Curbside Classic: 1994 Chevrolet Caprice Classic LS – Last Of The Best

(first posted 4/26/2012)      Ah, Caprice. The pride of GM’s big car line, darling of police departments and taxi companies everywhere; you were taken from us too soon. Yes, the GM B-body was a most excellent mode of traditional transportation, but thanks to the rise of the SUV, its day in the sun was passing by when the facelifted 1993 model was introduced.

The original ‘whale’ Caprice came out in 1991. While the new car rode on the same V8 powered, RWD, body-on-frame chassis of its immediate predecessor, the sheetmetal could not have been more different from the 1990 Caprice. Straight-edged, rectangular styling gave way to a smooth lozenge shape that could well have been a 1991 Hudson Hornet if the company had survived to the present day.

Feelings regarding the new styling were, well, mixed. While it was nice and modern, finally bringing the Caprice out of the 1970s ‘sheer look’, it was love it or hate it styling. Sedans were available in base Caprice, fancier Caprice Classic and sporty LTZ models.

Due to the polarizing styling, Chevrolet wasted no time in modifying the sheetmetal. For 1993 the Caprice lost its rear wheel spats, changing the whole look of the car, though I have to admit I prefer the 1991-92 design. It also got new chrome-trimmed tail lamps and raised ‘Chevrolet’ lettering on the top of the grille. The station wagon kept the 1991 styling though, and would remain so until the end of the line in ’96.

While the Brougham and Brougham LS were gone after 1990, a Caprice Classic LS became the luxury trim level in 1993. It included cushier seating in Custom Cloth or optional leather, a digital gauge cluster, alloy wheels and various power assists. ABS was standard on all models, as had been the case since 1991.

1994 models added a passenger side airbag and redesigned instrument panel, but the big news was in the engine compartment. A detuned version of the Corvette’s LT1 V8 was now available on the sedan (and standard on station wagons). The 5.7L mill produced 260 hp and 330 lb ft of torque, a healthy bump from the 4.3L V8’s 200 horses.

The styling was much more mainstream now, but the day of the traditional full-size car had passed, and most cars went to police and taxi fleets. While lots of folks had bought Caprices in the past for towing, the SUV age was in full swing, and suddenly people needed a gigantic, 10 mpg Suburban to pull their boat ten times a year. So much more practical, you know. So the poor Caprice, although still selling decently, was kicked out of its Arlington home to make room for its more with-it stablemate, the Tahoe. And thus, GM single-handedly gave the lucrative full-size market to its competitors. I really wish the Caprice had continued for 1997. What could have been…