Since 1958, the Impala had been Chevrolet’s top of the line model. When Ford added the luxurious LTD package to the Galaxie 500 for the 1965 model year, Chevy quickly responded with the Caprice. Both nameplates started out as a luxury trim level but would become full-fledged models in short order.
In 1965, the Caprice nameplate made its first appearance. Limited only to the Sport Sedan four-door hardtop body style.
Despite costing $200 more than the regular Impala Sport Sedan, the Caprice Custom Sedan option package (RPO Z-18) was immediately popular.
Special exterior touches included slim chrome body sill moldings, unique wheel covers, black-accented grille and rear trim panel, Caprice scripts on the front fenders and fleur de lis emblems on the sail panel. 1966 had the expected new grille, taillights and other minor details, but was still visually similar to ’65.
Inside, interiors featured patterned fabric with expanded vinyl trim and simulated wood on the doors and instrument panel ‘with the look of hand-rubbed walnut’, according to the brochure.
The new trim level was so well received that it became its own model for 1966, and became Chevy’s ultimate full-size nameplate. The four-door hardtop was still available, but it was joined by a new Custom Coupe with unique formal roofline.
Caprice wagons joined the line as well. A total of 181,000 Caprices were built for the year-excluding the wagons. The two-door hardtop started at an even $3,000.
All Caprices came with a standard 2-barrel 283 V8 with 195 hp. Engine choices were many, as was expected of full-size Chevrolets, Fords and Plymouths back then. Ranging from a 225 hp Turbo Fire 283 to the stump-pulling, 425 hp Turbo Jet 427. Your Caprice could be mild to wild, depending on your preference-and budget.
1966 Caprices once again had a more luxurious interior than the Impala, with tonier upholstery and carpeted lower sections on the door panels.
Outside, all Caprices had color-keyed body striping, new wide chrome rocker moldings, new wheel covers, tail lights with horizontal chrome louvers, and the requisite Caprice identification.
Coupes could be had with all-vinyl upholstery, floor shift and a woodgrained console for those who wanted a dash of sportiness in their luxury Chevrolet.
1966 was the first year the Caprice was its own model, and available in multiple body styles. It would reign as the Broughamiest Chevrolet for another thirty years.
The rough Caprice I spied locally back in 2012. It had been sitting there for years, but I’d never pulled over and checked it out. I just assumed it was an Impala from the distance, but finally realized it had the Caprice formal roof.
The pristine one was on eBay back in 2017, and could have been the other car when new, color-wise. The bedraggled one has since disappeared. Hopefully it was fixed up, though it’s probably more likely it was recycled into Chinese refrigerators. Oh well!