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!
How standards have changed. In this day when even the most basic econ-boxes have power windows and A/C as standard equipment, here we have a car that someone decided to pay the $200 extra for the top-of-the-line Caprice edition but didn’t want to cough up the dough for A/C or power windows. Never-the-less, the perceived quality of the appointments and available luxury options put a Chevy Caprice very close to Cadillac territory in terms of interior appointments, except you couldn’t get a Caddy with an instrument package.
You also couldn’t get a Cadillac with a small block or a two speed auto, or such thin seats, or so little noise insulation, or so many visual twins being fleet specials…. There was still plenty of reason to climb Sloan’s ladder.
It can be a little confusing though since the period photography makes the customers look so refined and elegant. Would even Rolls Royce put such people in their ads today?
Not sure what AC cost back then, but I bet it was at least a 500 option. I remember most people did not trust power windows, Just “Something else to break”, was the phrase I remember
Concerning Stephen’s comment that some people didn’t trust the reliability of power windows, I would have ordinarily dismissed that opinion out of hand, except that my sister-in-law is such a cretin. With 2008 Ford Focuses fitted with manual windows, I thought they didn’t make such an animal, but she nonetheless pestered my brother-in-law to locate for her one without power windows, on the idiot hunch that power windows would not work well in winter and weren’t dependable in the long run.
The 1965 Caprice Custom Sedan may have been just a higher Impala trim level to Chevrolet at the time, but newly available with a 396 CID 325 hp V8, Turbo HydraMatic, and AMFM Multiplex four-speaker radio, it was a veritable Oldsmobile or Buick you could order from your corner Chevrolet dealer for less money than the other two brands. Three of my friends families had gotten ’65 Impalas that year, but I wasn’t aware that the Caprice was in the pipeline until a neighbor, who already had a Sting Ray and Avanti, added a fully-equipped white Caprice to their driveway in June 1965. I got to drive one with the 396 and THM a few months later, it was everything I’d expected from the new motor and transmission, and I’ve wanted one since then.
Pretty spiffy for GM’s “Low Cost” (means CHEAP) car…..
Imagine the profit possibilities for optioning up a Caprice up to Olds or even Cadillac levels. The higher line dealer gets a higher margin on the same transaction price than does the Chevy dealer, so GM makes more on the same price sale of a Chevy. The higher volume of Chevy yields also a lower production cost. Even if you assume the content is the same, which I don’t agree with.
Helps explain why that Plymouth VIP that Tom showed us didn’t do as well. Chrysler and Plymouth shared a showroom, unlike Chevy/Olds or Ford/Mercury so the Chysler Plymouth salesman had a disincentive to push the VIP over a Newport, no matter what would have been better for Chrysler Corporation