(first posted 5/6/2013) This is it: The 1978 Caprice Classic. The remarkably right-for-the-times full-sizer that proved GM could still do a car right, when they weren’t preoccupied with badge engineering and half-baked technology (Vega engine anyone?). Despite taking hits–lots of them–in the ’70s, the downsized 1977 B-bodies took the U.S. market by storm. While all the various flavors were well-received (and my favorite remains the Bonneville), there is no doubt the Chevy version was the most popular.
As most of you B-body lovers know, the ’76 Caprice Classic was the last of the gunboats. Despite an attractive new nose with rectangular headlights, these Bs were not the solid, overbuilt models like the 1970 versions were. Like Ford with the Mustang II, GM had no idea that a gas crisis was coming–either the first one in late 1973 or the second one in 1979. They just realized their cars were a bit too zaftig and needed to go on a crash diet.
In the fall of 1976 “The New Chevrolet” debuted. To buyers used to gigantic Chevys, it was a revelation. They were also much better road cars, with improved handling over the 1971-76 version–even without the optional F41 suspension package.
The top of the line Caprice Classic was available in the usual coupe, sedan and station wagon body styles (Caprice wagons with available Di-Noc woodgrain on the sides, natch). I was very familiar with the ’77 Caprice Estate, as no less than two were owned by neighbors: A pristine cream one and a bit more weathered dark brown one–both with the woodgrained sides. There was also a yellow Citation, light green ’80 Continental, dark blue Ninety Eight Regency and beige Fairmont on our street. My folks were the odd ones out with their Volvo 240s and Dad’s old ’51 Porsche 356!
A bit more unusual was the bent-glass rear window featured on the Caprice and Impala coupes. It really lent a sporty air to what was otherwise a rather Broughamy conveyance. If you wanted even more Brougham, a Landau model with canopy vinyl roof, pinstripes and wire wheel covers was available (Car Show Classic writeup here).
But as snazzy as the Caprice coupes were, they were small potatoes compared to the sedan’s sales volume. Yes, the Caprice Classic sedan was king of the Bs, with over 212,840 sold in inaugural ’77. That was even better than the ’77 Impala sedan, which saw 196,824 units out the door.
That was quite an impressive jump from 1976 Caprice four-door sales. Even when accounting for the additional hardtop sedan in 1976–a model that disappeared in 1977, never to return–that was close to double 1976’s Caprice sedan sales of 102,719. 1977 was also the first time the Caprice sedan outsold the Impala sedan.
Yes, in the late 1970s, more and more folks wanted luxury if they were springing for a full-size car. At the same time, Bonnevilles were outselling Catalinas, and I suspect that if you looked at production stats for other big sedans from the 1975-79 period, you would see fancier models superseding the “plain” version of the same car. Broughamier minds were prevailing.
For 1978, Chevy did not mess with success, and the Caprice Classic received only the most minor of updates: new grille, new taillights, and a new steering wheel with A-shaped spokes replaced the previous 1977 version with spokes at 3 and 9 o’clock.
Caprice Classic sales repeated their strong 1977 output, with 203,837 sedans, 37,301 coupes, 22,771 Landau coupes, 24,792 two-seat Estates and 32,952 three seat Estates. Caprice wagons came standard with the 145-hp 305 V8, while sedans and coupes came with the 145-hp six. Optional on all models was the 170-hp 350 CID (5.7L) V8. When combined with the 350 and the F41 handling package, you had yourself a formidable Brougham indeed.
Despite being the top-trim model, Caprice Classics could be loaded up with lots of additional options–like most every other Detroit car of the time. Selected accessories included power windows, a power antenna, AM/FM-CB radio, the aforementioned F41 package, Comfortron ACC and, newly available in ’78, a power Sky Roof.
On a dreary day last May–the same day I discovered the 1976 2002, in fact–I ran across this sky blue ’78 Classic sedan. It was clearly a well-loved original, and the light blue paint, white vinyl roof and wire wheel covers (off of a two-door Landau, judging from the center caps) shouted out “elderly original owner.”
Remember those goofy bug visors on cars in the ’70s and ’80s? This one had one, no doubt installed when the car was new. They may be ugly, but they protected this car’s nose from rock chips for 25 years. Now, how about detaching it and putting it on a shelf in the garage? It would improve the looks so much!
You’ll have to excuse the less-than-stellar interior shots, as I had not yet discovered the proper CC interior shot format. Those blue seats, with the optional 50/50 split-bench option and reclining passenger seat, looked awfully comfy. As I recall, this example didn’t even have the all-too-common droopy headliner. Clearly this ’78 has been garaged from day one.
Chevy’s 1977 Caprice/Impala lasted through the 1979 model year, and aside from new, more aerodynamic sheetmetal in 1980 (CC here) and minor facelifts in 1986 and 1987, carried on until early 1990 (’90 Brougham LS CC here), when they were re-bodied with the ’90s Hudson Hornet design. But I happen to think these 1977-79s were the best of the bunch.
I owned a ’77 Caprice throughout most of college and my early work years. Red vinyl top, red paint, red vinyl interior. The back seat was nicely copious for extracurricular activities. It had the optional 350 engine, yay!
My Dad helped me buy it from a friend of his. When I looked at it, I noticed that it had the front clip from the ’79 version. At the time I voraciously followed the model year changes of the Big Three and could differentiate the annual grill changes on sight. I knew it was more than just the grille because there were some very subtle differences in the headlight bezels and the nose cap. My Dad’s friend insisted it had never been in an accident and my Dad didn’t believe me. Well, he was paying for half and the price was right, so okay. A week after I drove it home I was able to dig up some pictures from the Car & Driver archives at the library show my proof. Even after that I still don’t think he quite believed me.
My sister owned an Electric Blue ’78 with a matching vinyl top and light blue mouse fur interior. It was her first brand new car. It also had the 350, as (even though she was paying for it) no way would he okay the 305. She had it for ten years and after she was done with it my parents bought it and kept it for another ten.
As for my Caprice, I sold it after buying my first new car, an ’87 Bonneville SE. A fine car, except for the not-so-excellent ’80’s GM engineering and build quality. THAT is another story.
As further proof that GM really knocked one out of the park, I’ve always remembered the comparison test in Consumer Reports, right after the ’77s came out.
Even back then, CR listed “highs” and “lows” for each model, and for the Chevy I saw something I’d never seen before, and can’t really recall ever seeing since: “CONS: None significant enough to mention.”
Yep – got that one here on the shelf, and CR also said the Caprice was quieter and rode a bit better than the Sedan DeVille in the same test group.
I believe it. The Caprice Classic of these year is perhaps the most tasteful Broughamation ever, and I did ride in one once and thought that my dad’s Sedan de Ville had NOTHING on that nice Chevy.
Based on my experience owning a ’77 Sedan DeVille, I’d say that is as much a product of the Caddy moving down as the Chevy moving up. My feeling always was that the ’77 Caddy rode and handled like “generic late 70’s GM full size car.” Another example of increasing standardization across GM brands as time went on. Even the 1971-76 cars had greater differences in suspension components and tuning — and greater wheelbase differential as well (’76 DeVille WB 8.5 inches greater than Caprice, ’77 only 5.5).
@Mad H. I forgot till you mentioned it that I not only had the 77 Impala (wagon) work car with the 350/350 combo, I also owned a 77 Coupe DV Caddie with the 425/400 running gear. They were some years apart.
I cannot give the edge to the caddie. I frequently carried a 32 ft extension ladder on the Impala so I could moonlight with AC systems and chimney sweeps. The caddie could not have carried this without scratching it’s pretty brougham roof. I did really like the engine and trannie though. Too bad the car was virtually worthless.
They’ve gotten fussier over time. Give CR a ’77 Caprice to test today, and they would tell you it was a slow, ill handling death trap.
I don’t think it’s “fussiness” so much as the expectations that come from the current state of technology.
The Ford Model T met the needs of millions when it was introduced in 1908, but I doubt people would line up to buy a car with a hand-cranked starter, a 20-hp engine, a 45 mph top speed and no brakes on the wheels (just on the transmission output shaft).
These were everywhere in the early ’80s. The only ones that stick in my mind are a neighbor’s burgundy over silver sedan with “lace” alloys, and an uncle’s two-tone green coupe.
Can we please bring back multicolor paint jobs?! I know why we can’t have chrome and sharp edges anymore, but more intricate paint schemes should actually be easier to pull off today, I’d think. Only the Mini does it, it seems.
That was a very nice combo, especially if it had no vinyl roof. Doubly so if it was F-41 and a 350! A real sport sedan for the day!
Great post. Reminded me there are few cars I’d rather own than a composite-headlamp one of these, with the 9C1 package and a crate SBC.
Absolutely. Been keeping my eyes open for one of those for years, but have yet to score. The MN State Patrol had oodles of them, but sadly most were kid-beaten to death by fifteen years ago. (I’d even consider a regular “civilian” one at this point, so long as it was rust-free and sporting similar options.)
So many 305 Caprices in the world, and so many Chevy trucks/vans rotting away with strong 350s under their hoods. If I could ever clear my backlog of projects, maybe I’d make that combination happen before they all get crushed.
I have to disagree on the composite headlamps. For me .they just don’t fit on this car and make it look like it is caught between eras. Which it was, but it didn’t have to look that way.
Of course, I dislike the 1980 refresh anyway. It proves that it only takes a subtle change to ruin the proportions of a good design. And don’t get me started on the 1980 coupes…
YES!, but I’d take the drivetrain from a VE Commodore or HSV and put it down there. V8 + 6 speed auto = WIN
Or an E-Rod LS3.
I would also put 15″ or 16″ 5 slot Chevy rally wheels there.
As much as I loved the kinked-window coupes, these cars suffered from GM’s “half-way” mentality of only allowing the back windows to roll down half-way. That malady spread to other OEMs into the mid-90s. Sad.
These cars were still too big for us at the time, as we were into economy mode and only had smaller cars.
It is difficult to overstate how much better of a car this was over the 1971-76 version. The bodies were good and stiff, the handling was excellent, and the packaging was very good. One of these with a 350 and a THM 350 was hard to beat. Even though I was not a Chevy guy (far from it, actually) I had to grudgingly admit that they made a very good car in these.
This car also reminds me of how common baby blue cars were once upon a time. Never my favorite color, but it was a perennial in the color palate from the early 1950s until the early 80s. Then it just went away. Never really my favorite, but it is nice to have choices. This color combo really changes the whole personality of the car compared to, say, one of the more common earth tones or maroon. Very nice find.
It’s become so rare that, IIRC, Volkswagen was able to market a special-edition model of the New Beetle called the ‘Sky’ in that colour – to some consumer excitement – in the early 2000s.
I always thought that was funny considering how many Beetles must’ve come off the assembly line with similar paint in the ’50s and ’60s.
Last I checked , VW Still has a Special model in Sky blue. Its Called The 60s Edition, or 70s…There Is also a Brown One which I think represents the 80s.
On the New 2013 Beetle iirc
This was really the last of the bread-and-butter, full-size Chevys that sold well and kept a good portion of the auto market, going a long way to keeping GM afloat, regardless of how badly they screwed anything (everything?) else up. Certainly, it was no Toyota, and while there were quality complaints (the drooping headliner is a good one), nothing bad enough to come even close to being in the same league as the craptacular sh!t that GM was churning out in other segments (Vega, X-body, etc).
But then came the ungainly ‘bubble’ replacements in 1991, followed by the equally poorly styled (and FWD) 2000 Impala. For my money, those two vehicles, alone, garner the lion’s share of GM ‘deadly sin’ status. The market had by then made the irreversible shift from big, full-size cars to well-made smaller cars (Camcord and Corolla/Civic) and GM, having given that market little real effort for decades, paid for it dearly.
Looks like the Tru-Coat, er…Symtec was worth the money this time.
I could get confused about the difference between Impala and Caprice if I wasted time thinking about it. Owned a 77 Impala wagon that I got on a good deal from my stepdaughter. It was about three quarts low on ATF and similar on engine oil. After first aid to fix that I started driving it. 100 miles per day across houston for at least a year. 3 cylinders only had about 100psi when I finally checked and sometimes took patience to start because of cracked flywheel.
It was ugly paint. Then I made it an art car (paint only/no welds) and pulled a float in Houstons art car parade with students from my class. After that, with traffic it was like moses parting the waters. Nobody figured I cared about more dings and dints.
That car was a wonderful work car. With a small trailer for the high loads like AC condensing units any job was possible. As a four door there was more access to tools than a pickup.
HEI went out one day with a full trailer of dekblocks and wood. Unhitched it and took the trailer home first because it was more valuable. Used the four cylinder 79 datsun king cab to haul the heavy 16 foot trailer. Then returned with tow dolly and hauled the station wagon. It took the trailer the 50 miles one way to school the next day and since it did it with high twenties gas mileage, I gave it the full time job and gave away the impala. The little Datsun did everything but part the traffic seas. I’m glad I told the story because of remembering why I don’t have it. It would have needed more than an HEI. Probably would have wanted all eight cylinders to work and tough as it was, the th350 could have used a swap.
It sure is fun to remember but when gas went up this with it’s 13mpg needed to go and the 57 got parked. Of course, I retired from the 100 mile per day commute.
I learned to drive in my 77 Impala wagon. They bought the car after I outgrew the back seat of the Vega (though I suspect that the Vega’s notorious engine woes had something to do with it).
The car was much more reliable than its predecessors (the Vega and before that a 3 cylinder Saab wagon.) A big American car was quite a change for my parents! The only problems I recall was a seized AC compressor (on the Cross Bronx Expressway!) and that the rear springs sagged after a month-plus fully loaded summer camping trip.
For certain, speaking from the standpoint of tens of millions of kms of experience in these cars, the 1977-79 models were by far, way far, the best cars GM ever produced, bar none. The 1980 model was “refreshed for better fuel economy,” which is GM speak for “cheap the car out.” The rear end in particular was much smaller and prone to early failure, as was the horrid THM200. In long run the best cars were the 350 CID/THM350 combo. Yes, they used like 20% more gas but the reliability of this power train made up for it.
It is not hard to see why the Caprice outsold the Impala: the interior was light-years better. The Impala had some of the cheapest seat material I can recall and it didn’t last well. Neither did the Caprice, for that matter, but at least it looked and felt better for a while. The 50/50 seats were great but without the power seat the driver sat much to close too the floor. I assume that is how GM got the good headroom figure. The extra premium for the Caprice was only about $300 anyway.
What always surprised me was how many of these cars had cranker windows, like the car pictured here.
Speaking of window cranks, the ’80 & up models also had those flimsy plastic tape drive windows, these still had a metal regulator & gear type.
Yup, I was just thinking that. The tape drive window regulators were crap. Fortunately you could retrofit them with the old style. The only B body to get them were the Chevrolet’s.
We only ever used one non-9C1 that was made after 1979. In fact, the 77-79 was almost the same as the 9C1 anyway.
The 50/50 seats were great but without the power seat the driver sat much too close to the floor.
Our ’77 Electra’s non-power passenger side had the same problem. It had 60/40 seats, which meant the large single armrest was too low for my elbow. The ride on that car was very soft, and the springs sagged after a few years. Dad had them replaced in pairs, and the new ones eventually sagged too (we kept it 15 years).
My father traded in his 1976 Malibu Colennade Classic in light blue metallic for a 1977 Caprice Classic beige on beige with no vinyl top and the 350 under the hood. Between the 350, leather interior, the car had every option but the passenger power recline seat and CB. Besides being the family hauler it also did double duty hauling the family boat and was the tow car for my father’s 1935 Ford. We were the neighborhood freak show when my mother would get behind the wheel of the Caprice and take off down the road with the Ford tied behind while Dad tried to pop the clutch to get it started. The best was when the Ford wouldn’t start and the brakes were failing, Mom nailed the Caprice and pulled the front bumper off the Ford. The Caprice gave faitherful service for 10 solid years and was sold with 143k miles and started another chapter as someone’s second car.
“The best was when the Ford wouldn’t start and the brakes were failing, Mom nailed the Caprice and pulled the front bumper off the Ford.”
Good thing I wasn’t drinking anything when I read that; it would have led to either a spit-take or coughing fit 🙂
I was a 78 Caprice Classic Coupe owner from 84-88.
Fantastic looking car in blue over silver 2 tone with F41, wire wheels and 305 V8!
I land all my friends loved everything about the car, except the rust that had set in by 1988.
I live in NJ so that probably accelerated the rust. I paid 3500.00 for it in 1984 and still got 1500.00 for it in 1988 with 98000 miles, rust, and a denter rear fender!
I drove a 78 Classic Coupe from 84-88.
Loved everything about it, the 305 V8, 2 tone blue/silver, wire wheels, just not the rust that had set in.
I live in NJ so that probably says a lot. Even so, I paid 350.00 sold it for 1500.00 even with the rust, 98000 miles and a dent in the fender.
That was a great car!
People are funny; despite being style-conscious, they rather ugly up their cars with bug shields (& worsen aerodynamics) than tolerate a few stone divits in the hood paint. Same goes for those dash protectors: I just use a sunshade while parking at work, yet have never had a cracked dash, & never used Armor-All either. And what about floormats? Do we really need these?
An open question: Did CAFE standards kill the Yank Tank, or merely fickle consumers deciding they wanted trucks/SUVs instead? Maybe it’s both, but I’m interested if anyone can provide persuasive statistics.
I have no statistics, but am firmly in the “CAFE killed the yank tank” camp. Maybe not killed it, just started using trucks for yank tanks. I recall when my mother was shopping for a new Crown Vic in 1993. You could go into any decent size Ford Dealer and see 40 Taurii lined up, and maybe 2 civilian Crown Vics (if you were lucky). A few years earlier, you could find more but they gave the car such an awful drivetrain (geared to max economy on the test loop) that it was a relief to drive a Taurus. CAFE did not outlaw the big cars, but made it impossible for the manufacturers to outfit them with the kind of engines/transmissions/axles that people wanted to drive. Also, they resulted in platforms like the B body and Panther that got starved of development and treated as dead ends.
Sounds plausible. Now instead of bureaucratic casuistry with vehicle classification, which has endless absurdities if the CAFE Wiki is any indication (e.g. is a minivan a truck or car?), why not be straightforward & just raise the Federal tax on gasoline, if they really want to reduce per capita fuel consumption & carbon emissions?
But I’m confident this will never be done: It would be political suicide. Now the article said most consumers, when polled, say they prize fuel efficiency. If so, then there should be little market for large vehicles, & thus no need for CAFE or tax incentives. But I don’t believe this; I’m convinced that people lie to pollsters, salesmen, & themselves.
I laugh at political rhetoric about Foreign Oil, as if it was all from the Mideast. False: Our biggest two suppliers border us, & Venezuela isn’t far behind (the Citgo brand). Moreover, the U.S. is expected to be a, if not the, leading producer by 2020 or so.
Pickups on the world market do no need to meet car safety standards so can be built cheap and crap and sold to dummies so the SUV came to market and what a junk pile they are.
A combination of both, changing buyer tastes mixed with a combination of no changes for a decade pretty much resigned the “big RWD car” to grandpa duty, by the time any real changes were made, 1991 for the Caprice and 1992 for the LTD, no one really cared anymore. The Impala SS from 1994-1996 was a oddity, because it was a big car that people WANTED to buy, I worked at a Chevrolet dealer at the time and it was funny to watch people fight over the couple of Impala SS’s that would come in, meanwhile the same Caprice Classics were gathering dust on the otherside of the lot.
It made me think, imagine if Chevrolet would have done an Impala SS in 1985 instead? A tuned-port 5.7, police car suspension, a bucket seat interior and gauges, could interest in big cars have made a comeback?
I will never understand the allure of the Whale SS cars. Never.
I’d rather have a Roastmaster Wagon if I was going to have a whale. I am glad however that the SS was done since that brought the motor to the Buick and certainly influenced Ford to produce its very belated response the Marauder.
We also didn’t like the Whales. It was the same chassis as the Boxes and the heavier body meant things like brakes and front end stuff wore out like twice as fast. We had two and they went through parts much faster than our Delta 88’s.
The Whales were huge inside, though. The shoulder room was astounding. These were big cars.
I wish they would have because I think it might have kept the dream alive a little longer. Ford might have responded with the Mustang GT engine, less a couple of HP with quieter mufflers. Wrap them up in 2dr body styles and we might even have seen 2dr Aeros and Whales. It would have cost them penneys in development costs to put cars like that on the option list.
I the fall of 1977, a well-off guy I knew at the tv station wanted one of these. So we all sat around with the catalog and ordered up one with every conceivable performance and comfort option: the four-barrel 350, F-41, and every dew-hicky that could somehow be justified (or not). It was a white Caprice, no vinyl top, and it was a bomb. Man, we had fun borrowing it, or just riding in it. America still knows how to make a proper car!
I did the same thing with my dad’s 1979 Impala but for the life of me, I couldn’t get him to go up to a Caprice or order and power toys. I got all the heavy duty stuff, F-41, a/c and split seat but that was it. On the other hand, the car was lighter because of it and went like stink.
The on the road price was $8248. I still remember that.
I grew up in my Aunt’s 1978 Caprice Classic Coupe, it was a two tone tan, what a NICE car I remember and I was only three years old when she got it. I had owned a 1979 Caprice 4dr and two 1987 Caprice Coupe’s from 2002-2006 that was the last year they made a full size coupe with just 3,110 mfd. But I always loved the 77-79 Coupe’s and the 1978’s egg crate grill and taillights. So I looked and looked all over for one. I found one close to home a 1978 Chevy Caprice Landau Coupe, gold with a cream top with 56k original miles. This car has NO rust at all and has the same vinyl interior smell my Aunt’s car had back 35 years ago. I love this car, it reminds me of a simpler time in my life and love the looks it gets when I take it out 🙂
Beautiful car. I love the bent window coupes, and the colors on yours are outstanding. I’m hoping to find a nice original B-body as a cheap weekend cruiser some day soon. V8 burble, and a cushy interior, and so much more interesting than an old Mustang or Camaro, for so little money.
How often does it get driven?
Anyways, I love your car.
“Like Ford with the Mustang II, GM had no idea that a gas crisis was coming–either the first one in late 1973 or the second one in 1979. They just realized their cars were a bit too zaftig and needed to go on a crash diet.”
I’ve always been under the impression that the downsized ’77 GM fullsize cars were developed in response to the 1973 energy crisis. Are you saying that they date back even further than that, and GM was planning to downsize these models even before the ’73 energy crisis hit? I would be surprised if that was the case, as there doesn’t seem to have been any movement towards smaller full-size cars before 1973.
To be introduced as a 1974 model, by contrast, the Mustang II had to have been very far along in its development when the ’73 crisis hit. There had also been a rising tide of small car sales in the U.S. going back at least five years before the energy crisis hit.
The OPEC Embargo hit in the fall of 1973. These cars arrived in the late summer/early fall of 1976. For a completely new car, back than, the development cycle was typically over three years long.
It was pretty well known that GM saw the writing on the wall about their big cars, and that the next generation was going to be smaller. It’s possible that they were able to change aspects of them in response to the embargo. It would be interesting to know if there were any changes in its development, and to what extent.
Bill Mitchell and some of the other higher ups decided that perhaps the 1971 cars were too big, what was next? 25ft long 9ft wide Chevrolet Impalas and Cadillacs that needed 2 lanes of traffic?
Good grief. Another week. Another B-Body.
I guess you don’t want to hear about the ’78 Delta 88 Holiday I found last fall, or the ’83 Parisienne woody wagon…
No more B-bodies for a while, I promise 🙂
You could also ignore the haters… as an ex-owner of a ’78 Holiday….I’ll be anxiously awaiting your post.
I would love to see Curbside Classic not talk about a B-Body for one week. Or just change the name to B-body Brag Zone and be done with it.
How often can you comment over and over again about the same dull ass sedan? There’s plenty of other dull ass sedans to talk about.
I say we give the B body up for Lent next year! 🙂 Of course, it will be harder on some of us than on others.
The reality is that the B-Body is always very popular here. That’s not the only reason to run them, but it certainly is a factor.
I realize that’s it’s not everyone’s cup of B, but then it’s not like we don’t offer a variety of other topics. My goal is to always have a variety of posts up on any given day. There’s really only one solution: ignore what isn’t to your liking. Complaining only tends to generate negativity in other commenters. I’d strongly prefer to avoid that.
A nice B-Bodies epitomizes the whole M.O. for Curbside Classic . It’s a car that was incredibly common new, then popular for a few decades as a beater, but has now almost disappeared in even beater shape. Finding a nice one is pretty rare, and IMHO, much more interesting than something you expect to see old and nice, like a Corvette or Mopar muscle car. If you want to just read about pristine, collectable classic cars, there’s the whole rest of the internet!!!
The enthusiasm for the B-bodies on this site and in Mr. Klockau are what make Curbside Classic so charming. The first article I ever read here was JPC’s on his own ’89 Brougham and that’s what got me searching for mine. Been a reader ever since.
I have a couple of old cars that are usually at or near the top of those “best classic cars to own” lists. I’ve gotten more thumbs up and comments on the Brougham in the seven months I’ve owned it than in the 12 years I’ve had the other two.
The 70s resonate with people, young and old. It was such a silly, fun and innocent time to be alive. We didn’t take ourselves too seriously back then, just look at the cars!
What a beauty! That color!
Can’t wait to read all of your comments/stories when I’m off work.
(If I hadn’t seen the rain on the ground I would have commented about the wipers standing up, and how GM’s poor wiper-assembly design is still around today).
Turns out instead of arriving on a white horse in 1991 my partner arrived and so did a 79 Caprice Landau ” The Blue bomber as I unaffectionately called her. But damn that car lkasted until 1999. The front end broke in half backing out of the drive into the street with me at the helm.
What a great car. I’d have to agree the Cadillac had nothing on these other than Country club cachet.
A Cadillac had A LOT more than a Caprice, the Caprice is nice, I have one, but that Cadillac came with much more equipement, a larger Cadillac specific engine, Turbo400, etc ,etc.
No doubt, April’s uncle had a fully loaded 77 Caprice Classic sedan, she came to get me as soon as she got the keys (summer of 77). My good freind Eric and his brother Al both had Cadillacs the younger Eric had a 78 Sedan DeVill De’ Elagance, the elder Al had a 78 Fleetwood Brougham. The Caprice while very nice couldn’t hold a candle to the Caddys, IMO the best value was the Sedan DeVille…but I’m a sucker for pillow seats in mouse fur. There was nothing like pushing the crest back in the day.
Cadillac’s engine advantage only extended until 1980. After that, the Chevrolet’s 305 V8s were better bets.
1981, disconnect the 4-6-8 and you just have a nice injected 368, after that, I would still rather have a Buick or Oldsmobile senior “C” with the 307.
The Cadillac was also a lot stronger; lots of bracing was in the car, making it feel much more solid than the Caprice. That said, the two cars were obviously related.
Would love an Impala with 350 4brl, 350 trans, posi rear, heck give me crank windows. Just run run run.
A classic(no pun intended) design. I like the 85-90 versions(and out of that the 87-90 versions because of the front lights) because you could get a fuel injected engine(even if it was a TBI 4.3l V6) and that was important to me since I am not a big fan of GM carburetors(especially the Quadrajunk ones)
All of those Caprices road like they were on clouds even the base with manual windows and locks.
Man I remember those bug visors. The proliferation of jellybean designs in cars and eventually trucks seemed to do them in. I distinctly recall seeing as common sight early on in my life, particularly during our family trips to Racine Wi where B-body Delta 88s (which seemed to roam those streets forever) universally sported them.
Unfortunately once those dorky visors disappeared, the bra seemed to replace it. That’s even worse. I remember my friend’s Dad bought a brand new 96 Taurus, put a bra on it to protect it within the week and proceeded to keep it on the car for 11 years until it eventually got junked. What a ridiculous thing to do. The bug shield’s heyday at least gave some exposure to the paint it’s “protecting” but those also managed to remain permanent appendages, even once those inevitability got UV haze and cracked apart.
My best friend’s first car was a hand me down ’79 Impala wagon with the 350. I don’t think it had uprated suspension, but I don’t know that it didn’t. Most of us loved it because three rows of seats just meant the party started in the car on the way to our destination. My friend hated it, because he had to drive a bunch of drunk or stoned teenagers all the time and he claimed that undesirables hassled him about driving his mom’s car when nobody was there to witness it. For a while the third seat was buried by a speaker box we built to house 6x9s in the hope of recreating the amazing audio of my departed ’71 Scamp. We paired down our core group of friends to avoid the headaches of being around stoners. Once they got acclimated to finding their own transportation, the speaker boxes were removed. The wagon made it to right around 100,000 miles before needing an engine rebuild that the shop performed without asking for approval. The probably rebuilt engine worked better for about a week before going south. Then the car was given to the shop that had just taken in the teens of hundreds of dollars for what amounted to nothing. They used it to win a demolition derby, showing that karma doesn’t always work quickly.
I took a look at the wikipedia page for the Caprice. John Franklin Mason seems to have written himself into the history of this car.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chevrolet_Caprice#Third_generation_.281977.E2.80.931990.29
My Dad traded our 72 Buick Estate Wagon with a 455 for a 1978 Estate Wagon with an Olds 403…What a difference. We could not believe how much better the 78 was. Ride was light years ahead. Interior was gorgeous. We had the red “notch back” vinyl seats with the folding center armrest and the huge chrome trim on the sides. The carpeting was red as was the dash…and the dash had those beautiful round brushed silver bezels. A huge quartz clock was above the glove box.
The car was quick too…Only 185 hp, but 320 lb/ft of torque. It would lay rubber, something the bloated 72 could never do.
The B bodies were superb cars.
My favorite is still the Caprice sedan, blue over silver 2 tone!
The Ford (panther) introduced 2 years later couldn’t hold a candle to the GM cars in performance and especially looks
Is a Buick a Buick when it’s heart is an Olds?
A friend had a ’78 Caprice at college that by 1994 was a mess on wheels. The pent windows were broken, the interior was a mess and the headliner sagged and blew insulation all over the place. It was a reddish that faded to a brownish.
BUT, if a bunch of us wanted to go to Opryland or the lake or cruise downtown Nashville in relative comfort, this was the car to do it in.
Dad had two 81’s. A locally assembled V6 and a US imported V8 305. Great cars. I remember the American one fondly.
The V6 was more luxurious, with its “Comfortron” A/C unit, full instruments (with a cool gauge for fuel economy) and split front bench. The speedo on this one went all the way up to 220 Km/h, which with the 4.1 litre V6 was fairly optimistic. Suspension for Venezuelan spec cars was a tad stiffer than the US one.
The US-spec one had the 305 and the cluster was as plain jane as it could: sweep style 85 MPH speedo and fuel gauge. But he buried that needle many many times in road trips. And that 305 can take a beating, you can’t kill the bloody thing. Car had an electric bench seat and a single side view mirror. The suspension of this one was pillow soft, without being a boat. Lovely car.
Code 21 to the parking lot…pastel blue. I remember a lot of ’78-9 intermediates were painted this color. I’m not crazy about the ’77-’79 Chevy Bs but they’re okay I guess.
The interior plastic on these is a bit worse than the ’71-’76 cars. Red turns to crumbly-pink and the light blue just crumbles to nothingness. The ’77 & newer dash pads held up no better than the earlier cars although they were much easier to replace. And of course these cars got the first scalp-ticking headliners…
Even though the ’78 style steering wheel is one of the most comfortable wheels I’ve ever rested my palms on, I enjoy the aesthetics, size, and softer ride of a ’72 or ’73 model Chevrolet far more than one of these cars.
Dont forget the applesauce pink the tan material turns to.
Once again, you found a real gem!
When I was nine years old, my parents had a Dodge Aries that had to go into the shop for a week. The dealer wasn’t too keen on my dad’s insistence on them keeping the car for a whole week to diagnose a clunking noise, so instead of giving us a nice shiny loaner, they gave us a dented 1978 Impala sedan, Carmine Red with a 305. I was enamored with that car! It was roomy and comfortable, and every time my mom would pull out from a stop she would squeal the tires! I took the owners manual out and practically memorized it. I was sad when we had to give it back.
Till this day these cars hold a special place in my heart.
It seemed nearly all of the Bs had a beefy rear stabilizer bar like on the upper-grade Colonnade coupes. You could see the bars a block away and they just screamed “good handling”. No one else was doing this.
My first B (OK C) experience was in a schoolmate’s dad’s ’77 Electra. It was silver with red velour interior and looked stunning — fresh, lean, highly chiseled and at the same 100% Buick. The dashboard length was radically short and the shoulders on the sides were gone. The gauges had silver faces that matched the paint and the pointers were slender and precise like off a high-end wrist watch.
The new look and promise of good handling set high expectations and there was no disappointment when he took us for a ride. The car felt more solid and quiet than anything I had ridden in including a ’73 Continental. The ride was impossibly smooth. New cars used to smell different back then and the whole experience was intoxicating. I thought wow, what a company!
These were radical cars for their time and they weren’t cheap. I remember helping my mom put away groceries and noticing the cans of frozen orange juice would go up in price every week. No bar codes back then the price was stamped right on the lid. Inflation plus hot car (no discounts) meant Electras were pricey, probably more than a 5-series would be today.
The fact that you could get 90% of that in a Caprice made the Chevy a screaming deal.
My respect for the Bs continued to grow two years later when the Ford clones came out with that dumpy styling (Paul did a good comparison with side by side shots somewhere). After that came a series of enormous efforts like the X-cars and that’s how GM lost its way. No company, no matter how well run, could pull off what they tried to do. Ironically it was the success of the B-bodies that gave them the confidence to try.
It seemed nearly all of the Bs had a beefy rear stabilizer bar like on the upper-grade Colonnade coupes. You could see the bars a block away and they just screamed “good handling”. No one else was doing this.
As a very young auto enthusiast (I was born the year the first downsized B was built) I quickly learned to look for the swaybar under the rear of GM RWD cars. This told me whether the car was worthy of my desire. I was always amazed the # of B/C/D body cars that DID come with the stabilizer, especially the Olds, Buick, and Cadillac versions.
I had a ’78 Caprice Classic for some years in the late 80’s/early 90’s. It was loaded with options like the Comfortron, separate power seats, F41. 350 with Quadrajet. The only problem I ever had was the crappy TH200 tranny. It broke down just a ½mile from home one day. Replaced it with a TH350 and drove it for a couple of more years. I still miss that car. The ’92 Roadmaster I drive today is pretty good too but the ’78 was something special. I used to drive it in the winters too, the limited slip rear end and 2 buckets filled with sand in the trunk made winter tyres redundant.
On my way to the beach this morning, I Just had to take a picture of this 78 survivor parked on a narrow street in Cannes, south of France. Not a common sight here for sure! It looks like it would need some care taking though, but it’s a live!
That is a nice survivor. Very rare to see them without the vinyl top, but it looks great without it!
I just want to say I own a 78 estate wagon. and I have never owned a more perfect car. Its surprisingly good on gas. and I dont mind the little bit of attention i get driving around town.
Love the lines on these! This was my Dad’s pride and joy. It was passed down to me in 2011 and I was able to put the Black 18″ 338s (8″ in front, 9.5″ in the rear) on that he and I had talked about before he passed away. It has 43k miles on a resto. The interior is amazing too.
Man I’ve been having a hard time looking for seats for my 77 I don’t won’t to put different seats in them does any one know what year seats I can put into my 3rd gen please help!!!!!!
I thought the sedan looked at its best during the 1980-86 run (never cared for the 1987-90 headlights) for the coupe’s I liked the 1977-79 models the best.
Two quick stories about this car. When I was in junior high, circa 1986, one of my teachers had the 2 door Landau, a ’78, silver with red interior & light gray canopy top. I admired it often back then & remarked to myself I’d not mind having one just like it when I got my license 3 years later.
The year I graduated high school, I was already driving my mom’s old winter beater, a ’74 Gran Torino Elite which I loved. Not wanting to expose her spiffy ’88 Skylark (I know, Quad 4 & all!) to the Colorado winter crud, she asked my dad to find her a suitable replacement. Dad test drove home a black ’77 sedan with dark red cloth interior. It had those cheesy aftermarket fake wire wheel covers you could but at K-Mart or Checker Auto Parts in a 4-pack for like 19 bucks, & they usually rusted over in 2 months. These were new & still shiny. Dad & I both really liked it; it had 350 4bb, cruise & power everything. Mom took one look at it & said, ”It looks like the limousine some cut-rate funeral home would have. Get it out of here.” Well, you know how the saying goes: if Mama ain’t happy, nobody is gonna be happy!
Another proud owner of a first generation downsized Caprice. Mine is a 1979 Caprice Classic Coupe. 350ci with the TH350 trans. F41 suspension, positraction, luxury interior, CB radio, remote trunk release etc. No power windows or locks though. It’s a great car, owned it for about 10 years and plan to keep it.
Hope you still have it, Brent!
And if you do still have it, do you use the CB radio?
Frankly, I’d like to find a bug deflector for my ’89 Caprice. Suggestions?
Spray the front end of your car with cooking spray. The little fuckers will slide right off.
My Father had a 78 Caprice 4 door at the same time that I had a 79 Cadillac Coupe Deville and that Caprice rode 100 times more comfortable than the Cadillac!!! It was a great car!!!❤
Excellent cars and excellent styling BUT,, LORD those interiors and instrument clusters were hard on the eyes…..
SO cheap looking…….
Just curious, does anyone know if the 9C1 package was available on a 77-78 Impala? I always thought that would be THE car.
Yep, it was; see here and here.
this link might work better
When you got it right, remember how you got there.
1978 was generally the peak year for the long-running box B/C bodies. Some nice styling and interior tweaks that revived some of the 1976 styling motifs and helped set the five divisions’ cars apart more, and it the last year the 400 cu.in. or thereabouts engines were widely offered. The 1979 styling changes on most of these harmed their appearance slightly. I have mixed thoughts on the 1980 facelift depending on brand – I mostly like the Caprice sedan revisions like proper upscale-Chevy three-lamps-per-side taillights, but the “coupes” were really two-door sedans and lost the neat folded rear window. Worse, the efforts to lighten the car made them feel less substantial, and tiny V8s, Olds diesels, underpowered V6s, and delicate THM200 transmissions found their way into too many of these. GM seemed to pretty much give up on their RWD big cars after 1981, with few significant updates until the redesigned 1991s.
I grew up in one of these, and never thought the bumper notably hideous, but now I look at that first pic…eek! It’s notably hideous. Okeh, fine, a massive, chromed front bumper, but this one creates a prominent underbite effect, and the giant vertical guards accentuate it. Perhaps it would have been better had they gone with this in-house-at-the-time technology for low-mass body-coloured bumpers instead.
That said, I still prefer this ’77-’79 face with its straight-across bumper over that goofy drop-centre bumper they adopted for ’80 (and the ’77 TV ads are better, too).
Try finding a 77-78 B-body today out my way. Damn hard and I look locally every day. If there is a 77 Caprice or Impala on the market it is never to my tastes anymore.
My Dad never bought a luxury car; the closest he came was when he bought a new ’78 Caprice Classic wagon out of the showroom from Shearer Chevrolet in October ’78. It replaced his ’73 Ranch Wagon. My Dad looked at the new (at the time) downsized Ford wagons but for some reason wasn’t impressed (forget why) and as GM finally abandoned the clamshell tailgate that he never liked and adopted the “Ford-like” 3 way tailgate, he ended up buying the Chevy. It was a beauty, had the 305, burgundy with matching interior, trailer towing package, AM/FM stereo, A/C (which would come in really handy once they moved to Texas from Vermont 4 years hence), and first car with both power locks and windows (the Ranch wagon had power locks but manual windows).
It was a nice car, but a small fender bender in ’84 caused it to be traded in on the worst car he ever owned, a new ’84 Pontiac Sunbird. Yes, it was a big size change but his family was smaller, since my twin sister and I had moved out on our own…but in retrospect he should have fixed up the accident damage and kept the Chevy. The Pontiac was junked after 5 years, with 2 new engines (last one threw a rod) despite dealer maintenance per schedule…it had less than 1000 miles on it (a new car) when it first lost its timing belt, and things went downhill from there. Yes, no one knew gas prices would drop in the mid 80’s and still had the early 80’s idea that gas would only go up…the Pontiac got better mileage than the Chevy, but false economy when the car itself went to the junkyard before the end of the decade.