "Remember Our Heroes" Car Show
July 12, 2008
View photo of 1975 Chevrolet Caprice Classic convertible - 3,352KB
1975 Chevrolet Caprice Classic convertible 1975
Photo ©2008 Bill Crittenden
Woodstock VFW "Remember Our Heroes" Car Show
July 12, 2008
View photo of 1975 Chevrolet Caprice Classic convertible - 3,352KB
1975 Chevrolet Caprice Classic convertible 1975
Photo ©2008 Bill Crittenden
Gary Lang Auto Group Car Show
July 20, 2008
View photo of 1975 Chevrolet Caprice Classic convertible - 4,976KB
1975 Chevrolet Caprice Classic convertible 1975
Photo ©2008 Bill Crittenden
Gary Lang Auto Group Car Show
July 20, 2008
View photo of 1975 Chevrolet Caprice Classic convertible - 2,682KB
1975 Chevrolet Caprice Classic convertible 1975
Photo ©2008 Bill Crittenden
Gary Lang Auto Group Car Show
July 20, 2008
View photo of 1975 Chevrolet Caprice Classic convertible - 3,878KB
1975 Chevrolet Caprice Classic convertible 1975
Photo ©2008 Bill Crittenden
Gary Lang Auto Group Car Show
July 20, 2008
View photo of 1975 Chevrolet Caprice Classic convertible - 4,284KB
1975 Chevrolet Caprice Classic convertible 1975
Photo ©2008 Bill Crittenden
Gary Lang Auto Group Car Show
July 20, 2008
View photo of 1975 Chevrolet Caprice Classic convertible - 3,802KB
Modified 1977 Chevrolet Caprice Classic Coupe Modified 1977
Photo ©2012 Bill Crittenden
2012 The Cars Time Forgot
View photo of Modified 1977 Chevrolet Caprice Classic Coupe - 3.9MB
Modified 1977 Chevrolet Caprice Classic Coupe Modified 1977
Photo ©2012 Bill Crittenden
2012 The Cars Time Forgot
View photo of Modified 1977 Chevrolet Caprice Classic Coupe - 4.9MB
Modified 1977 Chevrolet Caprice Classic Coupe Modified 1977
Photo ©2012 Bill Crittenden
2012 The Cars Time Forgot
View photo of Modified 1977 Chevrolet Caprice Classic Coupe - 3.7MB
Chevrolet Caprice Classic Photo ©2010 Bill Crittenden
July 11, 2010
View photo of Chevrolet Caprice Classic - 4,180KB
Chevrolet Caprice Classic Photo ©2010 Bill Crittenden
July 11, 2010
View photo of Chevrolet Caprice Classic - 3,976KB
Demolition Derby 1990 Chevrolet Caprice Classic Wagon Demolition Derby 1990 Wagon
Photo ©2012 Bill Crittenden
2012 Attack of the Plastic
View photo of Demolition Derby 1990 Chevrolet Caprice Classic Wagon Model - 3.6MB


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