Once upon a time, back in the ’70s, there were full-sized cars. And unlike today, lots of people bought them. Single people, families, professionals, you name it. It was the Time Before SUVs And Combovers..Oops, I Mean Crossovers. People bought actual cars. True, there were SUVs and Jeeps and pickup trucks, but people who bought them back then were more likely to use them for something besides schlepping to work and dropping the kids off at school. There were, of course, any number of compact, subcompact and mid-sized cars, but back in 1976, there were still plenty of people who stepped up to a big Chevrolet. And the Caprice Classic was the Broughamiest of them all.
May I present the 1976 Chevrolet Caprice Classic Sport Sedan? 4,314 pounds of full-sized, V8-powered, rear wheel drive luxury, just like countless American cars before it. For someone who wanted a loaded car with all the power gadgets-stuff that would be common on a 2017 Fiesta but was strictly first-cabin accoutrements in 1976, this was the way to go. Oh sure, you could get an Impala with many, many options ladled on, but even then you wouldn’t be able to tell all your neighbors you had just bought a new Caprice. And of course, you’d miss out on the flossier grille, special wheel covers, fender skirts, and all other sorts of gingerbread and extra woodgrain trim that came on the Caprice Classic only.
Upon waltzing into your friendly local Chevy dealer, you would be presented with a choice of four different Caprice models to inspect: The Coupe, Landau Coupe (with color-keyed wheel covers, pin stripes and of course a padded Landau top), four-door Sedan and four-door Sport Sedan.
The Sport Sedan was the four-door hardtop, with pillarless styling and its own roof design, with an opera window built into the C-pillar. At $5,078, it was $65 dearer than the more formal pillared sedan, which started at $5,013. Rounding out the lineup were the standard coupe at $5,043 and the Landau coupe at $5,284.
There were, in addition, two Caprice Estate Wagons, in six- and nine-passenger variants, but GM was still considering the wagons a separate line, so they were not shown in the Caprice/Impala showroom brochure. Wagons got their own catalog. The six-passenger version ran $5,429 and the nine-passenger wagon was $5,546, the most expensive Caprice and most expensive big Chevrolet that year.
But let’s get back to the featured car for today, a 1976 Sport Sedan owned by Jason Bagge, a fellow car nut and also the owner of the ’76 Ninety-Eight Regency also featured here recently. This 1976 Caprice Classic was sold new at Buchanan Chevrolet Co. in Spokane, Washington, on March 10, 1976.
According to the original window sticker, the base price was $5,077.65, but the original owner of this car liked options, so the grand total for this luxury road-going Chris-Craft was $6,660.85. Options included the four-barrel, 350 V8, deluxe color-keyed seat belts, Four Season air conditioning, Cruise-Master speed control, bumper guards, intermittent wipers, and a white vinyl roof.
Jason had been trying to buy this car for seven years. The price was always a tad optimistic, so he’d pass, but it would keep on popping up for sale again every now and then. About two years ago it came up once again, but he was disheartened to see it had gotten the gigantic-wheel treatment.
Now the price was even more prohibitive, because if he ever got it he’d have to put it back to stock. But late last year, it finally came up again, this time with a different seller, and he got it for the right price. It still had the big wheels on it, but it is a very clean car with only 63,000 miles on it, so he pulled the trigger.
And immediately got to work. Here is a one-two-three photo set showing the car’s return to factory appearance over the course of one evening, shortly after purchase. Of course you can’t see the beers consumed and cursing uttered!
The car is a tribute to Jason’s grandparents. They drove Cadillacs, and his grandfather traded them in every two years for a new one. As the Innsbruck Blue and White was his grandmother’s favorite color combination, this car reminded him of her and all the cars they had back then.
So while he does buy and sell cars pretty frequently (the Olds I previously wrote up will likely soon be sold and replaced with a ’76 Sedan de Ville, for instance), this one is here to stay, as a tribute to his grandmother. Though he’s already gotten several offers while out driving it!
The car is still a work in progress. Other than the wheels and tires, the ride height has been lowered back to factory settings, the grille and various other trim bits have been refurbished, and some paint touch-up has been done as well.
A new white vinyl roof will be installed at some point in the near future, as time and finances permit. He found out the top can be touched up with Rustoleum, which will brighten up the faded original material and seal it until the new top goes on.
The interior is in remarkably good condition, needing very little to spruce it up. Even the driver’s seat is in great shape! Not bad for a 41-year old car.
In the 2-3 years I’ve known Jason he has done this magic to, conservatively, thirty cars. This car, when done, will be a show car. It’s always great to meet a fellow gearhead, and Jason is saving classics, one Brougham at a time! A lot of these 1971-76 Chevrolets get turned into neon-hued customs with giant chrome wheels, so clean originals like this are very hard to find. It seems to affect the ’70s Chevrolets only; similar-vintage Pontiacs, Buicks, Oldses and Cadillacs are much easier to find in clean original shape. Good to know this one has a good, permanent home, so 20 years from now people will know what these cars used to look like!