The biggest Chevrolet Caprice was the 1971-76 version. They were the ultimate expression of long, low and wide, that first appeared on U.S. cars in the late Fifties. The last hurrah before fuel economy standards, changing tastes and increasing safety regulations changed cars forever.
I’ve always liked them. When I was a kid, caddy-corner to our house, one of the neighbors had a metallic kiwi green 1971 Caprice four-door hardtop. It still retained one of its deluxe ‘electric range’ wheel covers; the other three were off of a 1971-72 Olds Delta 88. This was in about 1990, and it seemed so old at the time to me, with my parents’ Volvo 740s sitting in the driveway. Of course I loved that car. It was still there when we moved in 1995.
These cars were still around during my childhood in the ’80s and early ’90s, albeit not in exceptionally impressive numbers. But every once in a while, we’d be in traffic, and I’d see one of these factory lead sleds float by while I was sitting in the back of Mom’s Volvo wagon. I liked them.
Upon their debut in Autumn of 1970, the fulsome ’71 Chevies were available in four flavors: Biscayne, Bel Air, Impala and Caprice. The Impala was unquestionably the biggest seller. In 1971 alone, 135,334 four door sedans and 140,300 four-door hardtops were sold.
475,144 Impalas came off the line that year, but the most populous single model was the V8 Bel Air pillared sedan, with 348,534 copies produced. That was most likely due to police and taxi sales.
Chevrolet was still king of the low-priced three during this time, but if you wanted more exclusivity, more chrome and more power options, one needed to look no further than the Caprice. Introduced in 1965 as a special trim option on the Impala four-door hardtop, it became its own model in 1966, and took off rapidly.
Caprices never sold as highly as its slightly less Broughamy Impala brethren, but they held their own for those who wanted a top-of-the-line Chevrolet. Between 1971 and 1976, no seriously drastic changes were made, though the usual updated grilles, headlamp/turn signals, taillights, and reshuffled chrome trim appeared year-to year.
As with the rest of 1973 Chevrolets, a large chromed park bench replaced the smoother, more integrated front bumper. In 1974, a matching 5-mph compliant unit was added to the backs of all big Chevrolets.
Also in 1973, all Caprices became Caprice Classics. For 1974, all the body styles returned as per usual: pillared sedan, four-door hardtop, two-door Custom Coupe, convertible, and two- and three-seat Caprice Estate station wagons.
Our featured car today, a lovely forest green over pistachio cloth pillared Caprice Classic sedan, is one of 43,367 made that year. Base price was $4,465.
Standard equipment over an Impala included courtesy lamps, fender skirts, electric clock and the 400 CID V8 (Impalas came with a standard two-barrel 350 V8). Power steering, brakes and Turbo-Hyrdramatic automatic transmission were standard on all Caprices, Impalas and Bel Airs. The bargain-basement Biscayne had disappeared after the 1972 model year.
I spotted this remarkably well-preserved 1974 Caprice Classic pillared sedan on the electronic bay back in August of 2013. It was being offered by a Chicagoland area dealer. As I recall, they had an equally nice 1978 Cadillac Coupe de Ville d’Elegance in metallic blue available as well.
I was impressed not only with the car’s condition, but with the very, very nice pictures included by the seller. Let’s face it, most eBay and Craigslist pictures are, shall we say, lacking. Heck, sometimes it looks like a really smart dog had a camera mounted on a special hat, and the pictures were taken remotely by the seller! So I stashed these pictures away, because how often do you see a mint green on green 1974 Caprice sedan? I have no idea what the car sold for, but hopefully it was purchased by someone who will keep it in its minty-fresh 1974 factory condition!
UPDATE: Sadly, it was not. A mutual car collector friend of mine has informed me that this car appeared on a demolition derby site, so it’s likely the car is Chinese refrigerators and toaster ovens now. Ain’t life grand? 🙁