Since 1958, the Impala had been Chevrolet’s top of the line model. When Ford added the luxurious LTD package to the Galaxie 500 for the 1965 model year, Chevy quickly responded with the Caprice. Both nameplates started out as a luxury trim level but would become full-fledged models in short order.
As Paul related in his 1965 Ford LTD CC, the Great Brougham Epoch was a new direction in the Big Three’s top of the line models. While the Galaxie and Impala had previously been considered rather sporty in top-trim guise, the new direction was Brougham-tastic. Vinyl roofs, ‘luxury’ wheel covers, acres of Di-Noc wood trim on instrument panels and doors, and a hearty helping of extra sound insulation were the key ingredients. And thus was the Caprice introduced in 1965 as an interior and exterior decor package for the Impala Sport Sedan.
Despite costing $200 more than the regular Impala Sport Sedan, the Caprice Custom Sedan option package (RPO Z-18) was immediately popular. Special exterior touches included slim chrome body sill moldings, unique wheel covers, black-accented grille and rear trim panel, Caprice scripts on the front fenders and fleur de lis emblems on the sail panel. Inside, interiors featured patterned fabric with expanded vinyl trim and simulated wood on the doors and instrument panel ‘with the look of hand-rubbed walnut’, according to the brochure.
The new trim level was so well received that it became its own model for 1966, and became Chevy’s ultimate full-size nameplate. The four-door hardtop was still available, but it was joined by a new Custom Coupe with unique formal roofline, and six- and nine-passenger station wagons – with simulated wood paneling, of course.
All Caprices came with a standard 2-barrel 283 V8 with 195 hp. Engine choices were very extensive, ranging from a 225 hp Turbo Fire 283 to the stump-pulling, 425 hp Turbo Jet 427. All it took was cash and checking the right box on the order form.
1966 Caprices once again had a more luxurious interior than the Impala, with tonier upholstery and carpeted lower sections on the door panels. Outside, all Caprices had color-keyed body striping, new wide chrome rocker moldings, new wheel covers, tail lights with horizontal chrome louvers, and the requisite Caprice identification.
Coupes could be had with all-vinyl upholstery, floor shift and a woodgrained console for those who wanted a dash of sportiness in their luxury Chevrolet. Caprice coupes were priced at $3000 to start ($21,240 adjusted) but could easily go much higher with the right options. Despite the additional cost over an Impala, Caprice did even better for ’66 with 181,000 built (excluding wagons). The Caprice was here to stay, for another thirty years at least.
This Caprice appears to have been sitting for quite a while, but it still shows off its attractive lines, even in its current state. It must have been quite a nice ride when new. Hopefully someone will see its potential and bring it back to life. Nice thing about Chevys – parts are so easy to find, and a resto-mod ’66 Caprice with an LS1 would be a great way to see the USA in 2012.