Vintage Reviews: 1977 Chevrolet Caprice – Downsized By Design



(first posted 10/14/2015)    I am always fascinated by the design development for car programs. Seeing the options, the decisions made, the struggle to develop a vehicle that meets engineering parameters while retaining marketable styling—it all makes for a great read. When the 1977 Caprice/Impala was unveiled and became a smash hit, Motor Trend did some extensive behind-the-scenes coverage of the design development. So let’s take a peek inside GM’s design studios, circa the mid-1970s.




While this article mostly centered on the design for the full size Chevrolet, it did offer a glimpse into some of the other B-body designs. The bottom image on this page is a concept for Pontiac’s full size sedan. While no B-body 4-door of this generation saw C-pillar windows, the greenhouse concept from this car was used for the downsized A-body LeMans in 1978.


Bill Mitchell was right about the transformational nature of the downsized B-body program. These were excellent forward-looking designs. Unfortunately, he was wrong in predicting that these good looking, well-proportioned designs would set the pace for GM’s styling in the 1980s. If only Chuck Jordan had been named Mitchell’s successor when he retired in 1977, then the prophecy might have come true.


Also as part of their comprehensive 1977 Car of the Year write-up on the Caprice, Motor Trend offered still more behind the scenes coverage of the design development of the downsized Chevrolet full size cars.



Motor Trend also covered the design for chassis components in addition to exterior styling. While the computers being used in the pictures look comical today, at the time they were state-of-the-art, and undoubtedly very expensive. It was an advantage that deep-pocketed GM could easily afford at the time.