’70s Chevy Classics: Attack Of The Big Wheels

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It is by no means a new phenomenon, but it seems there are more and more “big wheels” running about my area. Some are very over-the-top (Sunkist or Crown Royal color schemes, anyone?) and others, like these, are more subtle.

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But even those as subtle as the two you’ll see here today are still pretty noticeable when they sit nearly a foot higher than the original factory issue.

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I spotted this Caprice Classic hardtop sedan during the last month or two. After I noticed it sitting at a local garage, I made a mental note to get some pictures.

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Caddys excepted, big GMs from 1971-76 are not seen very frequently either on local roads or at shows, so naturally I was drawn to this one, modifications aside.

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I do have a question for folks who modify cars this way: Wouldn’t all the extra unsprung weight from the wheels make handling worse? The higher center of gravity would make these soft-sprung beasts a lot more tippy, too. You’d also need to modify the speedometer cable in order to get accurate MPH and odometer readings.

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I did appreciate how the fender skirts were retained despite the addition of those giant alloy wheels. It would have been so easy just to chuck them!

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As I’m sure most of you know, 1976 was the swan song for the Big Bs. Smaller, tighter-handling and more space-efficient Caprices and Impalas were on the horizon, and this was your last chance for a really big one.

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The 1971-76 Bs and Cs were not as solid as their 1967-70 predecessors, and lots of cheap plastic trim was found inside. Even so, in my opinion they still had an undeniable presence. The 1976 looks even better, with its eggcrate grille and new-for-’76 quad rectangular headlights.

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While I am not a fan of twenty-inch wheels, I have to tip my hat to the owner of this car for keeping it stock otherwise. The red Custom Cloth interior, side moldings, trim and vinyl top were all quite nice. You can still see the nice lines Bill Mitchell & Co. intended, and the maroon-over-white color scheme is quite sharp.

But that’s not all, folks–last summer, I saw its close relative in the supermarket parking lot. Just like the Caprice, it was in quite nice original condition, save for hi-rider wheels and tires. I believe this one is painted Firethorn Red, one of my favorite ’70s GM colors.

The interior trim identifies it as a Landau, although no landau top was in evidence. This one is pretty basic inside, too, having only a non-split bench seat. No swivel buckets, floor shift or console on this one. But at least it has a red interior!

About a dozen years ago, I remember seeing a mint red ’77 Monte like this one at most of the local shows. It had factory Rally wheels and whitewalls, and was very sharp. I can’t help but wonder if this is the same car. It certainly could be.

In any case, whoever owns these cars is certainly taking good care of them. Both were rust-free, with all the factory-installed trim, side moldings, and a nice paint job to boot. Other than upgraded stereos, the interiors were just as nice.

Now, while I prefer my Seventies Chebbies in nice, original stock form–whitewalls and all–I do have to give a nod to the owners of these cars. If not for their interest in customizing them, this pair might have been recycled into cat-food cans long ago. Saving a CC from doom and keeping it on the road is always a good thing; the roads would be so dull with nothing but silver Accords and white Tahoes!