Junkyard Classic: 1983 Chevrolet Caprice Classic Wagon – Goodbye, Jumbo

If the GM B-Body in general is hallowed chassis here at CC, then the B-Body wagon must be even more sacred.  After all, what vehicle was ever made worse by being available in wagon form?  Certainly not these in the days before the ubiquity of the modern minivan or three-row SUV.

This particular one from smack-dab in the middle of the production run of this generation is a fairly well-equipped sample as well as being fairly well used up without any single major evident issue, just lots of little things that one by one eventually pushed it over the edge.

1983 was a bit of a grim year for the Caprice Classic line as there were no 2-door models built.  Only the sedan and the wagon were available and even the wagon, which previously was also available in 6-passenger form, was only offered with the third row seat this year.  Could it be that Chevrolet was looking at discontinuing the model?   As we know now, it ended up getting refreshed again in 1986 and stuck around until 1990 but it’s strange to eliminate models in the middle of the run and then bring them back as they did end up doing with the 2-door being available again for 1984.

The wagon in 1983 was equipped as standard with the 305 (5.0l) V8 coupled with the overdrive-equipped automatic, both were options on the sedan.  Producing 150hp at 3800rpm and 240lb-ft of torque at 2400rpm, the 4-barrel carb equipped V8 was likely a smooth and decent powerplant, capable of running well for many miles and then perhaps poorly for just as many more.  The whole wagon weighed just under 4000 pounds in this configuration, but there was also a diesel engine available, which presumably would have been heavier.  I don’t believe I have ever seen a diesel in one of these although there surely did exist a few besides just the one in the brochure.

Chevrolet sold 53,028 of these wagons in 1983, with a starting sticker price of $9,518 apiece.  So before options, these represented over half a billion dollars in revenue.  The sedan version sold over 122,000 examples with a sticker of around $600 less which is interesting as I didn’t realize the model split was split so far towards the wagons with around 30% of production.  Options, as we’ll see further in this post, likely drove the price of these up significantly.  (Try to keep track of which options would even be available as extra-cost items in today’s market.)  Every 1983 dollar is worth $2.58 today (so a base version would sticker at $24,556) and Chevrolet was offering generous 11.9% financing at that time to help you get the most out of your money.

Opening the back door/gate reveals a very generous cargo area with storage cubbies in the sides.  The ability to use the tailgate as a side-hinged door is nice to be able to grab stuff that has rolled toward the back seat but could easily clobber someone if parked parallel on a road with camber.  Of course twisting the handle the other way converted it into a regular fold-down tailgate.  The rear window was power operated and while I’m not positive on this car, if it’s like my old Chevelle wagon and I remember it correctly, I believe the key could be used to lower it from the outside.

After donning my gloves, I held my breath, entered the chamber and figured out how to get the seat erected without reading the manual, just like the average owner in 1983.  It turned out to be quite easy and I can imagine the average suburbanite not having any trouble doing so.  In some circles this is billed as a nine-passenger wagon, however if one takes into account seatbelts, then it’s really only good for eight.  And once people are in the back there is very little cargo area left besides around the footwell area.

Working our way towards the front, the back seat area is quite spacious and that cushion looks higher off the floor than many GM vehicles I can remember being in.  Also, this wagon is equipped with the $289 cloth seat option in Sand Gray along with power windows that cost $255 as well as power locks if I am not mistaken at a further $170.

The front looks just as spacious as the rest of the vehicle, and could easily hold three abreast, especially since there is no console to get in the way.

Viewed from the driver’s side, this one is equipped with the tilt wheel ($105), rear defogger (also $105) and I think cruise control at $170 on the stalk that’s held together with tape along with intermittent wipers on the dash for $49.   Wood grain was still standard this year, it didn’t change to silver and black until after the next interior refresh in 1985.

While so far very well equipped, this car notably did not receive the gauge package with trip odometer, a curious omission to save a measly $64 when you’re going to staring at the poverty-spec gauges otherwise. Speedo, fuel gauge and a whole lot of reminder space as to what isn’t there.  The odometer ready 38,994 but no clues as to whether there is likely to be a 1, 2, or even a 3 ahead of it if it was a 6-digit version.

Air conditioning with the full crotch vent package for $725(!) and an AM/FM Cassette unit for $295 (if that’s an original GM Delco unit, I can’t tell) round out the interior.  The Quartz clock was standard but there was an option listed for an electric version.

Droopy headliner was also included here as a no-cost option along with what is perhaps the spare riding shotgun in the 50/50 split front bench.  It’s remarkable how often a spare wheel is found in the passenger seat by the way, likely put there by a shopper doing layaway.

Let’s see, what else?  Oh yes, the paint is White over Silver Metallic two tone at $141 and this one has the $66 rubber bumper strips and the bodyside moldings.

As I’ve mentioned before, due to this site I’ve become significantly more appreciative of the Caprice Classic and all B-Bodies in general, growing up I had no attraction to them whatsoever and this one looks like it would have been quite nice back in its day.

I found it kind of interesting that the fuel flap was top-hinged.  I suppose it then provided a handy place to put the cap but would cringe at the thought of people just tossing that metal cap onto the painted surface.

Looking at the number of rockchips in the front, also evident in the closer-up photo of the hood ornament from near the beginning of this post, I’m thinking this one has at least a 2 at the front of the odometer number.  The little fender bender at the front may be what finally brought it here in the end but it may well have sat around the homestead for a while first.

Looking at the VIN revealed an “X” in the 11th position, indicating Fairfax, Kansas as the assembly plant out of a total of eleven possibilities which shows just what a long running (1977-1990) and popular line this was.  Taking into account the options that I was able to figure out were included but omitting any that I likely missed, after inflation this wagon would have stickered for at least $30,000 or likely a little more if sold today and notably virtually every one of those options would be standard today with the exception of the two-tone paint.

Related Reading:

1986 Chevrolet Caprice Classic Brougham by Paul Niedermeyer

1977 Chevrolet Caprice Vintage Review by GN

1980 Chevrolet Caprice Vintage Review by GN