B is for B-Body-in this case, the Caprice Classic. 1977 was a big deal. Downsizing came for all biggie GMs, and the results were most excellent! The downsized 1977 B-bodies took the U.S. market by storm. While all the various corporate variants were well-received, from Impala to LeSabre, there is no doubt the Chevrolet versions were the top sellers.
The 1976 Caprice Classic was the last of the gunboats. It had been around since Autumn 1970, when the smooth, swoopy and gigantic 1971 B-Bodies debuted. All 1976 Caprice Classics sported an attractive new nose with rectangular headlights. But it was just a place holder, despite the great new look. There were some very different big Chevies just around the corner.
It truly was “The New Chevrolet”, as the ads and showroom brochures proclaimed. To buyers used to Nimitz-class Caprices it was a revelation. They were also much better road cars, thanks to their trim dimensions and an available F41 suspension package.
The top of the line Caprice Classic was available in the usual coupe, sedan and station wagon body styles. The Caprice Classic Landau returned as well, but the four-door hardtop body style was gone for good, with only pillared sedans remaining.
I was very familiar with the 1977-79 Caprice Estate. There were two on my block when I was a kid in the 1980s. A pristine cream-colored one and a slightly more weathered dark brown one Both had the woodgrained sides, both were 1977 models. There was also a yellow Citation, light green ’80 Continental Town Car, dark blue Ninety Eight Regency, Cedar metallic 1982 Cutlass Ciera Brougham and a beige Fox-body Ford LTD sedan on our street. My folks were the odd ones out with their 1984 Volvo 240GL sedan, 1986 240DL wagon and Dad’s old ’51 Porsche 356.
The best looking version 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 Broughamtastic conveyance, especially on the Caprice Classics.
As previously mentioned, the Landau coupe was again available, this time with a forward canopy vinyl roof instead of the 1975-76 Landaus, which had the traditional rear-quarter vinyl top.
But as snazzy as the Caprice coupes were, they were small potatoes compared to the sedan’s when it came to production. Yes, the Caprice Classic sedan was king of the Bs! 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 for ’77, 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. Folks were looking for more Broughamge, so it seemed.
Yes, in the late 1970s, more and more folks wanted luxury if they were springing for a full-size car. The new car market was getting more fragmented by the day: subcompacts, compacts, midsizers, full-size cars. Triumphs, Hondas, Corvettes and Chevettes! For those still sticking to biggie Detroit rolling stock, it was go Brougham or go home! 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, production-wise. Broughamier minds were prevailing. Indeed!
For the 1978 model year, less was more design wise. Why change such a fresh, new hot-selling car? The Caprice Classic received only the most minor of updates: new grille, new taillights, and a new steering wheel were the most noticeable changes.
Caprice Classic sales repeated their strong 1977 output. Production broke down to 203,837 sedans, 37,301 coupes, 22,771 Landau coupes, 24,792 two-seat Estates and 32,952 three seat Estates. Only Caprice station wagons received a V8 as standard equipment, a 145-hp 305 V8. Sedans and coupes came with the 145-hp six. Optional on all models was the 170-hp 350 V8. When combined with the 350 and the F41 handling package, you had yourself a formidable Brougham indeed: Luxury AND handling.
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 automatic climate control, a 50/50 divided front seat and, newly available in ’78, a power Sky Roof.
The Caprice Classic at the top of this page was spotted at the annual car show in Cabridge, Illinois back in August 2012. I ran across the rain-spotted ’78 Classic sedan in downtown Bettendorf, Iowa in May 2012. Both cars were clearly well-loved originals.
Both blue cars had the optional 50/50 split-bench front seat, in blue velour. Neither of these cars had the somewhat common late ’70s GM droopy headliners. They both had to have been garage queens their whole lives. They were that nice.
The blue ’78 in Cambridge was showroom new! Sparkling paint, perfect upholstery. And pretty snazzy with its sport wheel covers.
The downsized Chevy B-body lasted through the 1979 model year with its original ‘sheer’ sheetmetal. Aside from new, more aerodynamic sheetmetal in 1980 and minor facelifts in 1986 and 1987, the design carried all the way through the 1990 model year. Not a bad run. By anyone’s standards.
These really were stellar cars ~ rode well and handled well, nearly indestructible in Police/Taxi service .
L.A.P.D. bought a whole bunch of these from 1978 through the end of production and several small companies popped up rebuilding them after service for re sale to smaller Municipalities .
Agree 100%. The B-bodies offered a great ride/handling compromise that no other American sedan of the time could match. The big LTD/Crown Vic rode just as nice, but was floaty and wallowy compared with a Caprice or Delta 88.
G-bodies get lots of love, but I’m not sure why…my dad’s ’79 Cutlass Supreme was an ill-handling pig and so was my uncle’s ’84 Monte Carlo. Front springs too soft, rear springs too firm, so in corners, it felt like the weight of the whole car was on the outside front tire. Then if you hit a bump mid-corner, the ass end jumped sideways. By contrast, the Caprice exhibited none of those shenanigans.
When I was a teenager, I did lawn mowing for a man who owned an aluminum extruding company and a Tier 1 automotive supplier. I would eventually get my first job out of college working for his company. At one point he asked me to wash & maintain his cars, a 1969 Cadillac Sedan de Ville and a then-brand new 1977 Chevy Caprice coupe. This man was rather wealthy and he could afford anything he desired, but he bought a new B-body. To me, this spoke volumes.
We had our own B-body experience, a 1977 Olds Delta 88 Holiday coupe. My wife, bought it used in 1981 before we married, we kept it for five years. We drove it everywhere, it never failed to run and seriously, had nearly zero problems with it. We should have driven it forever, but I got new car fever.
It’s only with the passage of time that we realize what a home run these cars are/were. It’s not been until the last several years that we’ve seen Chevrolet/GM build cars that a CEO would want as a daily.
I believe these B-bodies were found to be the most popular car owned by the “Millionaire Next Door” from the research project/book of the same name. I expect today it would be an F-150 or Silverado.
My first car was 1984 landau coupe. I desperately want another one….. and an LS swap.
It was light brown with dark brown vynl top… dark brown interior. It was magnificent.
You managed to come up with two pristine examples of a car that is hardly seen anymore. I have a ’78 Belair, which is a Canadian poverty spec example. 305, THM350, PS, PB and an AM radio is about all she wrote. Despite the de-contenting, still a very comfortable and nice ride.
Thanks Dean. We never got the Bel Air after ’75. That would make an interesting article. If you want to send me a few pictures of the car, I’d like to write it up sometime!
With pleasure, although my oldie is not nearly in the same condition as your finds. Can you ping me using my email from your end, or is there somewhere you want me to send the pictures to?
Yep, though the Bel-Air hung on in Canada until 1981!
My father ran a 1990 station wagon with a 350 in it as a Taxi – racked up 400k+ miles in 6 years on all original drivetrain in South Florida heat. Sold it for $500 in running order.
None of the three Crown Vics that followed could match that stellar record.
These were popular cabs in FL, I remember the Super 8 cab co, 888-8888(all you need is 8 was their tag line) ran lots of these, usually bought as used Caprices which by the 80’s were more common is SoFL than the cheaper Impala and they would run them into the ground, the funny thing was, the older the cars got, the more they would collect uplevel junkyard parts from other B body GM cars, like seats from a 88 Royale Brougham and steering wheels and wire caps from a Buick.
Hey, are you the Carmine commenter from the CC site from many years ago? I always enjoyed reading your words/obsession with the GM cars because I too loved them.
I’ve always been a GM-only person, but after my 2 recent episodes at 2 different GM service centers, I will be buying NON-GM for the first time (when that time comes). I’m so disgusted with the events that happened it makes these cars look like fat pigs to me. It’s strange to experience that cataclysmic reversal of feelings.
Yes, he is. He was banned by the cowardly site admin on that site. I was too. It’s no coincidence that that site is going steadily downhill. The guy running it has CFCP Syndrome. Cuckoo For Cocoa Puffs…
PN should just not have commenters. He hates to be even gently contradicted. I even think he hates the ones that agree with him To calm himself down he lines up his regular contributors to chant the mantra of his greatness. It must feel like a lot to ask.
Hi Mr. Klockau! It’s interesting that your articles still appear there. I hope your BP didn’t rise too much bringing up old feelings 🙂 I’m glad you have a platform with the Baruth Brothers then.
What I really don’t get about CC is that they love beating a dead horse into the ground again and again, and what I can’t stand is that there is no expression of opinion on CC either, unless your opinion jives with Needledicks, your’e wrong.
No problem! Yeah, Captain Re-Run sure likes to pretend I still write over at Cantankerous Coot. Kinda sad really. 🙂
Nice cars. They were everywhere. I always like the look except for that little space between the bumpers and the bottom molding. Granted that was a flexible plastic cover to hide the bumper pistons and brackets, but it would have looked better if the molding flowed into the bumper.
Now with no chrome or bright work being the norm and flexible bumper coverings it isn’t an issue anymore.
I miss colors on cars. I miss SOLID colors on cars even if they no longer make every hue in the rainbow. I am so bored with metallics. Now, if you want solid, you have white or black.
You can get the new trendy “Cement” gray color too! See…..you got choices!!!! Yay!!
RE: B body Chevrolets as taxis ~
L.A.P.D. gave quite a few ex black & white patrol cars (the cream of the crop as it were) to the city of Tijuana, Mexico yet oddly, not a one ever wound up doing patrol ~ every one somehow became a Tijuana taxi and the Tijuana Police Dept. used clapped out ex taxis from Los Angles and San Diego……….
Odd thing, that .
Odd thing, that .
Nah, just follow the money 😉
Great write-up as always, Tom! My Dad had a brown ’77 Estate Wagon with the sport wheel
covers that he and my brother special ordered. It had the 350, power windows and locks, tilt, cruise, digital clock, AM/FM Stereo, power vinyl bench seat, right hand mirror, luggage rack, lighted vanity mirror and special rear axle ratio. It didn’t have a rear defroster, Comfortron, gauges, delay wipers, bumper guards or strips and the third seat. I remember waiting for that car to arrive. When we got it I kept going out to the driveway to look at it. I loved that new car smell!!
Great write-up as always, Tom! My Dad had a brown ’77 Estate Wagon with the sport wheel covers that he and my brother special ordered. It had the 350, power windows and locks, tilt, cruise, digital clock, AM/FM Stereo, power vinyl bench seat, right hand mirror, luggage rack, lighted vanity mirror and special rear axle ratio. It didn’t have a rear defroster, Comfortron, gauges, delay wipers, bumper guards or strips and the third seat. I remember waiting for that car to arrive. When we got it I kept going out to the driveway to look at it. I loved that new car smell!!
B-Body, A-body, XYZ-body. I wish someone would write an article explaining the family tree of all these GM bodies. Tom, could you be the guy???
My mom drove a ’79 Impala wagon for about 10 years–including on our road trip from Chicago to Portland when I finished college. Solid royal blue with light blue velour interior. It had the 305, electric rear window and no luggage rack. With the rear seats folded we easily fit all my crap in the back including my touring bike.
Great memories–thanks for another excellent read.
Its not really that hard….or maybe it is.
A- Originated for the midsize RWD cars that replaced the compacts in 1964, Tempest, LeMans, Cutlass 442, GTO, Special, Skylark switched to the FWD A-body cars in 1982, Celebrity, Century, 6000, Ciera, retired in 1996
B-The shorter wheelbase “big” standard car- originated around the late 40’s or so,used until 1996-Caprice, Impala, Bonneville, Delta, LeSabre
C-The long wheelbase senior cars, Electra, 98, DeVille.
D-Sometimes used for the big Fleetwood sedan and limousines
E- Always used for GM’s large personal luxury coupes(Eldorado,Riviera,Toronado) from 1966 through at least 1993, longer on the Eldorado maybe.
G-Originally used for the stretched A-body Grand Prix and Monte Carlo, later used on the RWD A body cars from 1982-1987, when the the FWD A’s came out in 1982, later used again on the G-body Oldsmobile Aurora and Buick Riviera in 1995
I-never used as far as I know
J-FWD compacts road roach made from 1982-2002 -replaced the H body, Cavalier, Sunbird, J2000, Firenza, Skyhawk
K-Seville, used on the RWD 76-79 cars and the FWD 1980-85 and on through 1997.
L-Chevrolet Beretta and Corsica only
M-never used as far as I know
N-FWD “intermediate” compacts made from 1985-2004-Calais, Grand Am, Skylark, Sommerset, etc,-this was replaced by the first Epsilon cars.
T-GM’s “world car” compact, the Chevette/T-1000/Acadian-don’t know if this was a T elsewhere under Opel or Holden etc.
U-The plastic spaceframe “dusbuster” vans made from 1990-1996
W-FWD A/G body replacements, introduced in 1988-Cutlass, Grand Prix, Lumina, Regal-retired a few years ago when the last W-body Impala was made.
X-Originally used for the RWD compact cars made through 1979, used again on the FWD Citation, Phoenix, Omega, Skylark, through 1985.
Y-Originally used on the front engine/RWD GM compacts from 1961-1963, then used again on the Corvette from 1984 and up.
Z-Used on the Corvair from 1960-1969 and then on the Saturn S-series cars from 1990 and up.
Gee, I could add some pics and do a post with this: The ABCs of GM. 🙂 I’d give you proper credit of course.
Never knew the ‘Vair was a Z-Body, interesting…
V was used. This is probably not x-referenced anywhere, but you would be looking @ the pre-Zeta Commodore and its Opel cousins.
I had thought about the V in the Commodore models but I wasn’t sure if it how exactly it was used.
A trip later to Wikipedia…
Thanks for this wonderful writeup. These were magnificent cars. Comfy, good handlers and robust.
Dad had 3 off them, a 79 very briefly, a V6 82 and a USDM 81 with a 305. He also had a couple of downsized Malibus over the years, and the Caprices were by far my favorites.
The pre-facelift coupes are gorgeous with that split rear glass. The sedans looked like yesterday news when the revised bodies came out. Interestingly, the wagons kept the same body.
I would love myself an early 80’s one with the 87 or 89 front & rear end, LS or 383HT swap, 6L80 and rallye wheels.
Best GM cars of the 1970’s. A much needed win for General Motors.